sorry to disturb

February 4, 2015

snowrabbit

No one is out here in the village . . . but a few have been busy. A chance to observe shapes and patterns accentuated by the thick layer of snow . . .

parterr

bamboo

. . . fresh green bamboo foliage weighed down with the snow. Rows of vines and cherries transformed into a dense, textural and graphic statement. vines + cherries

grande allee

In the graveyard . . . what to say? Just quietly and slowly move and absorb. Sorry to disturb.

yew + graves

group

 

scale

angel

The poem – beautiful and melancholic –  just like today.
There are lone cemeteries,
tombs full of soundless bones,
the heart threading a tunnel,
a dark, dark tunnel :
like a wreck we die to the very core,
as if drowning at the heart
or collapsing inwards from skin to soul.

There are corpses,
clammy slabs for feet,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
a bark without its dog,
out of certain bells, certain tombs
swelling in this humidity like lament or rain.

I see, when alone at times,
coffins under sail
setting out with the pale dead, women in their dead braids,
bakers as white as angels,
thoughtful girls married to notaries,
coffins ascending the vertical river of the dead,
the wine-dark river to its source,
with their sails swollen with the sound of death,
filled with the silent noise of death.

Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot, a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring, stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth, a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo, hushed like a tree.

I do not know, I am ignorant, I hardly see
but it seems to me that its song has the colour of wet violets,
violets well used to the earth,
since the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death green
with the etched moisture of a violet’s leaf
and its grave colour of exasperated winter.

But death goes about the earth also, riding a broom
lapping the ground in search of the dead –
death is in the broom,
it is the tongue of death looking for the dead,
the needle of death looking for the thread.

Death lies in our beds :
in the lazy mattresses, the black blankets,
lives a full stretch and then suddenly blows,
blows sound unknown filling out the sheets
and there are beds sailing into a harbour
where death is waiting, dressed as an admiral. Neruda  Death Alone

candlemas

February 2, 2015

Today is Candlemas or la Chandeleur, the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox- the pagan festival of light when the churches blessed their candles. Snow is forecast so a prompt to get out . . .   and walk down from Goult through the pine and white oak scrub covering Les Terrasses to the valley of  Lumieres. Poplars, planes and some willow line the river here – delicate ivy clings on its upward journey . . .

plant trunk

. . . a solitary young soldier on a plinth. As yet I have failed to come up with identification. Maybe a question in the epicerie will supply an answer. On the plinth: ‘Ge suis venne au roi de France de par la Vierge Marie”.

statue

statue 2

Scrambling up the Mange Tian ( a regional cooking vessel at the first level of research – the shape of?? or where food was offered??) – precipitous, slippery but exhilarating climb to the plateau covered with pines . . . and a few bories that young master H. Dupont Fogg would love to investigate . . .

pine

borie

. . . dry stone walls retaining the terraced land and also free standing structures as boundaries. Some ruins of a hamlet  . . . about 6 houses clustered here no doubt with livestock – cereal growing, olives, vines and other crops – on the open plateau. The terrain would have been intensely farmed enough to sustain a small community. Now holm oak and the white oak have regenerated to cover the land and the lack of light is evident.

dry stone wall ruins

ruins1

ruins 2

ruins 3

. . . where nature has started the process of reoccupation.

ruins 4

path

The journey along the narrow paths has dramatic interludes when and where unstable or tired trees perform their dance of death. More dancing from those lively specimens alongside too – all elbows, hips and flashing legs . . .

path 2

dancing

dancing 1

. . . and then a solitary sign of another wasted object left to rot – Citroen Ami? Interesting that the lichen and algae have inhabited the surface – shows how clean the air is.

car

car 2

les fenetres rouges

Down and beyonds lies an area called Les Fenêtres Rouges where the ochre landscape sits centre stage. This occurs intermittently within this intimate terrain but always surprises visually and evocatively . . . No other souls around. Bliss.

L'imergue river bed

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. Robert Frost  The Road not Taken.

the old village

January 7, 2015

cupressus 1

The terraces in Oppède-le-Vieux hold a decent collection of native plants – all labelled with correct nomenclature and explanation for herbal or culinary use if applicable –  but it’s difficult to concentrate on these when the panorama is so splendid – the Luberon valley, Mont Ventoux and part of the Vaucluse  – like tiers of old stage flats punctuated with pencil slim cypress. Clients often express the misguided notion that trees will block the view but there are ways of planting trees to emphasise the view as shown here . . .

wall.2 jpg

These terraces are dedicated to Sainte Cécile. Flat plates of Umbilicus rupestris – navelwort – are springing forth now in the crevices not only here but in many dry stone walls in the area. Below is the site of the old threshing floor – aire de battage – now an angular foot print but originally it would have been circular so more practical for the tethered animal to do his or her circuit.

threshing floor 3

From here, the old village is seen spread across the north facing side of the Petit Luberon. The winter sun starts casting its shadow by midday so houses beyond the medieval ramparts are dark, humid and tricky to maintain apparently. The domination of the restored church of Notre-Dame-D’Alidon and the ruins of the castle are felt from a distance as well as within the village streets. I found it a charming and quirky place and many others have enjoyed it and settled here. Following the armistice of June 1940, architect Bernard Zehrfuss founded a commune of artists in the old town, a project that attracted French sculptor  François Stahly and the writer and artist Consuelo de Saint Exupéry. The commune proved short-lived but, interestingly, it was the basis for Saint Exupéry’s fictionalized account, published in 1946, called  ‘Kingdom of the Rocks’.

view to chateau

town hall

Looking at close up details, the clock and bell tower on the town hall and then at even more smaller scale . . .

knocker

figurine stutuette

. . . a statuette, religious of course, as the Popes, based in Avignon, dabbled religiously and relentlessly here. The main route up to the church and castle was the village street; access points of the wash houses and modest homes are still evident . . .

blocked up 1

blocked up 2

blocked up 3

 

chapel of white penitants

. . . they retain a theatrical  feel (like a discarded film set) of the past – very beautiful and evocative. In the 19th century, the inhabitants had enough and started to move down in the valley, dismantling the roof of their houses to stop paying property taxes. By the beginning of the 20th century, Oppède-le-Vieux was a ghost village and a new community was officially established in the valley, with larger streets, cosier houses and farmers closer to their fields – the new village – Oppède-les-Poulivets (“nice view” in Provençal),

The Chapel of the White Penitents is set half way up the stepped ramp path, beautifully laid, and then, in the full light at the summit sits the church (12C) and the medieval fortress.

church steps

Spacious steps with integrated landings below cantilevered gargoyles lead to a rocky unmanicured area where temporary safety fencing protects the castle – an engineered structure integrated within the natural environment. Work due to start in 2015.

gargoyle

chateau 2

chateau 1

chateau

chateau detail

A line of Renaissance villas line the north facing rock face – a mix of superbe, mysterious and the fairytale. Glamorous and expensive.

renaissance villas

villa detail

Sitting in the cemetery, something I do in a regular fashion, and looking beyond the walls, the tiers of vegetation – ivy in flower, Viburnum tinus in berry, olive, oak and pine gave me goosebumps. And then the surface of the wall, encrusted with stonecrop. Marvellous.

vegetation layers

cementary wall

Despite the open window in the room of long absence, the odor of the rose is still linked with the breath that was there. Once again we are without previous experience, newcomers, in love. The rose! The field of its ways would dispel even the effrontery of death. No grating stands in the way. Desire is alive, an ache in our vaporous foreheads.

One who walks the earth in its rains has nothing to fear from the thorn in places either finished or unfriendly. But if he stops to commune with himself, woe! Pierced to the quick, he suddenly flies to ashes, an archer reclaimed by beauty. René Char.

year end

December 31, 2014

glanum 1

In San Remy de Provence (specifically Glanum) for the year end. Can’t think of a better place to be . . .

glanum arch

san remy

 

glanum bust detail

. . . much to admire and much to reflect on.

glanum arch detail

How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December’s bareness everywhere!

And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,

Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me

But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Sonnet 97 william shakespeare

around La Gardi

December 27, 2014

cross

Road side crosses mark the boundaries of the village but not all are hidden within the oak scrub. This cross is only visible on the ascent out of Goult on the road to Roussillon where the rising ground is covered with differing landscape types depending on the geology and the aspect; known as The Gardi, an area originally used for sand extraction, then more recently as a motocross ground and, now, being restored back to nature as much as is possible with human interference. Vineyards sweep down the south facing slopes owned and cared for by  Domaine de la Verrière and further towards Roussillon, Domaine Bonelly where Beckett worked for a while.

vines

The Boxing Day shoot is in progress  around The Gardi. Whether the shoot was for birds or boar . . . I didn’t enquire. Well organised, as far as humans were concerned, but the barking of the dogs was surely and hopefully a forewarning for the hunted.

hunter

domaine de la verriere

Domaine de la Verrière plant roses at the end of the vine runs – some say that the roses give a previous indication of blight  – an early warning system – but also decorative to boot as long as they remain healthy. Just further along the road – down an incline and around two or three bends, I came across a group of renovated buildings – farm house and barns – that had received immaculate attention, The garden beyond was clipped to perfection . . .

garden

barn + house

wall

. . . the end wall well restored with the red ochre bricks clearly visible and the renovated old house, just ready for rental.

the farm house

Bamboos growing beside the stream, gleam in the winter sunshine . . .

bamboo hedge

. . . and looking down into the bassin, darker reflections and detail.

cistern

ochre

Circling back up to The Gardi, the ochre hill sides, where areas of  Garrigues and Matorral landscapes can be discovered. Juniper and 3 types of pine  – Aleppo (Pinus halepensis), Maritime (Pinus pilaster) and P. sylvestris dominate with Juniper as understorey (Genévrier communis). Back through the vines leading down to the village, derelict cabanons stand guard. They are on sale for 90,000 euros with a bit of land.

mas 1

 

mas

But this one standing within the poplars is part of larger estate and very beautiful. Not for sale.

cabanon

Et, des lors, je me suis baigne dans le poeme

De la mer infuse d’astres et lactescent,

Devorant les azurs verts ou, flottaison bleme

Et ravie, un noye pensif, parfois, descend;

Ou, teignant tout a coup les bleuites, delires
Et rythmes lents sous les rutilements du jour,
Plus fortes que 1’alcool, plus vastes que vos lyres,

Fermentent les rousseurs ameres de l’amour.

Thenceforward, fused in the poem, milk of stars,
Of the sea, I coiled through deeps of cloudless green,

Where, dimly, they come swaying down,
Rapt and sad, singly, the drowned;

Where, under sky’s haemorrhage,

Slowly tossing In thuds of fever, arch-alcohol of song,
Pumping over the blues in sudden stains,

The bitter redness of love ferment. Samuel Beckett

 

 

1 The ochre path that extends along the Luberon foothills around Roussillon to Gargas is quite special – originally quarried and now conserved and returned, as much as it can be with many visitors, back to nature. Glimpses of the red earth hillsides are quite tantalising from the surroundings . . . 2   4 but once inside, the experience becomes a theatrical drama – like walking through a turmeric landscape with mature and fresh young pines – Pinus sylvestris, P. halepensis and Pinus pinaster (the maritime pine) –  offering overhead foliage and a lime green ground cover texture. I’m still interested in the spatial areas where visitors can relax and get to grips with the environment, take it all in or just have a good chat. Here oak is used for the stepped circulation, seats and decks along with cor ten steel for the slim protecting elements like hand rails, bridge supports and gates . . . 5 seat   bridge   main steps   slopes young pine . . . a slim juvenile pine just holding on in the landform. Another vertical tower of the red earth looks like a drunken pepper pot . . .  . . . a visual experience and a good walk too.  The rationale behind including the Beckett beside his visit here is that there has been discussion on what is boring – life in general –  time away from work –  lack of social contact – just preferring to be elsewhere – to me, he explains eruditely in the last  3 phrases exactly why I feel so much at home – here; in a convulsive space among the voices voiceless that throng my hiddenness   and the whole poem: que ferais-je sans ce monde sans visage sans questions où être ne dure qu’un instant où chaque instant verse dans le vide dans l’oubli d’avoir été sans cette onde où à la fin corps et ombre ensemble s’engloutissent que ferais-je sans ce silence gouffre des murmures haletant furieux vers le secours vers l’amour sans ce ciel qui s’élève sur la poussieère de ses lests que ferais-je je ferais comme hier comme aujourd’hui regardant par mon hublot si je ne suis pas seul à errer et à virer loin de toute vie dans un espace pantin sans voix parmi les voix enfermées avec moi     what would I do without this world faceless incurious where to be lasts but an instant where every instant spills in the void the ignorance of having been without this wave where in the end body and shadow together are engulfed what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love without this sky that soars above its ballast dust what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before peering out of my deadlight looking for another wandering like me eddying far from all the living in a convulsive space among the voices voiceless that throng my hiddenness Samuel Beckett que ferais-je sans ce monde (what would I do without this world)

http://provenceventouxblog.com/2013/on-the-market-samuel-beckett-house-in-provence-where-iconic-writer-engaged-in-his-craft-and-in-the-french-resistance/

les halles olive stall

Things other than landscapes have taken my eye recently. Day to day occurrences and visual flashes add to the experience of all I’ve come to value about life here in the Gard. The senses seem to be heightened – food, of course, looks as appetising as it can be even before the pleasure of the tasting . . . .

les halles fruits

. . . Les Halles in Nîmes, the central covered market, offers not just stalls but also one of the best places to eat –  Halles Auberge - busy, well priced  and positioned where the ongoing life of the market can be viewed over a plate of coquillages. Pieds et paquets and Agrillade St.Gilloise are also on offer.

huitres

halles auberge

Just opposite les Halles is a marvel. A shop like shops used to be when I was young – a long time ago. Appetising from the outside and even more so once inside . . .

droguerie

pigments 1

pigments 2

pigments 3

. . . all the pigments that anyone  could wish for. Rich, appetising and electrifying colours can be seen in Claude Viallat’s work in the permanent exhibition at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain – plus a powerful piece from Gerhard Richter which sucked me into the detail of the application of paint.

viallat

richter

arenes

Near the Arènes, hoardings screen a building site that will eventually become the Musée de la Romanité, meanwhile this stencil on the hoarding seems to evokes the sadness of the bull fighter – the arena is the stage. The fear of the performance or the possible outcome or just Spanish melancholia – I know nothing of this. What I do know and like are the swatches of silk as shown the Musée du Vieux Nîmes where the history of denim ( yes, it came from those associated with Nîmes) is well explained. Swatches of colourful cottons caught my eye nearby on daily visits to the Bar des Beaux Arts in Place des Herbes for a noissette.

soies

cottons

villaret

Maison Villaret has delightful window displays that entreat you to enter, admire and taste what’s on offer. The small pile of marzipan crocodiles shouldn’t be disturbed but maybe the tower of crystallised fruits can be.  . . . .

villaret 2

camion2

. . and to finish off a couple of camion – swiftly disappearing from the roads now. I felt Gilbert, artisan peintre, would be totally trustworthy and execute his work with integrity – great marketing. And in Uzès, another more modest vehicle that sat well with the surroundings and colour wise reminded me of the vernacular.

camion 1

olive tree

Per solatz revelhar,

Que s’es trop enformitz,     

E per pretz, qu’es faiditz

Acolhir e tornar,   

Me cudei trebalhar’                    

‘To wake delight once more

That’s been too long asleep,

And worth that’s exiled deep

To gather and restore:

These thoughts I’ve laboured for’   Guiraut de Bornelh

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