Some days are just perfect.
The air is crisp and the dry leaves smell a little dusty and the mid-afternoon shadows are long and the light falls just so.
Overhead, the João Graveteiro has finished his nest.
The sticks he used still have green leaves clinging to them. Clever fellow, he knows how to build, but doesn’t seem to know when to stop. Lucky for him all those extra rooms confuse would-be thieves while he stays nicely hidden.
The neighbor’s horse heard me walking on the road and came galumphing down the hill looking for sweets or possibly a hairbrush.
Poor baby. Somebody really ought to tell him to stay away from the sticker burrs.
Dharma gets a wild look about her on afternoons as pretty as these.
And who can blame her, when air is so thick with the sweet smell of the Bella Cruz.
Sunday was the Festa de Santa Cruz – the Feast of the Holy Cross – and the Bella Cruz takes its name from this day because it blooms at the beginning of May. The hills are covered in it.
I love how many of the plants in the countryside get their folk names from the Catholic holidays. Every medicinal herb is seems to be named after a saint. And then there are the plants that bloom in season with the liturgical events, like Bella Cruz and the Quaresma tree.
Quaresma means Lent, and the trees, flush with royal purple blooms, dot the forests in the months of March and April. Lent is over, but I guess the trees on our farm are still feeling particularly repentant…
And then there is this plant. Vicente pointed it out to me.
It’s called Conta de Lagrimas. (The Rosary of Tears). On the roça they use the seeds to make rosaries. In English its called Job’s Tears or Chinese Barley even though it isn’t related to barley at all.
Sometimes I wonder if the early missionaries didn’t come to Brazil and see all of its wild, fecund abundance and perhaps feel a stirring in their chaste loins, and think:
“Oh Brazil, you shameless hussy! You unbridled temptress! We have to give all your plants proper Christian names to quell your wanton ways!”
And the butterflies laughed and said, “Whatever man. You go your way, we'll go ours.”