autumn fireworks

November 3, 2012

Some sunshine after days and nights of rain so an opportunity to enjoy the fireworks of autumn vegetation at Bedgebury National Pinetum. Everyday but, not to be overlooked, planting of red stemmed dogwoods with a backdrop of American sweet gum – Liquidamber styraciflua – with the sharply lobed foliage.

Buttery tones on the Cornus controversa. Autumn colour which often gets overlooked in contrast to the strong tabulate form and that’s why it’s called the Wedding Cake Tree after all! So useful to be reminded of the delicate change in appearance . . . similarly with butter gleaming from the larch’s feathery foliage . . . colour of the deciduous species preparing to lose ther leaves is more noticeble here at the pinetum as against rural or an arboretum setting.

A great birch – Betula sp. – a show stopper.

This is conifer land – which I admit to finding quite indigestible – so compositions that include contrasts appeal like the fruits and the pine. But  some mature specimens such as Wellingtonia – Sequoiadendron giganteum  – have to be admired. As well as the rusty taxodiums just loosing their needles . . . .

. .  also enjoyed the patterns made by shadow and sunlight on the slippery ground and the grasses which I guess are a form of carex. Glossy, slippery needles cascade from this Pinus patula . . . .

. .  and the leaves on this birch seemed to spark like a Catherine wheel. More gentle and limpid, the final view of reflections. I had planned to add in the evening firework display but nothing at all – too wet and blustery. Ugh!  The poem, well a tad  tongue in cheek but very Plath.

How this tart fable instructs
And mocks! Here’s the parody of that moral mousetrap
Set in the proverbs stitched on samplers
Approving chased girls who get them to a tree
And put on bark’s nun-black

Habit which deflects
All amorous arrows. For to sheathe the virgin shape
In a scabbard of wood baffles pursuers,
Whether goat-thighed or god-haloed. Ever since that first Daphne
Switched her incomparable back

For a bay-tree hide, respect’s
Twined to her hard limbs like ivy: the puritan lip
Cries: ‘Celebrate Syrinx whose demurs
Won her the frog-colored skin, pale pith and watery
Bed of a reed. Look:

Pine-needle armor protects
Pitys from Pan’s assault! And though age drop
Their leafy crowns, their fame soars,
Eclipsing Eva, Cleo and Helen of Troy:
For which of those would speak

For a fashion that constricts
White bodies in a wooden girdle, root to top
Unfaced, unformed, the nipple-flowers
Shrouded to suckle darkness? Only they
Who keep cool and holy make

A sanctum to attract
Green virgins, consecrating limb and lip
To chastity’s service: like prophets, like preachers,
They descant on the serene and seraphic beauty
Of virgins for virginity’s sake.’

Be certain some such pact’s
Been struck to keep all glory in the grip
Of ugly spinsters and barren sirs
As you etch on the inner window of your eye
This virgin on her rack:

She, ripe and unplucked, ‘s
Lain splayed too long in the tortuous boughs: overripe
Now, dour-faced, her fingers
Stiff as twigs, her body woodenly
Askew, she’ll ache and wake

Though doomsday bud. Neglect’s
Given her lips that lemon-tasting droop:
Untongued, all beauty’s bright juice sours.
Tree-twist will ape this gross anatomy
Till irony’s bough break.  Sylvia Plath  Virgin in a Tree

writers in the woodland

October 17, 2012

One side of the path in the sunlight with soft, buttery grasses in late summer contrasts with the other side – slightly shadier and consequently with a greenish layer on the floor plain of ferns. This point is the start of the walk  IGN Map 2543 (St Gervais), and by the fitness trail, for those who enjoy a randonée . . . .

. . . a randonée through La Forêt deas Ecrivans Combattants, in memory of writers who died in combat in both wars – allées and paths are named after them, so, for example, Rond-point Maurice Bourder, Belvedere P Chanlaine and Allée de Lt – Col. De Malléray are to be seen.  It’s an evocative place and pleasingly organised – thoughtful in concept and implementation. Also to be seen now are the sweet chestnuts gorgeously fruiting on the lower slopes. Such abundance!

The monuments resemble tomb stones although made of concrete. I realised that my knowledge of French literature was dire and in need of much research. Good to be pulled up!

Small bee orchids were seen shyly appearing through the burnt out grassy sward . . . .

. . . and pine woods spread over the higher, more exposed land above the Gorges de Madale.

A couple of months ago  this view would be a sea of mauve when the calluna flowers profusely. A sheep fold, unused for many years, is a rather beautiful building at a distance and also close to . . . .

. . .  now it houses an equally beautiful decrepit chestnut.

Just a sheep fold but great craftsmanship from whoever constructed the stone walls. Winding paths through chestnut and oak woodland lead back to Combes almost alpine in feel. If the auberge is a destination, it’s lunchtime opening is short. Hélas, too short in my case.

In a house which becomes a home,
one hands down and another takes up
the heritage of mind and heart,
laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
and when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
the place of some official to hand to them
their heritage.
If others impart to our children our knowledge
and ideals, they will lose all of us that is
wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
lest they drag out joyless lives,
lest they allow treasures to be lost because
they have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.   Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation

À côté de la gorge

July 20, 2012

Roger Deakin’s  text on the chestnut woods in Hérault in Wildwood, was the inspiration for this outing but not exactly following in his footsteps. It proved to difficult to locate his sweet chestnut heaven. Olargues is a market town in the centre of the chestnut area. It sits on the  river Jaur between the Caroux and Espinouse  mountains. Very attractive from a distance and also within. Big blowsy blue hydrangeas setting off the orange trumpets of a campsis.

The railway bridge in Olargues was built in 1889 by Eiffel! To span the river and ensure that the famous fruit from this area reached the Paris markets by the next morning. Railway now defunct but bridge forms part of a Voie Verte (greenway for cyclists)

Gorges de Colombières, just nearby, and on the Orb river was our chosen chestnut heaven. Part of the Haut Languedoc Regional Park, which includes prehistoric traces of troglodytes and most likely wild boar.

Dry stone walls retaining the terraces of chestnut trees wind along the narrow paths leading eventually to 850m.

The route is shaded and circuitous – sounds of fast flowing water, the odd echo of folks calling out and some birdsong  – bring another element to the magical journey . . .

. . . blechnums poke out of the stonework at eye level  . . .

. . . and much lichen as little pollution!

In the open ledges, heather in flower . . .

. . .  and within the wooded areas, dead limbs have crashed down – some are felled but some left to rot –   and a beautiful majestic final offering.

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces. Translated by Robert Bly  Rainer Maria Rilke

%d bloggers like this: