I say I am a rootless writer for a reason. I have moved many times in my life for reasons that one day I might explain. Its nothing sinsister and I’m not at all sure how interesting that part of my life is.
For me arriving for the first time in Le Cantal was akin to love at first sight. All of a sudden I was comfortable and I realised that the feelng I felt was the feelng I had felt throughout my childhood . Home. And that this would be where I would stop being restless and put down my roots.
Trees have been integral throughout my life. My father adored them. Taught us all their names in English and Latin as tiny children. When he died my mother went to the florist to arrange the flowers to be born on his coffin and they asked what he liked. She faltered. Had no answer. Because the fact was that he would have been happiest with an Acer Palmatum or a Liriodendrum or a Magnolia. Or a Betula Pendula. I bought a piece of that with me from the place he is scattered. – if you are a normal person you will call it Silver Birch (or if you are French Bouleau Agente) and it happens that there are tens and hundreds of thousands of them here. His is on my bedroom ‘sill. I had to bring him because this place defines what he loved. I know if he had lived he would have made a nuisance of himself turning up at the most tenuous of excuses just to be here amongst the mountains and the rivers and the forests the laughing streams, the moss covered rocks, remnants of a volcanic past and the wild wild windblown summits. I feel him when I walk. His hand guides me, his voice gentle in my ear. Fanciful? Not at all – if you have loved you will know that the voice is all around you, the arms steady you, the heart beats within you. And here of all places, here that defines what he loved he is effortlessly close.
The trees, the trees, the trees – I will try to name them all … I already know that in the Foret de Fournols there are many Corsican Larches and there is no reason that anyone can work out for their colonising that place. Perhaps a man like my father, but a Corsican walked those woods aeons ago and dropped their seeds clinging to his boots or the bottoms of his breeches. Who knows. I know larches are wonderful. They are deciduous pines. And their cones are very lovely. And when they shed their green robes they have a particular straight trunk punctuated with thin and equally straight branches except the one is vertical and the other horizontal – I am sure a mathmatician must find their geomatory agreeable. I have walked on carpets of Chestnut husks, so prickly and green, split open to reveal their fruit seemingly lusting to be roasted. I have walked on snow peppered with pine needles and acorns – when I worked in the poshest part of London the chefs would have craved them for a plate – not to eat (who eats there when the fashion is to be knife-thin) but to decorate a glass plate. To live under ice.
So for me the trees, an inordinate number of varieties that vary from forest to forest and from north to south, west to east, are doubly symbolic. As one they are the symbol of my roots as another they are a reminder of the man that called me a stupid girl and told me to stop trying so hard. You might not understand that. I do – he meant – you are perfect as you are – just be. Here that is exactly what I begin to be. Just me.