My recollections of stuff I learned half a century ago at high school are plainly clearer now than they were at exam times back then.
I recall now that it’s too late to take a test, hearing stuff about the early history of painting in Australia. We were told no doubt by a teacher who had been told by someone else, how the light in Australia was so different to the places the early settlers had come from that many of the early landscape painters were painting from a European perspective, so that their pictures would be accepted by the establishment. We accepted that without question although without any understanding of exactly what it meant except that it seemed like an excuse for not being able to paint things to look the way they should, and nice work if they get away with it.
My thirteen year old brain figured they couldn’t paint trees that looked like ours to save themselves either, so why should they bother getting the light right?
Today, as we drifted slowly through the Vosges forest, something of a revelation transpired. It’s too late to sit the exam I suppose, but really today was a bit like sailing through a John Glover catalogue without the people in white breeches. The colours of this week in spring are not at all what we identify with. The character of the place has changed, albeit fleetingly. The forest looks for all the world as our bush does a few days beyond the the first rain after a bushfire.
The haze isn’t smoke, but if we closed our eyes and sniffed I reckon we could have smelled the damp eucalyptus ash. But we are too busy charging on down the canal to stop and smell anything, too entranced as around each bend the landscape changes wondrously.
And we have to do it again tomorrow too.