This is Just to Say

 

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:

Forgive me…
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
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
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
the color
that was in
your photo
and which
you probably
preferred
in the end
Forgive me
this seems delicious
so strong
and so bold

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Landmark

 

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.

 

 

The Peregrinator

Spicy Jatropha, or Peregrina (Jatropha integerrima)

When I visited the Rockport City Cemetery, I was impressed by a pair of tree-like shrubs covered in the most brilliant red flowers imaginable. I’d never seen them before, and a little post-trip research convinced me they weren’t native to Texas.

Today, a trip to a well-regarded local nursery with a well-informed staff brought the answer to the question of their identity. The plants were Jatropha integerrima, a member of the  Euphorbiaceae, or spurge family. Variously known as peregrina, spicy jatropha, or fire-cracker, the plant is native to Cuba and the West Indies. After traveling first to South Florida, it began spreading: finally reaching at least as far west as Rockport, Texas.

The species first was described in 1760 by Austrian Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin (1727-1817) who botanized numerous Caribbean islands during a four-year expedition beginning in 1755. The star-shaped flowers, generally red but sometimes pink, are produced throughout the year and attract monarch, swallowtail, and zebra longwing butterflies.

In south Texas, peregrina is a perennial or dieback shrub. In other areas of the state, it’s a good summer annual or container plant, since it overwinters well indoors. Reports from as far north as San Antonio confirm that it can come back after spending winter outdoors, although with reduced blooms or stunted growth.

For the coastal areas of Texas, it has a lot of advantages. It’s able to withstand reflected heat, so it works well on patios, and it isn’t much bothered by drought, which makes it a good choice for xeriscaping. Salt tolerant, it’s rarely bothered by insects or disease. Flowering is reduced but not eliminated in shade, and the dark green foliage complements the colors of other flowering plants.

When it finally arrives at our nursery, I could be tempted to bring one home to fill up a large, empty pot that’s been sitting on my balcony. If you don’t have an expansive garden center in your area, don’t despair. This ‘exotic’ beauty also is being sold by Home Depot and Lowe’s.

 

Comments always are welcome.