Friday, 24 February
Here's a new word for (most of) you: dendrolatry, the worship of trees. My admiration may not quite attain the level of adoration, but this winter I've been counting my arboreal blessings.
When you buy a property in the country, it's not just the bricks (or in our case stone) and mortar that become part of your life. It's also the surrounding nature, and chez nous anyway, that means lots of trees. If at first they appeared as one vegetal mass, over time individuals have come into focus and distinguished themselves, each with their own story, their own essence.
The most obvious are the towering hemlocks you see above. They greet you as you come over the rise and dominate the view out back. From an old aerial photo that the previous owners Frédéric and Corinne passed on to us, I know that they are the only survivors to a line that used to divide the back garden between house and barn. Though they obviously haven't been around as long as the 500-year old house, today they mark the property like a coat of arms.
Then in front there's the lone lime tree, a commonly planted species in a French farmyard, and a daily reminder of Deux Champs' agricultural heritage.
Other members of our household (here is just a selection of the most photogenic) include the huge elm that somehow escaped the Dutch plague which killed most of its brethren in Europe and America...
...and the small oak that enriches our sunsets...
...or the willow that we found buried when removing the monster thuya hedges that used to block the view of pretty much everything. Due to injuries sustained during captivity, it was trimmed back to the bare bones to stop it splitting in two.
And if you walk a lot, as I do with the Indefatigable One (the yellow-vested canine you see above, aka Tasha), certain trees beyond your own garden become points of reference, even in some cases, companions.
Since moving here, I’ve learned that trees are often planted or left to grow for a reason. Monsieur L, for example, the farmer from whom we bought the fields, told me he tilled in line with these two poplars because they mark the end of our property:
Recently, to avoid slurping along a muddy path, I started walking at the edge of the adjacent field and realised that this tree marks a gap in the hedge where I can cross to the other side:
Then there are the trees that I check in on every day and photograph somewhat obsessively (examples already abound in this Diary). The monster cedars that live in the park at what we call the General’s House and that glower or glow in the sky, depending on the weather and time of day.
And the tortured oak that lives alone in a field that Tasha and I walk by at least twice a day.
Not to dwell exclusively on the deeply rooted: we are also adding significantly to the community by planting (under green guru Claire's supervision) many new members, such as this lithe maple.
If I'm writing about the trees in my life now, this end of February, it's because - as I hope the above photos illustrate - their lacy, winter-lit beauty takes my breath away every day, makes me feel lucky to be alive. Were I a religious person, I could indeed believe such good fortune was heaven sent.