No Fear of the Ugly



I was walking along one of those long roads, walking just to walk, looking calmly at things we hardly see when speeding by, squeezed together and paranoiac inside a city bus.

There they were, little green sprouts, happily ascending the trunk of a majagua tree.  They were just like the ones I tend to with so much care in the garden of a friend.  He had asked me to see to them until he got back from a trip.

My enthusiasm faded a little when seeing these plants, similar to those of my efforts as an impromptu gardener. They were thriving in the shade of a tree along an abandoned highway, and without any human assistance.

Thanks to life itself, of course, everything that exists in our surroundings usually does so without our help, unless it’s our own hands that have separated them from their original environment.

The thousands of people who fill their gardens and balconies with roses, ferns, malanguitas, cactuses or sunflowers, don’t do that to help these plants survive.  They do it so they themselves will live better.  Without a doubt that’s something positive in our cement cities, as long as we don’t harm the plants in the pursuit of our own pleasure.

There are hundreds of incidentals that —without our realizing it— make our disturbing existence more pleasant.

How often do we buy insecticides to get rid of the spiders determined to share our ceilings with us?  I admit that when I had a pet —“Tito,” a chicken, which I never found out whether it was rooster or hen— I fed it those same spiders that gather in droves on my porch.


Now I don’t have my blessed Tito, but I still don’t like to get rid of spiders.  The most I dare do is to whisk away their webs. And in my backyard, web-spinning spiders live care free – freer than in my room.

Every day I receive a prize more colorful than the sole pleasure of seeing them exist: a restless humming bird comes every morning to feed on the many small insects caught in the webs of “my” spiders.

It’s touching and tender to see it flying around only one step from me.

Perhaps because of this “trust,” a small humming bird (zunzun) and a warbler come to seek safe harbor in my room on nights when it rains or when they’re extremely tired.  They are of the best things that have happened to me in my life.

A few days before my walk along the highway, on one of those days of tree planting organized by HT writer Erasmo, several of us discussed whether it’s necessary to eliminate some patches of grass.  Though they could be pulled up by force out of the ground, they look beautiful in the sun or when beaten by the wind (similar to fields of wheat or sorghum, but much smaller and, in this case, “useless”).

A biologist gave a rather unfair and unconvincing explanation to Irina and me concerning the logic of their elimination.

I would have liked it if he had been with me on the afternoon of my walk, especially after dark when I crossed a field covered with those confounded grasses.

They came almost halfway up my bare legs, but they didn’t hurt; on the contrary, their cotton-like caress made me consider the nonexistence of any gravitational force.  The ochre patches, from what he might have called their flowers, made me believe I was sailing among the evening clouds.

Who doesn’t dream of flying, softly, through the clouds, one’s body free of everything?  The rest of the day —with its physical fatigue, the commotion of people, cars, smog, hunger and thirst— everything was erased by only this minute and a half walk among the ugly grasses.


Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.

One thought on “No Fear of the Ugly

  • Ahhh . . . It is amazing how a few words– “They are of the best things that have happened to me in my life.”–about the trust of a warbler and a hummingbird, can touch a heart over the thousands of miles.

    I wish HT had a column for English-language poetry from around Cuba and the world. This is all Circles needs: more work!

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