Sunday, April 1, 2012

Drinking in beauty

Photo by Robbie Pruitt

The feel of the cool mountain air on my waking cheeks.  Beams of morning light slanting down to the forest floor. 
Photo by Ben Kilpatrick

A carpet of pine needles giving each step a soft landing. 

Photo by Irene Pruitt
 Silence interrupted only by the exclamations of birds in the high canopy.  

Photo by Ben Kilpatrick
Wild flowers decorating the forest with tiny and colossal bursts of whimsy.  

Photo by Robbie Pruitt of a huge flower we took to calling the "Dr. Seuss Flower"
Beauty all around.

Images of the pine forest near the mountain town of Seguin have been sweet visitors to my daydreams lately.  One of the last remaining forests in Haiti, this area is protected by its status as a national park and by the Seguin Foundation.  The park sits on a high plateau, some 6,300 feet above sea level, part of the massive mountain range that runs across the southern half of Haiti, roughly two thirds of way between the capital and the southern coast.  Robbie and I have had the opportunity to visit this oasis twice so far—once on a backpacking trip with friends in February, and more recently on a school trip with the senior class.  Both times, the sheer natural beauty of the place stunned me, and I tried to soak it in as much as I could.  Like a camel, I knew I needed to drink deeply from this rich stream.  I knew I would need the water for the long and dry journey ahead.  In the weeks since, my daydreams have been satisfying sips from the stored inner chamber of sustaining beauty.

Yesterday, the thirsty inner chamber of beauty was filled up again.  We went with our friends, Mary and Tony, to an annual orchid show, not inappropriately called the Orchid Extravaganza.  The exquisite shapes and colors of the blooms were breathtaking and captivating, of course.  But, even more, the experience of being surrounded by the flowers was deeply quenching to that same part of my spirit that felt so satisfied in the forest.  The photos, taken by Mary speak for themselves:

Photo by Mary Dekoter
Photo by Mary Dekoter

The vendors at the show understood that visitors wanted to take a little piece of this splendor home with them, and they were happy to oblige them... for a price.  Selling for up to $120 US, the orchids were a bit out of my budget, but I still felt that tug to welcome a bit of natural beauty into my home.  I thought of Papa, Robbie’s grandfather.  Wherever he goes, he’s always keeping his eyes open for plants from which he can take a little clipping when no one is looking.  Being as stealthy as possible, he pinches off a piece and slips it in his pocket, to be rooted and planted once he gets home.  His garden is filled with lovely flowers and bushes that have thrived after just such a beginning.  So, with Papa’s eyes, I found some prolific vines around campus, already starting to root.  A few pinches later, they have found a new home on our dining room table.  Gazing at the leaves, admiring their veins, shadows, and reflections, I feel myself drinking from that same source as I drank from in the pine forest and the orchid show.

And so the reveries continue, now imagining future discoveries of caches of beauty.  Maybe we can search for wild orchids growing on the slopes of Parc Macaya, north of Okay.  I’ve read that of Haiti’s 300 species of orchids, almost 40 are endemic to this region, also known for its lush forests and waterfalls.  Smiling, I let my imagination follow the trail of beauty that remains to be discovered.

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