Queen of the Night

So I mentioned that a complete stranger, whom I canvassed in Iowa City for the presidential election, gave me a cutting of her Queen of the Night plant (her father's favorite plant from India) after I inquired about it on her front porch.

This is no small gesture.

After a little research I learned the Queen of the Night is in the same family (cestrum nocturnum) as the jasmine plant. It is incredibly fragrant and wildly popular in India, producing countless masses of light greenish-white or greenish-yellow flowers several times a year, which open only at night. The intoxicating fragrance from even a small, five-foot container grown specimen can reach for many hundreds of yards. The sweet scent accompanied us in the late night car ride back to Chicago.

All night long I dreamt of Jasmine and India (the woman was from India).

And then I realized the significance of the gift.

The last essay of a soon to be released photographic book of mine, Look and Leave : Photographs and Stories of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward is entitled

On Jasmine and Recovery

"After inhaling toxic metallic air for days in the ravaged Lower Ninth Ward, I went to a nearby neighborhood for dinner. While walking to the restaurant I passed a jasmine plant.  As the rapturous fragrance enveloped me, I was jolted into the awareness that even after all the destruction; the contaminated soil of the Lower Ninth Ward might yield life once again."

I am once again reminded of the generosity of complete strangers and infused with the hope of a fresh new start for this country.