Saturday, September 26, 2020

Last of the Summer Vine...

From my window, peering across the urban sprawl of the city, I can see the vineyards along the flanks of hilly landscape on the horizon, bordered by trees. I often wonder which area of countryside I am looking at, and if I can actually identity my part of town from that vantage point, helped by the scattering of cranes that rise up and over the building sites.
A few weeks ago, I went to wander amongst the vines to see the last of the vendages in the lasting summer heat and to study the sweeping views over Reims, far in the distance, and the little villages set amongst the patchwork of vineyards.
The various churches that were once central to village life are now locked to visitors (and against theft), outside the regular church service hours, but stand proud and peaceful, even when closer inspection reveals traces of the shameful, destructive episodes of the First and Second World Wars.
A gentle statue of Mary looks down from the little church set on the highest point on the landscape - with the City of Kings stretched out beyond. An image of tranquility, she watches over the gravestones that share the sacred soil with the remains of two WW2 pillbox bunkers. The once-deadly, carbuncle forms of hostility are now cloaked in green moss and feathery vegetation, yet their cruel, slit loophole 'eyes' still stare out from hard concrete, as a reminder of Man's capacity for evil.
Nevertheless, seeing this strange coupling of beauty and the bestial, I did find a sense of hope in our ability to adapt and survive even the most devastating passages of history. This seemed quite relevant today as we are literally being cornered in by the virus and the restraints set in place to limit its effects. I am currently sharing classroom space and school facilities with students who are testing C-positive as I write this.
Now, weeks on from my forays in the fields and vines, the weather has changed from sunbeams and rays to torrential rains and high winds and the view onto the horizon is blurred to grey. But just look at those autumn colours on the ornamental vines that grow in front of my workplace. Radiant!

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