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 sure at all 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 d’Argent) 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 Forêt de Fournols there are many Corsican Larches and there is no reason that anyone can work out for their colonising that place. They simply shouldn’t be here – there is no logical reason. But wait. 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 for who eats in a place where the fashion is to be knife-thin. No, not to eat 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.
The birch is the most special of trees – the ghostly quality of the bark … I am looking at the hill opposite which is the densest forest and the birch shines out with her ephemeral pale bark. Unavoidable. Unforgettable.
Love the trees
Lovely to have your comment Arby – in fact I am keen to learn more so any help in identifying different genus would be gratefully received
OK, so it looks like a silver birch in the snow, and chestnuts on the ground. I’d like to help with the others – maybe you could post a few outside the slideshow. Took a look at the botanicals, I’m not really good with those (in english, or latin if you prefer). However, I do know the last picture – the one with the bee – is most definitely a fox glove, or Digitalis-purpurea if you prefer the latin. I confess, I looked it up, and the image that came with it is ever so similar to yours – so, congratulations on the lovely high-res photo. Look forward to more.
Wonderful pics and another superb blog post with more than a hint of nostalgia, my favourite reading material. Thank you. There are also huge plantations of tall, stately Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) that spread like well trained armies of silent soldiers across the undulating contours of the Cantal (across the Massif Central!); they grow magnificently even up to 700+ metres up the sides of the Puys. I love trees, but, I confess, I am in total awe of the Cantal’s Douglas firs!
Fantastic! Thank you hobosinfrance! Not only a steer on the Douglas but their Latin name too! Yours and Arby’s comments have spurred me to think of getting my facebook ‘family’ to engage in trying to identify more of the trees and plants (and fungi though we have previously established they still need to be run past the pharmacist in the interests of choosing life) … a bit of fun but hopefully one that people might enjoy engaging in. As for nostalgia – I find it just creeps over me from time to time – I suspect the Pseudotsuga menziesii will set me off again!
I love this section of your blog 🙂 very interesting 😀
Thank you Aimee …. I’m glad you like it – it is nice when people find value in something I have produced as I am sure you will echo 🙂
Thank you for this! Love the trees and talking about your dad! Very heartfelt and lovely! Love it!
It’s the heart that speaks the truth … one of the things I love about your own blog actually! Thank you for the kind words 🙂
Thank you! Yes you are right its the heart!
Trees are my favourite things on the earth. Although I am in town opposite the RER, beyond lies the Bois de Vincennes,and when I am sitting on my sofa or at my dining table (we are on the third floor of a 1920’s apartment building) then all I can see are trees and sky. I am a little bit of an anorak and take copious sky photos every evening (we face west in the front and east in the back, so have amazing sunrises and sunsets).
The other icing on the cake, as I love water also (really miss not living by the sea as I did in Wale for most of my life) is that I can see a sliver of the river Marne from my bedroom and kitchen window, which are on the east facing side, so I often wake up in a room bathed in coral light..
What a wonderful image you conjure! I am spoiled here for woods and lakes and hills and indeed extinct volcanoes!
I love hearing about your father and you. We have many birches here in New England, particularly in New Hampshire. Robert Frost, an American poet who lived in New Hampshire, wrote a lovely poem entitled “Birches.” Enjoy your days among the beautiful trees, the trees…Clare
Lovely post 🙂
Thank you so much ….. I appreciate it very much that you take the time to read and to comment 🙂
I agree there is something very special about trees. I love photographing them. 🙂
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I have just returned from a couple of weeks with my mother where she agreed that I should take ‘all your father’s endless pictures of trees and mountains’ … something I was very happy to do. Not because they are particularly fine (though some are) but because I know that he heart was soaring when he pointed his leather bound kodak and pressed the shutter. I am my dad’s daughter!
Ah, how lovely, photography runs in our family on my dad’s side too. My grandfather and uncle were both photographers. Not that I consider myself to be one! Lots to learn… just an amateur that loves to snap away!
Gosh… I’ve just read this again! I hope my children will say such pleasing things about me when I go… for I love trees as well!
I call trees “God’s Fingerprints”… each different, each unique… each beautiful, whatever species they may be!
One day… when I grow up, I want to live in a comfortable wooden cabin in a woodland… near the sea… oh, how I dream! Oh, I would love to build the cabin, from the abundance of the surrounding woodland! With love and care, and appreciation for the trees that allowed me to create a home…
OH… how I dream! 😉
That is a beautiful dream … The best actually and I hope it becomes a reality though I also hope you never grow up! God’s fingerprints is a wonderful way to describe trees. I love this 💫💫
😉 – I’ve done a post for tomorrow… 😀
I’ll be watching out for it 😊
Spending time in the shade of a beautiful tree perched on top of a hill is all I need!! Adore the trees 🙂
Wise! Very wise!
As a tree lover you are in the most perfect place. I can understand how you feel at home there.
Thank you … that’s it exactly!
So beautiful Osyth.. and it cast me back in time to the walks through Derbyshire hills with my mum. She loved trees – it was her ‘thing’ and through her, so do I. When she died, our children bought an Oak Tree at Tatton Park which was one of my mums favourite places to go and walk and has an amazing array of wonderful trees. She is now scattered beneath the new Oak Tree nestled in the tree lined avenue leading to the Hall and looking out across the Cheshire Plains… The perfect spot and we visit often – it doesn’t feel like visiting a cemetery, it’s become a fun family outing, a family picnic spot… although the last time we visited we sat on an anthill and all got bitten – our trip was a short one! (I’ve got 2 sisters and between us there are 10 children..with 6 belonging to one sister.. youch!) .. Thank you for sharing your wonderful recollections with me.. x
Poignant tribute to your father. He lives through your words. And the trees. I try and identify trees but often fall short. I shall look to you for better knowledge of them then. Cheers x
He taught me the names in latin and English – in his name I learn the French because I know he would SO have loved the place I call home (actually he would have loved here in Grenoble even more because it’s so easy for the ski-slopes but that’s another story entirely) … thank you so much for reading that piece. It means a lot to me x
I am slow sometimes to get there, catching up on your posts though I can be quite slow otherwise too, but I shall 🙂 He lives through you, so he is loving all the beauty you x
Actually I just re-read that post … .hadn’t looked at it for a long time so I thank you for unearthing it and reminding me. I never can get enough reminders of him, as it turns out. Take your time, never feel obliged and we shall remain friends x
You are welcome. I shall try and make you re-look at others too then. Not obliged, no. Evocative writing, yes 🙂 Cheers to that lovely thought of remaining friends.
When we bought our French barn we found three birch trees on site overrun with brambles. This year with some TLC, installing some shade round the roots, they have grown three times in height and give wonderful dappled shade. We used to make pine syrup from pine cones and waiting to pick all the chestnuts that are starting to appear. Trees are great providers.
Oh the chestnuts … how I love them! I am so touched by your birch story … they are beautiful trees and their shade is particularly pleasing I think – dapply indeed. I have friends in the châtaigneraie Cantalien who collect birch sap and make some sort of elixir which the French go nutty for. I’ll see if I can remember what its called ….
Yes that would great if you can find out…I think it’s similar to maple syrup but not so sweet.
Oh I too have a love of trees, in fact I wrote a post on Trees. Such beautiful structures of nature and our worlds history and the uses they provide for us, well, I do have a passion for them. Such a lovely piece of writing and such a beautiful place you live in at this time 🙂 gorgeous photos
OH OSYTH – I love this post – and it’s just another love we deeply share – My father was a passionate man. He also was a carpenter, a roofer, a furniture master, and a man who knew every and any tree. My childhood memory I treasure deeply is walking in the nearby ‘Wald’ (forest, woods, I never managed to feel the differences in those two words in ENglish) and Vati (dad) explaining all the beautiful things going on in/on/underneath those trees. That is also why I so much loved that BBC documentary with Judi Dench…. It woke childhood memories of the best kind (I have others just like everybody – but I chose a long time ago to treasure only the wonderful ones).
I would love to ‘like’ this post a 1000 times, at least…. 🙂
I have a deep and lasting respect and trust for anyone who loves and ‘feels’ trees
I am just silently but convincingly swearing at my stupidity….. I closed a further comment, quite detailled and with 4 links to photos re these trees’ stories….. took some 30’ of my life and I idiot lost it – can’t re-do it now – but if you are interested, go on my Flickr account and type in cedar – you’ll find some ‘public’ references. I have more private ones but honestly, it’s no good now. Sorry
Without re-telling the stories, I just give you a few still open links (the first of them would have been ready to close when I accidentally closed this one on your site!)
This here would – to a non casual observer – prove that the birches were in a bad shape….
As does this one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vol-au-vent/2865932620
Beautiful! Loved the photos of trees and wanted to step in and hug them all.
Then hug them! Humans must connect with the trees for they may not have tongues but they have roots in ages past and if we connect with that then we have a chance of living to make ages future. Thank you for coming here and leaving a comment that resonates x
I do hug them. I totally agree that humans need to connect with trees, and nature in general.
Well said ☺
Thank. You so much, Saania …. you are very kind
My pleasure, hugs! 😇