If ‘April is the cruellest month’ (as the opening line of one of the last century’s greatest poems says) then surely November is the saddest. It is the start of advent but Christmas seems still so far away (although it will catch up with us before we know it!). The days become ever shorter preparing us for that most mournful of days: St Lucy eve. As John Donne describes it:
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
Yet I should not complain. We have had a sequence of totally wonderful winter days with true blue skies at Bagni di Lucca. But if you just step into a shadow then it’s soooooo cold!
There are blog posts and facebook entries that inspire and two of them joined together to make my day.
The first was that of UK tour guide and writer par excellence Stephen Liddell with his post linked at:
Yes, Stephen’s introduced me to a word I knew not but could easily apply to describe the sensation of feeling the light squibs of the winter sun upon me. It’s ‘apricity’ and what a wonderful word it is and sounds.
The second was a facebook entry and photo by Rita Gualtieri, a local friend, who showed me a Gingko Biloba in Lucca’s botanical gardens in the fullness of its autumn colouring:
She then posted a picture of a Gingko Biloba in Villa Ada gardens, Bagni di Lucca. It did look so sorry for itself in the abandoned grounds of what used to be the English Florentine consul’s summer residence.
The whole area seemed so neglected: like a gorgeous nymph left alone in a forest where no-one could find her and gaze upon her infinite beauty.
The ginkgo biloba is a living fossil of a tree and dates back 250 million years to the Permian era. After the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the only living things found to survive were six Ginkgo trees!
The only other Gingko tree I can remember seeing in this part of the world is in the botanical gardens of Lucca but there’s also one in another tristfully neglected spot – the garden of the Duke of Lucca’s summer villa just above the terme. (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/atishoo-atishoo-we-all-fall-down/ ). The seeds of the fruit are esteemed in Chinese cuisine – that is, if you can bear to collect them since their smell has been described as half way between very rancid butter and vomit.
Today, walking through the gardens that once had held happier memories but now were falling apart as we all must do in our short lives, I experienced a transcendentally beautiful afternoon with a cloudless sky and a sun promising humanity that it would never let us down even in the coldest of winters.
I even met some friends who showed me precisely the Gingko Biloba so badly battered in last year’s February storms. The tree had been shed of all its fantail leaves by the strong winds of recent days. Scattered among the already dark brown and withered leaves of the other trees they shone a bright gold like nature’s own coinage among the dimming ground.
I was truly experiencing apricity and quite overjoyed about it.
With the bamboos, China’s very special Gingko tree, and the steps that seemed to lead to a temple I felt I was back in the east. I half expected a Panda to appear in the trance-like state I had entered.
Thankyou Stephen and Rita. Even through the ether, you helped me open my heart to the beauty of this earth at a time when all nature seems to close up on us.