Sunday, March 15, 2015

DEATH AND RESURRECTION IN PALM SPRINGS

I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE ADEQUATELY TO CAPTURE THE QUALITY OF
THE AFTERNOON, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LIGHT GLOWING THROUGH BOUGAINVILLEA.
BUT DAMN IT, I'M GOING TO KEEP TRYING.

 Palm Springs. Palm Springs. Palm Springs.

Balm for my harried soul. Though my hay fever is acting up "something terrible" (as we say in New England), I am seriously thinking of moving here for the summer.

Before leaving, I grabbed a few books from the shelves of the place where I'm staying in LA: Colin Thubron's Siberia, L'Assommoir (The Drunk) by Victor Hugo, and a 2004 book by a Natacha Du Pont de Bie called Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos.

I've only so far read the latter and was delighted by de Bie's sense of adventure (frog eyes, scummy home-made wine, fiery chili peppers), her love for the party-hearty people of Laos, her avoidance of political correctness. She searches far and wide for authentic Laotian food and includes recipes.

A couple of excerpts:

"Bamboo is one of the oldest forms of plant life. There are over one thousand species and they flower with shocking infrequency; some flower only every seventy-five years, others (like Dendrocalamus strictus) every twenty to forty years, and one (Bambusa vulgaris) every one hundred and fifty years. But what's really peculiar about them is that their flowering is synchronised. All the individuals of a given species reproduce at the same time wherever they are located in the world, whether in the forests of Laos or in someone's oriental theme garden in Milton Keynes. I mean, how do they know?"
p. 181

"America was never 'officially' at war with Laos, but as the Ho Chi Minh trail crossed the border of the two countries, they bombed it anyway to root out the Communists. The pilots' respect for Laos was so low that they used to dump excess bombs on Lao land when returning from Vietnamese raids, just to empty their load. As a result there were more bombs dropped in Laos than on the whole of Europe in the entire Second World War--three hundred thousand tons fell in Xieng Khoung Province alone. The results were catastrophic for the civilian population.

The CBU26 cluster bomb was most widely used (though twelve other kinds of clusters have been round)--a huge bomb-shell containing six hundred and seventy tennis-ball-sized bomblets, each of which contains three hundred metal fragments that strike people at such pressure and speed that they cause horrific damage. The main bombshell opens in midair, scattering the balls over a kilometre or more; ten to thirty percent did not detonate on impact.

Those undetonated bomblets are still lying around in their millions like super-landmines, buried under topsoil, hidden under leaves and grass. They get less stable as time passes. A sight touch and they go off. At least a hundred people a year are killed or injured in this way. Typically, the casualties are poverty-stricken farmers forced to clear new land but forty per cent are children and one-quarter of the deaths are toddlers who pick up the balls thinking they are toys. I found it hardly bearable to imagine."
p. 202

For more, see "Secret War in Laos'; "Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos"; and a January, 2015 piece from The Guardian: "Laos: Thousands suffering from the deadly aftermath of US bomb campaign."


I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THESE COLORS.

2 comments:

  1. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

    William Shakespeare

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  2. Oh, how glad I am for a post on death and resurrection! As I dressed this morning - in my usual black - I felt compelled to wear a necklace I was given as a gift a long while ago. The necklace has the wing of a monarch in it, and when my coworkers saw it they yelled at me saying, "You're supposedly all about the preservation of the earth and it's lifeforms, and here you are wearing the wing of a butterfly that had to be killed for that necklace to be made!" Annoyed, but also gladdened for the opportunity to inform them of the real story behind the necklace I smuggly told them an artist found a dead butterfly and found the opportunity to give it the butterfly life again by preserving it's wings and placing them between the glass she added to a leather string to be worn around the neck. I found it a beautiful story of resurrection, suitable for this day, in which I struggle. Unfortunately, my (evidently less-mature) coworkers then proceeded to say that was the same as me wearing roadkill around my neck, "would you wear a dead raccoon around your neck? how about a squirrel fragment? or a deer?"

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