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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

First Day of Spring 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The first day of Spring,
Vernal Equinox,
is March 20, 2013.

Dogwoods are harbingers of Spring in the United States.

Pear trees are also welcome signs of Spring that dot both
gardens and wooded areas.  All along the highways bright white blooms
appear on pear trees while surrounding trees are still bare.

Flowering trees brightening the landscape are not the only signs of Spring.
Farmers welcome the greening of agricultural fields.

This defunct silo sits on an old farmstead that no longer has a 
farmhouse, barn, or other out buildings.
Seen from the south along a state highway, 
the silo is a lonely sentinel to days gone by.

A closer view from a small farm road north of the silo 
reveals a smaller companion silo.

This early in Spring, the vines covering the silos and
the fence have yet to sprout.
But not to worry, soon the lonely silo duo will be clothed in 
vines the same shade as the bright green of the agricultural fields.
The duo won't be so lonely looking then.
Spring brings hope to everything!

Château de Beynac

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The French feudal castle of 
built during the 12th and 13th centuries,
is surrounded by the medieval village of Beynac.

Beautiful blue shutters and stone-carved lintels line the stone-paved walkways
leading to the castle's moat and entrance.

Privately owned since 1962, the castle was restored and opened to the public.
Its fairy-tale architecture is captivating!  
So much so, the castle was the setting for the
movie Ever After, 
and the surrounding village was the setting for the movie Chocolat.
Ah, France....

In reality, the castle and surrounding village played pivotal roles in the
Hundred Years' War
between France and England.

High above the Dordorgne River, the castle was a French stronghold.

Even during wars and harsh times, French builders created beautiful
exterior doors, stone-carved dormers, tile roofs, and 
scalloped tile moldings along the roofline.
See this picture anywhere and one knows this is
French architecture!

Inside the castle, curved stone ceilings and arched windows...

Stone spiral staircases...

In late afternoon sun, light streams through the 
clear and blue leaded-glass windows
onto the spiral staircase.

Perhaps the most intriguing stairs are the ones worn down
by eight hundred years of people walking on them.

What lay outside the door obscured by the light at the top?
What did these climbers see?
Who else made the climb over the years?

Soldiers rushing to defend their castle,
servants trudging to work gardens on the terrace,
royalty walking to escape the darkness within the walls,
young lovers tripping up the stairs to enjoy a star-lit night,
elderly residents struggling upstairs to feel warm sunshine
on their faces one more time,
tourists panting to reach the top to see the glorious surrounding
countryside and winding river below.

Did any of the climbers ponder about those before them
or about those that followed them?


Sunday, March 3, 2013

herald Spring.

Growing up in and around Huntsville, Alabama,
dogwoods were always part of Spring for me.
Downtown Huntsville has many streets of 
antebellum houses built using cotton plantation money,
and the houses are surrounded by lush gardens.

As a young girl, I would beg my parents and grandparents to drive 
on those streets every time I went to town with them. 

As the first-born child of my grandparent's first-born child,
they indulged me.  
Up one street and down the next, up the next street, and down the next,
until we had zig-zagged a path traveling
every street with the mansions. 
I would press my face to the car window, 
turning my head from one side of the street to the other 
trying not to miss a single blossom on any tree.  I would twist my
head around to stare out the back window as we turned off
the last street of antebellum houses.

Then we traveled by Maple Hill Cemetery, begun in 1822, and
burial site of many Alabama dignitaries including governors, senators,
confederate leaders, and the founder of Studebaker cars.

The houses grow smaller the further one travels from town center, 
but those streets are also filled with dogwoods.

My heart longs to see these trees every Spring,
even though I moved from there almost forty-five years ago.
Each time I visited my family during dogwood blooming time,
I asked my Texas-born husband to drive us up and down
the streets of Huntsville just as my parents did so many years before.
He always smiled and took the turns I told him
so we could see every street.  
My window rolled down, 
with a slight breeze blowing across my face,
I too smiled, and held my hand out the window
to catch the wind beneath the white and pink trees.

And many times, he would stop, and let me walk the petal-strewn sidewalks.