I went for a walk two days after the astronomical spring, as I wanted to take a few pictures of flowers, provided that it’s a subject matter that I scarcely photograph.
The path wound between the bare shapes of leafless trees, and, on the edge there were some little lesser celandine, a harbinger of spring. The wood was silent and motionless in the cold air of the late afternoon. Only the birds celebrated the new season.
Suddenly, 100 meters away in front of me, in a bend in the trail, stood a border forsythia bush, full of flowers.
I spent some time practicing macro photography, while some strollers looked out of the corner of their eyes at me, an eccentric person who stuck their nose in a bush.
I visited the Westerwald region, a low mountain range on the right bank of the river Rhine in Germany. It is a part of the Rhenish Slate Mountains. I wanted to scout a gorge, in case I could take some interesting pictures.
I camped near a stream, just at the beginning of a path which led to the gorge.
Before going to sleep, I walked along the stream. As it was dark, I only heard the roar of the water running away. In front of me, I saw the imposing dark silhouettes of two spruces. Between them, shone the beautiful and stunning constellation of Orion, with its brightest stars Rigel and Betelgeuse, and between them the three stars of Orion’s Belt—Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.
The next day I explored the region around the gorge for some hours. The gorge was full with fallen logs, branches and boulders, and it was very difficult to find clear compositions.
It was a cold and cloudy day. The thin layer of clouds produced a soft, almost cold light.
In late afternoon, the path crossed an area covered with bushes and sparse beech trees. With the soft light and the sparse tall trunks of the beech trees, it was like walking in the nave of a cathedral.
The cold and the soft bluish and purple colours talked about winter. But the lively chirps of the birds and the male catkins of the common hazels talked about spring.
We all know 2020 has been a very hard and challenging year for all of us. Besides wars, international conflicts, and abuses of power around the world, the coronavirus pandemic spreads readily.
Friends and acquaintances have lost their jobs, have had to cancel workshops or close their business.
This year, 2021, the end of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be on the horizon, but viral variants and vaccine logistics seem to push back the finish line. No one knows when this coronavirus pandemic will end and what for our lives and societies will bring in the future.
Regardless, last week of February has brought sunny days, high temperatures and some violets and snowdrops on gardens and meadows. And a very, very good new!
A friend of mine, Meritxell-Anfitrite, publisher, traveller, mountaineer, and writer has opened a bookshop in the middle of the Pyrenees, in the village of Alins, a region I hiked many, many years ago, when I was young.
I still have the map I used in the seventies!:
She has converted an old barn into a cozy bookshop, cafe and grocery.
In this project, Meritxell-Anfitrite has mixed a lot passion, love, energy, courage, know-how and experience. The result is astonishing, really!
The bookshop – NaturaLlibres –, is specialized in Nature, mountainering, hiking, outdoor, maps, and guides. NaturaLlibres promotes the culture and love for Nature through readings with authors and other events.
The Cafe – La Xurreta – offers coffees and herbal teas from wild plants of the region, el PallarsSobirá, and hand made biscuits and cookies while leafing through the books at your leisure.
In the grocery, you’ll find tasty regional products as sausages, cheeses, and many more products for enjoying delicious meals after hiking in the Pyrenees.
Good news that brings us fresh air and hope in the times we live in!
A must for the lovers of literature and nature. But be careful, and don’t forget the need to mitigate human impacts on species and natural systems.
And here is my advice – go slow and take the pleasures an sceneries as you go.
John Muir. Travels in Alaska
Last weeks it has been snowing more than usual. A polar or arctic air mass was spreading across central Europe and it was very, very cold.
I visited an area of woodland and ponds for a couple of days. I could make some peaceful and lovely hikes through the woods, – mainly bare oaks and beech trees-.
I had some nice encounters. Once, I heard some noise thirty meters in front of me. It was a family of wild boars feeding amongst fallen leaves. As they saw me, they ran away. On the way back at dusk, I followed a track between the wood and fields, and suddenly, I saw a loose group of attractive roe deer in the middle of the farm land. Like springs they jumped and ran very fast to the other end of the field.
After I had dinner, I had some energy to read some pages of Travels in Alaska, of John Muir. It is the first time I read Muir. It’s incredible how he can transmit the beauty and majesty of nature.
As the twilight began to fall, I sat down on the mossy instep of a spruce. Not a bush or tree was moving; every leaf seemed hushed in brooding repose. One bird, a thrush, embroidered the silence with cheery notes, making the solitude familiar and sweet…
Having read this paragraph, I went out of the camper van. I didn’t hear any bird, but not a bush or tree was moving and every leaf seemed hushed in brooding repose. The solitude was peaceful and gratifying.
The night was very cold. The temperature reached – 10ºC. To get up next morning was extremely difficult. It was still, no clouds and the sky had some blues and purples.
I hiked towards some marshes. Before I could see three common cranes, I heard its typical and loud trumpeting call. A birdwatcher I met later, explained me that, because of the climate change, some cranes don’t make their autumn migration towards the wintering sites.
I spent some time looking the cranes. From time to time, they were surrounded for ravens.
I took seriously the advice some traveler gave to Muir: I went slow and took the pleasures an sceneries as I went…
It was a cold morning and hard to get up and go out. It was snowing heavily, and I enjoy the snow like little children. So, I went out.
I hiked in the forest and things were quiet there, except for the crunch of untouched snow beneath my boots.
After two or three kilometers, the trail followed a dark stream, which water ran fast. It was impressive beeing in the middle of a fantastic world made of a delicate architecture, listening the sound of running water.
It is winter, still and silent, what a wonderful world! – I said to me.
Later, in the middle of the forest, I found an old cemetery, a Jewish cemetery. The oldest grave was from 1831. The newest, from 1925. In 1933-34, the cemetery was devastated.
Suddenly, I remembered some images of devastations we are witnesses these days, like refugees camps on Europe.
This year, Christmas days are under restrictions and challenges. A lot of people complains about not sharing these days with their families. But Christmas doesn’t have to be about families.
A lot of people complains these days about not buying the presents, the special food and drinks they want to share with their relatives. But Christmas doesn’t have to be about consumerism.
Maybe, despite all the restrictions and challenges, we have discovered another way of enjoying and sharing these days, without flying to far countries, without spending a lot of money in presents we don’t need, without losing many hours in traffic jams towards crowded ski resorts.
Maybe we have discovered that we can spend some time in a local woodland, sharing the stroll with our loved ones, looking how the birds facing up to the winter, or just greeting the people locked on nursing homes…
May be we’ll discover the stillness, and we’ll learn to enjoy the depths of a silent winter.
Because we live with tighter restrictions as local lockdown, quarantine, or self-isolation, I thought that, to look for forgotten books in my bookshelves, could be a good idea.
I found the book Wang River Collection of Wang Wei (699 – 759), a Chinese poet, painter, calligrapher, and musician. Wang Wei is especially known as a poet and painter of nature.
Wang River Collection have the Wang Wei’s most famous poetry, a series of couplets written by him and by his friend Pei Di.
After reading some of the poems of Wang Wei:
Empty hill not see person
Yet hear person voice sound
Return scene enter deep forest
Duplicate light green moss onHills are empty, no man is seen,
Yet the sound of people's voices is heard.
Light is cast into the deep forest,
And shines again on green moss.Deer Enclosure. Wang Wei
Autumn hill gather surplus shineFly bird chase before companion.Colour green moment bright,Sunset mist no fixed place.The autumn hill gathers remaining light,A flying bird chases its companion before.The green colour is momentarily bright,Sunset mist has no fixed place.Lily Magnolia Enclosure. Wang Wei
I felt a great need to get away, to the woodlands, to enjoy the scents of wet earth, the ephemeral fog and the vibrant colours of fallen leaves.
After the great review we shall fly away to warm countries, far from here, over hills and forests.
The Storks. Hans Christian Andersen.
It is a commonplace that autumn is one of the best times of the year for a landscape photographer. But, it’s true…I think.
It’s time for enjoying the magnificent and the rich vibrant colors of the foliage. And last but not least, if you want to shoot twilight you don’t have to be out of bed at 4am.
Trough the window of my living room, I can see every day how quickly the color of the foliage change. So I decided to hike trough a Nature Reserve near home.
The parking lot was empty when I arrived and the sun was still under the horizon. I could take some very nice pictures of a fantastic woodland with very old beech and oak trees. The saturated greens of the moss were a perfect frame for the vibrant yellow and orange colors of the foliage.
As the sun was higher, some sunbeams went trough the trees, building soft colors and shadows. A time for a quiet break, enjoying the light, the woodland and the silence…until cyclists and hikers came . It was time to retreat.
On the way back I crossed a dry watercourse when I could see a very, very nice gray heron waiting for his lunch. As I was near him, it flew away.
But, luckily, autumn have brought some rain and fresh air. Time for a getaway to some nice woodland in northern Germany and trying to forget for some days the bad news we receive every day about the world events that are taking place and are anything but peaceful.
Some strolls at dawn and dusk gave me the opportunity to enjoy the first and last murmurings of the wood, the first and last light of the day.
Taking photos in the midst of peace and quiet was a very good way to receive the new season. And, fortunately, I could share the experience with some colleagues. They took very, very nice pictures.