Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Yuletide

Good wishes for the festive season to all my kind readers and followers, with thanks for all the great support and lovely messages during 2015, even though I've had no new book out in the last year. I'm still getting letters about Moon Garden (from 2004)! There will be two new books in 2016, Walks in Finistère and 'the landscape one'. Happy holidays, one and all.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


One response to stomping globalization and recent atrocities of all kinds could be a return to close acquaintance with local environment, a pulling back into the beautiful diversity of small-scale observation and appreciation. Less talking and watching, more seeing and noticing. Getting to know the world in our immediate vicinity does more than enhance real as opposed to superficial knowledge and understanding: it offers a sense of purposeful belonging. It gives a multi-layered quality to everyday life that can satisfy restless yearning for 'meaning' or the transient excitement of novelty. And it's an infinite exercise, an exploration that will occupy even a long lifetime. Connection with our own land is connection with our own lost selves.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

End of a very long walk

Fort de Berthaume
Finishing up the walking book routes, only just behind schedule. Now it will be a relief to sit down at my desk and finish all the texts. I ended up covering more ground than intended and more routes than will probably fit in the designated number of pages, but better too many than not enough at this stage. Very pleased to rewalk this last section, a linear route from Le Conquet to Plougonvelin. It's one of my favourites and a piece of coast I'll never tire of, even though high gusting winds on the cliffs this time made me cautious. Ended up at this magnificent fort in bright weather. Glad that my back-up was waiting with a car, but for those less fortunate and not on expenses, there's a bus back to the starting point if retracing all those kilometres is just too much to contemplate.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My heart lies in the forest

After recent events in Paris, one of the few memorable reactions on my Twitter feed was from a woman bewildered and feeling the cold shock of a secure hold on daily life slipping away. I cling to my land, she said. I don't know if she meant it literally or metphorically but it brings up once again the question of landscape as comfort and stability. It is the familiarity of 'one's own' physical territory that offers a sense of consistency that can be relied upon in a world that is changing alarmingly before our aging eyes. Those of us who believed our generation would at least never see another world war begin to doubt that flimsy hope, as layer upon layer of hatred, intolerance and misconception flattens and stunts the potential of  humanity.
The rate of change in landscape can be as rapid as a fallen building, or as gradual as the creeping threat of floods with climate change, but we like to feel it remote in our immediate surroundings, at the millenia speed of eroding granite.We have been startled in Brittany to discover last week that the state is to sell off some of our forests, those symbols of life before human settlement, of the longevity that spawns legends. Forests that were once noisy places of human abode and economic activity are now mostly silent and dressed in recreational attire of finger-posts and picnic tables. Is this an identity to be perpetuated for the sake of our need to believe nature is all around us and that we are still alive in some meaningful way? Do we need forests? Of course we do. I clung to my land this week with gratitude.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Finishing and getting started

Currently writing about this ancient bridge - Pont Krac'h
It's a strange time. My exhibition is now over, although the month flew by and I was too busy to be there often or even to think much about the outcome of all that work. Certainly my texts were well-received, and perceptively so from the messages and comments I've had from very diverse places and people. I'm grateful to everyone who bought a booklet and took the time to give me feedback.
Turning my attention (at last) to the new landscape book, I finally realised the degree of concentration it is going to need and a huge investment of time. So I made the big decision to finish with Brittany Walks, after 11 years of offering a monthly (until recently twice monthly!) programme of guided walks. I'm sure it's the right thing at the right time, but it represents a great change in my working schedule, and I'll miss the many lovely people who have supported the walks, some of them since the very beginning.
I am also coming to the end of the walking for the new Finistère walking guide which will be out next spring. Of course there remains masses of work to do on the background information, maps and page lay-out, but psychologically finishing the field work feels as if the project is almost over in terms of mental (and very physical) commitment. My mind will soon be much clearer and able to focus on the landscape essays. Whether this new book will be only in French is a big decision to be made over the winter. It will rather depend on publishers in the end and whether separate editions in the UK and France is really a viable option. I almost feel that there are two different books there. This long winter will tell.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Best west coast walk

Chateau de Dinan
Revisited my favourite coastal route in Brittany this week. The stretch between Camaret and the Cap de la Chèvre has everything a walker could possibly want - and then some. Natural features like the so-called Chateau de Dinan, the extraordinary raised beach at Porz Koubou and other geological wonders like pillow-lavas, historical sites such as the Iron Age éperon barré at Lostmarc'h, a memorable sight below you after breasting a high ridge, looking down on the lines of defensive ditches and ramparts that once protected a small community from their enemies.
Raised beach
Other works of defence are remnants of the Mur d'Atlantique, German protection of this wild west coast, where only the most foolhardy would ever have considered any sort of landing. Surfers haunt the vast beaches here but it is too dangerous for swimming.
The coastal path streaks through moorland - gorse, heather and low spiky thorn - down to beaches, up to yet more cliffs, the gradient sometimes decidedly steep, the proximity to the edge precarious. It's all the very best of coastal walking, seeing the paths rippling ahead across the contours, looking back on headlands conquered one by one. At the end is the reward of the Cap de la Chèvre itself, with a WII memorial to the naval air arm, granite plane-wing rising against the blue sky - for I felt not a drop of rain that day, despite black clouds menacing from time to time.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seeing the sea

I'm concentrating now on coastal walking for the new book. This section will include some linear suggestions for Finistère's sensational littoral, so a route of about 10km becomes a day long out and back excursion (or a lift, taxi or even bus can make it a one way walk if so desired). The point is to highlight the best bits so walkers who only have a limited time can be sure of getting a memorable journey - and best bits usually means avoiding the obvious (i.e. places easily reached by car, like the Pointe du Raz).
So today I was on Cap Sizun, revisiting some favourite sections of the coastal path and enjoying the mild sea air, softened by occasional misty rain drifting across the high cliffs, as below at Kastell Koz.
 A good day's work, even if my knees would have preferred to stay at home and watch TV.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Village in a sacred space

I had a wonderful walk in Locronan in beautiful sunshine on Thursday. The route concentrated on the wooded countryside around this unusual village, which has a strange dual nature, the sense of artificiality spread unconvincingly over something profound. The name means the holy place of Ronan, the Breton saint of Irish origin who came to Brittany and like many others, faced opposition and antipathy. He moved around, settling finally in this sylvan paradise said to have been the location of a well-defined Celtic nemeton or ritual space, with specific points linked to movements of the heavens.
Each day he walked the boundary of this area, an action commemorated today in the annual Tromenie walk (extended to the full 12km every six years). The chapel of Penity attached to his imposing church in the village centre has the saint's tomb. Locronan sits between the Bois du Duc and the Bois du Nevet, remnants of ancient forest. Anyone following the walk (to feature in my new book) will have the sense of the numinous landscape that is the source of these legends and religious affiliations.
But the other more obvious face of the village, which has brought many film-crews (including Roman Polanski who filmed some scenes for Tess of the d'Urbervilles here) and attracts hordes of tourists throughout the year, is made up of handsome 17-18th century façades around the centre square before the church. Remarkably unspoilt, these reflect the wealth derived from sail-cloth making in the heyday of the Breton cloth trade.
Today many artists and craftsmen have their workshops here and there are plenty of bars and restaurants, making it doubly desirable for a day's outing. Not always to be relied on though: a couple of years ago I decided to come here on my birthday just before Christmas, to buy a few presents, have lunch and a walk, as the weather was unseasonably sunny and mild. Everything was closed, even the bakery, so with no possibility of food, I paid my respects to St Ronan and drove home for a cheese sandwich.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

At the opening

Delighted to be presented by the artists (organized by my great friend Liz) with a calendar containing wonderful images from the exhibition. The opening was a very happy occasion for us all with lots of appreciation from the public (and sales).

Saturday, October 10, 2015


High moor by Jill Jamieson
My exhibition on Breton landscape at L'Autre Rive in the forest of Huelgoat opens today at 16.30 (rather than 17.30 as advertised initially because of important politcal meeting in the evening at same venue). Booklets of the texts I'm displaying with some other collected pieces of my recent landscape writing are on sale. I have to say the paintings look magnificent now that the exhibition is hung and ready to go - my friend and fellow-exhibitor Liz Ridgway worked with me and Marc from L'Autre Rive all yesterday evening to get things right. I owe her many thanks for many things and also here thank the other artists who have produced such fine work. All welcome to the opening this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Busy preparing for my exhibition on Breton landscapes at L'Autre Rive in the forest of Huelgoat. I invited four friends who are professional artists living in Brittany to work with me on this project and they've produced some fantastic work. I have six texts for display on Layers, Place-names, Moor, Forest, River and Coast, all very different in form and style. There will also be for sale a little booklet of those texts plus other landscape writing I've done this year. Hoping for a good turn-out at the opening.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Downhill all the way

Very frustrating day checking out a walk for the new book: a walk that turned out to be useless. It looked good on paper, starting at a ruined church on the bank of a beautiful river, then climbing to a hill-top with long views. This was all fine, but the bit of road walking which followed turned out to be past not what looked on the map like small farms but in reality were enormous intensive complexes. Then a long section through a stream valley and extensive woods began and turned into a nightmare of confusing paths, flooded stream-beds and scrappy overgrown scrubland with no mature trees and no views whatsoever.
A strange and unpleasant sense of claustrophobia set in as hours passed in attempts to reconcile the two maps I had with what was on the ground and actually to get out of this dense part of the route to breathe freely again in the outside world. In desperation I made a long, very steep scramble up a hillside and finally got a limited view to orientate myself back to the start point, abandoning any hope of creating a circuit. Even with a good map and good directions there would always be elements of uncertainty and disorientation on this cursed route and that's not what people want when they buy a book to be sure of good walks. So a day is gone for nothing and another walking day has to be scheduled at a time when I'm already overstretched with commitments. But a friend reminds me it comes with the job and that it's the whole point: I must waste my time so others don't. OK then, but I'm not going to smile about it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Coastal unseens

Texts for my exhibition in October are moving along now, with Moor, Forest and River pretty much finished, and I'm starting to concentrate on a piece to be called Coastal Scenes. Fortuitously, I had planned to take a friend to the coast this week for her birthday treat, staying in a hotel just above the beach at the Baie des Trépassées in the far west. Our first day, after a visit to the allée couverte at Lesconil, we arrived in a thick Atlantic mist, the mass of surfers suddenly bursting into view on the shore as if from nowhere. We decided to walk the 3km to the Pointe du Raz along an undulating coast path, despite the lacks of views, the fact it was already 5 o'clock and that I was limping after quite a bad fall on rocks at the Moulin de Keriolet earlier in the afternoon. We could hardly see the water at all, and arriving at the huge, hideous statue of Our Lady on the point, had no visual sense whatever of being anywhere near the sea, whilst just below us churned one of the most dramatic and malevolent straits in Europe - an unusual perspective on the nature of coast.
Day Two began in heavy rain but we made a slow start and arrived at the Pointe du Van to clearer, drier skies and were able to have a good walk, with views towards the Iron Age éperon barré of Castelmeur. This was followed by coffee in Audierne and a (for me, yet another) visit to Menez Dregan, where the paleolithic cave was still fully uncovered and much more visible than on my last trip a couple of weeks ago. We sat for a long time on a bench further down the coast just gazing at the sea before the long drive home. Although at no point was I consciously thinking about my text, I found myself quite unable to sleep last night, despite being physically exhausted, and several times had to leap out of bed and rush to my desk to make notes, a process that felt at the time not unlike rushing to the bathroom to be sick in the night.
Coastal seen

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Canal again

Several things have brought me back to the Nantes-Brest Canal lately, a construction I wrote two books and several articles about quite a few years ago and a territory that once so often mirrored my inner landscape. In clearing out some old CDs I found a copy of the French TV programme in which I appear tallking about the canal. French people sometimes recognise me from that production but I've never actually seen it before, so it was strange to watch my self of eight years ago, so familiar and yet so long gone.
More practically, I'm doing a feature on the canal in Finistère for the new walking book, and yesterday went out to rewalk one of my favourite circuits at Pont Coblant, which includes a 4km stretch of the beautiful Aulne river (a bit insulting to call it a canal here) in countryside far removed from roads and noise of any kind. The inland section goes over a hill to give great long views, particularly towards Karreg an Tan, the Fire Rock, which will also be in the book.
The canal does not start in Nantes, nor end in Brest, but its original military prupose was to link the two naval bases (and Lorient via the Blavet canal south from Pontivy) and provide a secure inland route at a time when Napoléon was frustrated by English naval supremacy and the resulting blockades of Breton ports. Most the 365km length is made up of beautiful rivers - the Oust, the Blavet and the Aulne being the most remarkable - with artifical sections cut and ladders of locks built to cross the hills between their valleys. It was only fully open long after Napoléon's time and became used mainly for the transport by barge of materials like stone, slate, wood and sand. The railway soon became quicker and more economical, with a better organised infrastructure of depots and loading facilities. Great leisure resource though the canal undoubtedly is these days it was always something of an economic white elephant.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A load of stones

At Menez Dregan today, doing a leisurely circular walk for the new book to take in the magnificent prehistoric site on top of the Pointe du Souc'h. I mention the point because a two-handled rounded pottery vase discovered here in the late 19th century gave the name vase du souc'h to that style of find. The various tombs discovered are the result of nine phases of development of the site during the Neolithic period. Recent reconstruction work has given an indication of the original cairn covering which enclosed the dolmens.
Just down the road is the enormous allée couverte of Pors Poulhan, a remarkable revival after the Germans blew it up in 1942 as an obstruction to their view of the coast. It was still possible to excavate in the mid 1980s and turn up weapons, tools and jewellery showing usage as a burial site from 6000BC onwards.
As if this wasn't enough, below the Pointe du Souc'h a paleolithic cave-dwelling from 465,000BC is today carefully protected by a coating of metal plates, its roof having long since collapsed. Here evidence of created hearths, the oldest in Europe, has been found. I was fortunate to be there today at the moment when a team of helmeted workers began uncovering the site, perhaps in preparation for events taking place this week as part of Rencontres Prehistoriques de Bretagne.
I first visited Menez Dregan many years ago alone, and again in 2007 with the departmental archaeologist Michel Le Goffic explaining the excavations in great detail. Since those times much has changed, from reconstruction work to a smart new visitor centre, large information panels and landscape gardening. There's not much left to the imagination these days and no room at all for any sense of awe. I certainly had that when it was just a load of stones on a headland. Maybe a question of can't see the stones for the words.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


St Mawes castle
I've been in Cornwall, thinking about rivers and enjoying some trips on the Fal, downriver from Truro and up river from Falmouth, the latter thanks to Alison and John and their little yellow boat. I wanted to see some of the territory from Philip Payton's Rising Ground on the spirit of place, but the book never really came alive for me as it seems more about people than place, apart from a few memorable straight descriptions. I think there is still a significant gap between landscape history and accessing a spirit of place.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Nantes, the siren city

Working in Nantes at the weekend, in sweltering heat. Managed to take a look at some of the Voyage art installations that I've missed in previous visits and as ever enjoyed the sheer blooming vitality of this ever-changing city. It is a place of the present, and light in atmosphere, despite a weighty and dubious historical heritage of wealth based on the slave trade. It would be very hard to be miserable in Nantes...
Wit and ideas, an irresistible combination, which makes walking the city streets a real experience and brings the urban landscape into a sharper focus than when it stands alone. There's an infinity more to Nantes than the famous big mechanical Elephant on the Ile de Nantes, perhaps the difference between tourism and enhancement.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Devil always in the detail

Recently spent a few days walking near the south coast of Finistere, checking routes for the new book. My first stop in a grey early morning was at the Roches du Diable near Locunolé. These rocks form a granite chaos in the bed of the Ellé through a low wooded gorge. After passing along the bank on a level with the spectacle, I followed a long circuit to arrive high up on the opposite bank looking down.
There is of course a legend. The Devil was jealous of the success of St Guenolé in converting the locals and determined to be rid of his rival. As the saint walked by the river in contemplation, rocks rained down on his head, but, by the grace of God, fell harmlessly into the water. A great hand to hand fight then ensued between the two adversaries and Guenolé hauled the Devil down into the river where to this day a bottomless hole lies beneath the waters.
So the landscape was claimed by the church, here as so often elsewhere. The legend does more than trumpet a moral victory over evil: it is a statement of power and possession, the superiority of God to the powers of nature once worshipped by man, an ever-lasting reminder before the eyes of the locals of the supposed might that backs up the earthly dominion of the church.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

On top of the world

Recently enjoyed some solitary splendour on Karreg an Tan, the Rock of Fire, where a beacon warning against Viking raids up the Aulne once flared in response to a signal from Menez Hom. A real nugget of imaginative history. By contrast the 'neolithic dolmen' on the summit was put up in 1963 by the Quimper Scouts.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Maen glas: a green and blue day

Walking around Locquirec today. I started in the very early morning at Moulin de la Rive, where some of the oldest rocks in France, a form of granitic gneiss, can be found at the western end of the beach. Continuing along the coast towards the town, the path around the Pointe du Chateau passes former quarries of Locquirec stone, a bluey-green schist (hence its Breton name maen glas) heavily exploited as a building material from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Rounding the promontory of Ile Blanche, the Roman baths at Hogolo are visible across the mouth of the Douron, and therefore in Cotes d'Armor. Instead I had a good look at the 17th century manor house which dominates the Finistère bank. This was purchased in 1903 by Eardley Norton, advocate of the Viceroy of India, but he soon tired of his wife's expensive parties and lavishly expansive schemes, and managed to off-load it to a religious order.

The cross-country section of my route, after the highlights of a beautiful country chapel with no access road and a gloriously verdant wooded valley, ran out of path in a large swamp and I was forced to change the plan and take small roads up over a hill before descending steeply on a green path with superb sea views to return to the car. Such a mixture of interest is typical of so many walks in Brittany, yet another reflection of the extraordinary natural and man-made heritage accessible within a relatively small space.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Too busy recently to do much writing of any useful sort, occupied by a few translation jobs and some guided tours, including a fabulous day last Monday with a lovely Welsh group from Fishguard (Loctudy twinning event). We mooched about the Monts d'Arrée on a coach and had a very good lunch at Le Poisson Blanc in Pont Coblant, all standing to sing the Welsh national anthem between courses, accompanied by a charming Breton in traditional hat.
Since then I've been in Pays Bigouden researching for the new Finistere walking book, and enjoying some spectcular coastal scenery at Penmarc'h, as well as the many megalithic remains of the area. I stayed in one of my all-time favourite B&Bs at Le Guilvinec ( where Martine made Breton far for breakfast and I discovered to my shame that the only word of Italian I could manage for my fellow-guests from Sienna was ciao. Similarly, there were people of Polish extraction in the restaurant talking a little in Polish, and I hardly recognised a word. Whatever happened to my language skills? Surely they existed? I spent months in Poland alone, without speaking English, so some meaningful exchanges must have taken place. These days I often forget English words and talk drivel in French. But at least, I'm pretty damn fluent in Dog.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Elez - my life in a river

I'm writing about the Elez for the autumn exhibition on Breton landscape. It's made me think a lot about the comfort and inspiration of a river, something that emerges as far more significant to me than the rhythms of the sea. It's to do with one directional flow, an infinite variation of pace and the coherent trace from source to mouth or confluence.
Looking down on the Yeun Elez
The Elez is intensely interesting for the variety in its short length. Most famous is the Yeun Elez, a vast marshy bowl said to contain the entrance to the Celtic underworld, and the setting of many a Breton legend. Here near the source, the river immediately settles into stagnation and the lazy squelch of bog, its force constrained in a peaty reservoir. The 1930s Lac St-Michel flooded the area to hold a mass of water for producing hydro-electricity, with a barrage at Nestavel, and later serve the 1960s nucelar power station on the lakeside.
Once resolved of such serious responsibility, the Elez can breathe freely and move at a rapid pace, becoming positively light-hearted at the magical Chaos of Mardoul, where it lilts among the granite boulders with playful insistence. Held up again for another functional duty with a lake and barrage at St Herbot, it somehow manages both to fulfil the demands of the artificial channel to the electricity plant and yet retain enough energy to power down spectacular tiered cascades over massive stones near St Herbot.
Mardoul Chaos
Cascade at St Herbot
After the drama, a calm rural meander across eastern Finistère, passing (and occasionally threatening) a friend's mill-house between Collorec and Plouyé, before reaching the Aulne near Penity St-Laurent.
My affinity with this river is, of course, in great part a matter of scale and accessibility. I doubt I'd feel so strongly for the Limpopo. But while the sea remains too vast to grasp, too over-whelming, predictable and unpredictable, diurnal and eternal, the Elez is simply a beautiful river with a beginning and an end to its story, easily analogous to a life's course with all the attendant rises and falls.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Lac de Guerlédan (again) - a narrative

Before... or after

After ... or before
Landscape is the result of human activity on nature. Every anomaly in landscape hints at narrative. The Blavet river's connnection between central Brittany, long devoid of easy communications and commercial development, and the south coast ports of Hennebont and, from the 17th century, Lorient, gave it a vital role as a means of passage and transport. It was later to be transformed by canalisation into an essential part of the Breton waterway system in the early 19th century, forming a section of the Nantes-Brest route north and west of Pontivy, and taking 28 locks to the south direct to Hennebont, sixty kilometres away.
The next stage of the Blavet's story came a hundred years later, as scientific advance created surging demand for electricity. It was decided to flood a twelve kilometre stretch of the valley between Locks 119 and 137 to create a reservoir and barrage to feed the new hydro-electic station, a progress outlined in the little Musée de l'Electricité at nearby St Aignan. Four hundred hectacres of woodland, as well as many locks and houses, were engulfed by the project. The resulting lake was to become a focus of tourism and watersports, an economic spin-off for the locality, a new phase of the river's life.
At rare intervals the lake has been drained for inspection and repair of the barrage. 2015 may be the last time, as robotic machines should be up to the job in the future. The empty lake on show this summer is an extraordinary spectacle by any criteria, its walls and bed stripped naked for human assessment. Skeletons of trees submerged for eighty-five years still stand upright from the mud. Locks with their uselss weirs and chutes still exist intact, accompanied by the ruins of their workers' houses, walls withstanding the pressure of the waters where roofs have disappeared. Layers of narrative are fully exposed.
But there is movement in the bottom of this gigantic emptiness. The Blavet continues to flow. Nature continues to hold its place under the weight of all that landscape.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Full of emptiness - Lac de Guerlédan

Abbaye de Bon Repos
Wonderful day, full of interest and excitement. First a visit to the Abbaye de Bon Repos for a meeting about possible exhibition project for next year (on mapping and lines of communication), followed by a good look at the current offering on canals in France (and Brittany in particular). I gave permission for a radio interview I did about the Barrage de Guerlédan to be used in this exhibition via headphones and a listening post: quite a strange and not altogether pleasant experience to hear myself as others hear me.
Decided to take advantage of being in central Brittany to go and see the extraordinary spectacle of Lac de Guerlédan emptied of water for the barrage to be closely inspected and repaired. The ghostly skeletons of former locks and lock-houses are revealed by the drainage, but the most surprising impact is the sheer depth and volume of the Blavet valley at this point.

Lac de Guerlédan
 I actually like the area better without the lake and wish it could stay like that - not a popular opinion, I suspect.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Emotional landscapes

We bring our emotions to nature for many reasons which we consciously acknowledge: looking for beauty to balance pain; for neutrality of context to wrestle with problems, for soothing colours and sounds to alleviate weariness; for a change of scene to give a new perspective; for a situation which relaxes by demanding nothing. In identifying being in landscape as a kind of emotional mirror that offers a supportive reflection, we are not in danger of tumbling headlong into the bog of pathetic fallacy. There is no truer instinct than to respond to the fundamental connection between us and nature – the condition of being alive.

We’re not being taken out of ourselves, not operating as observer, admirer or physical activist, but participating in the greatest whole that exists. Nature is not an external entity. By placing our individual happiness, misery, grief and irresolution into a wider context, we are plugging into shared roots and deriving relief, succour or repose from universal energy. Our private energies are recharged by this merging of life and landscape. The fact is that when the heart is too full for talking to people, places can absorb our positive and negative emotions. Not transference, but osmosis, the flexing of membrane. When ties to other people and our local community fail us, nature offers a different kind of common bond. This one is constant.