Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I don't do spontaneous buying, on the whole. Instead I've worked out a system by which I think, "What fun thing do I want to do?" And then work out what things I need to make that fun thing happen.

Norcia is a very outdoorsy place. We're right on the edge of the Abruzzo national park, and there is a constant stream of hikers, trekkers, mountain bikers, rafters, hunters, fishermen, bird watchers and nature-lovers coming through town. We have three outdoorsy outfitters (rather expensive) and all the clothing shops also sell trekking gear.

My favourite shop is the Geosta that has clothes and basic camping and trekking gear as well as all kinds of viewing-aids like binoculars and telescopes, as well as the fancy teeny stoves water purifiers, compasses, swiss army knives and all the cool camping gadgets. It also has a very well-stocked library of outdoorsy books, stuff about the geography, birds, plants, trees, mountains, trails, and history and legends. There's loads of maps and proper field guides, both the popular, amateur kind, and the kind the government and universities put out that are a bit more ... sciency. It immediately became my favourite shop in town and I often go there just to gaze into the window at the microscopes.

I've been thinking about what sort of fun outdoorsy things I could do here, and I've set up a little bird watching station in one of the deep window casements at home that look over the fields. My two sets of binos and my bird field guides are there, and it's lovely to sit there in the mornings as the birds get on with breakfast. I've identified about a dozen species just by looking out the window.

The other day, I took a half-day and went up the hill away from town to where there is an old track down the slope that connects to the highway and then the Marcite, and spent a very happy day in my rubber wellies stomping around the marshy fields, taking pictures and noting where the bunny trails and woodpecker trees are, where the ducks and herons nest and walnut trees will produce nuts in the autumn. What I longed to do on that beautiful sunny day (20 degrees that day, though it snowed again three days later) was sit still for a while and do some drawing, but I hadn't brought the right stuff with me.

I've also been thinking how nice it would be to go to the local museum, which has quite a good collection of art and artefacts, and do some drawing there.

What I needed, clearly was one of these.

Which I bought today at the Geosta. It comes with a backpack thing and straps, so you can carry it easily and carry your binos, drawing book, collecting jars, magnifiers, pencils, camera and all that gear.

I've also recently got a nice shiny thermos for tea, and a tupperware lunch thingy.

Ready for Nature Girl 2.0

A few weeks ago, on my way up to the Vet's to fetch Winnie home.

Lots of dog roses around.

Started out cloudy, cleared up and was irresistible.

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

To the left you can see the road. Stay on that and you'll go past my house and down to the city walls. It carries on up through the mountains. The track past the fields and down to the valley floor is probably ancient, has no name and is bristling with wildlife.

First days of March and the hazel is flowering.  Lots of nuts to collect.

Ranunculus, buttercup, starting to bloom.

Twice I saw sheep skulls stuck in the branches of trees. I don't suppose they got there by themselves.

I'll try to go back in a few days to the same spot and take another pic, so we can see how the spring is developing.

At the bottom of the hill and across the highway the Marcite, "water meadows" start. Spot the fisherman.

The beginning of the Nera river.

Plenty of trout in the river.

The yellowish and pinkish haze over the trees and shrubs are the unopened buds. Spring is coming!

The extreme range of my zoom. I saw about a dozen herons in one tree.

The Marcite: a UNESCO world heritage site. Starting in the early middle ages, the Benedictines started creating water drainage underground to pour the water into the Nera and make the land arable. The surviving mills date no further back than the 18th century, but of course there have been mills down there since the middle ages. You walk along and you can often hear the water gurgling along under your feet.

Sometimes it comes up to the surface.

One of the sluice gates still in operation at one of the restored mills.

There are about a dozen old mills left, some of which are being experimentally used to generate electricity on a small scale.



Wendy in VA said...

My children and I are oohing and aahing over your pictures. (And the boys are debating what sort of bird left the sheep skull in the tree.) Beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Nature Girl!

Michael Demers said...

Beautiful pictures. I like the third one from the top of the tree by the road and the one of the sluice gate.

BillyHW said...

Are you able to find bear spray over there?

You need to go out looking for the Marsican Brown Bear.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I think pepper spray is not regulated by law in Italy. At least, i saw some in the window of one of the outfitters' shops yesterday.

G. Thomas Fitzpatrick said...

At least it is beginning to look like Speing there. New England is still buried under more than 2 feet of snow and temps are just beginning to reach 40F after 7 weeks of bitter cold.

Gerald said...

Keep these posts up, Hilary. It's so refreshing to read about such things on a Catholic blog rather than Church politics. Not that the upcoming Synod on Divorce and Homosexuality isn't an important topic, but as layfolk we make better use of our time preparing for the coming storm by meditating on the permanent things, on the beauty of truth written in creation and on our hearts.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Well thanks, James. I don't write about Catholic politics here because I write about it a lot elsewhere, and I don't really believe that it has all that much to do with my real life. I looked at my post stats from a few years ago and saw that I topped 1000 posts in 2008, and have since gone down to just over 200 a year. This, however, is really just because I started using FB for most of that other little short comment stuff about politics and whatnot. I think it was clogging this blog needlessly, and distracting from what I really wanted to do with it.

Though I admit, I need to focus on this more.

tubbs said...

the photos - so wondrous
Now I want to get "Amacord" via Netflix.