you can live in southern france for many years and even many generations, and still be considered, among the natives whose geneology can be traced back to the middle ages, something called “un estranger” or “une estrangère.” in other words, your great great grandfather may have moved here from italy or spain, and every generation since may have lived exclusively in france, and yet you are still sort of “an immigrant.” i suppose it’s not that much different in the united states where certain second-generation western- and eastern-europeans think of themselves as more “american” than the great-great grandchildren of enslaved africans who built the country by the sweat of their brow. anyway, that is a long and indirect way of saying that eucalyptus trees can be found all over southern France, and not a single one of them is “native.” yet they are beautiful, and fragrant, and apparently here to stay.
these chestnuts are some of the sharpest things i’ve every tried to pick up. they seem completely protected from any creatures who might want to eat them. but apparently the local wild boar are dextrous enough and brave enough to graze whole fields of chestnuts, opening them up, delicately removing the nuts, and leaving only the husks behind. no one we’ve talked to seems to know how they do it. but hunger and inventiveness sometimes do go hand in hand.
i am somewhat desperately photographing my surroundings here before we leave it behind on thursday. i am also somewhat desperately trying to fool myself into believing it isn’t happening. that we aren’t leaving this culture and climate behind. that we aren’t returning to below zero fahrenheit (not celsius) temperatures, and a foot or more of snow on the ground. that these agave leaves aren’t actually agave leaves we are leaving behind on our south facing stone terrace in southern France, but a close up of some unmowed fescue grass waiting for us, on a breezy june evening, on the shore of turtle lake, while the frogs sing. yes. now that i could go home to.
agave on our terrace
one of the reasons i have been so anxious to try this new format is that there is a small but significant segment of the color spectrum that i have not had a chance to explore while working on a white background. in my old format, these feathers would have looked dull gray, or possibly even like dirty white feathers set against a brighter white background. but now, against black, they get to show off their lustrous sheen to offset an air of slightly windblown bedragglement. They are happier, more self-confident feathers against a black background than they would have been against white.
i know there is a long human history of using arrangements of stones to mark special places and commemorate special events. i know that there is potentially some symbolism in my choice of symmetry and form and color here. i want very much to provide the key that will elevate this assemblage into a higher and more meaningful experience. but i collected them originally because they each had luscious, satisfying textures and felt good in my hands. then i organized them on a grid, like a good engineer, and continued to play with them until they met some internal definition of the word beautiful. and i stopped there. if you want more, the ball is in your court. let me know what you come up with.