Not long after I published my color image of this landmark on Trinity Bay, I received an email from photographer and friend Steve Gingold. It included this reprocessed version of the photo, and a few words:
The strong contrast and those beautiful clouds, I just had to…
The changes he made to the photo opened my eyes to the virtues of black-and-white photography in a new and visceral way. To put it simply, while my color version of the chapel would make a nice postcard, this is a photograph, and an invitation to a new way of seeing.
The association raised by the words of his email was equally delightful. They brought to mind William Carlos Williams’s famous poem titled “This is Just to Say”:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Uncounted parodies of his poem have appeared over the years, and it seems appropriate to add this one to the mix.
I have changed
that was in
in the end
this seems delicious
and so bold
Comments always are welcome.
Late purple aster (Symphyotrichum patens)
In England, Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, traditionally is celebrated on September 29. Long associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days, it is one of four ‘Quarter Days’ tied to solstice or equinox: Lady Day (March 25), Midsummer (June 24), Michaelmas (September 29), and Christmas (December 25).
Although associated with religious festivals, Quarter Days also served a secular purpose; in the past, Quarter Days marked a time to hire servants, pay rents, or begin leases. Traditionally, Michaelmas also marked the end of harvest: the conclusion of summer’s productivity and the beginning of the new agricultural cycle.
As the turn toward winter began, various late-blooming asters became associated with the celebration of St. Michael. Just as the saint was considered a protector against darkness and evil, the so-called Michaelmas daisy was considered a token of resistance to the advancing gloom of autumn and winter.
The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
Today, an assortment of asters have come to be considered Michaelmas daisies, and most belong the genus Symphyotrichum. Generally tall, clump-forming, and autumn-blooming, they can be abundant in North American marshes and fields.
Perennial salt marsh aster (Symphyotrichum tenuifolium)
Ancient traditions associated with the feast of St. Michael include feasting on a goose that had been fed on the stubble of the fields; baking breads or cakes with grain from the last harvest; and making dolls from the last of the corn shocks. Today, Michaelmas daisies still are exchanged or gathered to decorate tables, and verses such as this, from Malcolm Guite, are shared:
Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,
And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.
He strips dead leaves; and leaves the living clear
To flourish in the touch and reach of light.
Comments always are welcome.
Seemingly plucked from the hills of Santorini before being plunked down on the edge of Trinity Bay, the white-washed compound glistens in early autumn light. Not everyone fishing or sailing the waters off Anahuac knows the name of the property owner, but as a fisherman cleaning his catch pointed out, “It makes for a great landmark. It’s sure enough better than the water tower.”
The compound, a weekend retreat for Houston general contractor George Pontikes Jr. and his wife Laura, includes a similarly-styled great house, a guest house, and various amenities, in addition to the chapel pictured above.
The similarity to houses on the Greek islands is understandable, given that the owner is the son of George Pontikes Sr. and the grandson of Angelos Konstantine Pontikes, who emigrated from Nauplion, Greece. Angelos K. Pontikes began as a home builder; both his son and grandson George Jr. followed in his footsteps.
While exploring the area on a Sunday afternoon, a friend and I mistook the private chapel for a public church and drove through the open gate. With parts of the compound still under construction, we realized our mistake fairly quickly, but I captured this image of the chapel before we left: as simple and beautiful as any white flower blossoming against the sky.