EPILOGUE TO “WEEDS”

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I just couldn’t resist, as I passed a friend’s garden, taking more photos and adding them to the previous Blog. THIS IS WHAT A FRENCH LAWN LOOKS LIKE IN SPRING! The little white daisy-like flowers are paquerettes, called thus because they come around Paques (Easter), and the multicolored are primaveres because they are a symbol of the season and the tiny little yellow one, whose name I ignore, looks a bit like a small buttercup, those flowers that as young girls we used to hold under someone’s chin to see if they were jealous (if one could see the yellow reflection on the other person’s skin then they were.

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WEEDS

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The following story was either told to me or I read it somewhere: “God is sitting on his favorite cloud with his Angel helper and happens to drift over the Los Angeles area of California. Looking down he is puzzled: ‘Tell me, Angel, what happened to all that biodiversity I created?’  The Angel shakes his head: ‘They called it weeds and pulled it out to plant grass.’

I remembered this tale while noticing the other day that lawns in this part of France are bursting with biodiversity; sometimes what they have the 20140316_145036least of is grass. There are tiny daisies called paquerettes, dandelions galore, and all other sorts of interesting plants that make up the green of the French lawn. The lawn is mowed the same as happens in California and, when not viewed close up, looks pretty much like any grass lawn: what is hauled away are leaves, stalks of grass and decapitated dandelions and paquerettes. The French term for “weed” is mauvaise herbe, only applied to a plant which is harmful to crops: I do not think that the dainty flowers decorating our French lawns at the first20150321_134930 sign of spring would be considered harmful to anything.

As a matter of fact, if one begins to observe closely while walking to and from the village, weeds are everywhere decorating every available nook and cranny. The pavement has a crack? It is immediately bedecked with a weed of some sort, occasionally accompanied by a much less attractive sprout of grass and a bit of garbage, like a cigarette filter.

20150321_133923Thinking about the obsession of some people (my mother had a special instrument for extracting dandelions down to the roots) with weeds, I couldn’t help noticing how varied and imaginative the leaves of some of them were. So that day I purposely took my walk looking down instead of up, and noticing the incredibly decorative variety of weeds.  20150321_133256

Weeds, just like people we have judged unworthy of our company, hide in cracks and minute crevices everywhere, as if they were trying as best they could to avoid our gaze, to protect our narrow, restricted world from that which we have termed ‘uglyness’. Yet that day, what I found the ugliest were the sprouts of grass, the kind that the manicured lawns of California strive to cultivate, that had somehow escaped the confines20150321_134131 of our not-too-tidy gardens.

The question would be: What makes some plants acceptable and others not? How is it possible that because this day I decided to take my time to look where I usually don’t, I found beauty growing out of the wounds in walls and walks? Why are dandelions considered God’s lesser plants while yellow daisies are accepted in the choir? Who decides that grass gets the privilege of cushioning the soles of our bare feet, while other wispy foliage must go? Why are there 20150321_133434all sorts of ferns and leafy greens that are allowed to gorge themselves on fertilizers in the pots on my window sills while others must struggle to eke out a pauper’s fare in20150321_133402 some ignominious chink in the pavement and still make room for vagrant grass?  Would not this tiny flowered creeper prosper more in someone’s window box than wrapped around a sewage pipe?

The more I walked the more I marvelled at the intricate and artful variations of these greenhouse orphans and the more passers-by wondered what in the world I was doing aiming the lens of my portable phone at the sidewalk where they perhaps could see nothing but cement and a few weeds, if the plants themselves were at all visible to someone who was not paying attention as I was.  And I found 20150321_133129myself thanking my lucky stars that I lived in a small village in France and not in Los Angeles where any green growth that might struggle to plant itself where not invited by the city’s ordinance would be promptly extracted or herbicided. So my 20150321_134342morning stroll home was festooned with minute sproutings that bravely struggled to hold their own, thanks in part to the fact that our streets have potholes, our sidewalks are far from even and our stone walls are in dire need of repair. Beauty is everywhere, it is 20150321_133729just a question of opening our eyes and our minds and stop tagging some plants -or some people- as weeds!20150321_134705

 

MACHU PICCHU

10259700_10204054925727072_4713911763883038271_n[1] My dream of visiting Machu Pichu finally came true last year in August when I travelled to Peru with my son and daughter-in-law. We flew from Miami to Lima and there boarded a plane to Cuzco. The expedition was led by Gregg Braden who met the group at the Sonesta hotel in the Sacred Valley. For almost two weeks we visited fascinating places with magical names like Ollantaytambo, Yucay, Urubamba Valley, Chinancero, Cuzco and Lake Titicaca and I took so many photographs it would be absolutle impossible to share them, just as the experiences were so varied and exciting that remembering them actually becomes painful in some sort of way. However, a few days after my return to reality (home) I wrote the following letter, which I want to share on this Blog.     30 Urubamba Valley or Sacred Valley

It is early morning and I just read a piece on death that someone wrote upon her mother’s demise and I cried; I cried yesterday night too after reading a form letter from Gregg Braden thanking everyone for their participation on the trip. I realized that I was going through a kind of “mourning” for the trip that was so wonderful, exhilarating, emotional and inspiring. It was a gift to have you both there to share it with; I guess I feel that we are “kindred spirits” to use a cliché. I hadn’t understood why I was feeling a bit down, dragging around, not really getting started on anything, not picking up my work again 10561689_1534980433402676_4636946343054596396_n[1]but rather passing the time doing odds and ends, dithering, watching the end of a series… nothing serious, and now I understand. Seeing Machu Picchu was a dream I had harbored for a long time, believing it not to be possible because I didn’t want to go alone and there seemed to be no one to go with until I thought of the fact that you, Peter, and Patricia would undoubtedly enjoy it, and had the marvelous excuse of your 50th birthday.59 P+P
    Then, as with all dreams, I feared the trip, the sight, the experience wouldn’t live up to expectations, that things would happen to ruin it, that there would be the inevitable letdown from exagerated 54 Terraces and montain Ollantaytamboexpectations. None of this happened. No, the trip was not what I expected, it was different.
Machu Picchu was not the high point, the great revelation, the unforgettable aha! Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Pisac were just what they are: ruins, stone remembrances of civilizations past and, as marvelous as they are, they are not alive, vibrant, or really inspiring to me. But the mountains, that landscape that speaks of an upheaval so powerful, a force so absolutely impossible and incomprehensible yet there, so much more durable and magnificent than any stones –no matter how large, how carefully carved, how 20140803_085417impossibly perfectly fit, how difficultly moved- that humans might have left organized or scattered over a tiny part of that landscape… those mountains and crags and peaks dwarfed everything around in their overbearing majesty. They were the gods the Incas saw and adored, their snowy glaciers glimmering in the sunshine against a vibrant blue sky; the mountains, the cliffs, the Apus… that was what I had gone for. When, against all my expectations, I climbed to the Sun Gate at the top of the Machu Picchu mountain, constructed over 2 kms above the famed site, and 20140803_090953arrived, breathless but exhilirated at 14,000 ft. I knew that it was for this that I had come, for these incommensurable upliftings of granite reaching for the unfathomable blue sky to enter into my eyes and my soul, expanding a heart that was already beating its way out of my chest as I gulped in the thin air and fell to my knees in awe. On that mountain top, above the impressively high Mayna Picchu that towers over the ordered stones of Machu Picchu, gazing down at the miserably dwarfed human expression of the ruins below and out across range upon range of Earth at its most magnificent with its rocky or snowy mountain tops, its glaciers, its jagged peaks, its20140803_072901 (2) fathomless valleys and the sky so inmense and indomitable with the sun bursting out from over the crest, I experienced a gratitude beyond words that was at the same time humbling and uplifting, that both made me feel so small and yet infinite, nothing and everything at the same time. So, I realized last night and again this morning as I write, that I am mourning that vision, that experience, that unrepeatable instant when I stood at the top of the 20140803_101016mountain and looked out over the Andes in awe.
    Now I am back in Salies, beautiful Salies where everything is human-sized and domesticated and for the first time in my life I understand why human beings climb mountains. So that is why my eyes tear up every time I think of the trip, of Machu Picchu, of our wonderful times together, of the laughs and talks, of sharing the incredible journey that is now in the past, and done and over. I am mourning the passing of an experience that I may never have again and I am also crying with gratitude for having had it.
So today, remembering once more, I pull out the pictures and try to chose which ones I can include in this memory, which would be meaningful or simply too beautiful to pass over, and once again my chest opens wide feeling so grateful, wanting to go back at the same time as knowing that what I lived then can never be repeated.10710557_10204054937167358_4846205909494950970_n[1]
10649745_10204054927807124_7413342280349671604_n[1]Like that magical instant that the Incas called “the crack between the worlds”, that short time when it is no longer day but night is yet to come,  it can only be experienced at the instant it is real; everything else falls short.
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