Monday, 1 October 2007

flowers and war..















I was walking along the narrow street, in that quiet French village.. night was coming, and the last breeze of the late sunset were escorting me all the time…
Suddenly, a white wonder made me stop.. it was there, in a big pot behind the bars of a balcony… a cactus flower, ready to open in all its beauty.

I stopped, watching it, and remembered the cactus in my garden, far away at home, and how I was always eager waiting for the day that it blossomed. Just one night, but deserving …

A voice brought me back to reality. A man was talking to me, from inside the open window of that balcony…
- Do you like the cactus?
- Sure, sir, I love them, as much as I love their flowers…
- Well, you are lucky then, this cactus offers me only one per year, and you are seeing it now.
- And it is so beautiful, -I added, still watching it- their ephemeral life makes them special. You can watch other flowers.. a glance, coz you know you will see them again the next day, and the following ones.. and there will be many of them ready to blossom when the others die.. but when you watch a cactus flower, you try to fill your soul all of a sudden.. You are intoxicated with its beauty… coz you know it will be brief.. and intense.. And it will have to last a whole year.
- Curious, he said- your eyes watching it, reminded me of another pair of eyes, a long time ago, waiting for this miracle.. and not knowing they would lose it, but gain a better one: to keep alive

His face was ready to bloom, as the flower.. his eyes bright, his voice somehow trembling… I didn’t dare to ask.. but I waited…
- The cactus was behind the window. – He began- my mother had told me it would be flowering for one day.. and each morning, she showed me the stem growing and the bud filling out … that morning she had told me it would open that same evening.
The man sighed.. a pause.. then he went on

-I remember.. that guy riding his bicycle fast while shouting; they arrive! they arrive! (“They” was for the Germans, the "Boche", the enemy)… and we saw smoke at the top of the roofs and we heard explosions in the distance… It was August 1944, young lady, two months after the landing at Normandy and all the German troops were going up north to reinforce the front line, and cross the area… But at Limousine, my place, the resistance, the “maquis” were very powerful and well organized and they attacked the enemy constantly. In the German army there was an armoured division ..very famous, and it was under orders of General Lamerding. They had left Provenza, and through the Languedoc they had devastated towns and villas… when arriving at Tulle, they had arrested all men they found, and had hung them throughout the avenue.

I was frightened.. the man smiled and told me

- It was the war.. for both sides. And they were the ones arriving at my town… I remember old veterans of the World War I, guns in hands, descending the hills… and civilians of the Resistance, with their bracelets red, white and blue, running in all directions, grenades on their waist… and us, escaping, following the course of a stream, and hiding from the shrapnel of the airplanes that flew overhead… finally, we arrived at a farm, on the hill from where we could see all of the valley. There were already lot of people there, who, like us, had left the town… we listened, far away, the explosions roared… we saw billowing black smoke rising, in the valley.

- The battle lasted two days, lady… - continued the man- adults occasionally watched the edge of the hill, to see if the smoke was still there, if they heard explosions… On the third day there was silence… and an old man arrived at the run to tell us that they had gone away… that morning of the third day, they had departed. Soon we found out that they had moved to South Oradour Glane and had set the population ablaze… the women and the children in the church, the men in the garages… but they never returned to Normandy… the Resistance overcame them, annihilating them all…

The man paused… his voice was trembling, and with it my soul.

- I ran to my home - he said – in a rush to see the cactus… but there was only a stem fallen, the dead flower… dried petals on the flowerpot…

And then I saw, in that man’s expression, the eyes of a disappointed boy, who, at that moment, had felt more saddened by a flower, than by the horrors surrounding him…
I watched the flower again, opened now… and its perfume smelled of war and death, but also of hopes and miracles


Merci beaucoup, Yves..

2 comments:

yralim said...

et merci Sil de l'avoir si bien racontée...

Ric said...

Touching story sil, I have read about the women and children of that place being burned, it is horrific that people can do this. A wonderful account given by you, thank you.