Snow Song Triptych

Snowy WheelbarrowNearly everything stopped for two days. There was silence. Vehicular traffic ceased which seemed to erase tensions built up from years of sound pollution and I walked in a foot and a half of snow and realized, rather guiltily, as though I had fractured fine china, that I had stepped on two snow angels a child had made earlier that morning.

A solo leaf, that managed to cling on until then, far past fall, gracefully somersaulted midair, and like a sporadic mouse skirted and scraped the very top layer of snow speaking a language where only sssssssshhhhhhhhhh was possible.

At times the wind picked up a handful of snow, turning it into a little glittery tornado swirling about, until each particle dissipated back into the whole where it was granted, once again, the gift of invisibility.


The Art of Seeing a Gallery Curated by No One

“An alchemist puts the phenomena of the world in another context” – Anselm Kiefer in an interview with art critic Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

Rust Petals

Perhaps the greatest gallery of all is the one in a city’s abandoned spaces, outdoors, left to chance, curated by no one and left to evolve by the hands of strangers and the elements of nature – all rust and chipping away layers – creations where permanence and impermanence entwine nonchalantly – and through the alchemy of these forces something new evolves.

These collaborative art works with egoless, anonymous creators and no monetary value, made by everyone and no one, change subtly over the seasons. Sometimes flowers and plants interject their presence into the compositions, sometimes they appear barren, sometimes spray paint is applied to their acts of rebellion.

Tall Grass Tails Meet Steel

What might be called “graffiti” is painted over, but even that is done unintentionally in a way that resembles or becomes “contemporary art.” The pieces are abstract and complete, whole finished works in themselves, without effort or ambition.

Geometric LayerEach time I walk to the café where I write and pass through this gallery, I see something new as if the art gives my eyes greater acuity. I have to stop and look – I am drawn toward them like a Lepidoptera to light and I want to get that close to see their every layer and contour.

I must look like a peculiar woman as I stare scrupulously at what might appear to someone else as nothing, a woman photographing nothing, but I can’t help myself. In the detritus and rust and brokenness of these pieces, I see something sublime and illuminating that I must frame; compositions worthy of greatness, a place where art, alchemy, the natural landscape, the city’s history, and randomness meet, like a mushroom blooming out a rotting log, a place where the cycle of creation and death reveal there is really no end to anything and that art is everywhere and in every thing.IMG_2194 - Copy

A Scuppernong by any Other Name Would not Taste so Sweet

After a decade in North Carolina, surrounded by mountains four-hundred and eighty million years old, I can now say y’all in a smooth velvety way, without flinching (at least in my head), but during my first summer in Asheville as I walked through the Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market I wouldn’t have dared.

During this excursion I smelled a sweet, intoxicating, honey-like aroma I had never encountered before. Soon I came upon the culprit – rows and rows of large green and purple grapes in light blue cardboard cartons.

“What are these?!” I asked the bone-thin woman in her eighties selling them, whose tight ashen curls had probably been in curlers the night before.

“Scuppernongs and muscadines,” she said, matter-of-factly.

I fell in love with them right there.

Scuppernong: this fun, playful word’s singsong feel, which I still cannot say without a smile on my face, was as much a discovery to my vocabulary as the taste of this new grape was to my palette. Little did I know, I had encountered the official state fruit of North Carolina.

They are much larger than your average grapes and perfectly globular. The deep purple ones are aubergine in hue; the light green are slightly transparent and speckled, with hints of gold, but their thick skin makes them more opaque.

When you bite into them, the tough, tart skin bursts open to the sweet, firm jelly inside, that slips away from the skin instantly, a delicious surprise once you bypass the first crisp bite into the bitter skin; The honey floral essence with hints of ferment infuses into this unusual musky grape and makes them complex like no other grape you will ever eat. The large bitter seeds don’t get in the way of enjoying the pleasure of each one.

According to “State Fruit: Scuppernong Grape,” by Jessica Lee Thompson, from the North Carolina History website, a Scuppernong is the large green variety in the muscadine family. The purple ones are usually called muscadines though there are several different varieties within those general categories

Early settlers named muscadines after the French Muscat grape, but muscadines are native to the southern United States. The oldest known living vine is over 400 years old and still active, covering half an acre on Roanoke Island (I must see it someday), and the first wines made in the United States were actually made from North Carolina Scuppernongs.

You can buy muscadine wine and Scuppernong jam, but my favorite way to eat them is fresh from the vine. You can only get them once a year in this area, around the cusp between summer and fall, so it has become something I look forward to every year.

Today I went to the Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market and bought two bushels of Scuppernongs from the same woman who first revealed them to me. The bittersweet of each one mirrors the transition between summer and fall.

They are best enjoyed while looking out over the mountains when the leaves do their magical costume change across the Blue Ridge.