Shutter dogs of March

What’s a shutter dog?
A shutter dog is a piece of hardware mounted to the outside wall of a building, and it’s designed to hold a shutter open so the shutter doesn’t flap around in the wind. If you do an online search for “shutter dog,” you’ll get results for hardware companies and blacksmiths who make hardware that goes by several names: tieback, holdback, hold-opens, shutter stays, and my favorite, shutter dogs.

Here in France, the term for a shutter dog is arrêt de volet (shutter stop) or the more colorful bergère de volet (shutter shepherdess). We also see tête de bergère (shepherdess head), or when the head is obviously male, it’s a tête de berger. The word is pronounced bair-jhair.

I think they’re wonderful, and I stop to photograph them often enough that I have a pretty good collection of photos. Now I only make a photo when I see a form that I don’t already have, or when the color or setting is interesting.

I invite you to meet some of my favorite bergers de volet.

The fellow above, in sky blue, is fairly typical in southern France. There are a lot of blue shutters, and the tête (head) is sometimes painted to match. As I was working on the photos for this story, I began to realize that each of them has a clear personality, which I describe in the captions.

This berger is in a nearby town, and well above ground level. From below I thought it was a lion, but with the close-up photo I realized that it’s a dragon. Photo by Lana Turner.
This berger, however, really is a lion.
A splendid fellow seen in Italy (love the mustache).
This berger looks strong and wise, and rather biblical.
A fierce berger to protect the house.
A minty bergère, with a flower.
I named this one “Puzzled Bergère” because she has faint frown lines.
It appears that this berger has a second job working in the coal mines.
Purple shutters seen in Durfort.
This berger looks to me like the parish priest of a sleepy village.
A patrician bergère.
This bergère wears a string of pearls and resembles Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
This is the same figure as the coal miner above, but something about this one reminds me of Corporal Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H, so this is the Radar Berger (no spectacles).
This design puts me in mind of the World War II-era Women’s Army Corps, so she’s a WAC Bergère.
From the Pink City of Toulouse, we have today’s final selection, a lovely bergère with a rose.

March happenings
I wanted to get this post finished in time for National Pi Day (USA), which is Tuesday, March 14. In the U.S. that date is written variously as 3-14, or 3/14, or 3.14, and if you remember from geometry, 3.14 is pi, the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter. So here’s to all the mathematicians out there!

Other noteworthy dates in March:
March 8 : International Women’s Day
March 15 : The Ides of March (hail, Caesar)
March 17 : Saint Patrick’s Day
March 20 : Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring
March 25 : Annunciation Day (Annonciation in French)

The photograph above is from Paris, and I included it for the circle, its circumference and its diameter. But it’s also an arrêt de volet—a shutter dog—its mount loose enough that it could swing freely and scribe the perfect partial circle into the wall.

Color of the Year

Pantone’s Color of the Year
Every so often, I write about the Pantone color of the year. It’s a little piece of light news amidst what is otherwise a not-so-fun news cycle.

For those who haven’t heard of Pantone, it’s an American company with a color matching system that’s widely used across the fields of graphic design, printing, fashion, product design, textiles and manufacturing.

Cue the drumroll

Continue reading “Color of the Year”

Driven to abstraction

Abstract photography
Something catches my eye, and I turn my camera toward it. I move closer; I look from various angles. I move even closer. I get as close as I can, and through the lens, I see a whole new world: the slightly torn edge of a wine bottle label, or the shapes that happen when paint peels from a window shutter.

Sometimes the first thing I see is the best photograph, but that’s rare. With a little more effort, I can usually tease out a photograph that’s good for telling a story in this blog.

But the very best is when that thing that caught my eye turns out to be a big ol’ rabbit hole, and I let myself fall into a world of color and light and texture and form. This is where my heart sings, where I play to my heart’s content. I turn the camera or I move an object. I look from a lower or higher angle. I lose all track of time.

Continue reading “Driven to abstraction”

Winter solstice 2022

The magic of the season
We emerged from the drab grey concrete of the underground parking garage into a scene of such beauty that we all gasped.

A few friends had driven to Béziers to see that city’s holiday light show and Christmas market, followed by a yummy dinner at a nearby restaurant. The first thing we saw was the musical fountains, which had us clapping our hands in delight. The fountains were choreographed—both with the movement of the water and with changing colors—to dance along with the Christmas music that was being broadcast on loudspeakers.

A bonus was that we were two days from the full moon, which added to the magic of the evening.

Continue reading “Winter solstice 2022”

Canal voyage and giving thanks

Day trippin’ on the Canal du Midi

Several of us were invited to join our friend Tim aboard his beautiful boat Mary-Lou on the Canal du Midi, a few days before the canal closed for the season. It was a glorious early-November day, the air fresh and crisp, and the colors vivid. There was eager anticipation in the air that morning when we arrived in Carcassonne, and later, the on-board atmosphere was relaxed and full of joy. That, and a lot of great food!

Continue reading “Canal voyage and giving thanks”

Antiques and antiquities

Pézenas antiques

Twice a year, the village of Pézenas hosts an antiques fair known as the Foire à la Brocante. (A brocante is a shop that sells vintage or antique goods, including all manner of tools, musical instruments, furniture, linens, pottery, mirrors, art and sculpture, and housewares such as dishes, glassware, crystal, copper, and silverware.) The fair in Pézenas brings together vendors from all over the region for one huge market day. I was invited to go with friends, and eventually decided to stay longer and turn it into a brief getaway.

Catherine and I met in Bize at oh-dark-thirty—also known that day as 7:00 a.m.—and we each drove our own car an hour northeast to Pézenas. We arrived just as the market opened at 8:00, enabling us to see a lot of wares without the bumper-to-bumper crowds that we would experience later in the day. We had fun bantering with the vendors.

Continue reading “Antiques and antiquities”