Vodoun Tree. Chicken. Saut Mathurin, Haiti. March, 2007

Vodoun Tree. Chicken. Saut Mathurin, Haiti. March, 2008

Another early morning ramble, but a year later, back to Madame Denise’s house. The sun , not quite above the hillside but the clouds and sky flaming orange and mauve. Madame Denise knew it was my last morning of this particular visit in Saut Mathurin and had dressed up specially to say goodbye. People did that here. And they expected it of me too – I did not wander around in jeans and t-shirts. Respect. As we joked and I got teased about my Kreyol, I noticed this small grove of datura beside her house. And then the chicken. And then the datura flowers blazing with orange sky glow. No time to take light meter readings, or even look into the viewfinder – guesses all the way, and somehow it all worked. I said,’vodoun, la?’… is that voodoo, she smiled once again at my kreyol, and nodded her head. Then said, ‘pa mange sa – pwason’… don’t eat that, it is poisonous…

I said I know. I should. I grew up on Hindu myths about Lord Shankar getting a kick out of eating this same plant,┬áDatura stramonium – a member of the nightshade family. It is a hallucinogen, has extensive medicinal uses, but can also be lethal, even in small quantities. I was told many times as a child not to eat this gorgeous-looking plant.

Madame Denise smiled again, but in this special way, and raised her chin, that reverse nod. I knew she knew I knew she was a healer. Like my grandmother, who used to tell me all about the datura.

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar lens, Fuji P400 film