Searching for the phoenix

“Burning Embers” is a close-up photograph of grape leaves in late autumn.

I’m searching for a phoenix. I’m searching for who and what will rise from the ashes of the year 2020. The world—every nation, every people, every one of us—has lost so very much this year.

Continue reading “Searching for the phoenix”

The eerily quiet streets of Paris

Covid Spacing
Usually restaurants in Paris have tiny tables all crammed together against the banquette along the wall. Here’s the covid spacing in one restaurant I visited.

Paris in the time of Covid

I spent the Covid lockdown of late winter and spring 2020 in the rural South of France, in a region that had few cases and very few deaths. Ours was one of the first regions to be declared “green,” which meant that we got to ease out of the restrictions a little more quickly than other parts of France that were labelled orange or red.

As the confinement came to a close in mid-May, my friend Olivier suggested that this summer might be a good time to visit Paris. In my mind, Paris is always a good idea (thank you, Audrey Hepburn!), but I really waffled about whether to make this trip. Traveling from a region with low numbers for the disease into a red-zone city that saw a high number of cases and deaths was enough of a risk to give me pause. Eventually I decided to go, mainly to see what Paris would look like without the crowds. Today’s post is a little journal of my visit to the City of Light.

Continue reading “The eerily quiet streets of Paris”

Song of summer

Garden Toad
A toad the size of my hand surprised me one morning when I was watering my garden.

 

Heard from my terrace
You know that old story about how city people can’t fall asleep in the countryside because it’s too quiet? Well, that doesn’t hold water here in the South of France. It is not quiet; all manner of things are making noise. I’m here today to talk about two of the noisemakers: cicadas and frogs.

The cicadas awaken when the sun pops over the hills and begins to warm the earth. All day long, every day through the summer, the cicadas sing their amazing song. That music can get quite loud, up to 120 decibels, enough to damage human ears at close range. The cicada—cigale in French—is among the longest-lived insects, and it is recognized as a symbol of longevity and metamorphosis.

Continue reading “Song of summer”

New discoveries: wine

Barrel Stain
Wine barrels in the cave of the Pierre Fil winery in the South of France.

 

Checking out the bottling truck
A friend and I recently visited a local vineyard that we quite like, and while there, we learned that the bottling truck would arrive a few days later. I’ve been intrigued by these trucks since I first landed in the South of France, and had been hoping for an opportunity to photograph one in action.

Annabelle, our host, was very welcoming of the idea, giving me a big smile and opening her arms to say that I would be welcome to watch, learn and take a few photographs.

Gasp! You mean the wines aren’t tenderly bottled by hand at each winery?
Some wineries still do their own bottling, but it’s an expensive, time-consuming and error-prone process. Here’s a list of the necessary steps: clean and dry the bottles, fill with wine, cork and cap, add labels, place bottles in cartons. Each step requires its own machine and/or operator. The equipment is precise, it needs to be maintained, and it can break down during bottling. There is also the complication that different wine varietals require different bottles, along with their own unique labels. If someone inexperienced is operating the machine for corking the wine or for placing the labels, things can go wrong, which means that while the wine inside might be perfectly fine, the bottle doesn’t look good enough to sell, so it’s set aside, and if that happens too often, there’s a problem with profits. Of course, the entire process must be done under strict hygiene restrictions. It all adds up to a nightmare of organization that many vintners are happy to hand off to the experts.

Continue reading “New discoveries: wine”

In honor of Juneteenth

Juneteenth
A group of freed slaves at the harbor in Galveston, Texas. (Bettmann Archive)

 

Juneteenth is a date that should be in every American child’s history book, but it certainly was not in mine. Here’s a brief statement from the History web site:

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.

That was a start, and maybe, over 150 years later, we’ll finally start seeing more needed change.

Continue reading “In honor of Juneteenth”

I can’t breathe

I’m having trouble breathing today. Words are zipping around inside my head, screaming to get out, while emotions batter against my heart.

What are the depths of hatred and fear that compel a policeman to forget (ignore?) his sworn duty to protect, instead suffocating a man to death while being filmed, while people are begging him to stop, while the man is saying he cannot breathe?

I can’t breathe.

Do you know what it feels like to have nothing left to lose? Absolutely nothing left? I don’t know what this is like. Throughout my life I’ve had the good fortune to have what I needed, even in lean times. There was never a sense of hopelessness, of having not one single thing left to lose.

Continue reading “I can’t breathe”