Nectar of the Vine

Nectar

Upon returning from an adventure, it is vitally important to replenish the body‘s energy. I discovered that my hunger was stronger than my desire to cook, so I decided to treat myself to my favorite restaurant.

Every time I go, I promise myself quite sternly that I will try something new on the menu and broaden my experience. Alas. I succumbed to my standard favorites: a melted to perfection Brie, arugula and grilled onion panino on a perfectly toasted ciabatta roll, a side of sweet potato fries dipped in a honey mustard sauce and a glass of wine.

I used to think that white wines were insignificant and not worth my attention because they couldn’t contain the robust depth that I loved in red. Gradually, my sensitivity to red wines and then oak tannins escalated to the point that for a while all wine consumption was suspended…much to my tongue’s complaint.

One fateful day, a friend introduced me to a South African Chenin blanc. The first sip slid over my tongue with the smoothness of lychee flesh and left flavors of honey, apricots, butter and a quick spice of ginger lingering to a gently subtle and gradual finish. While not a great imbiber of alcoholic beverages, I finished that bottle in one sitting…with absolutely no regrets. Since then, whenever a Chenin blanc is offered at a restaurant (which is rare), I unhesitatingly request it and have yet to be disappointed.

One of the reasons I love this restaurant so much is that it also hosts a lovely Chenin blanc; the Sauvion Vouvray from the Loire Valley, France. The color is a light honey hue with high clarity and medium viscosity. The bouquet is light and quite deceptive as the flavor is much deeper and more complex than the bouquet would lead you to believe. Today’s selection, the 2010, was a bit dry for my taste, but certainly not as dry as a Chardonnay. I think I would prefer to let it ripen in the bottle for a bit longer. However, the dryness softened with the pairing of the brie, the bitterness of the arugula and balanced the sweetness of the sweet potatoes perfectly. An excellent conclusion to a day of adventuring.

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Summer Scents

Natural Perfumery

I went adventuring today. Any good adventure always requires a hat (mine was a large, floppy carnation pink selection), sunglasses, appropriate shoes (cute flip flops), a fresh pedicure and a smoothie to go.

As I wandered, I stumbled upon a little passageway, tucked away in a wall of wildflowers, ivy and trees. Only at one angle could I see that this was indeed a path that only those fortunate enough to know of its existence used. I decided I would be one of those fortunate ones.

As I stepped onto the path, the noise of the busy street behind me diminished significantly and I felt a smile creep across my face as I anticipated what was before me. Four more steps, and I popped out onto a lazy and serene cul-de-sac lined with impeccably groomed homes and gardens. I shivered with delight and slowly made my way down the too short street. 

The scent was so subtle at first that I didn’t even notice it. The sun caressed my back as I admired a tree and then a small puff of wind strengthened the smell. This strong whiff pulled me out of my dream state in search of the origins of this warm, pungent perfume that had enveloped me. I turned a corner, and exclaimed in delight at the vision before me in white and green. The cascading birch trees punctuated the huge swaths of blooming ground honeysuckle out of which sprang fountains of white roses. The resulting air wrapped me in a cocoon of warm damp earth, heady honey sweetness, delicate rose tendrils and tangy scented leaves. Reluctantly I pulled myself away, savoring the lingering giddiness that lightened my step.

Trees Speak

A tree in spite of the forest

They say you cannot see the forest for the trees, but I often find it frustrating that I cannot appreciate a solitary tree for the forest. Like all environments of collections of similar items, the influence of one upon the others can be important, but I like to appreciate the growth of an individual…especially in trees.

While wandering through the Getty Center this week, I came across this exhibit on trees. Because of my love of trees, I would have looked at it regardless, but this photo (Myoung Ho Lee, South Korean; “Tree #3,” negative 2006, print 2009) stopped me, elicited a laugh of delight and then pulled me closer like a lover for a kiss.

How long did it take to discover the best materials to use for such an image…to construct it…to erect it. Did any other elements play into the creation of this image…such as wind or rain or snow…how long did it take to actually achieve this one photo that caused such a strong reaction in me? To be able to isolate just one tree in order to appreciate all the lines and the flow and the uniqueness of it is a dream I often have and here it was in front of me. Brilliant and stunning. Definitely a photo I would love to hang in my house.

I pondered if I should continue looking at other photos because I doubted any would elicit such a response from me, but I am a lover of tree architecture and the wisdom they seem to share through their understated existence, so I entered the gallery.


Creative illusion

Upon entering the gallery, my eye instantly went to this photograph and then to another. I disciplined myself and forced my eyes to consider all the ones in between before I allowed the feast of this one. I honestly don’t know why I do that. Why can’t I just go to the ones that instantly catch my eye? I’m so distracted by what I want to see, I never fully appreciate anything else until I’m sated with those that draw me to them first.

This photo (Henri Cartier-Bresson, French, 1908-2004; Brie, France, May-June 1968) first showed me the tunnel because of the barren landscape all around it. Questions fell over themselves in a cascade of thoughts. Why was this avenue created? Was there a series of ever ponderous committees debating its necessity or virtues, or did some wealthy rogue sneak out at night and begin planting trees? Why do the trees stop where they do? Was there a designated beginning and ending point? Was it fulfilled or completed?

Only at this point did I recognize the optical illusion of the single tree at the front of the tunnel. I chuckled, realizing again that I didn’t see the forest for the trees…or rather the larger tree for the many that created it. In that moment I realized the many moments that flash by my daily life without consideration and I wondered how much of my life I was missing. I expressed gratitude for the artist’s time and eye to stop and take such a “boring” picture and for the lessons I am blessed with seeing.


Twirly Winter

This is the other photograph that caught my attention (Andre Kertesz,
American; “Washington Square, Winter” 1954). At first I thought it was a cartoon reminiscent of Dr. Seuss or the Berenstain Bears with the characters of the trees, the curving path in the center and the whimsical lamp posts that immediately brought Mr. Tumnus to mind. Then I realized it was a photograph of a real place in winter and I giggled with delight. I instantly thought of those mornings in graduate school when I would wake up to a magic blanket of white that transformed my familiar world into a fairyland adventure. Familiar places and buildings and spaces and shapes suddenly had new textures and details previously unseen and I relished in seeing the familiar in new ways.

Why had I giggled? What caused my impulse to run and play? I gradually realized it was because of all the curved lines in the composition. I wanted to be one of the people in the photograph and run and slide around the corners…either on my feet or on a sled…and see how far I could go before crashing into the bank of snow. Then I thought I’d probably make a ramp at the spot I crashed most so I could get some air and make a more spectacular landing. I thought of Snoopy and Lucy and the Peanuts gang ice skating, of roller skating as a child and I thought of Temple Grandin‘s research and designs and I wondered if curves did more than just calm cattle…maybe they also inspire play in humans.

Textures of Water

Textured water

This week I popped in to the Getty Center for the last bits of the day after a meeting. A favorite place of mine due to the architecture and views and art all blended into one experience, I visit it as frequently as possible. Familiar with the art collection already, I chose to focus on the garden areas which I often overlook.

I wandered down the path toward the Central Garden, crisscrossing the stream as it flowed toward the waterfall. At each bridge, I marveled again at the design…not only of the wood patterns on the bridge, but of the stones in the water. At the top of the path, the stones are massive and stubbornly rooted. The water is forced to find a path around the hewn rocks and the sound of that energy is strong and demands to be noticed. At each subsequent crossing, the water flows more easily due to ever decreasing rock sizes and the resulting pitch of the water also lowers until at the last bridge there are just large, smooth river rocks lining the floor of the water’s path to the waterfall.

I stare at the water as it rushes over these smooth rocks and then plummets down a steep staircase to a large pool below and I’m again curious as to why I cannot see a water. I see many waters all blended together, but I can never pick out a single water. I realize that it’s similar to air molecules, but for some reason that rarely surprises me. Water, however, always surprises me…such force…such energy…such adaptation…such magentism. Yet, I wonder if a single water molecule could achieve that on its own or if it requires a connection to other water molecules.

After visiting the plants in the garden, I make my way up to the center area between the gallery buildings and I meet the pool of water in the photograph. It surprises me…I don’t remember it being there. I remember other pools of water tucked away between buildings, but this one eludes my conscious memory. There’s a slight breeze blowing and the water responds by creating yet another texture with the light. I’m stunned at the beauty of this intricate pattern that would require a massive amount of mathematics to explain or duplicate, yet is created easily and instantly with just a bit of sun and wind. Again, I shake my head…water still has managed to surprise and amaze me…and it makes me smile.

Gates of Paradise

Doorway to Paradise

Doors fascinate and intrigue me. They bespeak the character of the building by being that moment of transition from outward to inward; appearance to functionality. Does the other side of the door reveal the promise that this side portends?

There are those doors that are grandiose, such as Ghiberti‘s doors on a baptistery in Florence. There are those that are more humble, such as the door to Bilbo Baggins‘ home. Then there are those more sturdy wooden doors like those at Castle Chillon or Neuschwanstein. Or, the sole red door surrounded by tan and white in Notting Hill. Each suggests a story…a history…an adventure.

Then, there’s this entrance I came across this weekend. When looking at this exquisite piece of craftsmanship, I feel a bit like Crocodile Dundee brandishing his machete while exclaiming, “THIS is a knife!” Similarly, THIS is a door. Not just the bits that open and shut or the jamb that holds it all together. It is also a magnificent wall that surrounds and presents all the parts of the entrance. I just know that when I stand at THIS door something magical is about to happen. And, should I be fortunate enough to pass through to the other side I would find all my suspicions to be delightfully true.

To Be or Not To Be

Selaginella

One of the things I do whenever my soul needs a pick-me-up is to visit a nursery. I don’t mean a baby nursery in a hospital (although I’m sure there are many arguments to be made for and against such a place being a pick-me-up for the soul); I mean a plant nursery. 

Whenever I’m surrounded by plants, I’m struck by the seeming simplicity of their lives. While some plants serve important purposes from a human perspective, it must be acknowledged that some plants’ sole purpose is to just be…and be beautiful…even if no one sees them or appreciates their beauty. They remind me that while others might criticize me for not being enough this way or being too much that way, that just being me is enough…to let my inner light shine for beauty’s sake. And that is enough. 

Simply Quiet

Wistful...

I love picture books…the simplicity and harmony between the illustrations and words always sucks me into my world of imagination and fantasy. I have attempted to write picture books, but have yet to capture the beauty of “less is more.” It is much harder to craft a children’s book than I ever thought.

I came upon this book several months ago, but it continues to haunt me as one of the most beautifully crafted books for children that I have ever encountered. The illustrations so magically convey the many meanings of the quiet moments portrayed, that I get lost in my memories of moments when I have experienced that type of quiet. While not all of the examples of quiet are happy ones (Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet), they are all so thoughtfully presented that every child can relate to them making this book an excellent way to explore the emotions and feelings that arise in these moments of quiet. 

My favorite one, “Right before you yell, ‘SURPRISE!” always makes me giggle…for invariably, that’s the moment when I realize I have to use the loo.

Facets of Myself

Flowing elegance.

I love hats. Like people, they come in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures. And also like people, they each portray a personality or story or event. Because of this, each hat I put on my head allows a different facet of my personality to come forth…often times I find myself surprised to discover that particular part of me exists at all…Simply by putting on a hat!

I have a small collection of hats, but they are mostly Summer straw hats, frequently worn and probably ready for retirement could I bring myself to part with them. So, I went on a quest to see if there were any milliners any more…and if so, did any belong in my collection?

Oh joy of my soul, I found Louise Green Millinery (http://www.louisegreen.com/)! Her designs range from whimsical to elegant…outrageous to practical…ethereal to substantial…men to women and all the spaces in between. There are several collections now, spanning all the seasons, and the one thing that popped out at me while browsing with a Cheshire grin stretching my face, was the joy and delight that obviously goes into the design and creation of each hat. Only someone with a love of beauty, textures, colors and facets of self can create such delightful pieces of art. 

Colors of Passion

Sweet Peas

A friend of mine is a florist. I love to peruse her ever-changing collection of flowers, admiring the variety of color and texture and shape and size. My fingers reach out gently to caress each bud…savoring the mixture of textures found in the petals and leaves and stem. The scent, also a blend of the three elements, wafts up through my nose and a faint flavor dances on my tongue.

These sweet peas, freshly harvested in the warmth of early morning, wafted a sweet, rich perfume that tasted like a merlot…the delicate buds feeling like a soft cheek under my fingers…the stems, crisp, almost brittle, yet flexible and strong…the leave tentative, yet full of  life and promise. However, the colors, velvet tones of royal purple, crimson, burgundy, lavender and deep heathered rose, are what caused my eyes to leap in joy while simultaneously hearing the word “orgasmic!” in my mind thereby requiring me to purchase a few and put them in my bathroom so I could meditate on beauty while preparing for my day.

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