Monday, August 24, 2015

Cheeky Sunflowers

There is nothing timid about the sunflower. Anything that can shine sunshine back up to the sun has to be bold, brash and maybe even a bit cheeky. Those strong stalks carrying the flowers ever closer to the sky and those golden manes slowly unfurling, evoke confidence and stamina.

Surrounding our small village there is row after row after row of sunflowers making it seem as if the countryside has been flooded by yellow. Fields and hillsides turn into the waves and troughs of a yellow ocean.

It takes hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of sunflowers to make up this mighty inland sea. The ocean of yellow is beautiful, but it is also fun to take in the expressive faces of individual sunflowers. Although they all resemble clowns on stilts, there are lots of different personalities out there, somber, sweet, grouchy, but mostly “hey look at me” happy.

As strong as the sunflower is it has it’s Achilles’ heel - it can only out play the sun for so long before it starts to feel the heat and gasp for water. With this summer’s gorgeous sunny days and not a drop of rain for the months of June or July the waves and waves of golden sunflower petals pretty much shriveled up over night. One day bright and brash, the next crumpled and humbled. For though the sunflower plant is as strong as Zeus, it’s petals are mere mortals to the broiling sun when there is no rain to quench their parched thirsty fibers.
 Now their heads droop and their faces blacken with the ripening seeds. As brief as they were flamboyant and beautiful the yellow petals did their work of attracting pollinators and now the seeds are maturing for the fall harvest. The sunflower is a hard worker and the loss of her beauty does not deter her from the demands of her work.

Each year we wait with anticipation for these friendly, happy signs of summer in all it’s glory. For even though the sunflower is the loud, unsophisticated, hardworking, country cousin to the elegant rose and the sensual peony, her rugged personality is a part of the culture and landscape that makes this such a stunning place to live.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Run Away to the Circus

For those starry-eyed kids who run away to the circus, Pierre has his own version of catch and release.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Under the Little Big Top

Tonight all our eyes were sparking with anticipation. Our faces shine as if magic dust had been sprinkled on us as we entered into this scene. For indeed happiness abounds. We all here under a canopy of stars, under the Big Top, and under the spell of the pixie dust of a circus.

This is no ordinary circus, in fact this isn’t a circus at all, it is L’Aurora Equestrian Spectacle.

I need to back up a little……

Three years ago Tom did an unusual thing, he went out for an evening on his own. He took himself to the little circus set up down the street, drawn there by the colorful posters that had gone up a few days before. The colorful posters were followed by the appearance of brightly colored circus wagons, then a striped “big” top tent. There were ponies, geese, a llama and a goat nibbling the sweet grass and wandering freely on the village fields. 

I don’t know where I was, but by the time I returned home there were little watercolor sketches of the show all over the studio and stories spilling forth. Tom had attached himself to the little circus for the entire weekend and heard the family’s stories and entertained the children with his charming paintings and funny accent. Because the L’Aurora Equestrian Spectacle is truly a family affair.

Here is what he learned or “The Inside Scoop of the Magical L’Aurora Equestrian Spectacle”.

Once upon a time there was a dashing young man who grew up in the circus. And of course there was a beautiful young woman that ran off to join the circus. The young woman wanted to ride horses like a wild thing and where else but the circus to do just that. The young man and the young woman worked in the Magic Kingdom of Disney near the sparkling bright lights of Paris. They fell in love and made their plans to escape the Magic Kingdom for a life of daring on the road. Little by little they saved up their monies and bought classic, old fashioned circus equipment. First a charming little sleeping carriage, next a strong truck, then a trailer for animals and of course the big red and yellow striped Big Top tent. It took awhile to find just that right one that was easy for two people to put up and take down. Then just as the 4th little circus baby was born they decided it was time to head off into the big world without the safety net of the Magical Kingdom. They snuggled into cots and beds in the little sleeping carriage. So there would be harmony in the animal trailer, they taught the geese to get along with the horse, and the horse to get along with the goat, and all of them to just ignore the llama. Mom and Dad each became experts at how to navigate the narrow roads between the small villages of France.

That first night Tom was taken by the sheer joy and innocence of the little working family. Dad played the Ring Master, cracking a whip without ever touching anyone or anything, riding as fast as the Paint horse could go in the tiny show ring, Mom rode the Paint in a wild bareback exhibition, and the children were miniature clowns that walked tightropes on the ground, juggled  (mostly dropped) several apples and guided the geese in an adorable sliding board routine. That year the geese were bigger than the children and the miniature pony could seat three of the youngsters and still think that maybe there was just one wiggly flea on it’s back. The littlest Aurora appeared on the scene in her mother’s arms.

Three years have gone by and the Equestrian Show is in town again. Our excitement started on Monday when we saw the brightly colored posters on every corner of the village. Finally I was going to see The Show and meet the little family. 

As soon as we arrived at the Big Top it was clear that this was going to be a very sweet evening. Familiar faces were there with their children or with friends that were acting like children. We hopped from one foot to the other with anticipation to get our tickets, there was a line for popcorn and lemonade, and children were taking turns being led around by the littlest Aurora on her miniature pony. Her faced beamed with pride at her lovely pony and her role of Mistress of the Pony. Pint-sized clowns were wandering around miming hellos and welcomes. As soon as we got to the ticket window Tom’s presence was acknowledged. “Tom. You are here! So glad to see you! We think of you all the time. Allegra, come see, this is the painter whose painting is over our bed.” Suddenly we were surrounded by the pip squeek clowns. The pony and her Mistress were pretty much standing on my toes. The faces of two handsome teenagers and two gangly youngsters beamed to see the painter that they vaguely remembered from years ago.. Dad was called over and he gave Tom a big hug and introduced us to each child. It was clear that he was immensely proud of each and every one and that they were confident and excited to be there. But wait, we haven’t even seen them in the ring!

The performance was just as Tom had described it. It was as if each family member stepped out of Tom’s sketches. The geese tumbling down the sliding board, Mom riding horses like a wild thing, a mountain climbing goat, that also rode the horse like it was a wild thing, a magic act where Mom went into the box with holes and poles pierced everywhere and then Mom and two of the daughters came out of that box- oh my!! Such magic and dazzlement. But truth be told the best part of the performances was when something just wasn’t going quite right. The juggler just couldn’t get the rhythm for adding the 4th loop, but pick them up and try, try again he did. The hoola-hoop princess couldn’t kick that hoop up off the ground and get it rotating for love or money, but again try, try again and smile while your doing it. The audience went wild at the end of each performance. How easy it is to applaud someone that has given it their all and kept us on the edge of our seats rooting for their success. Who cared about a dropped hoop or loop? We were in awe of what they were determined to do.

The show was over and the audience lingered to pet the animals and talk to the performers. With great admiration, we spoke to the youngsters with a new appreciation of their talents. Their pride in the performance that they had just presented to us was clear in their bright eyes and confident postures. 

Two days later I am still running into children in the village that get wide eyed as they describe how they loved the wild Paint horses with the beautiful acrobatic rider and the pony ride they had taken with the Mistress of the Ponies. Every one of us has dreams of running away with the circus and to be a member of that tight knit, hard working, magical family Aurora--to be in the spot light under the Big Top and share the pixie dust.