Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Luminous Forest

The beautiful Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, Brandenburg

The experience of being in Germany was so emotional and moving, that I have found it hard to put into words.  Walking through the forest and hearing Cranes calling in the distance moved me deeply.  The vibrant biosphere was full of life from irridescent blue beetles carpeting the floor of the forest to the amazing variety of birds darting in and out of the tree tops.  I imagine it is like being in a fairy tale – only it was not a fairytale as everything was very real and alive and calling it a fairytale takes away from the very normality of how things can be if protected and cherished.  My life in inner city Birmingham is a world away from such epic beauty.  I value nature be it buttercups trying to grow along the dusty industrial streets of the Midlands or bees trying to make their home in the side of a terraced house.  I look for signs of flora and fauna everywhere and value it even though it might be a small patch striving to survive.
The Cranes and the forest were very special and I know I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to have been part of this year’s Great Crane Project trip to Brandenburg. It was also wonderful to have met Beate and Eberhard, the conservationists from the biosphere reserve whose passion and knowledge of every inch of the area was infectious.(More on Beate and Eberhard in another post).

Cranes and a Thunderstorm 

About 10 minutes after I took this quick video the sky opened into a heavy rain storm. It was one of the most vivid and intense nature experiences of my life and one to remember forever. Eberhard had taken filmmaker Sasha and myself to a tall hide in the forest where Cranes roost at night. We sat high up watching the Cranes walking amongst the trees and calling to one another (play with sound on to hear the Cranes). The landscape was still and quiet apart from the birds themselves and for one moment I felt like I could disappear into the landscape and leave the modern world behind. Nothing seemed as real and vital than that moment in time – the feeling was so intense you could almost reach out and touch it. 

A Rich Colour Palette

Me about to enter a swamp! My desk back at 'The Mill' where the team stayed for the duration of the trip.
During breaks from wading through swamps, tracking Cranes and collecting eggs, I managed to do some painting in gouache of small miniature scenes from the forest.  These paintings will form part of my work for the Company of Cranes exhibitions -  part 1 at Slimbridge in the summer and part 2 in Langport as part of Somerset Art Weeks, in September.

Forest Jewels

A short film I took of this beautiful beetle crossing the forest path.  The irridescent blue colouring was so vivid - like jewels scattered across the floor. 

More forest jewels and a tree covered with fungi that looks as if it is straight from the pages of an Eastern European folktale!


  1. Beautiful account and images. The sounds of a forest in spring and of everything coming alive. You can almost smell the forest floor. the sound of the cranes was most surprising - very "prehistoric" somehow, as I imagine a dinosaur´s mating call.

  2. Your account of this experience is so vivid and moving; it draws me in completely to the heart of your encounter with this environment and its many forms of life. From the glimpses of your illustrations I can see that the resulting artwork is - and will be - utterly beautiful. But what captivates me equally is your account of the process you are going through and your written insights into what this encounter, and this natural reality, means. I wonder if this is leading towards a published book which might include your written thoughts, poetic insights and reflections as well as the illustrations themselves?

  3. Thank you Lluis and anonymous friend for your lovely feedback!

    I will be posting images soon of finished artwork for part 1 of my Company of Cranes journey. A book might be a possibility which would include some of the words of Somerset children at local schools and the community too. I'd certainly like to publish a book as I have found the experience to be so moving and special. Thank you for all your encouraging words - it means a lot. Melanie :-)