Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pineapple, with Suzanne

I knew that it would be wonderful seeing the Visual Voyages exhibition at the Huntington under the guidance of its curator, my colleague Daniela Bleichmar - but I didn't realize quite how much I would learn about what was outside the show.  Somehow, I hadn't quite noticed that the gardens in front of it had been temporarily planted with Central and South American plants and fruits and all manner of botanica that would, indeed, have been strange and wonderful to the first European visitors.  This included pineapples - Suzanne and I - Suzanne's in the background, presumably contemplating the issue - wondered if we can grow pineapples here in Los Angeles.  I mean, surely the evidence above would suggest so?  The whole existence of the pineapple - how to draw it; how to describe it to someone who'd never seen or smelt or tasted or felt one - was a running theme in the first part of the exhibition.  The whole of Visual Voyages is stunning - the illustrated books, atlases, herbaria; the botanical illustrations; a large, contemplative portrait of Humboldt, is terrific - go, if you haven't already been - or even if you have, go again.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

different leaves

Two different sorts of leaves in the Huntington Gardens - some vine leaves, and some palm leaves.  The vine leaves were spreading over a canopy in the Ranch garden - only open for a couple of hours each Saturday - it's an urban agricultural experiment and teaching tool, and is a wonderful corner of the Huntington I didn't know existed, full of butterflies and bees and fennel and artichokes and kale and native plants and fruit trees.  As the people who run it said: it's the edible side of the Huntington (this was whilst offering me slices of blood orange, and chocolate persimmon - that is, vaguely-chocolate flavored persimmon, not some gussied-up Christmas treat), as opposed to the ornamental.  It was the antithesis of the hothouse (despite being around 82 degrees - surely not natural for December?), and extraordinarily peaceful.

Friday, December 8, 2017

the translucency of whiskers

It's time that LucyFur had her chance to shine (aka, for those of you who decipher the hidden message behind these things, it was a long, long, long, longer than that, long day of meetings).  But - what strikes me most of all her is not just the intelligence of her profile, but those extraordinary, thick, translucent whiskers.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

why it's worth living with the danger of fire ...

I could have sworn that I would never buy a house that was vulnerable to fire - I have a long-standing fire phobia; used to wake up, as a small child, with screaming nightmares about fire; and have a tendency to hyperventilate when near burning logs in a fireplace.  I haven't the world's best sense of smell, but I can sniff out the scent of burning at a hundred paces.  Yesterday's skies of smoke made me on edge, jumpy.  (Yes, I know that I've just co-edited an issue of 19 on "fire," but that's either perversity, or a form of aversion therapy).  So why would I ...?   Here's the answer: the view from our living room early this morning.  It's a trade-off - vulnerability for view - but it's pretty wonderful to have (only) a 10 mile drive to work, with this vista (that bright green spot? The umbrella shading my precious avocado tree is still there ...).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

all the air is full of smoke

The view from my parking structure at USC today - that smoke is coming up from the Bel Air fire.  The air is anything but Bel: of course, at work, and in Los Feliz, it's nothing like as dense and horrible as further west, though it's making my already scratchy throat scratchier, to be sure.  We're lucky; friends of ours who live down where that smoke is - waiting to see.  But in a way, so are all of us, especially if, like us, our homes back up against tinder-dry brush and woodland.  This means that we're always looking anxiously outside, wondering where sirens are heading, wondering if the sound we hear is helicopters circling overhead for some ominous reason, picking up cell phone messages about red flag conditions being declared again (and that means we can't park on the street), gauging how much the warm Santa Ana winds have picked up.  Of course this is the price one pays for living on a hillside, having amazing views, enjoying the rural.  But I wish it would rain.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

a photobomb

A long, long, long day, mostly spent doing Skype interviews, with occasional pauses to eat dried mango.  The kind of day when one comes home and casts desperately around for something to photograph, and once again, hits on the bright bowl of tomatoes.  But.  What is that, in the top right hand corner?  Moth really can't bear not to be the center of attention ...

Monday, December 4, 2017

last class

I will miss this class! including the other ten students who are out of this picture, but seated somewhere around our living room ... We ended with 5-minute presentations from everyone about their final project (and that had me looking forward to each of those final projects, very much indeed).  This was, however, interleaved with a pot-luck dinner that included some truly excellent food - I so enjoy having students round to the house (although, I have to say, gatherings these days are much more decorous than some that I remember from many decades ago, especially in my flat in Bristol).