Picasso’s Tree

So named because if you can spot the face on this tree, you will find only one eye, a misshapen nose and a turned down mouth. Can you see him? It’s hard to believe that some kids haven’t been carving shapes out with a knife, but I think it’s natural. The light is a bit gloomy, as this was taken just as the sun was going down in the forest this afternoon, but I think it suits the general gloominess of the expression and perhaps the general mood at this time of year, this year in particular.

It was good to get out on my bike, as I’d spent the morning doing tedious admin tasks, and the early afternoon coaching a very tired, run-down student. As usual, the forest was a great tonic, and shared with just a few hurried dog walkers and the odd dedicated jogger. I cycled up Dreve de Bonne Odeur (though I have never smelt anything in particular on this path other than the general foresty leafy odours). Another thing that stood out in the gloom was the silver birch trunks of these young trees, which contrast well I thought with the dark beech and the colours of the undergrowth. I haven’t got the kind of definition I would like on this image, but there are some good bands of colour.

In the forest on a Monday

The Sonian forest, south of Brussels, is Europe’s largest beech forest, and includes the remains of the ancient Silva Carbonaria or Charcoal Forest. Over the centuries, it has played many roles: hunting ground of the Hapsburg nobility, timber supply yard for Napoleon Bonaparte’s shipbuilding efforts as part of a planned invasion of England (he apparently felled 22,000 oak trees for that), retreat for monks and nuns whose chapels and monasteries still stand lonely among the trees, and once home to wolves and neolithic man. Today, it is protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Sadly, there was no way my phone camera was going to catch the shades of russet, copper and tumeric of the last remaining leaves. Instead, I did get up close to some fungi, here on a fallen silver birch trunk (there are a few among the towering beeches).

Further along, I came across some more weird and wonderful fungi, this time on an upright but dead beech, marked for felling by the forestry workers.

The image above reminded me very much of a Smurf’s hat, appropriate for Belgium, where the surreal blue comic book characters were invented. They are called ‘Les Schtroumpfs’ in French. I can easily imagine them schtroumpfing around the forest when nobody is looking.

Today’s outing has made me once again crave a proper camera to better capture this ancient forest that I am lucky enough to have almost on my doorstep. With all this fungi around, I must also get hold of the recently published book ‘Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures’ by Merlin Sheldrake. Sounds interesting!