today the three americans from autignac blundered up to the forêt des écrivains combattants. that translates as “the forest of the writer-soldiers.” a whole forest dedicated to poets and authors who fought for france. there is perhaps a pertinent lesson contained therein about which members of a society should properly be remembered. writers and soldiers. not a bad group to honor. also, it so happens that somewhere near the highest point of the forest of writer-soldiers, there are a few paths lined with mixed firs and chestnut trees, and that scattered along these paths are occasional colonies of chanterelle mushrooms. we were surrounded all day by the sounds of native french mushroom hunters calling to each other, while we amateur americans silently pinched off the stems of a basketful of chanterelles. please don’t tell our neighbors. we don’t want to hurt their feelings.
fôret des ecrivants, lamalou-les-bains, languedoc, france
the latest exhibit in the “everything here is prickly” museum. the châtaigniers (chestnut trees) are ripe right now, and their fruit is falling everywhere up in the hills behind us, where the vines of the coastal plains give way to the oaks, chestnuts and beech trees of the foothills. the chestnut husk looks just like a sea urchin, except maybe 10 times sharper. that sounds like an exaggeration, but you literally cannot pick one up with your hands. inside the husk are the chestnuts, looking like flattened hazelnuts. fortunately, a lot of the time, the nuts fall out of the husk first, before the husk falls from the tree. but of course, it’s much more photogenic when the whole thing falls, and the beautifully smooth woodgrained nut sits inside the savagely armed carapace. bring leather gloves.
lamalou-les-bains, languedoc, france
there are craggy dark misshapen almond trees along country roads and fencerows here, and they look intimidatingly spiky and black. even the outer shells of the almonds are black and forbidding. but then you remove the outer shell, and the inner shell is a warm, speckled golden, and then you crack the inner shell and the almond itself is sweet and delicious. the people here are much the same. a little crusty. and sweet at the core.
almond branch and almonds
autignac, languedoc, france
i had a beautiful subject all set up this afternoon. a five-fingered virginia creeper the color of a gulf of mexico sky 20 minutes before sunset. it sat on the dining room table until almost dinner time, when my 13 year old son in the midst of a testosterone surge swiped it out of the way and tore off four of the five leaves. i thought my still blog shot for the day was ruined until i looked at this photo, and decided it was more poignant and compelling than any perfect virginia creeper specimen could have been.
five-leaved ivy vine
uzès, languedoc, france
collecting sea glass on a french mediterranean beach normally involves an overwhelming percentage of one particular color that should come as no surprise: wine bottle green. but the last time we went to the beach, a storm had dug deep from somewhere offshore, apparently, and these white/clear, and pale celery green, and even (gasp!) blue samples were waiting for us among the mussel and oyster and clam and snail shells. it may be time to start coordinating our beach outings with the weather. not waiting for sunshine, but waiting for post storm sea glass.
the mediterranean at la corniche, sète, france