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.
My good friend KRB came to visit this week and marveled at the simple design and beautiful moss on my garden fence. I’d never thought twice about it, but having a fresh pair of eyes around brought my attention to the worthiness of my everyday.
I. and I realized we love the fence so much, we want to replace the other two sides of the garden (that have a different, less mossy, less charmingly simple design of fence) with it. Many thanks to our fresh set of eyes.
For some reason I have never been a huge azalea fan, but the azaleas around Rockridge this year changed my mind. I just kept walking and driving by these bushes absolutely bursting with color, and I couldn’t resist any longer. Unfortunately, my (former) distaste meant I waited a little too long to start photographing the blooms, so I missed my change to capture a few of my favorites (there is an amazing orange-pink one a few doors down from me that has since lost its blooms). I did manage to catch a few though. The orange and white at the bottom are some of my favorites.
I learned more about azaleas (such as the fact that all azaleas are rhododendrons but not all rhododendrons are azaleas, similar to the fact that all daffodils are narcissus, but not all narssisus are daffodils) from the Azalea Society of America. They have a great FAQ section. Some azaleas are native to Japan, and azaleas, similar to cherry blossoms, are quite celebrated in Japan. There are some great photographs of an azalea festival in Shiofune-Kannon (Ome, Tokyo) on Yumi’s flicker page.
On a related note, you should definitely look at this slideshow from the NY Times on Philadelphia gardens. Great pictures of alliums, primroses, poppies, peonies, and of course…azaleas!
I was struck as I was taking a stroll yesterday by the view of this persimmon tree in its wintry state, barren of leaves. I wrote about this persimmon tree earlier this autumn here. I love the contrast of the bright orange globes against the bare branches and bright blue sky. A Rockridge life.
The sky over Alameda at 9AM:
If you look closely at the last picture you can see a complete arc.