from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

tomb with a view

For years now, driving through Finistère, I’ve been meaning to turn off at the sign a few miles south of Roscoff, a hand-stencilled ‘DOLMEN’ sign; a dolmen I don’t know. Or didn’t, until today. Usually I’m either going for the ferry with no spare time, or disembarking from a night crossing and not inclined to stop.

But today is a beautiful day; I’ve spent 3 days working hard on the house and the garden in – mostly – sun, and I’ve finished pruning and cleaned up early.

So in this blue-glass day I turn right down a narrow bumpy lane towards the Penzé estuary which debouches into the Baie de Morlaix between St Pol de Léon and Roscoff. To my left are ripe artichokes, following a field of pretty purple-blue flowers with tansy-like foliage, flowers that I don’t recognise, possibly being grown as a herbal crop. To my right is a field of newly-planted artichokes and some huge brassica plants.

Now I pass a fat crop of fennel. All this is in late October. The land here is lush and productive. Last time we drove this way – end of September – we passed a field bursting with little flame-red ‘potimarron’ squash, exquisite against the rich dark soil. I’ve grown potimarron successfully in Devon – an abundant crop with smallish fruit just the right size for two. We also grow delicate crisp mild Keravel Pink onions that originate just about right here, between the Penzé river and Roscoff.

To my left now, maybe just 50 metres down the lane from the main road, is a massive pile of stones and boulders, all a-jumble. I suspect (and the signboard for the dolmen confirms the possibility) that this heap was once part of a major megalithic complex, long since plundered and dug up.

And there on the right is my dolmen: Kerangouez. It’s smaller and much less dramatic than, say, Maugan-Bihan of which there's a photo in the previous (linked) blog; basically 4 or 5 uprights and a couple of capstones with parts, like the one-time 5 metre-long sepulchral chamber built at right angles to the entrance chamber, missing, and the seaward side claimed by brambles. Dating from the Neolithic, it will have been built between 5000 and 2000 BCE.

So this one is a last lost remnant.

Brittany is full of megaliths; one of the reasons I choose to spend time here. Ancestral lines (there have been links between my homeland of Cornwall, and Devon where I've lived much of my life, and Brittany for millennia) are visible here; the past walks with us.

This one in its solitary unkempt fragmentedness was still worth the visit, situated as it is with a great view one way of the channels and white sandbars of the mouth of the river, and maybe 90 degrees to the north the beautiful Baie de Morlaix, today, as so often, exquisitely blown-glass translucent blue-green (Brythonic Cornish has a word for the colour of the sea: glaz. I imagine the Breton is similar.)

So the inmates of the funerary part would have had quite a view. 

Despite the traffic behind me probably only 75 metres away, I can hear oystercatchers down on the shoreline several hundred metres below.

At my feet are tiny bright flowers – sheeps’ bit scabious and a small cranesbill, and ahead the ocean stretching smooth as a sarong off towards Great Britain.

Megaliths mostly convey a sense of tranquility: their slow durability catching hold of our accelerated lives. You can step out of time at such places, and for an unmappable moment my world stops turning too.


I don't quite know how it happened but it appears my blog site has been colonised by background foliage. What do you think? To keep or to lose?

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