In those wonderful, quiet days between festivities we took a walk in the woods. Les Forets de Camors et Floranges are really close to our home and nestling sleepily in their midst are hidden treasures if you look closely. Le Menhir de l'Etoile is an impressive standing stone surrounded by a circle of trees which add to the magical feeling of the place.
The children, their older cousins and I debated the purpose of these stones. Were they burial markers, signs of worship or gateways to another time or universe? Historians are no clearer on the subject that we were. Dating from pre-historic times the stones have been thought to be Druidic sacrificial sites, territorial markers, elements of complex belief systems or early calendars. Nobody knows for sure what they were really for and until we invent a time travel machine it's likely to stay that way. What I do know from visiting these sites is that the Menhirs are shrouded in an ambiance of mystery and possibility which inspires our imaginations.
In fact, wandering through the wet, damp forest it was easy to believe in fairies, elves and other mystical forest creatures. The smell was unbelievably fresh and rich, after all the damp weather we've had this winter, you could almost taste the funghi and soil richly fermenting. As we spotted tiny mushrooms and rampant patches of delicate plants that looked like green stars fallen down to earth we also kept our eyes peeled for the signs of fairy castles and secret passages down to goblin kingdoms.
The green and brown hues of the tree trunks, pines and forest floor were friendly, familiar and seasonal in a way that made us glad to finally go home and drink big bowls of hot chocolate or spicy Christmas tea. We relished the joy in richer flavours the colder weather affords us. And the warmth of a blazing fire removing the chill from our toes was the perfect end to our long damp tramp in the wet woods.
But I get ahead of myself, during our meandering walk we came across the most beautiful tree stump. Stag or Roe, Faun or Satyr, the remains of a living beast or mythical forest creature? We almost expected it to come to life and enlist us in a magical adventure just like in C S Lewis' Narnia books. As with my seaweed dragon back in September I was fascinated by the way this piece of natural debris was also a natural work of art when viewed from the right angle.
It really was a refreshing and inspiring walk that reminded us all of the beauty and patterns found in nature. I found myself thinking how man's place is within the natural world, surrounded by it and incorporated in it, organically bound not standing above and apart forcing his will upon it. Not just a user but belonging and claiming his fundamental place in the beautiful repetitive pattern of life. And the magic? Well as I always say about the myth of Christmas, be it Santa Claus, Saint Nicolas or baby Jesus, it's nice to believe in something. In things we can't pinpoint, things we don't quite understand, in the possibility of something bigger than us. In the magic of a universe, past, present and future, we may never fully comprehend.