I’m aware of the fact that it’s more than slightly cliched to post pictures of autumnal bounty, but I’m afraid that sometimes it is inescapable.
Especially when you find stunning seed pods like these.
This is the seed pod of the southern magnolia, a stunning evergreen tree found everywhere in the suburbs of Florence. The scarlet seeds on the ebony table reminded me of the beginning of Snow White.
“Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, “If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame.” from Snow White by the Brothers Grimm.
I always liked the idea of the white, the black and the red. Well, it worked for the White Stripes.
I have smuggled some seeds home and I shall try to germinate them, though I rather doubt the tree will thrive in north west Skye.
DH Lawrence was not averse to a medlar. Not he.
“I love you, rotten,
I love to suck you out from your skins
So brown and soft and coming suave,
So morbid, as the Italians say.
What is it?
What is it, in the grape turning raisin,
In the medlar, in the sorb-apple.
Wineskins of brown morbidity,
What is it that reminds us of white gods?
Gods nude as blanched nut-kernels.
Strangely, half-sinisterly flesh-fragrant
As if with sweat,
And drenched with mystery.
Sorb-apples, medlars with dead crowns.”
Extract from Medlars and Sorb Apples, DH Lawrence
The fruit are not commonly eaten in the UK, the fact that they need to be ‘bletted’ or allowed to start rotting is perhaps not so appealing these days. However, Shakespeare expected his audience to be very well acquainted with medlars. Mercutio used them for a most obscene innuendo when he was trying to gee Romeo up.
“Now he will sit under a medlar tree, and wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
Romeo, that she were, O, that she were
An open or, thou a poperin pear!” from Romeo and Juliet.
The structure of the medlar was reckoned to be reminiscent of female genitals. The fruit were also known then as ‘poperin pears’ – the play on words needs no further explanation.
There were so many trees in fruit while I was there. These costume jewellery berries were also in the apartment garden.
Fir cones studded with pale green seed pearls.
Even juniper, which is under threat in Scotland, grows like a weed in Italy.
And fallen cherries litter a deserted car park.
And there is always the ubiquitous pokeweed with its cyclamen stems.
But even fruit and veg in the Co-Op have an allure in Florence that I never see in Portree.
Cardoons – a vegetable I had heard of but never seen before.
Porcini (botulis edulis) by the crate.
And by the packet!
You certainly don’t get prickly pear fruit in Portree, although I have seen them in Turkish shops in Hackney.
Lime green fractals.
Even the beans have the exquisite quality of two tone taffeta.
And talking of gourds with jelly soother than the creamiest curd……
The variety is bewildering.
“Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”
From Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti.
And not unnaturally, the ceramics are informed by all this natural abundance.
However, perhaps sometimes abundance can be too much of a good thing.
I found this ceramic shop near the Ponte Vecchio; pleionexia central.
I could say a lot of things about this piece; and all of them would be unpleasant.
The title of this post is from The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats.