By Jheri St. James
“Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” – Acts 7:33
The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign city-state, located on the French Riviera in Western Europe, bordered by France on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea on the fourth. Prince Albert II, Constitutional Monarch, is head of state with immense political power. The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. In that year, Francesco Grimaldi, known as “Il Malizia” (Italian—the “Malicious One” or the “Cunning One”) and his men captured the fortress protecting the Rock of Monaco while dressed as a Franciscan monk—a Monaco in Italian, even though the area was already called Monaco. (Photo: Statue of Grimaldi)
|“When she’d been troubled as a girl, she had taken her hurt
outside, had lain with her face pressed down to earth’s cool
green cheek, smelled her fresh perfumes, and tried to feel
earth’s buried heart throb.”*
With a population of 36,371 and an area of 2.02 km (0.78 sq. mi.), Monaco is the second smallest (after Vatican city) in area, the second smallest monarchy, and most densely populated country in the world. Its land border measures only 4.4 km (2.7 mi.), coastline 4.1 km (2.5 mi.) and width between 1,700 and 349 miles (5,600 and 1,145 ft.). This tiny country is known for its land reclamation, which has increased its size by an estimated 20%. The atmosphere is temperate because of constant sea breezes. Monaco boasts one of the world’s highest GDP rates, the lowest unemployment and poverty rates, and the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world, not to mention the world’s most expensive real estate market. It also has the world’s highest life expectancy at nearly 90 years. Monaco levies no income tax on individuals, applying to all residents of Monaco of any nationality except French citizens whose residency started after 1957.
“The substantial words are in the ground and sea... Were you
thinking that those were the words, those delicious sounds out
of your friends’ mouths? No, the real words are more delicious
than they… The masters know the earth’s words and use them more
than audible words... The earth does not argue...makes
no discriminations, has no conceivable failures, closes
nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out.”
(Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)
Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with the opening of Monaco’s first casino, Monte Carlo, and a railway to Paris. Since then, the principality’s mild climate, splendid scenery, and gambling facilities have made Monaco world-famous as a tourist destination and recreation center for the rich and famous. In more recent years, Monaco has become a major banking center, diversifying its economy into the services and small high-value-added, non-polluting industries. The state has no income tax, low business taxes, and is well known for being a tax haven.
|“Smile O voluptuous cool-breath’d earth! Earth of the slumbering
and liquid trees! Earth of the departed sunset—earth of the
mountains misty-topt! … Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter
and clearer for my sake! … Smile, for your lover comes.”
(Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)
* * *
Dana Zusman of San Clemente, California, collected the soil from the palace grounds in Monaco (above) and also another soil sample from Croatia (below with her triplets), for which we thank her.
“Some sites are considered sacred, and people go there to worship and experience an uncommon energy. Many of us dream of making a pilgrimage to a sacred place... Yet every spiritual journey begins right where we stand, this very moment. Whether we travel to the far reaches of the earth or sit on a meditation pillow in our living room, the real expedition is a journey inward...” (Daily Word, Friday September 13, 2013)
People visit sites all over our planet, to see the places where various historical events occurred and/or spiritual energies reside (above, Grand Prix car races in Monaco). Here at Common Ground 191, we acknowledge not just the buildings but the soil at those sites—for good and for ill—Robbins Island, S. Africa; Fatima, Portugal; Sachsenhauser, Germany; Mecca; Jerusalem—all share residence on the surface of our Great Mother, a commonality of soil under the history, the vortex--the sacred earth upon which each event played out. The architectural wonders of man--the 18 chateaus of France, the Topkapi palace in Istanbul, the Twin Towers of New York--are all transitory in comparison to the thousands of years of earth on Earth, and yet we put on our sandals, lose contact with the soil, and immerse ourselves in our tiny pin-dot lives.
“Voluptuous curves of foliage coaxed her to enter deeper passages.
She felt the pull of a viridian seduction. Lips of leafy drapery seemed shaped in folds and waves leading to purple openings to secret places, a womb in the forest where a fallen hemlock hosted a swarm of insects in its bark. Insects singing their mating songs, larvae, pupae, seeds celebrating their fecundity, cones opening, sap oozing, draped boughs undulating from trunks connecting earth to sky, everything vital, everything expressing a divine Spirit, God filling all space. A single swirl of energy—birth, growth, feeding, breeding, decay—all of it continuous Life, teeming with mystery, and she a part of it. She felt an incoming and an unfurling, a momentary mindlessness, a long-awaited union, a beautiful silent oneness, and she was left with an unutterable calm.
“She would sing the forest eternal. She would place her body in the womb of trees. She would bleed into the earth. She would place her bare feet onto moss and spiced pine needles, peat and mud, and up between her toes and through her pores would ooze the rich dark syrup of Mother Earth, and over her ankles would swarm tiny insects, and around her shoulders would float the exquisite flowing drapery of her green hemlock cape. She would take great gulps from slender bars of silver light, forest-filtered, like incandescent strands of old women’s hair. She would bow to the sturdy white pine, the brave, pioneering alder, the cooling Sitka spruce, the mighty Douglas-fir, the sorrowing hemlock, the sheltering maple, her beloved cedar. She would bow to the Wild Cedar Woman who dwells in the forest. She would hold her wooden hand… She would drink the forest liquids and drench herself in possibility.”*
Monaco’s only recorded natural resource is fishing. With almost the entire country being an urban area, Monaco lacks any sort of commercial agriculture industry. And yet, Monaco too is situated on the earth, the earth of seas, deserts, forests, and mountains, not just palaces, casinos and tourist resort beaches. Let us now celebrate that connection.
(*The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland is a biography of Emily Carr, courageous Canadian woman, who lived with the indigenous peoples of BC and surrounding areas, painting their lives and particularly the totem poles erected as spirit guides by those people. Published in 2004, Penguin Books:
“This Tanu father cried with wrenching formality for his hapless sons. Whatever it meant to the Haida, to her, this Eagle father also cried for the smallpox dead at Raven House in Cumshewa. He cried for every father's son sent to war. He cried for Sophie's children, and for Sophie. He cried for Haaydzims and Muldo and Tuuns, some Gitksan fathers' sons, for Harold, and for all the beaten, disfigured, lost. His tears shut no one out.”*)