Crossing lines and dead leaves

A morning walk in the forest. The fresh snow fallen during the night simplifies and clarifies what would otherwise be a busy, grey landscape.

I stopped in this small clearing. Everything is silent. The rusty leaves of last summer are still hanging on, like a nostalgic tune. The background retains some of the mist and snow dust of early morning.

Under the cloud

After so much rain, the forest is a giant sponge. My footsteps quickly fill up with water behind me. Millions of raindrops are suspended on the smallest, finest tree branches. The air is electric and thick with humidity. All the colors are saturated.

It hasn’t stopped raining since forever. The sky is one giant cloud. I can barely distinguish nuances of gray. I can barely recall the last time I saw the sun.

I am high from all the color, the fresh air and the climb up here. The forest is alive.

The meandering river. Parc National des Deux Ourthes, Belgium, January 2021.
Wood, moss and rain. Parc National des Deux Ourthes, Belgium, January 2021.
Color splash. Parc National des Deux Ourthes, Belgium, January 2021.

Break of dawn

I’ve been walking across the fields waiting for the first light. Everything is covered in dew. There’s a strange stillness in the air, as if all creation is bracing for sunrise.

First light (Walloon countryside, Belgium, 2018).

Right here and now, everything seems possible. Everything seems to be still ahead, as if the world has been just created and none of its possibilities have been wasted yet.

Later in the day, the burden will maybe return on my shoulders. I will feel the full weight of my lived life and my unlived possibilities. I will feel as if the path ahead is narrowing. I will feel the weight of my past choices, like walls growing taller to the left and the right.

But right now, everything is lying ahead of me, still unborn.

Out of color

The photos are slowly turning to black and white before my eyes. It’s a cold and windy January. I’ve made it so far.

It’s not until we isolate that we realize how much we depend on the others, and how much we are connected to the rest of life.

Some activities are obviously social simply because we cannot do them on our own. But even apparently individual activities, such as taking a coffee in the neighborhood coffeeshop, or taking a solo daytrip to get away from it all, depend on many others. They depend on employees, public services, infrastructure and, often, on the kindness of strangers.

As there are so many things we used to do and cannot do anymore, I guess it’s a good time to ask ourselves what are the things we could go without.

And what are the things we really need, the ones we couldn’t or wouldn’t want to live without.

Reflected (Belgian Ardennes, December 2020)
Frozen dead leaves (Forêt de Soignes, early January 2021)
The ghost of the pine forest (Hautes Fagnes, Belgium, December 2020)

6 am

I am walking through a patch of wilderness that opens towards the North Sea. I want to get to the seashore before sunrise.

The horizon is intense orange slowly turning into gold. I can hear the sea through the breeze, like a white noise softening every other sound on earth. I’ve scared off a few rabbits on my way. The bushes are full of movement and sound. The sand dunes are full of life.

I move along and I stumble upon a flock of sheep. The sun has barely risen above the horizon and the horizontal light turns the sheep into golden snowballs. It smells of dozens unknown plants and flowers, of sea and of animal life. It smells of all the journeys I could have taken and, for some reason, did not take. Of all the unlived things.

But there’s no sadness or regret here and now. Everything is happening so fast. There’s so much to see, so much to feel.

The sea is really close now. I hear the waves close by. One more dune that I struggle to climb, my feet sinking into the sand. Then, all of a sudden, the horizon punctuated by fortifications from the Second World War. I’ve made it just before sunrise.

People have fought and died here just a few decades ago. They have probably sent a letter to their spouses days or hours before the fight. They have probably shared a cigarette with their mates before the shooting and shelling started. It’s all quiet now.

There’s barely enough light but I see the graffitis on the concrete structure in front of me. One word stands out in the dark, in white paint: resist.

In three hours, the sun will be way up and tourists will start entering the dunes to take shelter from the heat. And mankind will once more be all-present and all-powerful. Gloriously leaving behind it plastic garbage, taking selfies on the fortifications and crushing the delicate blue flowers of the dunes.

Then the tide will come in and wash it all away. Wildlife will hide away and stay silent, waiting for the dark. And life will go on.