Every city dweller needs a sanctuary, a place to refresh his or her soul. Some take refuge in the hundreds of little neighborhood parks scattered throughout Guadalajara, while others find themselves refreshed by simply opening their own backdoor to a courtyard.
Fortunate are those who have a house with a courtyard, for here among flowering plants and singing birds the householder may say, along with the Mexican poet Luis Cotto-Vasallo: “All of Nature/ speaks to me as I witness each/ moment inhaling quietly.”
Humans have long known—and sought—the restorative power of birdsong and the fragrance of flowers, and a courtyard is often the perfect place to find both.
Not all courtyards are completely hidden from public view. Some can be glimpsed through ornate iron fences, and fortunate are the passersby who pause in their peregrinations to fill their eyes and ears and noses with the sights and sounds and scents emanating from these little sanctuaries, for they will go on their way refreshed and rejoicing.
Little brown sparrow,
the cricket in the courtyard
tries to sing your song.
For fourteen years, Ana Cristina has been making floral arrangements for El Santuario de San Nicolas de Bari. She considers them her ofrendas (offerings) to God.
Every Friday morning, you will find her in the courtyard of the church, snipping brown spots from broad leaves; stripping excess foliage from lilies, carnations and other flowers; and plumping floral foam with water.
Ana Cristina works fast. From start to finish, it takes her about fifteen minutes to make a new bouquet. If a visitor is present, she talks nonstop, explaining each step of the process.
She says that a good floral arrangement emphasizes the dynamic interaction between line and light. It is a celebration of symmetry.
Sometimes bits and pieces of last week’s arrangements find their way into a new bouquet. Recycling is an art where materials are expensive. Hence, nothing usable is wasted.
Ana Cristina invites me to follow her into the church, where she places her latest creation near the altar.
“To look upon flowers,” she tells me in Spanish, “brings peace to the soul.”
the cat with no name
purrs when I say marigold
and accepts a pat