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foreign home

after a month in our French foreign home, i have come back to a foreign home–a minnesota that is so lush and green, so free of thistles and thorns, so unselfconsciously abundant, that i feel a little bit like a stranger here.

a mid-august collection of greenery from my yard

saint paul, minnesota

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  1. LW says:

    another print-worthy piece!

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keep out

just before we left france, my husband and the two kids got invited onto a commercial fishing boat for the day. the day began at 3:00 in the morning, and ended 12 hours later at 3:00 in the afternoon. they brought back a lot of stories, three cases of minor sunburn, and one still blog subject, that got plucked from the writhing mass of sea life on deck after the net had been hauled in. from the sound of it, if i’d had my camera and some white paper on board, i think i could have gathered enough still blog images for a month.

cockle saltwater clam

mediterranean sea, near valras, france

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  1. LW says:

    love this image. what a beautiful creature.

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the things they carried home

i just finished unpacking. without realizing it, i carried more than i was really aware of back from france. tucked into journal pages, empty water bottles, and the obscure pockets of two backpacks i found the following: a collection of beach rocks with holes, a pile of sea glass, a dozen lunaria seed pods, three sea shells, two teasel flower heads, one spotted feather, one half of a turtle dove egg shell, and these wild carnation stems. i can tell you where i found each of them, what we were doing at the time, and the color of the sky.

six wild carnation stems

autignac, france

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fragments of time and place

we are sleeping off jet lag today. so i’m posting this out-take from france. it’s the bits and pieces that settled onto the surface of our collections table. lavender, thistle, broom, euphorbia, sedge, prunelle… even these half-forgotten and slightly damaged samples remind me what i loved about them when i gathered them new.

bits of a languedocien july

autignac, france

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  1. Traci says:

    another favorite of mine here. bits and pieces can be the best. (outtakes, too!)

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where the weeds are delicious

the first time we came for an extended stay in languedoc it was the wild thyme that captured our imagination. the next time we came, it was all about the grapes, or more accurately the vines. this last trip was spent in the company of fennel, which we watched evolve over the month of july from thick, blunt stalks, to shoulder-high lacy fronds that waved us on, in the shifting mediterranean winds, from the side of almost every road.

wild fennel

autiganc, france

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indigenous

these wild chives had a lovely view over the espinouse mountains near the border between the hérault and the tarn departments of southwest france. then during a picnic with our neighbor, jean-luc, he disappeared for a moment and returned to the picnic table with this bunch in his hand, and the chives no longer had such a lovely view, but we had a lovely view of them for the remainder of our convivial evening.

wild chives

the tarn, france

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a hole in one

we had one hour to kill before dinner one evening last week, so while the kids took a dip in the mediterranean, i did my usual beach gathering. but because we had only an hour, i was casual about it, almost absent minded. when i got home and sorted my loot, i surprised myself with this collection of rocks. j’adore.

beach rocks with holes (aka hag stones)

sète, france

p.s. we are traveling to morocco for a few days on our way home to minnesota from languedoc. so i have queued up a few final photos from france while we are in transition.

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  1. erica andree says:

    Love! Very Andy Goldsworthy. We’d love for you to explore our beach some time, if you are ever so inclined, although I can’t promise quite so many holey rocks. Safe travels.

  2. Manisha says:

    Oh, no, your trip is done so soon? It’s been great seeing all your French finds. Safe journeys to you and your family through Morocco and back to Minnesota!

  3. Sanna says:

    I just spent the last hour reading about your process and admiring your work. Seriously MaryJo… your home, your ideas, your pictures are so inspiring. I look around my house and crave that clean white space you’ve created in your home! And these rocks are the coolest… love that you found a small collection of them!

  4. catherine hook says:

    Beautiful stones! In Suffolk, England, they are called Hag Stones. I have spent many hours collecting them

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urchins

 

in the last week, we have spent two afternoons with two different kinds of urchins. the sea urchin shell above was plucked from the rocky bottom of the bay at banyuls sur mer during a lazy afternoon of snorkeling and sunset watching. in contrast we have just gotten back from a day in the medina of fez, in morocco, where we dodged donkeys, street vendors, stray cats, groups of staring men in doorways, and groups of young urchins running past us on the rocky, cobbled streets. i could now very much use an afternoon of sunset watching in the company of the first kind of urchin.

black sea urchin

banyuls sur mer, france

p.s. it is easy to see, opened up like this, how this sea urchins are a close cousin to the sand dollar. the beautiful radial star pattern is a series of tiny pores where the tube feet pass through the shell.

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colors of the garrigue

a close-up of one of the dozens of thistle stems i returned to the garrigue yesterday. after this past month, i believe thistle has nosed it way onto the list of all time favorite STILL blog subjects. sharing its fame with milkweed and cattails. a geographically curious trio.

thistle leaves

autiganc, france

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making returns

our month in autignac, france has come to an end. sigh. we have begun packing.  in one month, i have assembled a substantial collection of languedocien treasures: stems, seeds, flowers, shells, rocks, feathers, and a frightening collection of lethal looking thistles. only a few of these will come home with me. the rest will be returned to the garrigue where most of them came from, and where we hope they will help make more garrigue for us to wonder at the next time we are here.

temporarily mine: a collection of langedocian treasures collected over the month of july 2014

autignac, france

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Céline says:

    It’s always a pleasure to see all this nature’s things that you have collected… Thank you for sharing! :-)

  2. Dede says:

    Amazing, nature always inspires. Thank you for sharing your trip to France as well as providing inspiration to look at the beauty that surrounds us all!

  3. LW says:

    a personal favorite. can’t wait for it to become an image i can frame!

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