February 28, 2011
The day started under a cold mist but with a definite hint of a blue sky above. As often at this Season, mornings look dull and grey. Then slowly but surely the fog disappears leaving behind soft layers of this Winter haze.Off I went to the woods for a morning walk with my faithful little companion, as watchful - and playful - as ever.
It was a quiet stroll, no encounter of any kind although Nino could confirm you there were some deers around, for sure. Unmistakable tracks and scents tickled his nose.After a pleasant and lazy walk through narrow paths and slightly frosted fields, we were back home. One of us decided to take a nap…
… the other went to fetch the daily paper and mail in the letterbox. And then came The Surprise ! A letter from abroad with beautiful stamps that suggested forest, berries and little visitors creeping under the pine trees. I immediately loved those stamps and will keep them in a special little booklet. Smalls or inchies
The content of this letter sent by Gerry in Michigan http://torchlakeviews.wordpress.com/ was even more appreciated !
An elegant handwriting on a card, a fine drawing by Thomas W. Ford : “Queen Ann’s Lace” flower. In Gerry’s envelope I also found two delightful postcards by artist, printer and naturalist Gwen Frostic. The cards are original block-prints by the artist. I simply love them ! Precious art pieces from an amazing person I learned about on the following site. It is well worth reading about Gwen Frostic’s life and achievements.
Many, many thanks Gerry for this thoughtful letter and gifts. If my day started under the Winter fog, it certainly continued under a bright sun This type of “real-mail” is precious indeed.
December 7, 2010
A snowy forest star just as lovely as in Summertime.
Braving wind and snow on the coldest day of the week (-7°C).
Cat to Dog : “Not as crazy as you about it… and I don’t mind sharing your territory, I’m faster anyway and I can climb, remember ? ;)”
Snow and fog; it was probably the most beautiful and special day in the country but… totally chaotic on the roads and in town.
Another morning of deep snow and freezing temperatures (-6°C). The laundry will have to stay indoors.
What an utter pleasure to see the sun again and the beauty of the landscape under its cool rays on a forest path !
This is a little of my week for the past seven days. There is less snow today because it has started to rain. The air is still cold but someone cannot resist the call of the forest and off we are on the road and tracks again !
September 13, 2010
As every day, Nino-the-Beagle and I went for our morning walk. It was still raining a little after the violent storm of the night before.Small drops of water were shining on grass and flowers, the coolness of the air definitely announced a change of Season.
There are always the usual stopovers on the way. Nino so enjoys following tracks and investigating them further (down). He loves digging furiously, puffing and digging again with great insistence. Sometimes he lifts his stubborn and cute head and looks at me as if saying “I know “it’s” here, not far, I’ll get it, just wait !” And on he goes, digging happily and throwing earth into my shoes.
As he was searching underground, I was looking up to the sky, a lovely blue sky washed by the rain. There was this cloud as big as a vessel sailing towards Northern skies. I wondered where it was heading to and what shape it would take on arrival.
Later I stopped at the bottom of this tree and sat on a bench. Above in its branches there used to be a sort of small wooden platform. I never knew if it was meant for hunters or for bird watchers. As I looked up though I saw only pieces of broken wood, the hut had been destroyed by the storms or by somebody, I don’t know. It looked a bit desolate.
Nino was beside me looking down – again – at something that seemed to interest him a lot. It was a stone that looked like a nicely wrapped parcel, a small gift of nature. Maybe this is what he thought too ? and did not know where to start opening it and chewing at it
Storm was looming again over the forest and the fields. Dark clouds, a few drops of rain. It was time to get back home at a fast pace. Which we did but not quite fast enough. Half an hour later we arrived home. Soaked.
Just a few thoughts of a morning like many others, yet different, unique in so many ways even if I know this area. Unique in the way I felt on that particular day and how I looked around trying to be really present during those privileged moments.
“I am at home, I have arrived
There is only here and now.
I feel strong, really free,
I find refuge in myself.
I am at home, I have arrived”
This is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “the meditative walking”.
August 16, 2010
This post is my contribution to the new photography challenge assigned by Scott Thomas, http://stphoto.wordpress.com; its theme is related to Travel Photography. On the following link you will find the necessary information if you want to join us. Everyone is welcome ! Photos are to be posted until September 8, 2010.
For me, Hauterive is not a faraway place to travel to, 15kms at the most from my home near Fribourg, Switzerland (South of Berne). More than a travel in the usual sense of the word, I would call it an “inner journey”. As soon as you leave the main road leading to the Abbey of Hauterive, you enter a small domain where peace, silence and nature help you slowing down. You don´t even realize it but the way you walk down the path leading to the Abbey is definitely more slow.
I did not meet many people as I strolled under the forest archway. It was a weekday; on Sundays the monastery welcomes many visitors coming to the 10am mass celebrated by the Cistercian monks in the Abbey founded in 1138.The community of Hauterive is a haven of peace. Whenever I need some quietness or just a little time for myself , I love to go and sit in the garden in front of the Abbey. Parts of this garden are closed to the public and reserved to the monks. Pilgrims on their long way to St- Jacques de Compostelle in Spain may stop there for the night.Between light and shade, some benches welcome people who come there for a pause in their day. Some – for their own particular reasons at a period of their life – can stay for a longer time at the Abbey and live with the monks according to their rhythm and spirit. I cannot speak for them but personally I always feel a great inner peace as I stay there, outside or inside the church, also when walking along the river.
This is a view of the Abbey (at the back) and the farm (in front). The monks´s monastic life is essential (“ora et labora” – pray, work and also fraternal life). The monks also cultivate a certain form of relationship with the exterior world. Over the centuries they have valorised agricultural land so that they can sell their various products which bring the necessary revenues for their subsistence.Silence is appreciated in the areas where the monks are praying, meditating.
Hauterive Abbey (which means “high banks”) is located near a river, the Sarine. It flows quietly; people like to come and spend the day at the edge of the water. I saw fishermen trying to catch trouts. Cistercian monasteries were often built near a river in rather secluded areas. Maybe they used rivers as a way of transportation for their goods to be sold in the towns nearby ? It was often done so in the Middle Age when roads were unsafe.
To reach the Abbey you can either walk down a peaceful forest path or use those old wooden stairs. They have been restored of course and if they could talk, they would tell of all the people and the countless steps up and down over the centuries. The walls are original with an occasional patch of new cement and paint here and there. No straight lines for them but slight curves, a sort of imbalance as if they carried the weight of time and events.Let´s enter the Abbey itself through the main porch decorated by a fresco. I visited Hauterive several times over the years; for this photo assignement I came on a sunny morning which soon turned out to be a rainy one. The colours would have normally been much brighter.
I never took any pictures inside the Abbey but the monk I asked about it said it was all right. Those are the stained glass windows on the South side of the church, their bright colours subdued under the cloudy sky. The “rosace” (rose window) is very striking.
Rose windows are particularly characteristic of Gothic architecture and may be seen in all the major Gothic Cathedrals of Northern France. Their origins are much earlier and rose windows may be seen in various forms throughout the Medieval period (Wikipedia).
There were very few people inside the Abbey. I sat for while on the chair on the left. On Sundays and special celebrations the nave and the lateral aisles are all taken up. The monks are reunited behind the choir-screen for the celebration. Their Gregorian chant fills the Abbey. Moments of spirituality and sharing. I feel like saying a sharing beyond all religions, a sheer spirituality that the site inspires and transcends. The monks´chant is bringing life to the ancient walls.Leaving the Abbey by the quiet forest path, I was surprised by a bird flying right in front of me ! I still don´t know how I managed to take a picture. But here it is, a graceful bird dashing to the purple flower bush. A lovely ending of my travel with you. I hope you enjoyed this quiet journey near Fribourg, Switzerland. Thanks to Scott for another interesting photography challenge.
For more information on the Abbey of Hauterive, here is a link to its site. An English translation is available too.
April 2, 2010
No, it was not a “poisson d’avril”, April Fool’s Day in English ! But real snow that had fallen all night long. Yesterday, 1st of April, I could not believe my eyes as I opened the shutters : all white again, silent and very cold. Why do we call it a “poisson d’avril” (litterally translated “April’s fish”) ? On that particular days kids love to play tricks to one another or to adults too ; one that is well known is to hang – very discreetly – a paper fish on someone’s back. It creates lots of laughter, of course
This is the view I have at all Seasons when I open the window. I love it all year round. This is also the start of my daily walks in the woods. A place where people meet to play tennis or soccer or pétanque (French lawn bowling)
March 27, 2010
Today is a stormy day, rain and wind and cold temperatures again. 10°C less than these past days. Such will be our weekend according to the weather forecast… No wonder if some trees have adopted the “question mark attitude” and ask themselves questions about the real arrival of Spring !
Spring (8 haiku)
sail boats in the fountain
my first kite
circus in town
kite in the sky
pulling my hand
our last dance
song without end
February 27, 2010
I think it is called “Queen Anne’s Lace” or wild carrot. In French “la berce des prés”, a very common wild flower in fields and forests. As for “lace”, when you see this plant in Summer… no need to explain its name.
February 21, 2010
More snow fell yesterday, a Siberian North wind blows over the landscape today and although the sun is trying to shine, its rays are still too weak to warm up the atmosphere. So I thought why not going South ? in my memories at least. When I mean South, I mean one of the most Southern parts of the world if you live in Europe. That is Australia. About three years ago I went there for a while, I left Winter behind and found Summer in Victoria, beautifully warm and green in many places.
Walking in the bush was quite a discovery for me. Eucalypts and plants unheard of over here. Forests that seemed to have grown in a kind of disorder but once you walk through them, you notice a natural harmony in those twisted tree trunks and wild plants covering a rather dry soil. The woods were either silent or very noisy with the cockatoes’ calls.
An amazing entanglement of trees, bushes, high ferns. Sometimes a beautiful confusion, at other times a forest as imposing as a cathedral.
Here and there the Australian forests reminded me of a poem of Baudelaire :
La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles ;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.
Nature is a temple where live pillars
Sometimes whisper confused words
Man walks across it through forests of symbols
Which observe him with familiar looks.
Extract from the poem “Correspondances”
Here is a site about Australian nature that I love to visit :
Robert Burcul’s amazing and artistic pictures of Queensland are well worth seeing.
January 22, 2010
Frost, snow, grey sky and coldness are still very present here. We all seem to get used to those low temperatures (-5°C or less in the morning, a few degrees higher during the day). One thing though keeps me wondering every day and I look forward to my walk in the woods : it is the extraordinary and fabulous transformation of vegetation through the frost. How can one ever get used to the beauty of these branches ?
As the French saying goes “Année de givre, année de fruits”… “A frosty Winter gives a generous harvest of fruits in Summer” So, let’s look forward to warmer days !
December 28, 2009
Walking in the forest in Winter can be surprising and enchanting. Trees are mostly bare but still, colours remain and show a new brightness in a sometimes dull environment. Like frosty branches in a blue sky
Some trees keep their leaves longer than others and they prolong the warm autumnal mood in a snowy landscape. Nature is a never ending pleasure to enjoy. A forest has so much to offer to your wondering eyes.