Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the March 31, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

Last Sunday I explored dirt roads on the other side of town, going down little valleys and up scrubby slopes, past handsome orchards of orange and guava, and ramshackle, dusty ranchos sometimes not much more than a few cinderblocks topped with rusty corrugated tin sheets and with a hysterical dog tied at a post.

I happened to pass one such rancho just as a señora with two little boys was closing the gate. She held a big bouquet of violet-blossomed Chinaberry flowers, MELIA AZEDARACH, and eyed me suspiciously. After exchanging "Buenos díases" I continued around the bend, saw that the road ended, turned around, and found the señora still standing there, not willing to leave the rancho with a gringo wandering in the neighborhood. When I got even with her again I said that her Chinaberry bouquet was pretty, and asked if she was going to grace her table with it. No, she was going to church, and it was for the Virgin.

I asked Emelia, for that was her name, if I could photograph her pretty bouquet, to show my friends in the north where it was so cold and gray that here in Mexico we had pretty flowers. She hesitated, then handed me a single blossom and said to photograph that, but then she realized that that's not what I wanted, and at the same time I understood that she was embarrassed that she wasn't prettily dressed, wearing a blue sweatshirt so stained that no amount of washing would ever make it look good, and after having two kids she was fat and lumpy. I was sorry that I'd asked, but then I saw her rearranging the leaves so that her bouquet looked better and she stuck out her arm as far from her body as possible and looked away grimacing saying take the picture now, and it's shown below:

Chinaberry flowers, MELIA AZEDARACH