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Click for Tsakli GalleryTroubadour Gesture

The Image: A still life, impeccably arranged against a backdrop of purple velvet. The only objects in the still life are an old, weathered lute and a finely-cut crystal vase. The single stem in the vase looks out of place, inappropriate. But it isn't.

This is not my moment. It's my father's. I wasn't even there when it went down. But it is a cool moment nonetheless, a veritable flash of power and light in a life that saw all too few of them, and it never fails to inspire me. Thus it deserves its place of honor in my deck of tsakli. Besides, it says a lot about who I am and how I got that way.

The moment takes place in a hospital room. My mother was there, recuperating from one of her innumerable illnesses. It was supposed to be only a short stay, but the doctors had let her know that she would have to be there for some time. So she called home and asked my father to bring her, on his next visit, something from the garden. The lady loved her garden. She spent countless hours there tending, snipping, weeding, watering and above all, smiling.

When my father arrived, later that day, he tiptoed into the room, woke my mother from her afternoon nap, and solemnly presented her with her favorite crystal vase, in which he had placed a scraggly, seven-foot-long weed.

That moment captures my father at his best. The word that most springs to mind when I remember him is tired. He had been seriously beaten down by life and its tedium, but occasionally there would burst forth these moments of great humor, hinting at the youthful fire trapped inside. My mother's request had provided him with such a moment. All she had said was, "Bring me something from the garden." So he did. But he did so with a sense of style, and thus created a moment of laughter and light that transcended the mundane.

My mother never tired of telling this story. I think that weed meant more to her than any other gift my father ever gave her.

As well it should. When I think of this moment, it has for me a medieval feel. The scene played out in a modern hospital room could just as easily have taken place in 13th-century Languedoc. A stooped and weary farmer offers his equally tired wife an unexpected present. The gift is simple and seemingly inappropriate, but it isn't, because it evokes the shared laughter that marks the high points of a shared lifetime. It reminds the peasant that in his youth he was a Troubadour, and deeply loved a Lady. And it reminds the Lady that she too was once young, and that the Troubadour loves her still.




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