Open-air cathedrals

For the first time I cut down a tree this year. Tall weak and spindly and the tree was little better. But neither of us are yet lost causes. At 24 feet taller than me it was always going to be a challenge to get the 30 foot fella to fit in this low ceiling-ed apartment cell.

The meanness of the architect resulted in the loss of 23 foot off the bottom of this lanky pine but the top 7 foot had enough green bits to enable it to do a passing impression of a Christmas tree. And this week it was entangled in a mess of Christmas tree lights from the Espoir charity shop in Colmar. All were suitably quirky, colourful and bright, and all were working.

I had been asked to help remove four trees planted too tightly together for their own good, with the promise that I could take one home. I choose to take down my tree with an axe, 40 whacks or perhaps 41, just for the novelty, for the sound and feel of doing something more physical than typing at this keyboard. The others were cut somewhat more clinically pulling my end of the old double-handed wooden framed saw that spent much of the time perfectly wedged in the reluctant trees.

Cutting down trees in the rain is thirsty work

Cutting down trees in the rain is thirsty work

In the evening I walked up the hill to the Münster. I sat in the cheap seats, the back row of the empty cathedral in silence until a hibernating butterfly, awakened by central heating or weak sunlight began to beat itself senseless against the south facing stained glass window. I recalled Oliver Herford’s

  • ….little crawling things,
    Ants, philosophers, and lice,
    Cattle, cockroaches, and kings,
    Beggars, millionaires, and mice,
    Men and maggots …’

and how, just like all of them, I know jack shit.

I was interrupted by a party of tourists who crept in, whispering in tongues, my signal to get the hell out.

When I came out I saw that the clear air had opened a long, long view south as far as the Swiss Alps. It was difficult to be sure but the furthest tops looked very suspiciously like Eiger – Mönch – Jungfrau. We had been in these Alps in January snow

Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau

Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau in January

and this reminded me  that in 2013 I must spend more time in my own open-air cathedrals in the Alps and the Dolomites,  or on a perch high on Slieve League or up and around the corner in Coire Mhic Fhearchair.


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