Grandmother Speaks... A Gypsy in New York
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
A Gypsy in New York (part 2.5)
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Pre-publication preview courtesy of Ash Tree Publishing
Would spring ever come to New York? That is a question that one asks every early new year in every land; and in New York spring comes late. Therefore it was an unexpected surprise to see one Friday morning, in mid-February, almond blossom all along Second Avenue. I shall never forget that sight! The blossom was being truck-borne to some unknown destination. The trucks were nameless, odd-looking, grey, and they were not a mere one or two for company, but a proud caravan of seven.
Seven trucks passing in procession down Second Avenue, all laden with tossing pink-silver clouds of almond blossom. Nor was the blossom the usual sparse sprays sold in good-class florist shops in the spring; it had been cut off from the trees in entire boughs, or maybe were the complete tree: a whole grove of flowering almonds must have been taken to fill those six open trucks. And for what purpose would such a quantity of almond blossom be needed? That almond blossom remains for me one of the mysteries of New York.
And what did the six truck drivers feel whenever they looked back and saw the clouds of pink and mauve with silver, which is almond blossom, massed behind them, and caught the sweet fragrance of that flower, which always holds a faint breath in it of the nuts that it will bear?
The six trucks of almond blossom passed between sidewalks crowded with people, but all except two elderly women were too busy “to stand and stare.” The mysterious and lovely cargo passed by almost unnoticed through the city. Yes, spring comes late in cities. A Chinese poet wrote:
In the capital spring comes late...
They say it is the time of the peonies,
So they come together to buy flowers.
We had already come together to buy flowers! As soon as the high Christmas holiday prices were ended, we were searching through the many beautiful flower shops of New York. When it seemed that we would have to be content with only wilting twigs of pussy willow, which is the “flower” of the poor in New York when they buy any, flower prices being sadly high, we found hyacinths in terra-cotta pots at one dollar each. I must in all, through two months, have spent twenty dollars on hyacinths.
I could, with that money, have bought a new jacket, which I needed. But those hyacinths in their peasant-type pots, with the heavy perfume of their flowers filling the apartment, were early springtime and gathered beauty and, moreover, something to tend again after years without a good garden with which to enjoy myself. We had a pot of hyacinths at every window of our apartment, and at our favorite window where we street-gazed, we always kept three pots there, from the time the hyacinths appeared in the New York shops.
In the Ancient Lore, Osiris says to Nefertiti of Egypt that humans cannot live very long without the tranquility offered from the perfume of flowers. The main contents of an Indian medicine bag are herbs of sweet smell and of favorite memory, and ones that are usually associated with a pleasant place known in childhood.
We took good care of our hyacinths, putting them outdoors to stand, where for a short while rays of sunlight touched the metal stairs of the fire escape outside the window of the back room. At night for warmth we used to stand the hyacinth pots in a circle around an electric lamp that I kept lit, and put a fleecy shawl around them, as one might wrap frail human infants. For, as in many of the steam-heated New York apartments, all our steam heating was cut off nightly from ten o’clock until six o’clock the following morning: the only hours of true cold in the city, when the temperature often dropped well below zero, and when heating was needed most.
The care that I took of our hyacinths reminded me of lines in a poem by a favorite American writer of mine, Edna St. Vincent Millay: “I am in love with him, to whom a hyacinth is dearer than I shall ever be dear!” (I have been through that once!)
When new snow fell, we put spoons of it into the hyacinth pots, knowing that it was very good for them. Snow is nature’s great fertilizer, rich in phosphates and nitrates; one has only to observe the phosphorescent light of snow to realize this. If the New York snow had come to us through cleaner air, I could have let my children eat amounts of it, mixed with jam, as they have done in other places.
Our Afghan hounds helped themselves to quantities of snow when in New York, in the cleaner places of Central Park. An Afghan will sit down on its haunches like a wolf, and also like a wolf will eat a wide circle of snow all around it. The Turkish Gypsies taught me to eat snow with jam when I spent the winter once near Istanbul; and then in America, I learned a snow dish of the early American settlers, who poured hot molasses onto snow and twisted the mixture into thin sticks. A sticky mess which all children will enjoy. Hot maple syrup can also be used, but the snow must be pure.
to be continued....
Juliette de Bairacli Levy is herbalist, author, and breeder of Afghan hounds, friend of the Gypsies, traveler in search of herbal wisdom and the pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine. For more than sixty years she has lived with the Gypsies, nomads and peasants of the world, learning the healing arts of these peoples who live close to nature and listening to nature herself. Her books include “Traveler’s Joy”, “Nature’s Children”, “Common Herbs for Natural Health”, “The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat”, “The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable”, and “Spanish Mountain Life” among others.
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,
index, illustrations. Retails
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!
20% savings YOURS for $49.95 ($63.80 value), plus shipping.
Take an herb walk in and around Arab, Alabama, home of southern herbalist Phyllis Light. Arab is located in northern Alabama at one end of the Appalachian Mountains. She is joined by her good friend and northern herbalist Matthew Wood.
Herbs covered: blackberry, briers (sarsaparilla), cleavers, daisy fleabane, dogwood, fringetree, honeysuckle, hydrangea, poke, prickly ash, sassafras, solomon's seal, sowthistle, tulip poplar, wild cherry, wild yam, and yellowroot.
Chapter index included.
In this empowering book, Stephen Buhner offers conclusive evidence that plant medicines, with their complex mix of multiple antibiotic compounds, are remarkably effective against drug-resistant bacteria. You'll learn how antibiotic herbs such as aloe, garlic, and grapefruit seed extract represent our best defense against bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and Salmonella -- and how their use will ensure that, in the future, antibiotic drugs will still be there when we really need them. Extensively researched. Paperback: 144 pages