A Gypsy in New York
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Pre-publication preview courtesy of Ash Tree Publishing
Chapter 1.2, continued from last month…
I had visited New York fourteen years ago. Then I had come by plane and had been wearing Paris-bought clothes and carried a mere handful of lightweight luggage. Now I returned with my two young children at my side, all three of us wearing odd-looking clothes that long-time travelers tend to wear: the rough, hard-wearing materials, the wide sleeves for comfort, and the many and big pockets to help carry things. And I knew that my face had become as weatherworn as that of any old Gypsy woman although by age I should be called a young person! But the heat and the winds of deserts, the cold of mountaintops and other places where true Gypsy travel takes one, mark the face of travelers as surely as weather roughens the stones exposed to it the year around. Not all the lovely herbal lotions that one learns to make from flowers and leaves, steeped out in sunlight and moonlight, can fully protect against changing weather and changing climates.
Also, like Gypsies, I now carried all my possessions with me, as for years I had had no home in which to leave things. So we brought into New York a burdensome weight of my children’s collection of toys of the world, to which they were going to add later from New York’s fabulous toy shops, and the toy shop of the United Nations, and all their books, the school ones from which I, with much labor, taught them, and their “pleasure” ones; also my own chosen books, and then all the weighty necessities of my two professions, herbalist and writer. That meant sacks of herbs which I had gathered and dried myself in many countries and used constantly, volumes of notes for books on herbs, human and veterinary, and on our travel which I intended to write one day, but continued to carry from country to country still unwritten! And then cameras and artist’s materials, and a heavy collection of ancient stones and pots which my children and I had dug out of their hiding places in Europe, Mexico, and Israel. Some had gone into museums; others we could not bear to part with. Our luggage was now a collection of big wicker traveling basket-trunks, made by Gypsies from such places as Poland and Spain, and also peasant-made from that lovely island of Madeira, rightly famed for its baskets.
There was reason in such choice of luggage: the Gypsies store their possessions in sacks from the same motives. When clothing has to remain unpacked, often for months, it needs ventilation to prevent mustiness and discoloration. In the primitive places where we have stayed, from Gypsy tents to old water-mills, and even ruins, our trunks are usually our only furniture, both for storing things and for on which to sit.
The sky of New York held my attention. In winter it seems to be a very high sky: artists have commented on this. Its color, when the sun is not shining, is usually ashen, and against that pale color, the famous heaven-reaching, fantastic buildings, often monolithic, of Manhattan look darkly grey. Because Manhattan is such a narrow stretch of land – it is described as being not unlike a fish in shape – the New York builders had to plan upwards towards the clouds, once they had occupied every possible inch of the limited ground space, and the demand for offices and apartments in that district increased with every year that passed; thus their descriptive name, “skyscrapers.”
All who come to New York and look upon its crowding buildings, more pressed together and far more towering than any buildings anywhere else on earth, cannot help but think back to the time when, only a few hundred years ago, the only dwellings on that now crowded area of Manhattan were a few scattered, buffalo-skin tepees of the peaceful Canarsie Indians. It was said to have been a place of wild roses and brambles which yielded wonderful blackberries. Perhaps it was the fragrance of those Manhattan wild roses which made the Indians name that land, of which the surrounding rivers make a fish-shaped island, Man-a-hat-ta, which meant in their beautiful language “Heavenly Land.” The official flower of New York State, aptly, is the wild rose. As a botanist I know that two wild American plants are named after New York, the New York aster and New York fern. The state also has its flower festivals. Every year an Apple Blossom festival is held at Rochester, and later a Lilac festival elsewhere. New York State’s motto is equally apt: Excelsior, “Ever Upward”; and looking around at the Manhattan skyline reaching its climax in the Empire State Building, which pierces the sky like a giant’s hypodermic syringe, one wonders if the motto was chosen with Manhattan in mind.
Now the roses and blackberry bushes and Indian tepees have all gone, and there is no heavenly fragrance. Nostril-pricking fumes of petrol from the exhaust pipes of the vehicles of every kind which teem in every street in the city, the belching fumes from the numerous factories which surround New York City and poison the city’s heart, afflict one’s nose and lungs; and like the Gypsies, I am always conscious of the “poisoned air of cities, and was thus always conscious throughout my time in New York, and suffered worst of all, later, in Los Angeles.
Continued… read Chapter 1.3
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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