Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carmen's Flowers

Carmen lives along the roadside between San Lucas Toliman and Godinez, Guatemala. Her casita (house) is squeezed between a state highway and Lake Atitlan, one of the more beautiful lakes in the world. I approach her house with some trepidation, she has two small white dogs that suddenly appear at the front door alerting Carmen and her neighbors who will spend the next hour watching us through slightly parted curtains.

In flat sandals Carmen stands 5 feet 2 inches. She is thin. Her hair is exceptionally black and, of course, her eyes are dark and intense. I have not seen her without red lipstick or a red dress of some hue. Occasionally, she works the soil around her flowers wearing a burgandy red velveteen dress that miraculously stays clean. She smiles, but infrequently. Mostly she has a misleading severity in her expression.

For the past two months I have passed her house and admired her efforts to create a small flower garden between her casita and the house that borders her property. The width of her garden is 14 feet. It extends from the edge of the highway to a spectacular spot overlooking the Lake from a height of 1800 feet; from the edge of the back of her property the drop to the lakeside is dizzily vertical. For somebody with a fear of heights this is a nightmare. She has planted local flowers to the edge, and is unconcerned as she strolls along the precipice identifying her treasures.

On my most recent visit Carmen was standing in the highway appraising the traveling circus which had set up on both sides of the highway, and in front of her house, in preparation for the local Feria. She insists that I see a new planting and recent blossoms. We stroll amongst the new acquisitions, some with blossoms, some clearly dead from lack of adequate water. Newly planted rose stems, she explains, have potential in the coming weeks; one, she assures me, will produce black blossoms within a matter of days. I express a lot more enthusiasm than is merited, I think.

Carmen lives with her father, an 80 year old, who has lived at this lakeside location for all of his life. She, having been away for a while, returned home and has lived here since for a total of 50 years. She supports herself and her two small children by taking in laundry. She makes only the occasional remark about her husband who left her, she says grinning, for another woman.

This sparsely furnished house, an aging parent and two children needing care seem not to trouble her as she strolls about her personal Eden commenting on each plant giving its Spanish name. She pauses to pull a weed, slaps her hands together removing dirt.

Like most poorer flower gardeners in the Highlands she never pays for seeds, cuttings, or fancy pots. Roses are an exception which are sometimes bought in the local market. There are no succulents in Carmen's garden. Why this would be so is a mystery since succulents are bountiful in the area. Her preference clearly lies with small, brightly colorful, prolifically blooming plants.

What is most enjoyable about visiting Carmen is sharing with her the pleasure she finds in gardening and her enduring commitment to the creation of something beautiful. In her small space and in her simple garden she daily affirms the universal belief in the Beautiful. Beauty, perhaps on the smallest of scales, but beauty nonetheless: beauty in no manner diminished by its circumstance. One wonders, is there beauty in the quest for beauty?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Initial post.

Another new enterprise for a novice internet user. My excellent friend Bree Hankinson is closing in on the completion of a photography website for Vicki Loewen and myself, and promoted this blog as an embedded feature of Over several Margaritas we have made substantial progress this day. It seems appropriate to acknowledge that in this initial post. And, finally and most importantly, to introduce via a photograph, Bree Hankinsom. More later. And very soon I hope.