A Gypsy in New York
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Pre-publication preview courtesy of Ash Tree Publishing
Chapter 1.1 (continued from Chapter1)
New York and Man-a-hat-ta
Like Gypsies we entered the port of New York in its wintertime, its bleak time. We came with the Atlantic winds icy-breathed and burdened with snow, and with the winds rising off the great Hudson River, broad and deep, whose tides flow at one hundred and fifty miles an hour, to join at Albany a system of canals which link New York City with the Great Western Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River. I liked the feel of water and winds around and within New York, and knowing from what places such winds and water came thither. I wondered if sometimes there might drop onto those man-made, confined city streets a plume from a wild goose or wild turkey flighting over that shut-in sky.
Federico Garcia is one of my favorite people, both as person and poet. When he stayed a while in New York, he was inspired to write of its dawn as he was it…La Auora, that beautiful word.
“New York’s daybreak contains four columns of mire and a hurricane of black doves paddling in the putrescent waters.”
I saw New York’s daybreak differently. I saw grey mists clearing and leaving below valleys of yellowness like the stretches of wild daffodils which I remember with longing from my childhood in England.
So! New York! Over those misty stretches of yellowness at dawn fly crowds of that city’s pigeons or doves. Call them either, what you choose.
Those birds seem as many and as noisy as honeybees emerging from an overturned bee-skep.
Those New York pigeons are away in search of that day’s food. Some receive stale breads or crumbs form compassionate New Yorkers, others fend for themselves amongst garbage, although they are only clean-natured eaters of cereals and decline all other.
Winter is the season when many Gypsies move into houses in cities all over the world, and they come likewise into New York. The Gypsies are wanting house roofs over their heads during the cold-weather months, and above all opportunity to find well-paid work to enable them to amass the wherewithal to travel again, carefree, when the first scents of spring come on the warming air. And as the Scottish tinkers say of springtime, “When the yellow is on the broom bushes.” (The yellow, its flowering) A Chinese poet says of that time: "How fragrant the scent that comes softly with the wind, Breaking the traveler’s heart in vain As he halts his horse, wondering, wandering.”
The Gypsies’ hearts do not break, the Gypsies go! Even though the Cadillac cars and upholstered trailers of the American Gypsies replace the horse-drawn, carved, wooden vans of former days. They follow old and new trails across the Americas of North and South, and they also visit Mexico. There in Mexico I was to meet them later, American-born Gypsies from New York, mostly traveling in tropical Colima, where its great volcano dominates that beautiful part of the world. Many of those Gypsies in Mexico often make their money from sideshows, rather of the Punch and Judy type.
As for “wondering, wandering,” I had arrived in New York from southern Spain, with my children and a dog (my eight-year-old son, Raffi Nissim, my daughter, Luz Espana, aged seven, myself, and an Afghan hound bitch, Cingane). The dog was the greyhound kind which the Gypsies always like to keep, though in this case she was the Afghanistan greyhound breed, not one of the usual hare-chasing “Long-tails” of the Gypsy world. In Spain we had stayed in the absolute solitude of the hills of the Malaga territory on a goat farm two hours’ donkey-riding away from any village, where the only loud sounds were the pouring of swift streams down rocky courses, and the hundredfold tambourines of shaken goat bells.
Gypsies – only equaled by the nomad Bedouin Arabs – know and love the lonely places of the world. In Spain there are mountain trails which only the Gypsy caravans travel. The contrast of clamorous New York port to the quiet of Malaga hills was extraordinary; but it was also exciting: I have heard many times from traveler friends, people who have lived and worked in many cities, especially writers and artists, that they consider New York to be the most exciting city in the world. I heard one woman passenger on the American Export Lines ship on which we entered the Port of New York telling a woman passenger friend, in her Yiddish-sounding English, that if you live in New York. “No need go other place, New York got everything!”
To be continued…
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Author of Common Herbs for Natural Health
In this richly detailed memoir, Juliette de Bairacli Levy – one of the founders of American herbalism – offers us a rare documentary. It is at once an herbal, a travel book and a compendium of Gypsy lore and Gypsy ways. 210 pages,
This collection includes three great herbal medicine books and one video by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, well-known as the "grandmother of herbal medicine."
Nature's Children is a classic book on natural childrearing; it includes remedies, recipes, and fascinating lore.
Traveler's Joy is a unique guide to finding the wild bounty in simple living; Juliette covers topics such as travel, water, dwellings, medicine, and food.
Common Herbs for Natural Health is an essential herbal with lore and uses for 200 herbs including cosmetic, culinary, and medical recipes.
Juliette of the Herbs, the exceptional video included in this collection will delight, entrance, and inspire!
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