I wrote previously about winter colors, snow line and black and white.
The most attractive black and white in our landscape is the magpie, the Eurasian magpie, Pica pica. They have an large, active nest nearby in the top of a huge linden tree, Tilia cordata. When the first winter snowfall arrived the nest got so snowed in…it was no longer visible, neither were the magpies.
Christopher Janus, CJ, had visited Morocco once with his mom when he was only seven–he had memories. He remembered sun and fun. Now nearly two decades later he, studying landscape architecture at university, was planning a design study term abroad. This, however was to become a different journey. The Moroccan tourism advertising was for sun and fun. That’s what he hoped for.
He had been six years full time at university. He needed a break. Sun and fun on the Mediterranean in Morocco? Great Moroccan markets in the pedestrian-only medinas? What was not to like?
When CJ crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and arrived in Tangier, the cultural complexity…the mists of cultural history…the cultural reality fog overwhelmed him. His carefully planned design study disappeared into a thickly uncertain maze. In this journey, he was blinded. He couldn’t find any portals.
His attempts to work through that maze is the basis for my upcoming novel, Tangier Gardens.
How can I get free of this stinking political and health fear-stuffed albatross?
Suppose this page is about you…and suppose you are wound up tighter than a drum by the tension of world wide and local politics and health. This page is your wayfinder.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BLOG AND ALL MY WRITING is to assist you the visitor to begin taking steps along a path toward discovering the regenerative existential cures to be freely found in plants, gardens and the landscape.
THE FIRST STEP is what could be called ‘nature prescriptions’–calibrated doses of time outside. Take a walk. But does the walk heal? What actually happens? What is on the path that takes you on a journey? Where do landscape journeys take you?
And why even take that path and that journey?
A walk, a journey just for the landscape?–heh, I know what you are thinking–we all know what landscape is, right? Same old, same old, right?
I am a naive midwestern American kind of guy–born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland–not really urban, not really rural. Farming has always been a mystery to this outsider.
Everything I encounter in this agricultural mountain landscape…naively captivates me.
Around my own home the first haycuts are already underway–there is the fragrance of a freshly cut lawn–we all have that familiar smell but the smell of freshly cut pasture hay? We had a couple good rains in May–all pastures were rich with grasses and wild flowers–the wild flowers went to seed first then the grasses–and as the grasses were going to seed in the first days of June we had a spell of sunny warm weather.
All the farmers down here at the valley bottom were out cutting their pastures. Fragrance at daytime and night time. They let the cut hay dry in the open fields for a couple days before binding it for later use as feed.
What does that have to do with ‘Up the valley’?
Well, everything in my topographical homeland was flat. Topography and its impact on life in the mountain landscape intrigues me. So, I took a walk up the valley–up the Lutschine River valley to a village named Gundlischwand (+/- 660 meters above sea level). That means uphill 100 meters–doesn’t sound like much does it? Couldn’t be further–amazing walk–here’s what happened. The valley changed. The topography changed. The plants changed.
I was going back in time.
In the mountains spring comes first at the low valley elevations. Then by the time spring comes to the higher elevations it is normally not days but weeks later.
So when I walked up the valley I was walking back in time. Climatically speaking.
The price of admission?
A stuffy nose, a couple sneezes and a runny nose–all in sequence.
Part of what keeps me going into the landscape every day is how the people in the local towns and in their agriculture integrate at the smallest scale into the larger landscape. Wilderswil is an excellent example.
From my place I took two busses and in 10 minutes I was in Wilderswil Dorf–the center of the village.
The Bears Hotel in the center of Wilderswil–this is downtown in the village. 2,700 people live in Wilderswil which is part of the Interlaken agglomeration(24,000 pop.).
After 5 more minutes walk I was at the edge of the village on a pedestrian path known in the local dialect as a wanderweg–a way for wandering through the landscape–journeys to the unknown.
Wandering along a wanderweg.
After 15 minutes in thickmixed forest, a view of the larger landscape opened before me.
The small scale agriculture sits at the base of steep forested mountains.
The valley floor is pasture for smaller agricultural holdings. The forest begins where the slope becomes too steep for pasture.
The small scale agriculture comes right to the edge of town.
This is the kind of diversity that comes from hard work and returns healthy people.
The town people use every imaginable way to bring practical plants, gardens and small scale agriculture right to their doorstep.
These are typical throughout the village–the owners encourage nature right up to their front door.
This last black and white photo, taken in 1952, shows Wilderswil at the mouth of the Saxeten Valley and river. This valley, while never gaining the reputation of the Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald Valleys, has undeniable drama and magnificent landscape setting. These are the Berner Oberland.
By Werner Friedli – This image is from the collection of the ETH-Bibliothek and has been published on Wikimedia Commons as part of a cooperation with Wikimedia CH. Corrections and additional information are welcome., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59858775
I’ve been scruffing through the local edge of town landscape, taking a soft pleasure in the unrolling of spring when…
…a couple trees seemed to be everywhere. Everywhere. Every farm barn, every hay barn, every pasture…so I grabbed a couple photos.
About two weeks ago the light sweetness of the apple blossom filled the air around each tree. Undeniably magnetic.
Like the walnut trees, these apple trees are everywhere.
The bronziness of walnut tree spring foliage carries the promise. This is a region where dark walnut wood has been used traditionally for carvings like Brienz boxes and bears. But for me, it is about bakery treats.
So, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about what can be found in the bakeries every fall and winter–after the walnuts and apples ripen. Add cinnamon, sugar, pastry with just the correct amount of baking.
Fresh, warm walnut and apple bakery, the only thing that tops springtime apple blossom fragrance.