Outside the window of my solarium is a glorious magnolia tree. I can look forward to it bursting forth with a profusion of pink each spring. It sits amidst a mini forest of pine trees. It's a valiant tree that is still standing, still proud, but not as resplendent. The storms we have had in the Northeast in the past few weeks have devastated many of our trees. Whole trees have been uprooted from the fierce winds that followed just a few weeks after a snow storm. It was that storm, leaving feet of heavy wet snow crushing branches, that has diminished my magnolia.
My friend and neighbor, Janet, and I cut some of the branches from the fallen limbs--and I have been trying to force the bulbs. I didn't realize how much water I had put in the metal container--so much that I couldn't lift it yesterday to get it near a sunny window on the first sunny day we've had in a spell. But with a little ingenuity, I did manage. And now the valiant bulbs are trying to bloom. They are further along than the tree. It's a rebirth after the storm that makes me happy to see. March winds bring April showers...
Speaking of which, I hear from my Rochester, NY friend, Karen, that she has found a fabulous site featuring gorgeous umbrellas: Umbrellas.net. Karen is not one to hold back enthusiasm, but I think you'll agree with her that these are special, and worthy of note and carrying to shed those April showers that are sure to come your way.
I have two big umbrellas--bought in France during my Victoria days--that are treasures. They came from the Cartier Foundation and I bought them from necessity when we were shooting at a story nearby. At Versailles' Little Hamlet we were deluged with rain, but we had to carry on, only having a few days to complete our story on toile jouy fabrics. These French blue umbrellas have a huge wing span. They will keep the rain off--but on a windy day you might just take flight trying to hang on to one of them! I held one over Toshi Otsuki as he and I both stood in water up to our knees. (Oh, the glamorous life of a magazine editor!) We positioned the models, as best we could, under eaves, etc. so they would be dry while we shot. Then, under the blue umbrellas, we all scurried to a dry place. One of the guards at the palace lent me his raincoat until he had to go back on duty. Bless the lad. These umbrellas as so ample, one could easily use them on the beach, but I would never want the color to fade. It is just my favorite azure shade.
This particular story has always been one of my favorites. Maybe because of the difficulty in the shoot, but more because we were able to share with our readers the history and development of a fabric we all know well, but do not know how it came into being. The scenes of toile come from artists' renditions of scenery in the area. They created romantic little tableaux from the bridges, rivers, trees, and streams around them. When we use a toile fabric, it has a very romantic history to bring with it. There is a lovely museum in Jouy-en-Josas, and they have published a glorious book, Toile de Jouy. When you peruse the fabrics or the incredible plates in this book, remember that these are real places with real inspirations.
This month, this March of fierce winds with the promise of spring, is the 250th anniversary of the printing of toile. It's as beautiful today as it always was.