Our garden borders the river Seudre. We have left a part of the land next to the river somewhat wild forming a little forest. After the recent storm it now resembles a war zone with broken trees scattered along it, waiting for the autumn when I will drag the branches to an open space and burn them.
We are still in the middle of summer and summer storm are not unusual here, but I was reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s Ode to the West Wind:
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing –
Amelia and I often walk on a path only a couple of minutes from our house, that takes us along the river and then through a forest to the nearby hamlet of Madion. It is a pretty walk that usually takes less than an hour, if Amelia doesn’t stop too long photographing the bees. Today we took the same path for the first time after the recent storm.
The wild mint is flowering just now and is adored by the bees and the butterflies.
The hemp agrimony ( Eupatorium cannabinum ) remains a favourite of the butterflies.
A little while later I realized why not many people had walked along the path lately. Between the river and the field of maze, the path was blocked by a broken tree.
We maneuvered our way through the field of maize as many have fallen victim of the storm and were flattened. On the other side of the fallen tree, I encountered a patch of my worst hidden enemy in the garden: the stinging nettles. They were covered with caterpillars. Well my consolation is that at least we will have more butterflies.
Like all little boys, I am fascinated by the form of the little snails.
In the stillness and the heat of the late afternoon, I could see a few damsel flies and even the dragon flies.
I am not a biologist, but merely an engineer, but it seemed to me that each wild plant and wild flower has its purpose in the life of the countryside.
I could see that my path was yet again interrupted by another fallen tree.
We fought the branches and emerged yet again successfully on the other side and then left the forest into a much more open countryside. along the vineyards. On my left, a bunch of mislteoe: Perhaps waiting there for a stolen kiss?
In the open ground there were more bees and butterflies. Even a queen bumble bee with her sac of pollen.
The grains of grapes are swelling. Perhaps summer is already approaching its end?
In this part of France they often plant sloe (prunus spinosa) along the edges of the fields. Its white flowers are pretty in early Spring, its fruit is eaten by some wild animals, and its thorn inhibit the intruders.
The wild blackberries are already ripening. Last year we collected several kilos of blackberries at this spot and Amelia made delicious jelly.
15th of August is the Assumption day. It is a National Holiday in France and some towns will have the last fireworks display of the season. After that the French holidaymakers start returning home to prepare the children for the rentrée scolaire.
On our return home, after nearly two and half hour of walk, I look again at the devastation that the storm caused in the countryside. I think back at that night of the storm with 150 Km/hr wind tearing the trees down, and I can’t help but think again of Shelly:
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven
We are really lucky here that we have a mild climate and do not suffer from ‘uncontrollable’ wind very often. Our summers are warm, but not too hot and we are able to enjoy the last days of beautiful warm sunshine well into October and and when autumn at last comes we will return to the task of clearing Amelia’s afrenchgarden.