life as art
almost every grape variety divides itself into three color morphs: noir, blanc, and gris. it’s obvious when you think about it. it’s why you have pinot noir and also pinot gris (more often grigio). there is also a pinot blanc, as there is grenache noir, grenache gris, and grenache blanc. those are all just different colors of the pinot and grenache grape, in the same way that cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc are two morphs of the sauvignon grape. the most consistently and ethereally lovely of the three are the gris (sometimes called “rose”) varietals, and that is why our friend, Thierry Rodriguez, an aesthete as much as he is a winemaker, has planted 12 different varieties of what the french call “cépages gris,” from which he makes an explosively aromatic white wine called “péchaligous.” he asked me to photograph them, and just before they were harvested, steve and i made this assemblage of bloomy, luminous bunches running from pale blue, to rust, to pewter, to gray, to pink, to a translucent dusty rose. i love extravagant variations within a limited palette.
different varietals of gris/rose grapes
little oily fish
one of the challenges, and one of the joys, of learning how to live in this part of the world has been my gradual evolution as a fish eater. i grew up in a romanian household with pork sausage, calves liver, stuffed green peppers, beef stew, and chicken paprikash. and i have a trigger gag reflex when it comes to fish that is not shimmeringly fresh. so i spent our first few visits here confounding the strong smell of the little oily fish people eat near the mediterranean with fish that had gone bad. now, almost ten years later, i can eat mackerel, and anchovies, and sardines, and what i smell is not “fishiness” but simply the sea in its strength and iodine-salty sharpness.
anchovies from the mediterranean near valras plage, france
i found these blossoms in the gutter. literally. i was actually out looking for passion flowers. which i had remembered growing on an old vine covered wall beside the elementary school in our village. i didn’t find my passionflower vines this afternoon, but what i did find was a litter of faded blue blossoms encircling the base of a neighbor’s tree. gutter art. fine art. beauty lifts its head high, and walks impudently through the crowd.
Hibiscus syriacus ‘Sugared Almonds’ (Althea)
here in the south of france, there are wild carnations. unlike the showy, crenelated, and complex domesticated carnations, the wild ancestors are simple, plain, and attractive, in the way that ma ingalls was pretty, but in a very different way from the way that kylie jenner is pretty. in any case, these are not the true wild carnations that i discovered three years ago, but carthusian carnations, which display that thick head of buds, blossoms, and, i suppose, withered blossoms. what these flowers share with the true wild carnations are those impossibly slender stems, that bend and sway, but do not break, in the ferocious winds of their home territory.
carthusian carnations, dianthus carthusianorum, oeillet des chartreux
i took advantage of some particularly intense southern-european light this afternoon to introduce this wild teasel to its shadow, and both of them instantly freaked out. i had to break them up before things got out of hand. i only sustained minor flesh wounds. the teasel is sitting in an extended time-out on my counter. the shadow ran for it, and hasn’t been seen since.
wild teasel head