(The caterpillar is not of either of the butterflies, but that of some kind of moth, probably of a form of arctiidae. The brimstone is a female, barely yellow at all, and at a quick glance could be mistaken for any of the white butterflies. A closer look at her form and markings, however, shows her to be a pale and elegant image of her sulphurous mate.)
Monday, March 26, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
The stream flows from a-tree ringed pool, which I assume was artificially created and which I understand has some fish in it. It is also home to coypu, which are quite common here, an unwanted introduction. They undermine the banks of rivers and ponds and carry leptospirosis, but are vegetarian and don't seem to damage crops hugely. The plan is to control their numbers rather than eradicate them; there is a bounty on their heads and a trapping programme. They make a most peculiar noise, something like a 45 rpm guinea pig being played at 33.
Down the left side of the valley a number of trees have been felled but their trunks and stumps left to decay. Moss and ivy, foxglove and pennywort colonise the caves and valleys of the dead stumps, a fractal landscape within a landscape,
and the great bones of the barkless trunks fall away into cavities and death's head faces reminiscent of Michelangelo's damned souls.
But there is no real menace in these twisted patterns; vegetal death contains some of the sadness but none of the horror of carnal death, it is earthy but clean, and always carries the certainty of regeneration, of resurrection, if you will, in like form.
there are no daffodils here, but sometimes primroses, and as ever, shiny-faced celandine, with a scattering of windflowers - wood anemones - in amongst them.
Further into the wood and across the stream, fallen trees make archways across the path,
On the other scarped edge of the valley are a row of very old emonde chestnuts.
Their growth is one sided, the other half of the trunk has become atrophied, laced and striated and honeycombed with cracks and holes and whorls, open to light and air.
Leaves and husks lodge in these niches, sometimes making a serendipitous still-life.
This one seems at some point to have been burned.
Again, they take on a look of creatures ( 'where's the face, where's the face?' we are hardwired from infancy to demand...)
There is an illuminated manuscript, a bestiary, a Book of Kells, to be found in these old trees.
And suddenly, one of these dragons from the old wood will prove not to be sleeping after all, and green fire will burst out of its cracked and brittle jaws.
Yes, in the vegetal world, there is always resurrection.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
They look at you through black
Small topaz-tinted eyes
And wish you ill.'
( FW Harvey. Off the scale for 'fridge magnet cuteness. No apologies.)
Sunday, March 18, 2007
This one appeared to be making a comment, I assume from the air of cheerfulness of the figure a fairly sanguine one, on the future of women in the age of the Internet and the Euro.
( All photos taken with permission.)
Friday, March 16, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Capillaries of runnels and ditches, sometimes drained and piped, feed into nameless smaller streams which in turn feed the more substantial arteries, here the Evron and Gouessant, the latter flowing through Lamballe and out into the bay. The local farmers' trading co-operative is named after the Gouessant, which is slightly ironic as they are the ones who persistently pollute and generally disrespect it.
Soft grooves and undulations formed by these watercourses feather the landscape. I follow the road to where our land finishes and go left along the short voie communale into the fields, toward the columns of a double row of poplars planted along the banks of the emerging stream, whose coppery, balsamic-scented leaf-buds are only just forming, and then walk along the field edge overlooking the valley.
The farmed land, mainly pasture but sometimes ploughed for arable, is fenced by a single electric strand - one thing I do rejoice at here is an absence of barbed wire - then edged by a broken melee of brambles, beyond that is a narrow cleft of woodland with the stream at the bottom, a sliver of wildness and wet in an orderly green desert, too steep and unstable to allow the livestock into. The oaks are tall and straggling, and between are weed woods, hazel and elder, the occasional holly. The earth is soft and friable, there are no paths or tracks but random terraces formed by tree roots. It is continually shifting and re-forming, sometimes the ground subsides and trees fall, sometimes they are felled and logged and the smaller unwanted branches piled up haphazardly so that parts of it become inaccessible. For a time after these events the ground looks raw and ravaged, but quickly new growth takes place, and often plants which struggled before benefit from the access of light. The overturned trunks and dead stumps become small worlds colonised by other species.
We find a gap in the brambles and scramble down. This is a route I take mainly in the spring, from March to May but most especially in March. In the winter it is soggy and dour and uninviting, the fields leading to it frequently too trampled and smelly with cattle, in the summer and autumn the canopy becomes too thick and it is sombre and dull, the stream often low. I experience a not entirely disagreeable sense of discomfort, even of menace, here, for a number of reasons.
The terraces and hollows and loose soil provide opportunities for homes for rabbits, foxes and badgers, all of which we've seen. Their front doors let onto the open fields, and these woods are their back gates and alleys. Once as we walked along the field edge a young cub, fuzzy pink-orange, emerged from an earth, his back to me, quite close; the back of the head and neck of all young things always looks so tender and vulnerable ( not only the young, Bergman drew attention to it in the elderly Victor Sjostrom in 'Wild Strawberries'...). In the moment I turned round to signal to Molly, who hadn't seen him, to stay, he was gone. Foxes here are not the insolent gangsters they have become in British towns and cities ( and good luck to them ); they are in evidence but discreet.
I know as I clump and crackle around their woods and as my dog snuffles at their holes, that the creatures who live below are in fear of us, our noise and our smells. Yet I too am nervous of them, quite irrationally, now I am in their domaine. Their resentment makes me uneasy, a feeling perhaps enhanced by the fact that the entrances to their holes and earths are at times on my eye level; my two-legged advantage is reduced. Perhaps too it is an atavistic anxiety I feel about venturing from the open plains into the forest margins, where once wild animals could pounce or slither from their lairs to do harm. But there is something about these earthdwellers, their invisible, chthonic lives down there which suggests dark possibilities to the imagination, predator and prey so close together, the terror of the rabbit who inadvertently strays within the labyrinth into the fox's or the badger's chamber... I doubt that these fantasies have any grounds in reality, but that world is very other to me. In the same way as birds do not suffer vertigo but fear enclosed spaces, so these animals are uneasy in the open spaces where I feel comfortable, but know nothing of claustrophobia. I am also a little afraid for my dog with her woolly ears poor sight and impractically shaggy coat, who, in comparison to the wild predators, seems effete and ill-equipped. She, however, is deliciously happy.
We descend to the floor of the valley.
and tufts of moorgrass as tall as myself.
Jungly ropes of ivy hang from the branches.
I have observed a resistance, both in myself and others, to writing about and picturing daffodils. All Wordsworth's fault, I suppose, and, as someone partly named, I think, for his poor overlooked 'violet by a mossy stone' drippy heroine, I can see why people grew rather jaded with jonquils. In fact I love daffodils (and I'm still quite fond of Wordsworth ), including the big, loud, cadmium yellow ones which splatter springtime through every park and garden, the exquisitely fragranced paper-whites, and the delicate pheasant-eye narcissi that come later. But these small, pale woodland wild flowers, no more than eight inches high, are something finer and rarer. Next to the neon and halogen of the cultivars, these are sacred votive candles in the chapel of the wood. Their leek-green shoots are Persephone's nails spiking through winter's dead matter,
In May there will be bluebells all through the woods, joyous and more abundant than the daffodils. I'll try to get here for those, but somehow in the riot and profligacy of that month, they lack the acute and poignant urgency of these first messengers of spring.