Friday, October 8, 2010

"The Gypsies"

Long before I 'discovered' Zen Buddhism, I read a book called "The Gypsies" by Jan Yoors.

Recently, I recalled my pleasure in that book and ordered it from Amazon -- a used paperback because I really did not want to be disappointed by something that had been so delightful in the past. The book was published in 1967 and I must have read it in the same time frame. So much changes in 40-plus years that I am skeptical of trying to relive old enticements. Amazon charged me $6-plus dollars that included shipping -- a sum I was willing to risk on disappointing results.

Today I sat on the deck in the sunshine and opened it up and read the introduction and a couple of chapters. I was well and truly hooked all over again. Here are the first lines of the introduction:

This book is written as a protest against oblivion, as a cry of love for this race of strangers who have lived among us for centuries and remained apart.

The Gypsies, seemingly immune to progress, live in an everlasting Now,  in a perpetual, heroic present, as if they recognized only  the slow pulse of eternity and were content to live in the margin of history. They are in constant motion, like the waving of branches or the flowing of water ....

The chapters tell the story of a 12-year-old boy, the author, who wandered into a gypsy encampment in Belgium before World War II and, off and on lived with them, with his parents' consent, for ten years. The writing and tale-telling lives up to the introduction, allowing the reader to agree or disagree with the broad-brush "waving of branches or the flowing of water." It is a quiet, literate tale, selling nothing ... just recounting without egregious adjectives or filler adverbs. Other books may speak of the "everlasting Now" and end up in the spiritual-endeavor section of book stores. This book is better than that.

I am wowed all over again -- a surprising and wonderful sensation. Who can think of something 40 years old that rekindles the delight it once induced?

OK ... enough public relations. I am just saying it makes me happy and I will try to ration myself as I continue reading: The book is only 256 pages long. I don't want to finish it too soon.

I would like to wallow.


  1. I seem to remember that the gypsies do not have a word for private property in their language! :)

  2. I was out sweeping leaves on the deck last night at dusk and feeling for the gypsies, who for me are perfect examples of integrated humans within the earth. I didn't sweep the leaves off the deck but to the center, forming a circle, so now, today, the wind and leaves can express themselves again, meet new friends (leaves, from heaven) and dance together. I place my hands together as one, gently, in honor of the gypsy.