Up the valley

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. 

I had a view the other morning across the Brienzersee (+/-564meters above sea level). I could see that it was the time that farmers were making the first cut of pasture hay. Notice the yellow and brown patches which have just been cut . Adjacent to the yellow and brown are fully green pastures that have not been cut. Better seen in the following enlargements.
Note the fields just above the village. This is a mountain lake–the lake is a valley floor. The valley feels like an open bowl.
Hay pastures in the Berner Oberland Jungfrau Region of the Swiss Alps in late spring.
So, in the valley across the way, at about 560 meters above sea level, the first seasonal cutting of the pasture hay has begun.

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.

Before the cut.
The cut.
Cut and drying.
Bailed.

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.

The valley narrows. The mountains steepen. The walk not too strenuous at all–suitable for a suburban midwest American like me.
I love seeing how trees can make their home on the steepest of cliffs and the narrowest of flat ledges. They know how to adapt. Adapt.

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.

It took me 1/2 hour to walk the next 100 meters.

This is the edge of pasture some time before the haycut. 100 meters above where the haycut is occurring.
The wild flowers beckoned me.
Wild flowers well ahead of the grasses. Seed time not yet.
I was on a journey.
Finally, I arrived at Gundlischwand.
A village in an agricultural landscape in the mountains–mountains? Jungfrau Region, Berner Oberland, Swiss Alps.
Apple and walnut trees always close to the doorstep and kitchen.
Not far from the edge of town…a footpath into the dark forest…

But that will be a journey for another day.

I’m ok, if…

…I can’t tell the difference between the onset of old age and covid19, 20 or whatever*.

No matter how I look at it…

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…up close, can’t tell one from the other.

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…or from distance, don’t know the source or destination. Just in the flow.

And ahead,

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There still are challenges, mysteries, discoveries…if I just take a step forward.

*covid, China virus, Kung flu, Wang Chung?!! Everybody have fun tonight.

 

It’s out there…somewhere

Stroked out. Just about three years ago that I was no better than a ‘side of beef’ on a gurney in the back of an ambulance. Four weeks later I was in a wheelchair on the way to a neuro-rehabilitation clinic in the Berner Oberland.

When I arrived, my wife wheeled me to the end of the hallway for a look out through the window. This is what I saw.

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Magic in the landscape

What I thought? Only to be able to walk this path. Well it happened. First time sitting up. First time getting out of bed by myself. First time standing. First time with rollator. First time standing without rollator. First step on stairs. First time up one flight of stairs. First time down one flight of stairs. I don’t understand how. Great physiotherapists. Great ergotherapists. A miracle. Faith.

I walk every day now in the Berner Oberland–no rollator–no sticks. Unbelievable.

And that image, that path–magic in the landscape. Thankful.

Hope, I hoped I could take that walk. Hope can be grasped. Step by step. Every morning.

Short story about a strange…

…garden and its even stranger keepers…in Tangier.

The Story

Click the orange circle above to listen. This story is 30 minutes about Moroccan landscape, a strange garden, absinthe, chocolate and its plants.

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Date palms and mimosa in Morocco (Phoenix dactylifera and Acacia dealbata). Ever wonder about the magic of fragrance? Try mimosa, in its natural habitat, in the winter.

The Background

Anyone who has worked in a garden–suffered blisters and callouses in a garden for fruit, vegetables, flowers, medicine–knows there is something more in those gardens. This is for you.

Gardens? Chocolate? Yes, definitely…but I never thought to combine them until the email I received quite recently from an almost forgotten friend. Donkeys’ years ago when I was in Tangier, we worked together on the Baie de Tanger–it was a tourist destination development project.

Now, my friend’s still in Tangier, but as an antique dealer, using as an income cover, a store of second hand furniture. This story is a found antique.

In ‘Christopher and the Hibiscus House’, Christopher tells the story of a Tangier, Morocco garden. In order to visit the garden he was required by the garden’s keepers, a Brit and a Ruskie, to undergo a special ordeal of chocolate and absinthe before walking at sunset in the garden. Christopher first had to visit the land of the green fairies before he could enter their Oval Garden. This is that story.

Readers…by now you know that my blog, flahertylandscape, is all about plants and people–landscape journeys. Sounds fair and safe enough; but what I  share with you in the above story goes beyond ethnobotany, beyond strange.

 

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The Moroccan dream.

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…for millennia…Tangier has been a nexus of Mediterranean, African and European cultures…a classic melting pot that is still on the boil.

This is in part a freshly edited re-post of  a 2015 post I made, entitled Chocolate, Gardens and Magic, which, if I might say so, was a too long read; but it is fortunately well illustrated with Art Nouveau graphics.

Upper Balconies

Deep in the back row of the upper, upper balconies, which are all full today, you can do whatever you want because no one will see you. Can you hear the sonata?

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Clouds fill the upper balconies. 

Mountains Birthing Clouds

Swiss Alps, Bernese Highlands, Jungfrau Region. North side of range.

What more can I say?

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At 1400 meters above sea level, amongst the forests.

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At 3000 meters above sea level, above the tree line.

Tree

Every so often something makes me take a photo–something?

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Walnut tree–Juglans nigra

Is it my eyes, is it my heart, is it paranormal?

I don’t know. But Alfred Joyce Kilmer wrote, in his poem ‘Trees’:

I think that I shall never see 

A poem as lovely as a tree.

My photos may not be technically the best but they do have my heart in them. And I love living in the Swiss Highlands because such simple things as the beauty of a tree have become embedded in their culture for all to appreciate.

A few years back, I posted a story here entitled ‘Landscapeyness’. The title was not so accurate related to its content about trees and culture in the Swiss Highlands. The following image shares the flavor.

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Forest, animals, people, nurture, rest, music, landscape…

The artwork is called Schnerenschnit.

Probably don’t…

 …want to hear about this stroke update. That’s ok because you don’t have to read it. I want to put words to what I felt today.

About 18 months ago I was in bed, a vegetable in a windowless and clockless emergency ward. Tubes everywhere. Nothing that worked before was working. 

Gradually things sank in, internal clouds started lifting and I started thinking. Still unable to get out of bed. If only I could speak again. If only I could clean myself again. I dreamed if only I could walk in the country…oh such a dream. Then the rehab began. Then the hard discipline became essential. Little step by little step.

Below is where I walked today. I almost melted with joy and happiness. Wish fulfilled.  So many to thank.

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Who wouldn’t want to take this walk?