Message in a Landscape

For me, summer is not the best season for taking photographs because the light is very hard on the bright summer days, and, in woodland, the patches of sunlight scattered on the trunks and on the forest floor create very harsh contrasts, what makes -at least for me – very difficult to make acceptable photos. And for good light I have to wake up too early. I’ve tried that, certainly, but I’m obliged to admit, that I couldn’t.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of July I did a hike following a part of the so called Limes hiking trail, which follows the border of the ancient Roman Empire – established by the beginning of the 2nd century AD -, and includes numerous forts of varying sizes, civilian settlements – some of which have extended bath facilities and residential buildings – and also towers as well as the border fortifications themselves.

Although the hike followed along a charming woodland path, in some places, the spruce plantations have been cleared, because many of the trees died. Spruces are not very resistant to heat and drought, two problems that affected central Europe last years, so shortage of water and heat weakened the trees defences and the bark beetle attacked the weakened trees.

It is on these cleared woodlands, between logs and death branches, where the poisonous common foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea) grows, with its nice purple flowers arranged in showy, elongate cluster. But this beauty doesn’t hide the danger: the leaves, flowers and seeds of this plant are all poisonous.

Were the logs, the death branches and the foxglove, messages in a landscape?

The Roaring Twenties Again?

I have curled mid the boles of the ash wood,
I have hidden my face where the oak
Spread his leaves over me, and the yoke
Of the old ways of men have I cast aside.

Ezra Pound. Personae.

After a cold and rainy May, June hat brought unusual hot days, days during which the people spread across the recreational areas as nature and city parks, woodlands, beaches, lakes and rivers, leaving behind them a trail of plastic bags, beer cans and masks. Are we facing a new Roaring Twenties period with dramatic social and political changes?.

In any case, I’m too old – and for this reason a little bit melancholy and very pessimistic about the future -, to participate in that cheerfulness.

However, I used a couple of nice days to hide my face where the oaks (or beech trees), spread their leaves over me.

Days of Wind, Cold, Clouds and Rain

This month of May, cold fronts and their associated depressions have swept across Western Europe, bringing us unusually wet, cold and miserable weather.

It was not easy to go out to take pictures…!

But the skies were quiet interesting, and I could overcome the laziness.

I travelled across the northern and southern slopes of the Taunus range because I wanted big and clear views.

While on the southern slopes, a small-structured cultural landscape with extensive scattered orchards, I enjoyed an impressive view of a storm over the skyscrapers located in the financial district of Frankfurt city.

On the northern slopes, that fall gradually in the form of a plateau with steep and wooded valleys to the Lahn valley, I enjoyed a nice late and cloudy afternoon, with sunny intervals, building nice spots of light over the wooded hills.

Somewhere over the Red Cliffs

We are now approaching Nature.

Please disregard the subject-object split

Mike Roman.
Mind the Gap. Stravaig#5 Scottish Center for Geopoetics

Almost every year, I take one of my favorite walks over the red cliffs of a ryolithe massif, somewhere (remember one of the rules of Nature First – The Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography: Use discretion if sharing locations ), south of the Hunsrück massif, a long mountain range West of Germany.

It is a relatively easy hiking trail with convenient accessibility, and the woodland surrounding the cliffs has a huge number of thermophile species which remember me the vegetation of the Mediterranean region where I was born.

The path closely follows the edge of the cliffs offering incredible views of the vineyards bellow the cliffs and the surrounding valleys of he Hunsrück.

The cliffs are a very interesting landform, a laboratory for geomorphologists, a place where it is possible to study how the earth surface processes, such as air, water and ice, can mould the landscape. But as Mike Roman wrote, I´m in nature, consequently, it´s time for poetry, not for science.

Water hollows stone,

wind scatters water,

stone stops the wind.

Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,

stone’s a cup of water,

water escapes and is wind.

Stone, wind, water.

Octavio Paz. Wind, Water, Stone.

At the beginning of the path, there is a view point which offers splendid views over the ravines, the pinnacles and crests that fall on the vineyards and into the river.

I try to take some pictures as I discover a pair of common kestrel flying tireless, making an incredible and beautiful dance between pinnacles and crests.

Behind me, two young couples with flaming sneakers are sitting down on a bench glued to their smartphones. Some minutes later, a middle age couple arrives, come near the edge of the cliffs, turn their backs to the cliffs, take a selfie, and quickly go back to the parking lot. – Two more picture-snapping posers – I say to me while I put the camera in the rucksack, fold the tripod and go on.

A country begins with a ground, a geology. When it loses contact with that, it’s no longer a country at all. It’s just a supermarket, Disneyland or a madhouse

Kenneth White, ‘The Re-Mapping of Scotland,’ The Wanderer and his Charts:Essays on Cultural Renewal.

Earth Day

On April, 22nd. I had planned a getaway in the Taunus mountain range, to „celebrate“ the Earth Day, an annual event on that day to demonstrate support for protecting the environment.

When the day came and the alarm clock went off at 6:00 am, I glanced through the window, seeing a rainy and cold day. It took me half an hour to get up.

Although the Taunus is a relatively low range, with smooth, rounded mountains covered with forest , in some points of the range emerge, between the woodlands, some cliffs of shale, cliffs which I’ve tried many times to photograph.

When I reached the edge of a cliff, there weren’t traces of the spring. The trees perched over the rock had no leaves, the fog came up from the valley giving a felt of mystery. After taking some pictures I began the celebration of Earth day: with a bin bag and rubber gloves I began to gather the waste that people had thrown away. The harvest was worse than expected: beer bottles, masks -last trend – , tissues, packets of cigarettes…

Mission accomplished!

At home, while looking at the calendar for the next Day Of.…, it seemed to me that Humankind is moving from one Day Of… to another Day of… without any result.

Spring is Here

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:—

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure

William Wordsworth. Lines Written in Early Spring

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.

In Search of Spring

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.

Books, Hikes and Feasts

Spring brings hope

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 Pallars Sobirá, 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.

Winter Hikes

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…