Travel journal five: Gorse, Heather, Alder, Vine

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

September 14th

The days are stringing together like a tapestry I didn’t know the soul could weave.

The fourteenth?  Where…that was the day with the alignements and the deer and the heather, the day I lost the camera? No, that was a different–that is the same.

All is always now, except not, because the sun sets and I get sleepy, and the sun rises and I awaken, and between those moments is every color in which life is painted, every note in which life is sung, every word in which the world breathes intself into our souls.

What happened? The 14th…that was samedi…yes, the deer.

I awoke, the dream of the giant sorting through my thoughts, my desire, his voice deep, his voice quaking, like an old lover I’d forgotten I had, who returned to ask who it was had visited my heart since he last went hunting.  He held a fragment of cloth, a fragment of thought and asked, “whose was this?”  And I had to answer that I hadn’t met him yet, but intend to, and I awoke.

Breakfast is always a baguette, except that it was a baguette and eggs and tea and coffee and framboise-jam.  I had awakened into ombre, shadow, feeling–was this the day of light? Of the fire?  I think so.

I sent off a letter (is it for this he was asking?) and went for a walk.  There are abbeys, but not ancient.  They are massive, dominating in their walled cloistered prayers, but they are only as old as Seattle, so they held less interest than other places.  I like all ages of lovers, but not in architecture.  They must be old enough to have great-grandfathered my great-grandmother for me to consider them worthy of my affection.

Still.  I had a walking stick, finally.  Pine, until later, when it became Alder.  There is a pine grove across from the entrance to the Abbey of St. Michel.  This does not surprise me, nor did the oak grove across from the alignments of Menec, but I’m not there yet.

A back path, a faded chemin. Heather in my pocket, because it was beautiful and I knew I would need to give it as a gift. When given the choice between stealing across private property and cutting through gorse, take the choice I didn’t take. Gorse is friendly in that “hey I’m a little too drunk for this” sort of way. Gorse reminds me of the only time I was in San Francisco, at a bar with my then-lover whose finger was in a rather intimate place until I realised both of his hands were otherwise occupied.  That stranger’s finger? That’s Gorse. And it’s beautiful, but overly friendly.

The chemins end, or continue onto roads before weaving back out of the interruption of modern transit.  Walking on a paved part of a chemin is like walking through mud, yet less earthy, and louder.  And there, at the side of the modern, I saw the corpse of a newly-dead fawn, its eyes open to the sky, unmourned perhaps.  I found the use of the heather and bid it safe passage.

The Alignments:  look.  I can’t tell you about them.  I can’t show them to you because of the camera.  All I can say–they are old not in that ancient way but in that chthonic way, older than primeval, radiating an intensity that isn’t for us any longer, or not yet, not until we’ve learned the intensity that is for us.  But you should see them anyway, and stand in the oak grove across from them and be very, very quiet.

I watched a wedding begin at the chapel of St. Corentin.  I felt I needed to.  I did.

And then another long walk home, to dinner, to stars, and to a nearby…rave.  I slept through it.  It was for the wedding guests.  A bunch of them were crying afterwards. Raves, I guess, could do this.

September 15th.

Another day of rest.  Little to say until evening, when I walked one last time to the chapel of St. Barbe.  I don’t know why it draws me more than the others…perhaps because she’s the only saint who hasn’t taken something from me, yet.  Long story.

I had a dream months ago.  I was in a house, and I was leaving, and I tried to go up a path (a chemin, it would turn out), and two men blocked me.  The first was in shadow, the second in light, but “his a face still forming” (t.s. eliot), and they would not let me leave.  The one in shadow smiled, like he was waiting for me, and the one in light said, only, “did you forget your recorder? You should not forget your recorder.”

I brought my recorder to the chapel just before sunset and played.  At first I was alone, and then later others entered, sitting, listening.  I stopped at some point, afraid I was disturbing the silence, until a man with a young daughter said, “C’est mieux avec la musique,” and so I continued.

The song I played was not one I’d heard before.  I don’t feel like I made it up, more that it seemed an old song still echoing off the stones, one that I picked up.  It’s hard to explain, but certain notes sounded better within those old walls, and certain progressions of these notes were better than others, and next thing you know you have a song, and it seems best described as the song of that place.  And as she was leaving, an old woman bowed her thanks to me.

And then a final visit to wells, and a farewell to the place.  I tied a bit of blue scarf to two elder trees growing in the water of a fountain, joining them together, and their combined branches made a gate that I looked through and found to be the same place I’d sat a few nights ago, the crossroads, three chemins meeting.

September 16th.

I left in the morning. My Alder staff in hand, rucksack on my back, treading one last time down the alleys and streets to the place where a bus would take me to a train to Quimper.  
Someone stopped.  She smiled, waved, and gave me a thumbs-up.
A little while later, a car honked, and both of the passengers waved and said, “merci.”
Were they thanking me for visiting? For playing in the chapel? There were so many people in there that one or two of them could have been those people.  They all looked familiar.  They can’t have seen all the trash I picked up around the standing stones (look, kids–if you’re gonna fuck in the telluric springs, fucking bring your condom wrappers with you on the way out, yeah?).  
Or maybe they do this to everyone.  Still, it felt–warm.  Happy.  Right.
The train to Quimper did not take long.  I was starting to feel a bit feverish, and it’s likely that I’ve gotten a bit ill.  Laying on the ground all the time, often when it’s raining, is probably not incredibly good for the constitution in the short term. Long term? Probably fucking fantastic.  
Quimper is…fucking dark.  Alder everywhere, and beautiful people, and a sense of lust and madness and poverty.  I want to live here.  Dominated by the Cathedral of St. Corentin (him again…), founding mythically by King Gradlon after the sinking of the city of Ys (long story, and I hope to tell it better someday soon), the confluence of three rivers, hills dividing the city, flanking the valleys in which people live.  
Yet again, I tore away from my camp site just after setting up the tent and walked, walked…
I gotta stop doing this.  I ended up on one of the hills, which is where I was headed, because I didn’t want to go to the Cathedral of Corentin yet.  And I’m on this massive hill which is hard to reach and fenced off, and there’s a woman, drest well, behind a fence in a mental-hospital.  The hill is covered by psychiatric and other specialty hospitals.  
She said, “bon nuit,” and I didn’t answer, and not because I didn’t understand.

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