Landscape changes constantly. Mostly not to the better, at least that is what’s happening where I live. It is the fate of old big trees to die eventually or to be cut by humans as it pleases them or they see reason to do so. Most of the trees that constitute the ever downgrading qualities of our landscape have been planted in the old times, mostly before world war II and earlier. In general these trees are misfits or displaced beings in conflict with the modern use of land for agriculture, traffic or outdoor sports.
One of the big, old distinctive landscape forming trees in a small valley has been cut by the owner, just another loss happening unnoticed. A couple of weeks ago there was a public panel discussion in town on a landscape concept. As far as I understand mainly about ways how to market the existing thing called landscape to potential visitors and tourist as an aesthetic and cultural highlight.
Somehow this is like watching two trains departing in opposite directions. The beauty of landscape seems to these people something that happens or exists without particular effort, it is the inevitable result of what happens anyway, the use of land.
However the beauty of landscape does not come that way and if it is incidentally still there it cannot be preserved by just going on with progress as usual.
In the meantime it is the dubious pleasure of the likes of me to draw the very few remaining lovely spots before they are gone.
Looking at these landscapes tells what landscape beauty can be. My own surroundings looks so utterly poor and boring compared with these wonderful vistas. I have read the moving Alfoxden journal by Dorothy Wordsworth with great pleasure. I am not familiar with Wordworth’s writing yet, but fully understand how and why the landscape must have been indispensable for his writing.
It is fascinating to browse the Tate archive to see sketches and paintings of the Lake district from the end of the 18th century, particularly the one by William Turner, a view of Lake Grasmere
I have a fancy for romantic landscapes and antiques. As my wallet does not have the right size I have to create the objects of desire myself. This one is a picturesque landscape after Claude-Henri Watelet, an amateur painter who lived in the 18th century. I picked that subject (in fact an etching after Watelet) without knowing who Watelet was, but of course I did see the picturesque in his work. The more I was delighted to find that Watelet was not only a painter and etcher, but also author of books on visual art and the art of gardening. His essay on gardens seems a kind of key text on the French picturesque.
This is a view to our local landfill. It is placed on the backside of a beautiful ridge that was covered with forest. On the top the trees die due to the methane gas which blocks the openings on the backside of the leaves from closing. As a result the trees evaporate too much and they wither over the years.
I have started to read “Edgelands – journeys into England’s true wilderness”(link to amazon). Two poets write about performed and neglected landscapes we find more and more. I find it problematic to praise or celebrate disfigured and neglected places. The book is full of ornamental,nostalgic texts in the picturesque tradition. This “lyric” (in fact prose) sounds like a new touristic and travel sales lingo. Also the WWII ruins on the continent were praised as must see highlights. Locals have not discovered this sort of landscape celebration yet, still the old stereotypes of idyllic rural looks are poured over the real landscape. All that what does not fit is blocked out and neglected: we are all witness of a dying landscape.
Recently the fast expanding corn plantations for energy (another great new money source for mid size towns apart from speeding tickets) came on the radar of newspaper readers and promptly the officials denied the rising monoculture look. Hobby farmers gather to protest against tax on their old-time tractors and make it to the news. Their argument: we preserve the landscape without making profit. Unfortunately that is simply not the case. Landscape is nothing but a commodity to be exploited, used and consumed.
“Edgelands” is the landscape consumption gourmet guide, the ideology that helps to keep the idea of landscape alive when there is no landscape left, but the utterly boring,random patchwork of exploitation and neglect.
In the early morning the deer hunter roams his revier. He hears a distant muffled clatter in the thicket, not much later here and there traces are found in the black moss covered soil, on young spruce the bark has been peeled off by the males rubbing their antlers. The twigs are broken quite high and big pieces of bark are removed which tells of a remarkable deer. The season has come, it is time to hunt the summer deer.