The Path to Morges
(written at Lavigny, Switzerland)
I press the button that opens the garage door. It always surprises me that this sheet-metal, lethal as an executioner, should be so obedient. First of all it moves outwards, just a little, towards me, as if to remind me of just what it could do, should it choose to. But it does not. It slides up and back with a monotonous grating sound. I'm always nervous at first but by the time it's about half way up I begin to trust that it will not lunge suddenly at me, with its metal edge, sharpened in the night to a razor alertness, and inflict damage before I can back away. Like a trained lion it goes through its paces.
Inside the garage, I kick the bike-stand, so that it lies smoothly against the wheel-side, push the bike out into the courtyard. The garage roof has mostly brick-red tiles, though a few have speckles of grey and beige lichen on them. Whether these are genuine lichen or some of those modern, pre-weathered tiles you can buy ready-stained at Monsieur Bricolage, I really do not know. I have not been able to examine them closely enough. But I imagine they've been bought, pre-aged and pre-stained, rather than allowing moss or lichen to grow between the cracks in tiles, spread and cover them unevenly with their curving, crusting delicate patterns bleaching and discolouring the tiles in their typical and rather graceful – so I think – fashion.
The other day I saw the daughter of the store-owners, standing with a long-handled implement some kind of hoe, I imagine, pushing its blade down between the carefully-laid zig-zag paving, to eradicate the non-existent weeds. This kind of vigilance I feel, could not allow stray lichen to create its segments of frilled mandala patterns to spread across roof tiles.
On the other side of the garage there is a tree, whose name I do not know, but who I converse with, every time I look from the balcony across the courtyard, to the garage roof. The tree soars above the roof, its glossy leaves a deep, plum-red colour, the shade of near-maroon, before the plums turn purple. Next to it is one of these bronze-leafed trees, between dark copper and green – a kind of burnished green, as if its leaves have been dipped in clear caramel, then allowed to dry into a matt varnish.
A few dry leaves make prickly scuttling sounds on windy days, when the broom-wind chases them around in circles, like naughty, untidy children. But actually, it is a game I feel, for once the leaves have huddled into a tidy heap, they break loose again and scatter across the yard.
The first part of my journey is downhill......