In this quiet, my heart flies over the mountains and the sea to Cabestore and its trails of small hamlets and family farms.
And then, I write. I am superstitious. I think that if I tell this one mother's story, she will not have died in vain. I believe that if I tell her story, her baby boy will miraculously live until the day I return. I believe that maybe the collective knowledge of her life will wrap her tiny house in goodness and light.
|A traditional house surrounded by a family garden in which crops are interplanted - corn, millet, beans and squashes as well as fruit and nut trees. When the lands are stolen for mon agriculture the results are often tragic.|
I close my eyes and pray hard - "Take care of that fragile family."
"For all the fragile families."
When I flew into Haiti, I looked out the plane window and I saw these tiny lights shining like diamonds in all of the mountains. I looked again. They were everywhere; a land of diamonds just sitting there in the afternoon sun.
Soon the plane, dipped down and I could see the rusty tin roofs of the many houses and they were no longer diamonds but rusted, leaking tin roofs. But I knew that we can choose to see them as diamonds or we can choose to see the rust. The diamonds, sparkling in the sun,stayed with me on my journey. I began to look for them in everything I did. I looked for those moments and places of blinding light amidst equally blinding poverty.
Rose, the mother in my sotry, died of poverty.
She like all of us, comes form a long line of human beings who traveled and lived in small equalitarian bands of friends and family. They followed the shoreline all over the world, fishing and gathering food amongst the rocks and meadows of the coast. Archaeologists believe that these early bands of humans were free of class and were largely democratic. They think this because of the graves. Later, in the human story, graves would tell a different story but for thousands of years the final resting places of human beings were remarkably equal. The other thing they noticed, was that there are virtually no skeletons with baby skeletons inside them. This leading them to consider that not many mothers died in childbirth.
Rose was buried in a poorly kept cemetery in Cabestore. It sits on a bluff on the way to the "poor kids" school; on the way to the market. Most people are buried in family graves; cement above ground, multi-layered places of rest similar to New Orleans. They sit right beside them in their front yards. I read that this was important because during slave times, there were no graves and so people wanted to keep their loved ones close by. They can lovingly put things on them and walk by them every day.
The land of Rose's Lakou; her family yard, was lost and so she traveled down the trail to the community grave yard. By the time, we arrived the burying was over and people were gathered, tied from an all too familiar journey.
The grave in the yard, was a sign of independence. self sufficiency and respect.
This was interwoven into a view of self sufficiency in which each family grew their own food and cared for one another on their own land. The world could do as it would, but they would keep their land and their traditions. This might have worked for some time, but in time people would come ( my country included ) and the rich and powerful of Haiti and they would want to consolidate the farms and turn to mono crops. It was the same in the US farms. 'We can do better. Grow more. Make more money." The problem was that the families depended on the food grown on that land to live. I watched huge trucks drive by piled high with plantains while the children's cooking pot sat empty.
Despite a well crafted, ancient system of cooperation and taking care of each other; the land of Rose's family was sold or taken or coaxed away from her and she starved. I believe her family grave is somewhere on the lost land. Perhaps the men will be hired to work the lost farm land and take home a few gouds to try to feed and educate their children. Each day they will make hard decsions about the few resources they have.
The baby is passed from arm to arm; from lap to lap no knowing where his mother has gone.