I never paid much attention to birds until we moved to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There, living in a smaller town surrounded by nature, I fell in love with the amazing breadth of avian life, and a pair of binoculars had a permanent home in the kitchen window. When I sold the house, I wrote up several pages of notes about it for the new owners; at least half was about the birds.
Moving to another country on another continent has plenty of challenges, and it took me a while to realize the effect of not knowing the local birds. I’ve struggled to put this feeling into words. Suffice it to say that I’ve been walking around here for nearly four years with a vague sense of unease, of not fully belonging, in part because I don’t know who the birds are.
Much has been written about seeing 2020 fully in the rearview mirror, and I don’t have much new to add, which has left me pondering just what to do with this January blog post.
As the year was lurching to a close, I spent close to six weeks not being able to walk much, and since walking is my primary exercise, I was eager to get my feet back onto the trail. That happened a few weeks ago, and I’ve been racking up the kilometers as much as time and weather permit. On one such walk, it occurred to me that I could tell a story of 2020 through some of my walks of the past year.
Heard from my terrace
You know that old story about how city people can’t fall asleep in the countryside because it’s too quiet? Well, that doesn’t hold water here in the South of France. It is not quiet; all manner of things are making noise. I’m here today to talk about two of the noisemakers: cicadas and frogs.
The cicadas awaken when the sun pops over the hills and begins to warm the earth. All day long, every day through the summer, the cicadas sing their amazing song. That music can get quite loud, up to 120 decibels, enough to damage human ears at close range. The cicada—cigale in French—is among the longest-lived insects, and it is recognized as a symbol of longevity and metamorphosis.
Mother Earth, who has been beleaguered by all manner of human assault for far too long, is staging a tiny comeback. While much of the world shelters in place, the cities have cleaner air, animals feel safer to explore this home we all share, and the skies are not full of noise and contrails. Huzzah for Gaia on this Earth Day 2020!
One hour’s harvest of red pine mushrooms, also called saffron milk cap.
Mushrooms and Chestnuts, or Champignons et Châtaignes Last week we donned our “wet forest” walking clothes and drove up into the hills behind town, in search of the edibles our forests could offer that day. It had rained two days before, and rain brings thoughts of the mushrooms that will appear shortly afterward.
Our first parking spot was in an area of scrub oak and some tall pine trees. It was the pines that captured our attention, because they mark the place to search for the vivid orange Lactaire Délicieux, also known as red pine mushroom or saffron milk cap.
A tale of two artists
During recent travels, I’ve had the great good fortune to see breathtaking works by two artists whose works explore the human connection to the beauty and wonder of nature. I bring you Dom Robert and Andy Goldsworthy.