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What do you see?

It’s the Source of the Loue River, emerging from a limestone cliff.

It’s a stunning sight/site, but much more than just place of natural wonder – though natural wonder indeed it is.  Some of the water is gathered through seepage through the karst rocks, and some from an underground feed from the upstream Doubs River, into which the Loue feeds back as a tributary further downstream.  They found out about the Doubs contribution when there was a spillage from the Pernod factory. Nice!

Stefi and I had walked down to this awe-inspiring place, near Ornans, in the French Jura, and were speculating about the man-made rock walls.

So we asked.  A young chap was manning an information table, and pressed every bit of his English, plus an impressive photo album, into explaining.

In the space between the rock wall on the left, and the river, had been an early industrial complex.  A mill, and a foundry if I understood him correctly, both driven by the power of the water.  Only twice has the water flow been known to cease, so it was a reliable resource.  A hundred people worked here in its heyday.  Then … technology changed, and there were ways to generate power that didn’t involve a long and (then) difficult trek to the source… so that was the end of that.

Despite the evidence of the photos I still find it almost impossible to envisage how those buildings squeezed in there – and what human ingenuity it must have taken to actually construct the complex.

I’m so glad the young man was there – and so glad we asked!  Otherwise we’d have seen only the current scene, and not the deep history.  Part of the fun of traveling is guessing about the meaning of what you’re seeing … and you can be so wrong!

Speaking of which … I went googling for info on the Source of the Loue to fill in the gaps in my understanding of his explanation. I found nothing about the historical buildings, but found French painter, Gustave Courbet, who’d grown up near here.

What do you see?

You might interpret this painting this way …

“Although The Source of the Loue appears neutral, the foreboding darkness at the painting’s heart symbolizes the artist’s vehement opposition to the industrial endeavors that Napoleon III’s Second Empire brought to the French countryside so near and dear to his heart.”    Label from Humble and Human: An Exhibition in Honor of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., February 2–May 26, 2019

OR this way  …

“ a specifically sexual inflection. These dark openings, from which waters pour out, are clear metaphors of female sexuality, derived, like the motif of wavy flowing hair, from the depths of natural processes… Courbet has constructed a metaphor in which female sexuality is seen in terms not of male fear or ideality, but in terms of natural processes identified with the forces of the earth.”   That one (about the same painting) is from  https://www.gustave-courbet.com.

I’ve always loved the aphorism “What you see depends on where you stand.”   And sometimes, on being able to ask.


Bonus photo just because it’s lovely … solitary church on a hill by Ornans on the drive into the Source of the Loue.