Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Daipensia and Chimayo

Well, here I am back on schedule again. I did not forget this time!

The drawing I have posted is of a rather unusual plant that is native to Canada. It is what is known as a "circumboreal arctic-alpine" species which grows on exposed rocky ridges that are kept free from snow by high winds.

The plant is known as "Daipensia lapponica". The subspecies "lapponica" is native to eastern North America, Greenland, Scotland, Scandinavia and western Arctic-Russia. There is another subspecies known as "obovata" which is native to eastern Arctic-Russia, Korea, Japan, Alaska and the Yukon.

The Family name for these two is Diapensiaceae and there are only these two members of the Family: D. lapponica and D. obovata.

As you can see from the drawing, the plant is a small, cushion-forming, evergreen, perennial shrub. It has oval, blunt, leathery, toothless leaves arranged in rosettes. Supposedly, it produces some kind of growth rings which indicate that in Canada, the plants can live to be over 100 years old. Now, that is an old plant!

The fuzzy looking image above (with a bit of my hand showing) is of a cross I received in yesterday's mail. It is a traditional "Chimayo" cross from New Mexico. And as is always true of a Chimayo cross, it has been cut from a rusted tin roof and has three pieces of turquoise at the centre (they stand for the Trinity).

The rusted tin is supposed to have come from the roof which covered the original church at the shrine of Chimayo, New Mexico -- the roof was replaced in 1922 -- so the back of the cross reads: "Chimayo NM 1922"

The story of Chimayo is that a beautiful crucifix was found while a poor man was digging a hole in the dusty village of Chimayo back in the 1800's. The villagers placed the crucifix in their tiny chapel but when the church officials saw how beautiful it was, they decided it should be in the cathedral in Santa Fe. After it was placed in the cathedral, it soon went missing and was eventually found back at the chapel in Chimayo. Several more attempts were made to remove the crucifix from the chapel, but even with guards on duty, the crucifix kept mysteriously returning to Chimayo.

Next the people discovered that the sandy earth where the crucifix had been buried had curative powers. As the cures increased, more and more pilgrims began to visit the shrine. By this point, they had discovered that eating some of the earth caused it to have the most effect so the chapel was expanded into a church which included the "dirt room".

The shrine is still very popular with cures continuing to occur inexplicably. It is now a proper shrine church and no longer has a tin roof. It has been called the Lourdes of North America and is very popular with Spanish-speaking Americans.

As to whether the cross I got actually being made from that original tin roof, it is highly questionable, but it is as authentic as one can get with these things. I also managed to get a bit of earth from the sacred hole but I have no intention of trying to eat it at this particular time. If my pain ever gets as bad again as it was 8 years ago, however, I wouldn't be adverse to trying anything to get it to stop -- even eating a bit of New Mexico dirt!!

May peace be with you all.

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