Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chronicle of a Black Bouquet

Last night I nestled into bed with one of my favourite books on flowers; "Sensational Bouquets". The book was created and written by one of the world's best and most original florists, Christian Tortu. I happened to be looking for inspiration for an upcoming event thinking to myself Monsieur Tortu will definitely inspire me.

As I casually flipped the pages perusing one beautiful floral arrangement after another, I eventually found myself  at the end of the book reading the chapter "Chronicle of a Black Bouquet". I had previously read it with passing interest. But this time it struck a chord. I was instantly reminded of the devastating fires this past summer here in Canada on the west coast, the California fires near Los Angeles, as well the wild fires in Australia, Spain and Italy.

Flowers taken from the burnt landscape and made into a bouquet.

Monsieur Tortu's words on a deadly forest fire in the south of France 1999.....

July 1999: the Alpilles are on fire; a strong wind spreads the horror at a mind blowing rate. An entire region is taken aback, and the roads are blocked. It's impossible to know the size of the blaze, to know where the devastating wave has struck. Man is forced to acknowledge his impotence before such wild forces.

It is suspected that an arsonist's hand is the cause of the disaster. Outrage, disgust, and also shame because man is responsible for many forest fires every year. Does he need to burn part of himself to this extent? Does he need to think for just one moment that he can dominate nature?

We have scheduled our first photographs for this book (Sensational Bouquets) to be taken at this time. We of course feel the need to testify through a bouquet composed of plant life from the desolate area. We are not out to record final images of the site, for we know that the land will revive.

In the weeks and months following this apocalypse, the landscape is in mourning. Black predominated at all levels. The holiest of trees, one hundred year old olive trees, were but pantomimes barely standing out against a background of gray, brown and black. 

I painfully remember a herd of boars, adults and little ones, wandering aimlessly along the road, bewildered of what they had seen of hell.......For miles and miles, it seemed like the end of the world.

A year later: the same roads, the same paths. Seen from afar, all is green again, a green that is unknown around here, almost worrisome. A uniform colour, bordering on yellow. Vegetation has changed........

For a second, one would think that nature had taken its place again. It's not true. Gone is the metallic green gray of the olive trees, gone is the very particular green of the burgeoning vineyard, the darker green of the changing light hitting the holm oak and pine trees. Only charred silhouettes haunt this luner landscape. A few trees yielded some shoots.......We will never see the Alpilles that we knew again. Time is against us.

We tend to forget that nature is fragile. We crave domination, and this surpasses all of our ancestral fears........

Dead fish, naked trees, tides of many colours, deadly haze on the horizon. All our indignation is in vain if we are not deeply concious of our every act. Serious, often irreparable, whether it damages or builds, nature belongs to a time that outlives our own existence.

Life is so fragile. 

To my late sister Catherine. Miss you.


  1. I tried to leave a comment earlier, but I was at a loss for words. This is an amazing, amazing post. I must buy and read/see this book. Would you mind if I mention (and link to) this post on my own blog?

    xo Gigi

  2. Hi Gigi,

    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for visiting. Gigi, Christian Tortu is fantastic. In my world (of work) there are florists who are all fluff and pretty flowers and then there is Tortu and a few select others who actually bring grace and intellect to this most beautiful of earth's pleasures. I will be doing a post specifically about Christian Tortu (in fact that was my original intent), but I am most flattered that you would like to mention this post.

  3. Wonderful! Thank you so much, and I look forward to your post on Tortu. I am, by the way, completely fascinated by the work that you do.




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