While sitting on a local Afghani bus, Susan and I bounced along and listened to goats, held securely by their owners, as they bleated from the rear of the bus. They would get off at the next town to be sold at market.
As the bus came out of a curve near a tribal village, I looked out the window and was stunned by the beauty of fields of vivid, red poppies.
“Look, Susan!” I said, “I’ve never seen such a gorgeous field of flowers. I wonder what they are.” We stared, in awe, at their beauty.
It was 1975, and my five-year-old daughter Susan and I were on a round-the-world trip. Then, I didn’t realize the poppies would be used for opium and shipped to the west as heroin. Only later, did I learn about their dangerous end-product.
We were entranced with the bright clothing worn by the tribal women standing outside one of the walled villages, protected by adobe fortifications. The bright red of the poppies matched their scarlet dresses. The women’s dark hair and eyes looked stunning next to their light skin and brilliant clothing. For one second, my eyes deeply met the eyes of one of the women. There was no time for communication, but I sensed her interest in me, as I felt for her, in spite of our completely different lives.
More than forty years later, while reading the April 11th business section of the New York Times, I was amazed to see a photograph of stunning, lavender crocus flowers spread across the landscape, with the familiar bare mountains in the distance. Unlike the poppies, the end result of the lavender beauty of these flowers carpeting the landscape is a prized spice to flavor delicious menus across the world, and not fuel the drug trade.
Ah, progress – Saffron instead of Heroin.
Oh my god this was so beautifully written. Kudos to you Jane. I hope to paint like you write. Every stroke has a purpose.
Red versus purple beauty. Devastation versus delight. Poison flowing into a body versus the potential for a delicious meal. The meaning is both hidden and in plain sight. Like many things, it depends on awareness and understanding. You might have traveled by without ever knowing that the beauty of fields of vivid, red poppies was a sign of danger. Flowers can be deceiving.
That’s good. Well done.
And saffron allows the growers to earn a much less dangerous profit…