Monday, February 14, 2011

Week 38: Spring in the Air

A long allée at the Garden of Villandry

The branches may still be bare, but something is changing...all of a sudden there are more birds in the trees, gossiping and bickering, talking of spring. The sun played hide and seek this week, but when it revealed itself, it did so gloriously. We went out of doors occasionally without even a sweater. One day we didn't turn the heat on until late in the afternoon and the fireplaces were left unlit for several evenings in a row. We notice the days lengthening and the angle of the sun is a little higher. The sunrise is further east along the horizon. One can begin to dream of warm days, although Jonathan, always the realist, told me not to put away my coat just yet. This moment of the year is very unpredictable and conventional wisdom has it that a hard frost can not be deemed impossible until well into May.

We had a busy and fun week. Wendy and Margot, two lovely Australian artists who stayed with us the first year we were in business, came to do some etching in the studio. They are spending their summer vacation wintering in France! Wendy is a graphic designer, Margot an editor. They are both experienced printmakers, so pleasant in every way to be around. I find it extremely refreshing to have other artists in the studio to work with elbow to elbow. It's convivial and inspirational to my own process. Wendy is working on a series of small drawings, details of our village and etching them on tiny plates which she will assemble in various configurations. Margot brought a piece of linoleum she has had for over a year. She is already working on her third image. They stay on through the middle of next week so I will post the results of their efforts on my next blog if I receive their permissions.

Rick prepares some small plates for Wendy. He has become an expert at cutting copper.

Margot inks up her first lino print.

Pulling her first print - an image of Sam the cat, who stayed behind in Australia.

Since their sojourn at Maison Conti is relatively long, a week and a half, they felt they had time to take one of Rick's tours of the area. They chose the most spectacular day and their desired destination was the Garden of Villandry. Margot, who is an avid gardener, had seen photos of it many times in gardening books. Of course, it being winter, the garden was really in its low season. No flowers, no vegetables, but the bare bone beauty of the formal garden structure was visible and evocative. Besides, the grounds were virtually devoid of other visitors.

Villandry is the last remaining Renaissance Château formal garden, once so popular, the style fell out of fashion and is, of course, a great deal of effort to maintain. It needs constant attention to keep its rigid shape. It invites contemplation and quiet reflection.

The little yellow violets fluttered in the wind, not quite filling the lovely large pot.

The stone statue of a favorite dog has a comic air, although I doubt it was intentional.

Pollarded trees make charming shadows on the empty paths. The vista, up into the forest is spectacular.

When we visited Villandry in September this area seemed like a memory from a dream I once had.

Ah, sweet symmetry!


  1. Happy Valentines Day Nancy!
    I believe on could get lost in those sculpted beautiful in design.

    Sounds like your guests and you and Richard are enjoying your time glad for that..

    Yes ..please ask permission and post some photos of their prints..would love to see them.

    Enjoy your little snippet of Spring. We are feeling the same here in Virginia. You are correct, the birds are beginning to sing more.

    Janet xox

  2. These are "jardins à la française" and reveals how measured and rational tried to be french spirit at that time.I am not very fond of these gardens but must say it is hard job to maintain !