our next-door neighbor in france, jean-luc, has never owned a computer, and when asked whether he ever misses having email, he tends to wave an invisible blanket up and down in front of himself and ask, “what’s wrong with smoke signals?” today, my husband received a first email from jean-luc, who received a computer for christmas, and who has relented and decided to join the 21st century, although his attitude about life belongs so beautifully in any number of previous centuries. just seeing jean-luc’s name on a computer screen this afternoon, one month into tax season, in the middle of a minnesota winter, was as evocative for steve as a plate of bright silver sardines, fresh from the mediterranean. jean-luc’s bittersweet subject line read, “the end of smoke signals.”
mediterranean sea near valras plage, france
sometimes i ask my son joe to help me out with a description. tonight he said he thought this dying mum looked like the hair of medusa. i said i thought it looked like a tentacled jellyfish. and i’ll be damned if my francophone husband didn’t walk along at just this moment to inform us that the french word for jellyfish is méduse. goodnight everybody. my work here is done.
the fleur de lis, one of the symbols of france, translated literally, means simply, “flower of the lily.” i think this looks like a fleur de lis, because, of course, it is an actual fleur de lis, and because it has vaguely held the shape of the stylized symbol. but no symbol could possibly match the beauty of those corrugations stained brown with aging, that run along the surface of the vertical petal. i will usually choose organic imperfection over stylized symmetry. does that make me more romantic than classical?
the agave knows when to shed its skin, and how to elbow up toward the sun, and how many teeth to grow along the edge of its leaves. it is perfectly agave, and unconcerned with being anything else. i would love to spend even a single day in possession of the self-knowledge of a plant. to live exactly within my limits and possibilities.
you tell me why these ferns lost their fall colors one vein at a time, and ended up looking like the window of a gothic cathedral. there may be a scientific reason. but i don’t need to hear it. i just want to look at them some more.
pressed fern leaves
st. paul, minnesota