Posts tagged ‘rural’
It’s simple……… Although my teammates Narin Garrett, Erin McTaggart and I were the competitors in the tournament that we recently won, we could not have done it alone. For us, it took a village.
During the recent weekend of September 8 and 9, the United States Women’s World Qualification Tournament of Pétanque took place in the small coastal village of Blue Hill, Maine. This event is held only every other year, and in the small world of USA pétanque, this tournament is THE grandaddy (or should I say, grandmama) of them all. The rewards are great because the tournament’s winner becomes Team USA at the next Women’s World Pétanque Championship (to be held in Tunisia in 2013).
For Narin, Erin and I, this was our 3rd attempt as a team to try to win this championship. Four years ago we took home the bronze medal; 2 years ago we lost a heartbreaker in the final to take home the silver. Could this time finally be our gold medal moment?
The tournament was hosted by the Maine Boules Club. Its pétanque terrain is situated in a boatyard about 50 feet from a body of water known as Webber’s Cove. The rugged and natural setting offered a gravelly and sloping terrain — a very challenging surface that was fitting for a national championship. We arrived a couple of days before the tournament’s start, so as to train and get used to the unfamiliar terrain. I kept reminding myself that I had come to Maine to train and compete. But in those first days while there, the changing light off the nearby water kept beckoning my eye elsewhere from the pétanque at hand. I wanted to be playing with my Nikon, not my boules!! Thanks to the patience of my teammates, I did manage to sneak in a bit of photo shooting though.
Getting back to the “village”………………….. After 2 days of pre-tournament training and 2 days of competition, Narin, Erin and I did it — we won!!! In the immediate moments after the final game, and then during the awards ceremony, everything felt so surreal. I was clearly experiencing a “pinch me, is this real?” moment. Yet I knew it was real and I knew that I (us) could not have done it alone. In my (our) journey to that gold medal moment in Maine, I (we) had the help and support of some very key individuals:
PJ Mallette — Our coach, our teacher, our biggest cheerleader; your note cards were truly inspirational. We tried to “keep it simple” and simply “play to our potential.”
Mike Menefee and Cameron McTaggart Menefee — Partner and precious baby son of Erin. Thanks for driving us to Webber’s Cove each morning and sending your love and support “from a distance” so as to allow mommy Erin her full concentration during the tournament. I love that you watched the final game from a distance in your car in the parking lot, using binoculars to watch, while Cameron was napping in the back seat. Your very vocal belief in us has always been so important.
Gina DeJoy — A member of the Maine Boules Club and herself a competitor in this tournament, who graciously and generously housed us for the duration of our stay.
Ryan and Zaven Tatarian — Partner and precious toddler son of Narin.
Sean Hall, Tim Herrera and Ray Scholz — My teenaged son, brother and brother’s partner. I love you all so much.
Gilles (where ever you may be) – For all the time we spent on a pétanque court: merci.
Maine Boules Club — A wonderfully hospitable club with a great group of women players. I am so happy to have met all of them and cannot wait for a return trip.
It is nearly 2 weeks since the victory, but the enormity of the experience is still very fresh. There is such a wonderful satisfaction of working towards one’s goals and then achieving them. Over the past 10 years, this funny French game has been a consistent part of my life. Because of it, I’ve traveled and competed in many parts of the United States. I’ve thrived on the unique challenges, mental and physical, that are a part of competition. Along the way, I have met and become friends with some wonderful fellow pétanquers. And now……….Narin, Erin and I will travel in the Fall of 2013 to Tunisia for the Women’s World Championship. Mon dieu, c’est incroyable!
So now what? The upcoming year will be a time of more training; not only consolidating my skills, but also adding more depth and variety to my game. This year, we were good enough to win the American title. But next year, we will be competing with players who have played this game all of their lives. Many of them probably held their first boule while in their cribs. In contrast, for many American pétanquers, the game was discovered as a highly pleasurable leisure activity (in casual, non-tournament play, throwing a boule with one hand, while holding a glass of wine in the other, is one of the many enjoyable aspects of this game!). Coach PJ has his work before him in helping us to raise our level of skill. He’s demonstrated time and again that he has the patience and willingness for it. Likewise, I know that Narin, Erin and I have the needed competitive spirit and motivation — we will be ready. Tunisie, nous arrivons!!
Since my first trip in 1994 to Provence in the south of France, I have always loved the flowering plant known simply as lavender. The incredible scent, the color, and the many extractions that can be made from this flower are delights that I enjoy immensely. For me, the sight and smell of lavender are one of those quintessential summer references.
The back road that leads from Glen Ellen to Santa Rosa is known as Bennett Valley. This back road is a visual feast in that the moderately hilly road has one of the most scenic drives in the Sonoma Valley — vineyards, pastures for grazing animals, barns, etc. Situated in Bennett Valley is Matanzas Creek Winery and its sumptuous lavender gardens. I must make the admission that I had never before visited this winery, nor had I ever tasted its wines. I knew about the lavender gardens and had always wanted to pay a visit. After a recent Facebook exchange with a friend in which I learned that the Matanzas lavender harvest would be happening soon, I realized I could no longer postpone a visit (thank you Laura Anderson). So last week I packed up my camera gear and drove to Bennett Valley.
Mon dieu…….. As I drove into Matanzas’ entrance and slowly continued towards the winery, I was greeted by a full bloom of purple splendor. It was mid-day of a weekday, so there were very few visitors. For the most part, I had the pleasure of wandering the gardens all to myself.
It was fascinating to observe the speed and efficiency of the harvesters. They were gracious in allowing me to follow them for a while as I leaned in closely and tried to capture the flow of their work.
There are lovely benches and chairs throughout the gardens in which to sit, enjoy a glass of wine or have a picnic. By now, all of the lavender has been harvested and the beautiful purple color will not return until next summer. However, I plan to return soon to these lovely gardens, sit myself on a bench and spend a few hours with a good book (and of course, a glass of wine!).
For more photos of my wanderings through the lavender gardens, please click here to view the Flickr gallery.
I have 4 lavender plants in the back of my house. My visit to the Matanzas gardens has inspired me to harvest the flowers and to try my hand at drying them. I am envisioning some lovely bouquets, lavender-infused olive oil, sachets. Any other suggestions?
A few weekends ago I was driving to the Napa Valley village of Yountville. As I was approaching the highway’s exit, my attention was quickly diverted to a massive yellow field, i.e., the mustard wildflowers.
However, what really compelled my attention was the the number of people throughout the field, snapping away portraits of each other amidst the beautiful backdrop of the mustard blooms. Aha……inspiration for my next blog post — a “photo within a photo” pictorial essay.
And so I returned with my camera, and joined all the other photo gatherers in this veritable wildflower playground. There were families snapping shots of their beloved children; couples taking photos of each other; teen girls frolicking and striking poses. I felt a bit like an intruder, as I discretely tried to follow and capture these ongoing photo ops. For the most part, those that I photographed were gracious and tolerant of my incursions into their photo shoots. I spotted a young couple being photographed by a professional — possibly a marital engagement session. I started clicking on my shutter button as I approached their vicinity. Alas, they did not tolerate my presence and quickly (though politely) asked me to put my camera down. I did.
I had been “in the field” for some time and was ready to return to my car, when the most exquisite photo subjects entered the mustard field for their photo shoot — a bride and groom, with their photographer!! Luckily I already had my telephoto lens on my camera, so I excitedly (and as discretely as possible) made my way to photograph their session from a mid distance. They were young and lovely, the bride and groom — a perfect match for the rural beauty of that mustard field.
In late October the seasonal fall foliage began appearing in their amazing red, yellow and orange hues. The colorful leaves from trees and grapevines have been such a beautiful visual transition from autumn to winter. As I have driven by, cycled or walked past the tri-colors in this region, I found myself constantly doing visual “double takes” — the beauty has been both overwhelming and unbelievable.
While enjoying the beauty of the fall foliage, I’ve also been reminded of a certain ironic “poetry.” The colorful beauty derives from the fact that the leaves have past their peak green color and have now “died,” and will soon fall off their branches. The symbolism of the “completed life cycle” + “beautiful death” = “life renewal” equation is not lost on me.
I love the song Autumn Leaves (especially Edith Piaf’s version). I find it interesting that in French, the song’s title is Les Feuilles Mortes, which literally translates to The Dead Leaves.
Sean and I have been dealing with an unexpectedly premature “death” of a shared personal dream. Our “tree” was Sean’s highly anticipated school year abroad in France. But the leaves on this “tree” were put to death when faced with a very harsh reality: the host family in France were terrible and unkind people who made Sean’s daily life a nightmare. The situation could not continue and I made the terribly difficult decision to have Sean return home. As a parent, I know I made the correct decision, but in doing so, I delivered the final death blow to the dream.
I spent 48 hours in France, assessing Sean’s host family situation, and then ultimately making the difficult decision to end Sean’s stay there. During this time, Fall foliage was in full seasonal tilt. For a few hours of respite, Sean and I took a walk around the tiny, but beautiful village of Cauvigny, where he had been living. Amidst my disbelief, anger and sadness, I tried to capture some of nature’s beauty that I saw. Perhaps it was a “photography as therapy” coping mechanism that was at work.
Will this unexpected “death” scenario finds its way into my “competed life cycle + death = life renewal” equation? The door on this dream has closed — will there be another one that opens? I think so. But in the meantime, both Sean and I have been licking our emotional wounds, while also doing our best to keep our chins up, face each day, and being ready to greet the new open door with our open arms. The holiday season is now upon us, and we are already feeling better.
Although these photos are painful memories for me, perhaps they are also part of the process that will lead us to that open door………..
The night before had not ended well. My purse had been stolen that evening and in it were my wallet (containing my driver’s license, ATM and credit cards, some cash), my iPhone (containing all my contact info) and my keys (to my car and house). Violation, mixed with fear were racing through me — needless to say, I slept very badly that night.
Next day, my spirits remained low as I went about my post-theft business — canceling credit cards and cellular phones, arranging to have my house locks re-keyed, etc. After a few hours, I needed a change. That change came in the form of Gilles’ brilliant idea to take a drive to Tomales Bay in western Marin County. His suggestion hit a pitch perfect ring to my ears: ”Why don’t we take a nice Sunday drive to Tomales Bay and eat some fresh oysters?” BINGO — into the car and off we went in search of a better mood and some good food! An elevation of spirits was bound to follow!
The coastal and rustic enclave of Marshall, located on Tomales Bay includes a few food destinations that keep calling me back. Nick’s Cove was profiled here but for that day, only The Marshall Store would do (http://www.themarshallstore.com/).
Ah, The Marshall Store — a deli on the Bay, serving up fresh oysters, fabulous clam chowder and other seafood delectables. There is seating inside, but the best seats are the tables and chairs set up outside along the water. Beer and wine are sold, but only for consumption in the indoor seats. So if you eat outside, you can BYOB or W and really make a coastal feast of it.
The scenic drive to Tomales Bay, the comfort of a bowl of clam chowder, the calm Bay water — it all added up to a soothing of my nerves. For a few hours, I basked in the wondrous normalcy of trying to capture The Marshall Store scene and its surrounding lush and rustic beauty.
Merci Gilles — c’était une très bon après midi!
Up in the hills of the Carneros appellation, close to where the county line of Sonoma and Napa meet, lies Artesa Winery. I must confess that even though I have now been living in Sonoma Valley for 14 years, my knowledge of the many wineries that exist in this area (and nearby Napa Valley), is downright dismal. This lack of knowledge is not because I don’t like wine. Au contraire, j’adore le vin! Perhaps there are just far too many wineries, or the fact that they are so close in my “neighborhood.” It seems that the only time I find myself visiting a winery for a tasting is when I have out of town visitors.
Artesa Winery is always one of the destinations I recommend to a visitor — and not because of the wine. I don’t mean to diminish the wines of Artesa; it’s just that it has been many years since I’ve actually tasted some of their offerings. (However, I do recall a fondness for their Pinot Noir.) For me, the reason for a visit to Artesa is the absolutely beautiful views that one beholds from there. With its hilltop location, Artesa offers a nearly 360 degree spectacular view of the surrounding Carneros region.
Two weekends ago, there was a mild rainfall. By early afternoon of that Sunday, the rain had stopped and big, fluffy, textured clouds began dotting the blue skies. I could feel a little photography excursion coming on! I didn’t know exactly where to go, but I grabbed my gear and hopped in the car. A short 10 minute drive later, and even though I had no out of town visitors with me, I found myself at Artesa. It must have been the sight of the beautiful clouds that metaphorically “drove” me (in my car) up the Artesa hilltop, in order to get closer to them on that day.
The winery was full of energy from all its visitors who looked rather happy with what they were tasting in the beautiful surroundings. I know I was happy as I tried to capture some of what I saw that day.
(Please click here to visit the website of Artesa Winery.)
This past July, Sean and I spent time with our family in Indiana. My camera was kept happily busy as there were many pastoral fields, barns and other aspects of the midwestern countryside that were photographically interesting. However, it was indoors, surrounded by plenty of air-conditioning to combat the outdoor heat and humidity, that I found my most enjoyable photo-op: Isabella (Bella, as she is called), my 1-1/2 year old great-niece.
I love photographing children of this age. They are oblivious to the camera. They’re more interested in their own world of climbing up onto the sofa, or eating their snack, or being cuddled by a loving family member. All I can do is hope to keep up with their non-stop pace with my camera clicking away at them. Pure enjoyment for me!!
(To enlarge a photo, please click on it.)
Tucked in a rural corner of Sacramento County is a small town called Knights Landing. For nearly 30 years on Labor Day weekend, a community of pétanque players from the San Francisco area have been descending upon this small town for a weekend tournament. I have been playing pétanque for about 10 years and have participated in the tournament 5 or 6 times. Without a doubt, it is one of the pétanque season highlights. This tournament has all one could want from this funny French game — serious, yet fun competition, a beautiful setting, competitors of all ages (players in their 20′s and in their 80′s), and a convivial atmosphere that guarantees a weekend well spent.
Organized by the Club Français de Sacramento, the tournament is hosted by and takes place on the 500 acre walnut farm of Emile and Simone Furlan — French expats who came to the United States in their young adulthood. Monsieur Furlan passed away a few years ago, but his indefatigable wife Simone, has continued this Bay Area pétanque tradition and it is now known as the Emile Furlan Memorial Tournament. Simone’s joyous energy knows no bounds — she is an inspiration to all who are privileged to know her.
The pétanque terrain is bordered by a large stretch of walnut trees, as well as a reservoir of water — making for a very lush, secluded and beautiful surrounding in which to find oneself. But players beware: the mosquitos near the reservoir love to pick and bite on the skin of us pétanquers!! And as this is a 2 day event, and because Knights Landing has no hotels, camping is one of the Furlan tournament traditions.
This year there were 99 players competing, each grouped into pre-arranged teams of 3 (known in pétanque-ese as a “select triplette”). With so many players, a wide range of skill level was present. One’s game had to be en forme to make it into the second day championship rounds (the concours, in pétanque-ese).
Each day, lunch was served by Simone’s enthusiastic team of fellow club members. The locally grown tomatoes were my favorite!!
As a photography enthusiast, I find pétanque tournaments to be rich in fodder for photo-ops. The variety of people/characters of all ages who play this game, constantly provides material for my eyes. I love to compete, but as soon as my game is over, I hurry to pick up my camera in order to try to capture some of the action/drama/entertainment/moments that are happening around me.
(I played with Gilles Karpowicz and Dan Feaster; we had never played together as a triplette team. However, we discovered we had good team chemistry and played well. We lost a tough and competitive semi-final, but were able to win the game for 3rd place. It was fun to “touch some money” in this tournament!)
(I invite you to double-click on the images in order to see them enlarged.)
During the months of January, February and March in this “neck of the woods,” the fields and vineyards lie dormant for the winter season. Yet during this time, a yellow hued visual feast crops up on many of those sleeping fields. It never ceases to wake up my eyes to witness another one of nature’s seasonal beauties.
Wild mustard flowers are currently in their full blooming glory — enveloping fields, hillsides, and vineyards. The mustards are indeed magnificent — whether looking at a tender bloom up close, or from afar as it carpets a field with its glistening yellow lawn.
The mustard season is so quintessentially “Sonoma.” As I was setting up this blog several months ago, it was an easy “no brainer” to decide which photo I would post on the Home Page — a classic “mustards in the vineyards” shot.
During this time of year, the cameras (both professional and amateur) are loudly clicking away, as the beautiful blooms provide an incredible subject matter.
In the past few weeks, I have been scouting out different locations to shoot. On Sunday (an atypically warm day for this time of year!) I drove around town to the chosen spots. It was a solitary effort — just me, my Nikon, my tripod and the mustards. But on the last location, there was a young family: a husband, wife and their 2 sweet young daughters. The father was photographing his daughters as they frolicked through the blooms. I struck up a conversation with the mom who told me that photographing their daughters in the mustard fields is an annual tradition for them. She was delighted to allow me to photograph her husband and daughters as they partook in their annual tradition.
My son is now 15 years old and probably would not want to frolic about in the mustard fields for the benefit of his mother’s camera. I guess I have missed that photographic opportunity!! But I think the mustards themselves will provide my own annual outing to capture them in their blooming beauty. These final 2 photos are from my 2010 edition.
(You may notice the new look of this blog. I have “upgraded” to another site. I have to admit that I am experiencing growing pains. In other words, , my “low tech” self is still trying to navigate through this new website. You will probably notice some “glitchs” in this post. I apologize and hope to have them worked out soon. Please remember that you can click on any image to enlarge it.)
Another rainy spell is currently underway for us Northern Californians. This past weekend, it felt terribly appealing to remain warm and dry inside. However, I love the look and feel of the coast during such weather. Why not take a few hours’ jaunt to the coast of western Marin County? A scenic drive through Sonoma, Petaluma and finally to Tomales Bay? A bowl of clam chowder anyone? A destination for lunch at Nick’s Cove was in order.
The drive from my doorstep to the doorstep of Nick’s Cove is just under an hour. The journey there by car is one of my favorite excursions. Immediately upon leaving Petaluma, nothing but vast stretches of countryside lay before one’s eyes: hillsides of cows out to pasture, farm land, barns, horses — a rural paradise. After meandering through and around this landscape, one is visually rewarded by the waters of Tomales Bay, as they come into sweeping view. I was definitely hungry by then and could almost taste the chowder, mopped up with some crusty bread and washed down with a glass of wine.
Upon reaching the end of the road, one can only turn onto Highway 1 — the famous coastal route that traverses through all of California. At this particular point, Highway 1 passes through the small village of Marshall, situated along Tomales Bay. Marshall is a tiny and rustic fishing village; oysters being a particular specialty.
Nick’s Cove sits along the water and opened its doors for business around 5 years ago. Composed of a few buildings built primarily in the 1930′s, some of it is situated on land, while other parts of are built on pilings over the Tomales Bay beach. The building sat abandoned and unused for many, many years. For many miles, Nick’s is the only commercial establishment along this area of the Bay. There are a few cottages nearby, but that is it. The menu offers fresh and local ingredients, in a rustic and comfortable atmosphere — a coastal, casual chic, if you will. A warm fireplace dominates the room as one enters, followed by an area where staff busily shuck freshly caught oysters, a nearby bar area. Finally, the tables look out through large glass windows that offer a wondrous view of Tomales Bay.
The food? Since this is a photo essay, I guess I should have shot some nicely composed photos that showcased the truly delicious food. But the truth is that I was too busy enjoying my chowder – food trumped photography!! But after the meal, the rain took a pause. So I spent a bit of time walking around outside, wandering along the adjacent pier and being amused by many of the quirky “decorative” touches that surround the restaurant.