7 September 2021. The Spectator
Not all suns are the same. For example, this one today in the hospital, came mixed with the light of half past four, and a lot of interrogations; it is almost surreal to see how life moves on this and the other side of the window, as if we were tiny, parallel particles scattered across the universe. From the room you can see kilometres of mountains fading into the sky, while one of the few surviving trains in Colombia moves forward, painted with naivety and colour. Men on bicycles, a woman dressed in red, the gentleman with the sweets, the watchman in blue, the buses with sleeping passengers and messengers with no message. All so different, so isolated in their own myths and bubbles, but clinging to the common thread that unites them: they all inhabit life, and always find a tomorrow so as not to give up.
The patient in this room also fights her own battle; she is used to being brave, to rebuilding herself as often as necessary and to loving the sea, the snow, enjoying the sunsets and going over the pages and the perfume of her books. She is used to thinking, thinking well, thinking beautifully, thinking that everyone deserves a second and a third chance, and that humanity is a miracle to be discovered.
She was born 94 years ago in a huge house that bore her grandmother’s name, where everything was a cult of art and freedom of thought; that is where she grew up, where she learned to walk and to read, which is almost the same thing.
She is a woman small in centimetres and powerful in lucidity, capable of finding the positive side in any circumstance and in any living being that crosses her path. Because of the DNA of the educator who more than 100 years ago transformed pedagogy in Colombia, she has been a teacher since before she was born. Both (father and daughter) have had thousands of pupils in their lives and at their desks.
I reconstruct her lessons, her indeclinable tendency to optimism, her affection and that benevolence that always knows how to start again, and I understand then that the world is a round classroom, and the teaching vocation a tattoo in the heart.
She is incredible… she teaches maths while putting together a puzzle, and a preparation of white rice serves to teach a physics lesson or to emphasise the urgency of always telling the truth. In her books, we walked through the walls of the Louvre and the Metropolitan, the Prado Museum, the Hermitage, the Garden of Earthly Delights and Rembrandt’s house; and so, always searching for the light of chiaroscuro, she made each student feel that she was unique, valuable and capable of carrying out any dream that really moved her soul.
The patient in this room loves boleros, Pythagoras, La Vie en Rose, the Sistine Chapel, turtles, star maps and the literature of Marcel Proust. She has learned and taught so much; perhaps because she carries in her blue-green eyes the gaze of knowledge and proclaims to the four winds that one is only finished when one loses the ability to be surprised.
The patient in this room has written books and has written lives; she has rescued, trained and accompanied them. She has taught them to recognise mistakes, to enjoy what they have and not to be afraid of loneliness.
The patient in this room, my little giant, is my teacher, my mother; that is why today’s sun, dressed in uncertainty, in strength and questions, in helping hands and urgent hugs, is much more than the afternoon sun: it is the sun of love and gratitude, the sun of being alive.