I love this series of “hard truths” of gardening via Sunset Magazine.
“Buying a plant for its flowers is like choosing a wife for her bonnet.”
Untitled photograph by Dorothea Lange
Exciting things coming up in August both in and around Rockridge and further afield:
I discovered Nils-Udo through the July issue of the Air France Magazine (leave it to the French to have a great airline magazine). Nils-Udo is a Bavarian artist who left painting to work directly in and with nature in the early 1970’s and has continued to do so ever since. Photographs of his site-specific work (by the artist himself) are being exhibited at Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, and a new installation will premiere at the site as well (through December 31, 2009 http://www.domaine-chaumont.fr)–if you’re in the area.
Winternest. Snow, willow switches, snowballs dyed with snowball berry juice. Bavaria, Germany, 1993.
Brook bed, bindweed blossoms. Ile de La Réunion, 1990.
Sweet chestnut leaf, spirea blossoms. Vassivière, France, 1986.
Earth, water, willow, grass, rowan berries, privet berries. Aachen, Germany, 1999.
Volcanic brook bed, foxglove blossoms. Ile de La Réunion, 1990.
Sunflowers without seeds, snowball berries, spindle tree seed pods on a river. Donauried, Germany, 1993.
Untitled-21. Lime tree, bird berries and lime tree sheets. Aachen, Germany, 1999.
Mirror. Earth, water, bird berries, willow rod, blades of grass. Aachen, Germany, 1999 .
Apologies for an un-spectacular scan-job that hardly does justice to the originals (and a few little tears too–oops). I think my favorite might be the volcanic brook bed and foxglove blossoms–or maybe Mirror (wish I could find a better image). I like circles and domes in general. There is a famous blue circle in a church in Florence that I always think of and can never remember the name of the church or artist–maybe my memory made it up.
I love Nils-Udo now, and I think you should too. If you are interested in finding out a little more about him…
His representation: Claire Gastaud (website).
Some information from a recent show in the States (click here).
A beautiful-looking book (amazon).
all photographs by Nils-Udo
The old, old church is a hearty eighty-six steps up a steep hill from the village. Even with our daily five miles, I started to feel winded. This is no gentle slope. Did there used to be more dwellings that high up in Bonnieux or was that all part of it? In the 12th century was this just what you did every Sunday? Or several times a week for that matter? And just as Gothic cathedrals’ heights help bring their congregations closer to heaven with their arches and steeples, are these steps supposed to signify a journey towards communion with God?
Of course in my state of rapture, in reaching the top, in Provençal July heat, and in Christian ruins, I didn’t bother to take any pictures of the church itself. There’s hardly enough room at the top of the hill to get far enough away from the wall of the church to capture it all in one shot anyway, and the church itself was locked (though it isn’t used as a church, classical music performances are held there occasionally).
There’s a little bench up there at the top under that big cypress tree that’s obscured by the tree’s shadows. It’s so quiet up there, and windy too. In a way it’s soothing to sit on that bench, and in a way it’s very eerie, being so high up, and so dwarfed by everything around you–the church, the trees, the vista, and time itself.
Sitting in the shade and peering through the big dark cypress branches makes you understand Cezanne and the awe he obviously felt a bit better (think Forest 1894 and Landscape Near Aix, the Plain of the Arc River). I have such a different perspective on Cezanne than I used to. In college I fought one of my art history professors constantly about him–I just never felt the still lives and thought he was over-credited for his perspective. Now looking at his landscapes that once seemed so benign to me, I see much more of the turbulence that I feel is the essence of Provence–it isn’t that calm lavender scented-rosé filled country the Brits, or whoever else might think it is–it’s thick and heavy. Life is really felt here. As the French say, it’s sauvage–wild.
Of course between Paris, Marseille, Lourmarin, Guéthary, and Hondarribia (Hondarribia is the Basque, but the town is also known as Fuenterrabía in Spanish and Fontarabie in French), much is missing from my typically daily entries here. That noted, we are very happy to be in Spain. This part of Europe is especially striking due to the stark constrast in food, language, and terrain found just across the border from one country to another. A twenty or thirty minute drive from Biarritz and we’re in a whole other world. We landed in Hondarribia, in the old quarter of town at an amazing hotel called Obispo, housed in what was a 15th century palace. I love this place. It’s charming–old yet comfortable, and impeccably kept including all the amenities a modern girl could want (WiFi! while it was fun to be liberated, it is fun to reconnect too).
We arrived slightly exhausted from all the fun we had with our friends, the vacationing Parisians, in Guéthary (is it possible to have too much fun?) so we did the unthinkable and sat down to dinner at 8:30 (does it count that it hasn’t been before 10PM or finished before 12AM for the last week?). The Hotel Obispo recommended Sebastián, which happens to be just around the corner (no walk or drive to the new part of town necessary). It looks beautiful from the outside, so it wasn’t hard to draw us in. Here is our meal in pictures and a few words (I was too relaxed to remember to take any establishing shots, but the restaurant’s website has a good virtual tour and great historical photographs too).
The restaurant’s website states that “[the space] was a grocery shop several centuries ago [and] the most representative elements of the shop are still conserved, such as the window displays and glass cases once displaying the groceries which supplied numerous generations of residents of Hondarribia.” Here are various bottles (age unknown) in the window display case.
We ate upstairs. This was our view; a window box planted with purple amaranth and ivy. Across the street are window boxes with red and white geraniums.
The upstairs dining area. Note that we are among the first present for dinner…there was one other couple across from us. The benefit of the early hour is great photographs. I loved the alternating colors between the beams on the ceiling. Only a Spanish chef/restaranteur could pull that off. Honestly.
These are the beautiful cards containing the chef’s suggestions for the evening. Qué bonita! Las ilustraciones sólo!
An essential component of any fine dining experience: fine linens for the table. I found Sebastián’s particularly soothing due to a delicate pique.
Txacoli: it has become as essential to my existence as Almodóvar. Sin txacoli lo que es la vida? These tall cups (unlike the shorter versions I am used to drinking Spanish wine in) are very cool. It is like drinking liquid ambrosia, the liquid of life. The wine is produced in the countryside outisde of Hondarribia.
Don’t be fooled by any imitations; the “Getariako Txacolina” sticker across the foil is as essential as any Bordeaux A.O.C. It is an extremely limited area in which these special grapes are grown, and the special wine produced.
Ah gazpacho, con una anchoa y algún aceite de oliva bueno
Monkfish and shrimp–preparation unknown, rather forgotten, in a good bottle of Txacoli
The “taco de atun rojo de Hondarribia a la parilla.” With my limited Spanish I have little clue what I ate (sorry). I half expected some tuna in a corn tortilla. Wrong. What came was 1,000 times better. It tasted like the most beautiful tuna steak seared in a deep seasoned pan of pork fat–there was surely a strong bacon-ish element that was delicious. On the side are some crispy onions and a drizzle of parsely-seasoned olive oil. Amazing.
I can’t be sure because I forgot to photograph the menu, but I am fairly certain that this dessert was advertised as the “chocolate brick.” It delivered as advertised.
Overall an extremely successful first night in Spain. We will indubitably return to Sebastián–did I mention the service is impeccable? If, for nothing else, the fine pique linens! Salut!
In the late summer of 2005 I met Casey McKinney, a quietly bruised character at Maxfield’s coffee house on Dolores in San Francisco. We drove up to Muir Woods in a 1990 325i and stood in the fog and talked about my moving to the Bay Area and his potential escape to Europe and possibly New York City. I wasn’t sure what to think. But McKinney did it, and in doing so created the Fanzine; an everything and everyman culture magazine, which allows, or rather encourages, longer form writing that blurs the boundaries of fiction/non-fiction and every other genre encapsulation to which we might confine prose.
Today on the Fanzine, McKinney published a piece of writing that perfectly fits the bill of the Fanzine’s mission. In “Strawberry Jamming: Darryl’s Dodger Days, Memories of a Young Fan,” Richard Parks laces together the narrative of Darryl Strawberry’s self-destruction with urban malaise and tragedy of Los Angeles in the early 1990’s, all told (both) through the large innocent eyes of a nine-year-old fan and a 20-something’s hindsight.
It would behoove you to read it, in toto. You can let me know what you think.
Image from dingedcorners.com
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