The secret garden

April 5, 2012

There is a park not far from where we live, where I walk almost every day. It surrounds an elegant country house which has now become offices without losing too much of its charm, and the variety of trees it harbours shows the vision of the 19th century landscape architect who designed it and, I guess, the botanic interest of its original owners.

Near the house an immense tree is standing, a wide-growing sort of beech whose gnarled branches are covered with lychen and extend over a large part of the lawn. The branches have even shot roots here and there. This tree, so close to the house, always reminds me of Italo Calvino’s fantastic story Il Barone Rampante (The Baron in the Trees) in which the twelve year old son of a nobleman, after a final row at the dinner table, walks out of the dining room window into a huge tree and decides never to touch the ground again. For the rest of his long life he travels into the world from tree to tree and further…

I have come to know every corner of ‘my’ park. The old couple of geese who inhabit the meadow all year round do not honk at me anymore and, depending on my timing, I may be lucky and meet a few deer. The trees more than anything else have become a daily reference to time passing and to changes in their life as well as in mine, their incessant metamorphosis a steady source of images, especially in the details.

Here is today’s harvest:













Here my mind instantly makes an association with a temple in Tanjore, Southern India:



Some time ago. a sylvan ghost has begun to put marks on the trees, first in white…



… soon in red.






More marks have followed. It doesn’t announce much good for the trees, I fear, but the graphic quality of these signs speaks to me. I always bring a camera on my walks for I’m now making a sampler of the red dots. It would be a bit far fetched for a book, but you never know…







The most recent marks are almost fluorescent. A new can of red paint must have replaced the previous one! The bark of this fir tree was actually such a blueish green.





There is an apparent randomness in the markings, although some trees seem to have been losing a battle of their own:



I dread a looming decimation of my secret retreat and try to steel myself against the probable arrival of the gardening forces with their heavy machinery.

Then nothing happens. Here and there the colour is beginning to fade again…





My park has kept its quiet. If a storm was looming, it seems to have been diverted. Another season has passed.