In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
We were in northern Florida for the past few days for a funeral and a time of family gathering; J.'s uncle (the brother of his father) lives there and is very elderly, so we were happy to be able to stay on an extra day and visit with him. There's a lot that I don't like about Florida, but I'm crazy about the plantlife.
There wasn't a lot of time to sketch but I managed to do a few. We were staying on land near a river, with many huge live oak trees festooned with Spanish moss, whose swaying softness was punctuated by the spiky leaves of palm trees. I found it very difficult indeed to capture the essense of the overgrown tropical wildness. It would take a lot of practice and trial and error with different media to find ways that satisfy me, and I thought back to Winslow Homer's and John Singer Sargeant's tropical watercolors with even greater admiration.
During different times of the day, the moss and the leaves were backlit, or in direct sunlight. Along the great old branches of the live oaks were colonies of ferns and other plants, living high in the canopy where they could catch and retain moisture and the additional sunlight they needed to thrive.
Fantastic, brightly-colored flowers bloomed below, and vines scrambled over walls and fences and other plants with a rampant vigor unknown to northern gardens.
Tiny lizards whose feet made a thin clattering sound scuttled ahead of my hand on wooden railings, mosquitoes and ants feasted on my exposed ankles, and feral cats lurked under trees weighted with ripening grapefruit and lemons.
Time-lost decay and feverish growth coexist there, in the moist heat that slows my feet while quickening my pulse. I sat on the glassed-in porch of the old house watching the moss sway in the breeze, while cracking fresh pecans and picking out the nutmeats, wondering how different I would have been if I had grown up in such a place. I'm fascinated by the tropics but it's an attraction tempered by awareness of violent weather, unfamiliar insects and serpents, disease and fungus, the unpredictable sea, and an aversion to heat-induced torpor; I'm so much more comfortable with rocks, snow, mountains and forests, and extreme cold. Still, I'd like to spend more time exploring these places with my camera and my paints, preferably with a guide who knows far more than I do and could keep me out of trouble.
It's the last few days for the special launch offer on Jonathan's new book,How Many Roads? so if you had been thinking about ordering a copy for yourself or as a gift for someone, you have until November 1 to receive the special price. Quite a few readers and friends of this blog have ordered copies and we can't thank you enough. I hope I've written a personal note to everyone, because your support and interest are hugely appreciated.
This party was for the launch of Jonathan's new book How Many Roads?, but it was also, for us, a symbolic moment to celebrate our first ten years in Montreal and the sense that we have truly settled: we've never had an open studio party before, inviting our friends to see where we work and spend so much of our time, and for this party we really cleaned and reorganized the place, so it feels newly special to us too. Above, some of the guests are listening to Jonathan speaking about the project, and how grateful he was to everyone for being there with us to celebrate.
When I said a few words about myself and Phoenicia, I mentioned how I had never been the same as J. or some of the other guests who had always known from an early age exactly what they wanted to do with their lives -- mine has always been a question of trying to balance a bunch of different interests and struggling with the problems that created. It's only been since moving here, in the past decade, I said, that I've finally felt all the threads of my life coming together, with a sense of integration -- and it was quite wonderful to look out and see these friends who represent the different parts of my life -- artists, writers, musicians, gardeners, neighbors, family, friends who share a spiritual path, all of whom have come from many different parts of the world -- and to be bringing out this book from a publishing venture that also brings together many of the things I do that formerly felt separate. In the end, I said, it wasn't "success" that mattered, but giving yourself fully to things that you are passionate about, and sharing that with people you love.
Our niece came up from New Hampshire the day before to help us, and we couldn't have done it without her. We also had a lot of help from friends: here's some of the gorgeous food arranged (and photographed) by Priya Sebastien.
The author/photographer inscribes a book.
More food beautifully arranged by Priya, with a Middle Eastern flavour.
The guests devoured a carrot cake, iconic of the 1960s (that was in the absence of the even more iconic brownies of that era.)
And here we are with screenwriter Martine Pagé (Ni Vu Ni Connu) who helped hugely by handling the sales during the party. She and her partner Ed Hawco (Blork Blog), who took these and many other photos as a gift for us that evening, were our first friends in Montreal and we've stayed fast friends ever since -- not surprisingly, we met through blogging!
It's finally here! After three years of effort, I'm thrilled to announce that Jonathan's book of photographs of the turbulent years of the late 1960s and early 70s, How Many Roads? is finally launched. In addition to the book's 91 sepia-toned photographs, it contains an introduction by Teju Cole, essays by Steve Tozer, Hoyt Alverson, and myself, and a preface by Jonathan.
We've published it in both a paperback version and a limited-edition hardcover, with or without a signed photographic print. The books will be available for pre-order at special prices through the end of October. Paperbacks will ship soon, hardcovers at the end of the month. All the details are on the Phoenicia Publishing website.
We hope you'll take a look; this book would be a good gift for anyone who remembers or is curious about the 60s, or who'd like their children to know what it was like. (And, of course, it could be a great passive-aggressive gift for someone you know who voted for Nixon!)
This past Wednesday, we held a lancement (launch party) at our studio, which meant that we had to clean and reorganize it -- for the first time, really, since we moved in. So not only do we feel like we have a book we're proud of, but we've got a studio that feels almost new.
For my own part, I'm extremely happy this project is finally out in the world. The book's title, drawn from the Bob Dylan song, not only echoes one of the book's sub-themes -- what the interstates did to rural New England -- it also describes the circuitous path we've been on to this point! Jonathan and I have done so many publishing projects for clients and other people in the past that it makes me very happy to finally see some of his own work collected permanently in book form. It's part of his own photographic legacy, and it's also social documentation of an important period in American history that has a good deal to say to us today. Although these photos were taken before we met, our experiences of that time were similar. The process of revisiting this part of my own past has been both interesting and fruitful: I understand more about how I was shaped by these events, and also about the fateful turns our world has taken since then. Meanwhile, the accounts of the people and events of those years are already becoming simplified, distilled, and distorted -- or so it seems to me. Even recent history deserves a closer and more first-hand look than the textbooks are likely to give.