Saturday, November 19, 2011

autumn woods

We walk out into the gloom and ascend the hill, where the sights of Autumn surround us. The woods are quiet, many of the birds have flown though we still have the squirrels and their manic scampering for company as we walk. As lovely as the sight of Autumn is it's actually the smell that is remarkable; rotting leaf matter and strange fungoid aromas fill the air.

We've had a mild Autumn which has so far saved me from burning lots of wood, giving us more fuel for the later part of Winter. It's been so mild that I have seen bees and butterflies this week. Last Winter we began having fires at the beginning of October, but here we are in late November and it still isn't very cold. I'm sure it'll come soon enough. My store of wood seems unusually large this year and upon opening the door to the shed I am confronted by what appears to be a huge breaking wave of wood coming towards me. Exchanging a small pile of paper money for an enormous pile of hard wood has always seemed like a very good exchange to me. We bring the hardened sunlight into the house, and being the thief of fire, release its energy. Our own personal mini sun for heat and light against the dark and cold. How fortunate we are.

Short dark days make for long evenings as the world turns and tilts. It gets properly dark before five now, though some days it hardly seems to get very light at all. The air is still today and all would be quiet, but I can hear the faint sound of a choir nearby, practicing carols as I type this, such a seasonal sound.


P2P said...

beautiful sights, and as a photograph I really like the ninth.

we share the experience on the amount of light, up here we have just a tiny bit less of it. here the leaves have been gone from the trees for two weeks already, and it has gotten really cold especially close to the sea. the snow will fall any day now. yet, it is late, last year by this date the snow had already fallen and stayed for a few days.

I can only be happy for the delay though. ice on the streets will make cycling a near impossibility.

nobody said...

Lovely John. The text is as pleasant as the pix. I find your last photo curious. One assumes that the scene there is shaped by the hand of man but... how, why, when? Is the gully deliberate? What does it do?

We don't have such things here you understand. The aborigines never interacted with the land in that fashion, and all of the white man's roads were made with bulldozers.

john said...

Cheers P2P. Quite a lot of the leaves have gone here too but the trees all have slightly different times that they drop them, which staggers autumn a bit here. We do get a fair bit of bright colour but I think it's nice to show that autumn also has more muted colours too.

Cycling on ice sounds like a bit of a dangerous occupation, I have enough trouble walking on the stuff. I bought some sort of flexible crampon things to go over my boots last year but the ice melted before I had a go with them so I'm looking forward to trying them out this year. I hope their not rubbish or I might have to make my own ones.

john said...

Hi nobody and thanks. There are Neolithic remains on top of the hill here which show that the area might have been settled as long ago as 4000BC. At the bottom of a pit on Peak Hill, excavated in the 1960s, traces of Jadeite were found. This Jadeite came from the Swiss-Italian Alps, so whoever these Neolithic people were, they travelled around a bit.

Many roads were already here long before the Romans, a lot of the old roads are now our main 'A' or 'B' roads for cars. The ones that don't go anywhere much are just as old and have a nicer character. Here they are known as green lanes and they criss cross the hills and the landscape everywhere. If you wanted to, you could travel all the way across the country by using these lanes.

Most of these are frequently remodeled, with much of the recent large scale work done during Victorian times, I would think. The ditches to the side of the lanes are used to drain and channel rain down the hills, the material removed then being used to form the structure of the lane, or banks that often run along the side. The lane in the photo is probably part of an ancient trackway but would probably have been made into its present shape in the last few hundred

P2P said...

I will have to do some heavy wood touching after saying this, but for the past winters I've embodied perfect balance on the icy streets. often the ground underneath my shoes has tried to slide away, but the correcting reflexes have worked like wonder before I've even realized what was happening. every time.

I believe most russian women do something resembling yoga in the seclusion of their concrete boxes, for the balance they possess is just amazing. I've seen women walk with stilettos on five centimeter layer of ice in st. petersburg with full confidence.

which brings to mind - what's with the russians anyway? can I begin to believe in the purity of putin and worship the images of him fishing topless in siberia?

nobody said...

Thanks John, that's brilliant. I'm sort of amazed that so much work would be put into what appears to be a minor trail. I guess back then it wasn't.

And thanks P, Russia Today and Max Keiser - absolutely brilliant. If only they'd use the word 'usury'...

reem said...

It's realy autumn woods and it's golden signature on the landscape ,you can feel that through the yellow small plantes and the orange leaves under the trees . I like the third one and i want to get a long walk across this lane .........mybe oneday ...

I guess you've got the seventh at the morning ,i think it was cold foggy one ,just as winter ,mybe it'll be soon there ,i like the foggy cold morning 'it gives me nice feeling about snow ,still remember the wintry mornings in my town ,we have very cold winter there in the high mountains ,since more than fifty years ago people were using woods to keep their houses warm but day after day they used the oil ,they have problems to get oil these days in Syria ,the government provides the stations with the oil daily but some people take it and sell it in high prise in Lebanon and Jordan .

The eighth photo is perfect , the red bramble or berries i guess ,they appear very nice with their green leaves ,actaully i've enjoyed all your photos and i think you're waiting to get more during the winter......every season has special beauty in Devon...thanks John ...all the best for you always.....

john said...

Cheers P2P. It's interesting that you touch wood in Finland, I always presumed it was just a UK thing but it would appear to be widespread, probably going back to the old religions I suppose. The Yoga must be very good for the balance and reflexes then. I am hoping to be able to walk out of town to take photographs when, or if, the snow comes. We don't seem to have ice here long enough to get the hang of it really.

I like Max Keiser, he's right on plenty and he's always interesting to hear though I find it odd that he goes along with the manmade global warming thing. Russia Today is good also. I hope they calm down with the graphics at some point though, but maybe that's just me.

john said...

Cheers nobody. There has been a lot of work put into this track considering that there another
two just up and on top of the hill, one within a hundred yards from here. The tracks on top are
actually used by vehicles occasionally though they are a bit rough. Nobody ever drives down
this track though I reckon you could do. I estimate the age of the present work on the fact that
the beech trees that line it are mature and were probably planted when the track was reworked so the work might have been done as long ago as the 18th century because beech trees were very popular around that time and were planted all over the England and in Ireland
too, where they are not native.

Incidently the name 'beech' in Anglo Saxon is bece, similar to
the Anglo Saxon word boc or bec, meaning book. Early books may have been written on beech bark. Mind you they might have been written on birch bark as this was used by
the natives of North America and also Russia. an excavation Novgorod in 1951 found Russian
birch bark writting dating back to 1400. They also found the earliest example of Finnish writing, in archaic Karelian. The document is known as Birch Bark letter number 292 and says;

jumolanuoli ï nimizi
nouli se han oli omo bou
jumola soud'ni iohovi

john said...

Choukran Reem. We have had lot's of fog here lately and plenty of misty mornings too. Much of it has lasted all day when it is around. It is a beautiful time of the year to be out and about, the air is so clear and fresh and there are all the lovely smells too. The red berries are the berries of the Holly tree. As the photo shows, these berries are very abundant this year which usually means that we are going to have a cold winter.

Celtic myths refer to two figures, the Holly King and the Oak King. The holly king ruled from the summer solstice to the winter solstice. At the winter solstice, the oak king fought and defeated the holly king, thus bringing the new cycle of spring and summer fertility forward again into the new year. The Holly then became a Christian symbol, the red berries representing the blood of Christ and the fact that the Holly is an evergreen. Holly is used to make Christmas wreaths which decorate doors at Christmas time. I have carved Holly and it carves lovely, a very white coloured wood, though it is supposed to be poisonous.

Thanks very much Reem and all the best to you.

john said...

Interesting that people take the oil from Syria to sell in other places. It must make it difficult to get oil Reem.

nobody said...

Whoops! Did somebody say Karelian?

P2P said...

to be exact, we don't touch wood in f-land, we knock it. if one is sitting by a table and speaks "past his mouth" as we say here, it is customary to reach one's hand under the table and knock it a few times.

birches have a very romantic standing in the heart of finns, and birch bark is used for a variety of handicrafts. I find it a bit funny that wikipedia associates vasta to massage:

what happens in reality in our cleansing rituals is using a vasta to spank oneself. the combination of soft leaves and tough young branches is pleasurable and painful simultaneously. on my opinion the beauty lies in the scent of the birch, well steamed and mixed with sweat.

I didn't know about that 292 birch bark letter before, but found two translations of it to finnish, which I could translate to english as,

the arrow of god, ten is your name
this arrow is god's own
the god of doom leads


the arrow of god, man's
arrow, also own arrow
to be chained by the god of doom

nobody apparently remembered my having descended from karelia. half of my uncles and aunts, and grandparents have been born on the side of what today lies on the side of russia. personally I believe my roots are even more far east. I like to think about mongolia.

funnily enough, my roommate's boyfriend is born on the exact same date as I am, and he too has the similar kind of mongoloid eyes as I do without having anyone else in his family with that same feature. his family is partly from karelia too, and he has learned to cook some traditional russian dishes such as buckwheat blinis.

I believe these kinds of eyes are a very recessive quality that pops up fairly randomly nowadays. I've met only a handful of people in f-land with similar kind of eyes as mine throughout my life.

john said...

You knock on wood as in the song then P2P, here we just touch the wood still. The memory for scents seems to be very powerful. I went back to my primary school after not being there for about twenty years and noticed that it was the smell of the place that really brought it all back. Birch isn't rare here but they usually grow mixed in with the other trees rather than as forests themselves.

Thanks for the translations. I wonder if the author was writing about lightning as has been suggested? I didn't know of letter 292 either, but was having a look at the origin of early books and it turned up. It's good that these ancestral eyes still occur and their rarity makes them all the more interesting.

I should also say that the mythological evidence for the holly king and oak king seems a bit slight.

P2P said...

smells are very powerful triggers for memories, and for me at least they work vice versa too - I might remember a smell, get a sort of a scent flashback, and through it remember events and such. sense of smell is trainable, and I am a bit sad that it would appear to be left suppressed for whatever reasons for many (social taboos, perhaps).

some years ago in lapland I met an older woman who lived alone in the wilderness, and she told me in a sauna that she can smell reindeers, elks and foxes in the wilderness from up to two kilometers away, especially mentioning that the foxes have a strong odor. as a negative example of her skill she used bus rides to the nearest city, which she takes a few times a year - she smells all kinds of things from the people in the bus. I remember she said women's menstruations to be the worst thing to sense through an hour ride.

when I was five or six I remember being sad for a long time after realizing I couldn't distinct the smell of my mother anymore. before that when I was a little short person I could find her in a crowd of people by her smell. I was too short to see the faces of grown-ups, and I was bad at recognizing clothing, so I picked the right hand to hold by the scent of my mother. nowadays I only have a hint of the memory of how she smelled for me back then.

the poem can be about lightning. the high god in our (northern) mythologies is called ukko in finnish, bending to ukkonen which is our word for thunder. more on him:

nobody said...

Speaking of smells, lilac isn't so common here but occasionally one comes across it and when I do the smell of it instantly trasports me back to the UK and to the sensation of being eleven years old.

Oh, and just lately I bought tatami mats for the van and was zapped back to Japan. That smell will be with me all the time now so perhaps one memory will replace the other? I'll find out.

reem said...

It's nice to talk about this relatian between the nature and the religious clebratian,in my country christians celebrate every year quietly and safely in diffrint places,and some moslems go to Bab Toma in Damascus to enjoy the pine trees ,i don't know much about their faiths but i respect them as they do ,hopefully great christmas this year for them .

actually ,some people sel oil to get more and more money and that couses much problems for syrian people ,the weather is cold now and the winter is long ,mybe they should use wood again ,i hope better days for my country .

All the best for you.

john said...

Hi P2P. Our sense of smell seems to fade sometimes as we get older. Recognising your mother by her scent is a very good example of how this sense might be useful for children. When I was young other peoples houses had really overpowering smells, they were probably just different, but the difference was quite alarming. As I have got older my appreciation of the sense of smell has grown and is something I pay more attention to now.

Living in an emptier place the sense of smell could well become sharper, the animals become more important and their scents would be strong if you were familiar with them. Interesting though isn't it?

I found something quite unusual on the beach a while ago though as I approached upwind of it I could smell nothing at all, as soon as I passed to the other side of it I wanted to get quite a bit of space between us pretty quickly. I do have a photo of the object, it doesn't look that unpleasant but then you can't see the smell.

Thanks for the Ukko link too P2P, I'll have a look at that in a bit.

john said...

Hi nobody and sorry, I didn't say hullo earlier for some reason, the brain must've gone off somewhere.

Not on topic at all but I like a bit of a laugh and don't know if you've seen this. It's only about 47 seconds long.

Fenton!!! Fenton!!!

john said...

Choukran Reem. At this time of year and as we can't go outside so much we tend to bring nature into the house, either to eat or for decorative purposes or for heating or one reason. Holly berries are abundant this year but this is not always the case and they are always much sought after for the Christmas decorations.

I think that wood is very good for heating Reem. I have been watching what news I can of events in Syria and I wish them all the best there. Things are often not how we would want them to be. The government we have in this country often do not represent what people here would actually want to happen. I hope things will get better.

We just had a terrific wind last night. Scotland got the most of it
with winds of 114mph recorded. It was fairly blowing down here alright.

Cheers for now and all the best to you.

john said...

I think Fenton will be on his lead next time.

nobody said...

Thanks John,

What an odd video. It oughtn't to be funny but it is. And yes, it fills one with a mad desire to yell 'Fenton!'

reem said...

At first ,my son is sitting next to me and he likes your photos and he asked me about the lane ..........well ,the talk about Syria needs long time it's complicated situatian now ,the oppositian is armed and the riligious extreme groups kill the soldiers ,policemen and people who are contrary to them , the most syrian cities are quiet and people don't want destroy their lifes, of cousre we all want democracy and freedom but not in NATO's way,mybe the government did much mistakes and trespassings but i think the most important point now is Syria ,i'm sure the reforms are coming and the country is not the same before eight months .

Homes is confused area , a few christians are killed there ,seven syrian pilots are killed too ,we should be afraid of civil war there , i think all people have to come down and talk .

Oh my god mybe you've got headache now ,i'm sooooooooorry very sorry , i'm chatty today .

Have good time always .

john said...

Hi nobody. yes that could have gone quite badly wrong but luckily and for the sake of comedy it didn't.

We've had huge winds here lately. We went down the beach to do a bit of beachcombing yesterday and the wind picked up to the point that it was almost blowing me off my feet.

There has been lots of good rope washed up and caught round the rocks, so I have been sliding about on these huge rocks trying to free some of it. There was some rope that was thicker than my arm, too big and heavy to be of any use to me, I couldn't carry it. I couldn't get any photos yesterday because the air was full of seawater, even worse for a camera than rain. Later I might be popping down to attempt some video footage of the high tide. I was thinking of a plastic bag and elastic band affair to waterproof the camera a bit. We'll see.

john said...

Thanks Reem for your comment on the situation in Syria and no that's fine and no headache for me. It's difficult for me here to be sure what is happening in Syria, so your insight is always most welcome. I also very much hope that Nato does not get involved at all, as what they consider to be help seems disastrous to me. Whatever they say they seem to bring destruction, at least that's how I see it. I very much hope for the best for Syria.

I am very glad that your son is enjoying the photos. All the best to you Reem.

nobody said...


Yes, me too, I agree with John - God spare you NATO's 'help'. We'll all hope that Syria doesn't get what Libya got. We in the West curse our devil-worshipping leaders (no really, they are) but they are like machines that will not stop. We have a democracy but every party is the same. It doesn't matter who you vote for, they're all just servants of the bankers.

Anyway Reem, I pray it all goes well for you and your family.

best regards


reem said...

Thanks John ,thanks nobody ,for your sweet words about my country ,we all pray everyday for peacefull situatian but if they want the war ..........what can we do ?????

you're right nobody they're like machines .........thanks again .

have good time you and your gentle friend Jonh .

john said...

You're very welcome Reem. We very much hope that there won't be more war but we don't know how to make them stop doing this. People here don't want wars but the government does, the government do not represent what the people want. We don't approve of the actions of our government in many ways as they cause huge pain and suffering in the world. It's not the way we would want it and it isn't the way it should be.