Lucy Ferriss


I've called this blog "Travelin' Thoughts" in the past, because I kept it mostly as a journal to record impressions of new places and cultures. But in a way, it's still a place for traveling thoughts--ideas that move through and past me, and out into the world. Some of these are literary, some just about life. It's a good place to open up the conversation, and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Ancient Corsican Stones

July 01, 2016

On Tuesday, just as I was starting to lose my voice, I took the path from Canari through the upper hamlet of Solara to an abandoned village high up on the mountain. The first thing I saw as I approached was this church, standing on a promontory overlooking the sweep of shore going up Cap Corse from St. Florent. Climbing a bit farther, I went through a stone archway into the village proper. Just past the archway, still on what was once a very narrow street, an inhabitant poked her head out of the doorway. Only it wasn't a grizzled old Corsican woman; it was a cow. She and I both startled each other and I moved on quickly. Memories flooded my mind of having been "trapped" by a dozen cows in a field on the way to a windmill from the boarding school I attended briefly in Waterloo, Belgium, when I was 15. Another non-farm-girl and I had had the bright idea to bushwhack our way to the windmill, and when we jumped down the wall into the field, the cows trotted over. They had horns, as did my friend this past week in the hamlet. We were afraid to move. So they edged closer and closer, pinning us against the corner of a wall too high to climb, for 45 minutes. We gave them all names. We tried to speak soothingly. They came so close that they were licking our shoes. My chief fear was that they were so stupid they would just keep coming closer and eventually crush us. Finally I worked up my courage and told them to shoo, which they dutifully did. I was told later that cows are simply very curious animals.

So all this ran through my mind as I continued through the village, spotting a couple of other cows in abandoned homes along the way. Also: why had it been abandoned? When? Was there a final holdout, or did everyone leave at once? Probably the advent of the automobile and the loss off Corsican population after WWII spelled the death of the hamlet; it just wasn't worth building roads for cars up this high.

I want to say something about the stones, in the hamlet but really everywhere. There's a reason why Italians (and Corsicans are originally Italians) are known as the world's best stoneworkers. All the walls here, including the thick walls of houses, are built without mortar, and they have held up for hundreds of years. It's amazing. Holes are left in the walls, some with spigots, for water to run through in the spring, so the weight of damp earth doesn't collapse the wall. But in the hamlet and some other places as well, trees eventually win out; their roots push into the wall, or as in this photo here, they grown on top of the unkempt wall and bring it down. Still, I find myself approaching wall after wall to admire the handiwork.

Returning through the abandoned village, I found my friend the cow filling the entire street by the archway. For 15 minutes I searched for another path out but kept running into thorns or barbed wire. Finally I heard voices. I called in French; I called in English. Finally I spotted five of my fellow singers, picnicking down by the church. I hallooed again and they hallooed back, and I asked them just to watch in case I got gored by a cow on my way through the village. Then I started walking, and of course my friend Mme. Vache simply backed off, turned around, and started chewing dried grass. And thus the end of that little venture into the distant Corsican past. Next time: down to the south, with a stop for a hike to a mountain pool. Here's a preview:

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