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Transplanting the Vine of Life

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

Story by Matthew Quirk and Eleanor Jones
Photography by Bob Garypie and Peter Ottlakan

In conjunction with the Winter World Transplant Games a vine transplant ceremony was also staged, at the smallest vineyard in the world, in Saillon, at the vine of Farinet.
The tradition of freedom represented by local legend Farinet combined with the celebration of the gift of life in the ceremonial transplantation of a special grape vine.

Approximately eighty people gathered at the mountaintop, at the top of a long and winding road, with the ruins of an ancient castle nearby, overlooking a charming traditional Swiss village.

The last dozen meters of the trail is a meditation walk through an arbor in the hillside lined with plaques commemorating the efforts of many humanitarians. Inscribed flagstones have been placed along the walk, each of which bears a different meditative theme. In the small vineyard at the top, the vines were individually dedicated to contributors and patrons, in support of the care of abused children.

Although the air and the breeze was cool, the eighty attendees were warmed by the spirit of the occasion, which commemorated the gift of life and the tradition of freedom that Farinet represents to the people of the Valais.

Jacqueline Casari, the president of the Winter World Transplant Games Committee, the Mayor of Saillon, and the minister for public health each welcomed the crowd, thanking them for showing their support for transplantation and giving the gift of life.

The vine grafting itself took place in a much smaller adjoining vineyard, where only three vines were growing. Representatives of the World Transplant Games performed the actual transplant, with a fanfare provided by a drummer and a trumpeter in classical costume.

After the ceremony, a reception took place in a small park behind the vineyard. Many of the people in attendance were familiar with each other through their participation in the transplant community, and many people took the opportunity to renew old acquaintances. Others were old friends, and the atmosphere quickly became that of a reunion.

One of the features of the park was a narrow line of marble set into the ground. At the western end of the line was a marble grid, laid out in black and white tiles like a chessboard. The other end points to the place on the horizon where the sun rises on June 21st, the longest day of the year. This marble path is central to the reenactment of a bit of local folklore.

Farinet, a local legendary figure (somewhat similar to the British Robin Hood), lived in the mountains around Saillon some two hundred years ago. Part of his legend states that although he carried a shotgun, he never actually shot anyone. Instead, he would fire it into the air to mock the authorities by letting them know that he was still alive (and free).

As part of this celebration of new life through transplantaion, the guests at the reception gathered in a small amphitheatre facing the marble line. Beat Gottschalck, the technical director of the Games, dressed up with a red neck scarf, a hat and coat, and a long shotgun, the traditional costume of Farinet. He then walked along the marble path, stood on the black and white grid at the end, and after the boisterous countdown from the audience, fired a single celebratory blast into the air!