Nature pleases – Picardy 4

End of October 2018

Wu Chi – undifferentiated timelessness, the un-manifest aspect of the Tao. In peacock feathers from the garden birds.

I enjoyed teaching an introduction to Chi Gung for a group of Masters students (Greek, Dutch, American) from the Netherlands before I left. Their performances at Thursday’s showcase were stimulating: a two-hander addressing non-binary issues in an appropriately naïve style, and a quirky performed reading reminding me of the toymaker in Copélia.

View from the garden. It was colder in the final days, but I still did T’ai Chi there in the morning sun.

Delicate ivy ‘drawings’ on the wall.

Silver birch bark – surely the origin of the design of camouflage clothing!

Autumn leaf burning by E. I sat and watched the burning embers and the small flames lick as the sky darkened. The fire was still warm in the morning.

The walk back to the station took me past Halloween house decorations, the luminous sumac tree, and a village hall (last time the gate was shut and I couldn’t see in, so this time I crept up and peered in the window – they were all playing cards in there!). Then there were two furry friendly (hungry?) donkeys who I was instructed not to feed, and several people who kindly stopped to offer me a lift, which I declined so I could walk.

Sumac tree.

The WW1 memorial for the dead soldiers, significant given that the topic of my studies is death.

German troops occupied these small villages between 19 14-18. Britain helped out. There are information boards all along the roads of this area of Picardy with photos of these times.

Strips of roots growing across the bottom of the tree.

A whorl of bark.

Flowers found at ground level on the pavement.

Outside the old school is this lovely sundial with the inscription La grive aux raisins (thrush with grapes is a delicacy and also the name of the local newsletter) and on the gate of the village room.

View from the train to Reims.

Another sundial, a giant one in Reims lit up in the night. Cadrans Solaire de la Marne, also connected to WW1 as the River Marne, site of the battles of 1914 and 1918 where the German advancements were halted.

From the back of a toilet door at Le Maryland bar in Reims – not so very respectful of our monarch!

This bar is near the Cathedral and I do not recommend it as it was full of smokers and smoke, and with men making not so-funny remarks. I didn’t feel comfortable there on my own.

Sculpture by Armelle Blary https://armelleblary.com in a window in Reims – inspired by the work of Louise Bouregeois I would guess.

Les bunnies. At the home of Julie Martin who was my bla bla car driver 10 days before and who kindly invited me to stay on my return. Together with her lovely flatmate, Marie, I was cooked two sorts of crêpes which were delicious.

Many thanks to them for their hopitality. Check out their innovate business: Be Vegetal My Friend which offers all sorts of workshops with plants and flowers, plus you can see Julie demonstrating what she does, and go there to get designs for your wedding or event.

Julie Martin, Be Vegetal My Freind, in her element!

Reims Tourist Information

The convent

October 2018 Picardy, France.

I sit and work in the garden and the hot sun heats my lower back beautifully. I tan.

A peacock feather.

I look up as something thuds. An apple lies beside me. As I watch, whisper of a leaf; an acorn drops. Fruits still red and ripening.

Giving one Shiatsu per day for the community.

Looking down onto the village..

St Joan of Arc – one of the luminous stained glass windows of the chapel.

The garden from inside.

J makes dumplings – there is always lots of kitchen activity: fuels the brain!

E collected ceps and more in the woods for sharing.

I took a walk to the Intermarché/ supermarket on a sunny Sunday.

School and graf / graffiti.

On first sight I always think this means ‘no singing in public’!

Harvest time.

Pumpkins (above) and the last tomatoes (they are sweet as sweet).

The local library where MT volunteers.

The garden is the best place for writing. The light is inspiring. I caught myself thinking, ‘With this beauty and peacefulness I don’t need to eat’!

The slightly weird grottoes showing above the trees, which catch the morning rays.

Triffids?

The ringing singing tree, surely.

Evening walks.

After my tour, I sat in the garden as the sky darkened and the moon brightened. The last of the sun illuminated the tops of the birches and their tiny leaves flickered in the wind. The cyprus stood steady, turning a black silhouette before the rest. I watched a plane go past a star – that’s what it looked like.

An almost full harvest moon

Then an owl hooted: sometimes singly, followed by silence, then four in a row. Baby blue clouds appeared and a gauze of them passed in front of the orb which altered the light on the lawn.

The sound in the trees kidded my body into thinking it was colder than it was. Still, I pulled my hood over my hat, poked my thumbs through the holes in my sleeves and wormed one hand up the opposite arm. The chickens had been put to bed I realised, and there was no sign of the peacocks. A dog barked. The church bell tolled. I recognised a halloween sky but minus the bats! And I knew there was revellry going on indoors.

My desk
This was once a nun’s bed.

The Piano Concerto No. 21, 2nd Movement “Andante” by Mozart plays over and over in my head. I get down to the next chapter.

Grand Randonnée 12 – Sentier Albert Maître

I leave my accommodation to explore the surrounding countryside.

As I make my way uphill, I immediately come across bamboo in a local garden.

Bamboo grows in many parts of China and I practice Chinese medicine so I have an affinity with it.

A wonderful range of trees awaits me on this walk: oak and the resounding pop of acorns under foot; they make a lower note than the beech nuts which have more of a scrunch when I walk across them.

Not far on I find a cross reminding me of my Spanish caminos.

Oh the Autumn colours please me! As this is farmland, there are sheep, and further along the way, horses too.

With a lot of space to wander and feed. They aren’t fazed by me at all.

One matching chestnut, one dappled grey and one white. I wonder again, do horses (and cows) communicate with each other? Do they vary their behaviour at different times of the day? ‘It’s getting dark guys, let’s have one more meal and then lie down for the night!’

Here are the wide open arable fields where huge spreaders are spraying (just like Kent!). There are almost no flowers or birds as a result of the chemicals. These are recently sown and ploughed fields.

I follow the sign posts and there are also familiar neon arrows at ground level to keep me right – pointers for a run or cross-country cycling no doubt.

I remember the red and white stripes of the French walks I made in Normandy, but as always the entrances and exits for walkers are unusual.

This one was a sort of turnstile of oxydised metal.

I tread quietly. Once I enter the woods, the leaves are falling randomly around me and there is a sweet autumnal leafy smell.

Saw-edged sweet chestnut leaves litter the way, bronze and tan.

Ash and sycamore, acorns in cups, chestnuts in their prickly cases.

There are no fuchsias here like in Ireland, the hedgerows are instead bountiful with clematis, their furry seed heads studded with dark brown cores.

A tweet here and there; a rustling up high; and chirp chirp as a bird darts past.

I pick my way over sandy white soil, and admire the whispy grasses.

Laden with ruddy apples, on a carpet of windfalls.

Downhill, past domestic vines, beehives and allotments with bright flowers, I discover Saint Thomas.

The mairie, town hall

Village church

Ceramic flowers on a grave

By the end of the day, the effects of the sun as she brightens the wall and path shining low now behind a telegraph pole or street light so a shadow is thrown.

Picardy, France

17th October – Reims to Saint Erme

I am in Champagne country, in Picardy. I took the train from Reims.

The driver waited patiently

The countryside looked amazing through the train window – flat, on into the distance, great expanses of single colours.

A little like a desert

I visited the Artisan Baker and then left my rucksack under a tree as the Intermarché was in the opposite direction and I was tired.

I set off with the additional weight of shopping (root veg and cheese) and the first place of note I passed was the library – so surprising to see one in this small but well resourced village. The three women greeted me effusively and showed me around, asking me questions, instructing me on how to use it and proudly showing their collection of English books. Marie T was just leaving, she said, and offered me a most welcome lift, telling me her incredibly sad personal family ‘death’ story on the way. She said that volunteering at the library had been her lifeline and now she was living again.

The local church

I am staying in a old convent (where nuns are or were is always a good place for me). It was used as a prison and a hospital in the past by the Americans and the Gestapo so it has a chequered history.

The walled garden is by far the best bit

18th October 2018

In need of redecoration but charming and clean

Early the first morning, the cockerel (that’s him above, all white and fluffy) asks us why we are not outside yet. He is right, it is a gloriously sunny morning. I found a spot between four silver birch trees for t’ai chi.

Later I was greeted by Johnny the gardener and able to keep practicing my French. Everyone is really friendly.

Especially the cat, Buddha
The peahen and her mate aren’t shy
They hoot in the courtyard
Necking in public!

The hives are not producing honey but they have a local source.
Spiralling up to a pool of sunshine I sit and soak it up, starting my writing.

Oak trees make me feel at home

L from New Zealand crouches in a grotto – he wears nail varnish and makes both art as well as shelves – his contribution to the community.

Avoiding the wasps delightedly supping

I move as the sun goes behind trees, finding new spots.

Collecting windfalls – brown, yellow and red; prising walnuts from their damp black coats; snapping hazel shells for a breakfast from the garden.

Someone has made apple cake and roasted some chestnuts which I add to my banquet.

Autumn delights

We drink tea and eat homemade cakes during the English conversation group that evening. I learn about some of the local people, their jobs, travels and families. We have a laugh.

Amazing views