Friday, March 23, 2007

Valley # 2

If at the end of our land you follow the road to the right then cut through the fields you come to the next valley. It is wooded too, but a gentler, more shallow concavity than the first, more open and grassy, and sometimes they put small numbers of cattle there, usually the younger ones who can stay down there for a few days and don't have to be fetched in for milking. I rather like to see cattle among trees, it puts me in mind of Bewick's engraving of the white bull. A vet friend who did a stint of overseas aid years ago was involved in a programme to introduce cattle to Western Samoa, and speaks of the odd charm of seeing cows among coconut palms. However the animals do rather churn it up, and Molly's not very keen on them, especially the boisterous younger ones, ever since, when she was a puppy, a cow gave her a friendly kiss with a rough tongue across her face. She's no coward but the memory has stayed with her. At the moment though, there are no cattle.

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.

Further into the wood and across the stream, fallen trees make archways across the path,

there are no daffodils here, but sometimes primroses, and as ever, shiny-faced celandine, with a scattering of windflowers - wood anemones - in amongst them.

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.


stitchwort said...

How lucky you are to have such wonders on your doorstep.

chris miller said...

For some reason, these images make me hungry.

I feel like I've been rambling through the fields on a crisp spring morning, and I'm ready for a thick slice of bread with a hearty bowl of soup.

Or.. maybe yours is the sensuous style of photography that's found in gourmet cookbooks.

herhimnbryn said...

Oh L, these are wonderous images. I am reminded of a tree in our local bush park ( I have pictures somewhere I think).

The trees in your valley definately have their own personalities. I wonder if they are related to Ents?:)

Zhoen said...

Imbued with spirits. Kami.

Avus said...

Lucy these are wonderful!
"and the great bones of the barkless trunks fall away into cavities and death's head faces reminiscent of Michelangelo's damned souls." What a great simile.
You have an eye for form.

Catalyst said...

The grain in naturally growing (and dying) wood makes beautiful still life photography. But it takes a good eye to find it. Yours is good.

Granny J said...

How wonderful to see some European countryside -- almost all my experience across the Atlantic has been city upon city. Thank you, Lucy.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Love the death's head faces, and agree with Avus' comment. Am worried about cattle in Samoa, though -- it may have been a mistake even to introduce them into Texas rather than ranching bison. Terrible for the prairie.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic post, Lucy! I love the twisted tree forms, nature's own sculpures! So wonderful to live close to this wealth.

Dave said...

Great images! I can see that you you and frizzy Rachel really have a lot in common - they remind me of her tree pictures.

Fire Bird said...

Great tree images, and exquisite wood anemone. Another lovely post, L.

Lucy said...

Thank you all!
Stitch and ML - interesting you envy the landscape where I live; we often think of it as rather dulla and depleted and would very much envy you your beautiful big wide northern moors to walk on, or what we here of Vancouver. but I think perhaps because there isn't much drama here, I'm forced to look at the detail in the apparently commonplace...
Chris - that's really nice! I like that kind of photography, and it sounds as though you enjoyed it.
H - Hmmm, very Treeish!
Z - I didn't know about Kami ( I often have to look things up after you've been!) Thank you.
Avus - everyone sees the majesty of the Sistine, those poor melting damned folk are ofen overlooked.
Catalyst - whenever your photo comes up, it makes me laugh every time! Thanks.
RLC - yes, I often wondered whether that was a good idea, and what has happened about it, it would have been about 25 years ago. I like the idea of Texas bison ranches though!
GJ - glad you like it, but I love our walks round Prescott too.
Dave - that's a compliment indeed; since we were 10 she has been infinitely more gifted than me in everything from intelligence through technical aptitude and drive to physical beauty, and more. However, as I think you once said, or something similar, she pays a high price. The gods are jealous.
TG - thank you, the windflowers are exquisite things; the blood-red ones in Greece always surprised me.

Anonymous said...

Love those currents in the ancient wood, and the perforations--and the springing, fountaining chestnut.

Lucy said...

hello Marly,
yes, currents, that's what they are, I knew there was something I couldn't quite reach!

Silvia Hoefnagels . Salix Tree said...

How beautiful! All the shapes of dragons and monsters, the photos are amazing. I'm reminded of Snow White fleeing through the forest, these were most likely the kind of images she was seeing.