1670 c/o Emeline Morin

La Futaie Colbert

As a girl I spent hours walking the woods, looking for fairies and the ogre’s house. I filled my pockets with twigs and round pebbles, my notebooks with dead leaves and my camera’s reel with faded impressions.

My passion for trees was nourished by my love and thirst for stories. In my books, trees were always those old wise men with special powers and superior knowledge. Their roots digging the earth, their crown fondling the skies.

When I was about ten, I went to a part of the Forêt de Tronçais, right in the middle of France, called la Fûtaie Colbert. The cluster of trees was called after one of the Sun King’s ministers who had the oaks planted. The minister wanted to ensure that there would be good quality oak wood for shipbuilding for the centuries to come. But shipbuilding evolved and the trees remained. As my dad told me Colbert’s story, I marvelled at those old gigantic trees standing around me. I could hardly see their tops and some were so wide my ten-year old self thought about turning them into a new home.

I spent hours walking around, brushing the trunks, feeling their rough bark under my fingers. I wandered, marvelled at every shrub and thorn, dreaming stories. Leaves and twigs cracked beneath my feet oozing a heady musty smell. The place felt both eerie and familiar. I could almost see it unfolding before my eyes; this time when fairy-tales Kings and Princesses still existed. A time when my ancestors had to walk the shadowy woods avoiding wolves’ den. Centuries ago. Legends were told about the forest and its natural springs. Voices and songs coming from the earth could be heard some nights. Strange creatures were hiding behind thick incised leaves and wicked pixies poured poison on mushrooms.

I would beg my parents to go every weekend. When I came back, before throwing my smeared clothes in the wicker basket I emptied my pockets, filling my drawers with my new treasures -leaves, twigs, acorns. The warm water of the bath washed away the dirt and blood on my scratched legs and I used to sit in the bubbly steam for a while, pressing the tip of my pruning fingers on bruises to see them change colour. When night came, I lay in bed, very still, my mind swirling with tales of knights and magic.

But nothing ever lasts and while a few years made me change, centuries overcame the great oaks. Many of them had grown too weary and had to be put down. Many, now standing high alone above others were hit by lightning. Every time one of them dies a piece of my childhood memories scatters away. I do not go anymore; I am not that brave after all. My early years’ reveries are bound to fade away like everyone else’s. I hear the wood is used for making fine Bordeaux wine casks. Maybe I should just abandon the magic forest as an inspiration for sweet tasty wine. I hear that’s what most grown-ups do.