Next, I hiked about a kilometer down the sinuous road that had brought us here, drawn magnetically to a hollow walnut tree that stood at the edge of a clearing used for picnics by the locals. The forests of Kapan are home to many ancient walnut trees, each with their character and their poise, some spreading their boughs majestically while others showing the scars of their age. The roadside tree I’d found had not only been gutted by fire, but had numerous holes in the lower portion of its bark. It was a beautiful tree, more so for its scars, one that I spent a long time photographing.
We weren’t quite done for the day, though… We sped through Kapan on our way back, going from west to east and veering southward into the Shikahogh State Preserve. There, on the edge of this magnificent forest stands the village of Chakaten. As has been in vogue for a number of years now, many former denizens of the countless villages in Armenia, having found fame and fortune beyond its borders, return to immortalize their success. This act of self-deification often takes the form of renovating and renaming a church or matoor in the village of their birth. And thus have sprung up more than one St. Anna church, a heretofore unknown saint in the Armenian Highlands, but coincidentally the name of the wife, daughter, or mistress of said benefactor.
And so, our destination was a field just outside Chakaten, where the ruins of a small matoor, overgrown and straddled by several walnut trees, was to be found. We would have missed the matoor on nine of ten drives past the field, and it took two phone calls to confirm that the pile of stones we found was in fact what we were looking for. I was immediately bored by the structure, and instead sought out two large walnut trees further into the clearing. I was warned to watch my footing in the tall grass because of the numerous hidden holes that could twist an ankle, but reached both trees without incident. When I returned to the car, I realized that a giant obstacle blocked the renovation of this matoor. Apparently, three members of a villager’s family had died after the tree guarding another matoor in a nearby village had been cut during renovations, and there seemed to be no stomach in this village to cut any of the trees growing atop this matoor.