Labyrinths, Chemins, Crossroads
I had what should have been a bad day, except, well, no.
I wandered around the grande ville again for several hours and found myself getting oddly lost, like I was walking in a labyrinth. Mostly, I’d been trying to find that pool again, with the severed head. I wanted to think and read tarot and journal at it, because it felt oddly sacred…but no. No luck.
I walked for HOURS, getting progressively more lost, finding myself each time turning back upon the same alleys. But here’s an interesting thing about labyrinths: they are mazes on the outside which walk you through similar, strange twists internally. Anyone who’s walked a labyrinth as part of a ritual understands this, I imagine.
Where my mind was going, I’m not quite sure. I was everywhere and nowhere, stumbling repeatedly upon the same cathedrals, the same chapels.
Later, I went to ameliorate what was the most pressing problem of mine: lack of cooking fuel. The campsite shop (every municipal one has this) had none, and I’d heard of a strange shopping center, about a mile and a half away from the campground, that would sell it.
From the center of the city I took a bus, listening to the conversations around me while still turning within my head. And I arrived, and oh gods….
Malls in the US terrify me. I’ve been to one in the space of maybe 6 years because of this, and that was with a fellow druid, and we were only there to get a sandwich. But I was now in another, except in France, and oh–
Culture shock comes for me when I go shopping for groceries. Upon return from europe each time, I break down when I enter an american grocerystore. And at some point it happens in Europe, too, surrounded by configurations which make NO sense.
Still, found what I thought I was looking for, left, and cut across some back alleys and a Chemin (trail in French, in Bretagne the word usually refers to the Old Tracks). There, I gorged on elderberries and blackberries and strolled with less care than before back to the campground.
But–oi. Gas canisters used to be standardized in Europe. The same one from the same company fit in everything they made, but it seems, unfortunately, they’ve caught on to the ridiculous absurd shit America does, where you ALWAYS IMPROVE and therefore ALWAYS MAKE OLDER STUFF OBSOLETE.
I had to go back to the mall, this time to get a different cooking stove (the new and improved one which fits the three canisters I’d bought). Normally such a journey to undo something that didn’t go correctly the first time really pisses me off, but at least I got to walk by more berries. I picked up a bottle of Breton cidre while I was at it, gathered more berries and flowers, and returned to my site, finally getting to make myself tea, and then dinner, and then a mulled cidre with the berries I’d gathered.
I’m not fully certain what happened next, and some of it is not for this conversation, but I found myself out in the woods, not exactly drunk but most definitely intoxicated by something intensely different from what I normally experience.
There was a transit strike, so I spent most of the day at my tent, reading, thinking, and organizing. Also, drinking more tea than one really ought (it’d been DAYS, you know).
Most of the day I was in my head, dreaming, attempting to make sense of the world around me. No–this isn’t quite true. Actually, I’ve been attempting to make sense of the world I left behind, now that there’s a continent and an ocean between myself and it.
Returned to the city, bought my train tickets for the next leg. In about an hour I leave for Carnac/Plouharnel, where I’ve been before. This is the place I’ve dreamt the most about, and the dream which compelled me to return to Bretagne took place there. It’s littered with standing stones and wells and old tracks and chapels, and though I’ll be there a few more days than I was here, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough time.
I finally found that fountain with the severed head again. I’d circled it repeatedly the day before. This doesn’t surprise me.
I may not be able to update for a few days, as the closest internet will be a 45 minute walk away, and I’ve much to do there.
Many of you are in my thoughts, by the way. I miss knowing there are people close by to talk to who know me. I’ve little time to reply individually to emails, but I’ve been reading ’em all.
I have almost no time at the moment, but I wanted to update you folks.
I left Rennes and got to Plouharnel/Carnac a few hours later and pretty much lost myself immediately. I almost didn’t wait to set up my tent–I practically found myself running out onto the chemins, visiting as many holy sites as I could in a very short time before the sun set. I almost missed the closing of the only grocery store in Plouharnel on account of this fanaticism.
It’s really damn hard to explain how insane this place is.
I arrived near 4pm, set up my tent, bavarded a bit with the the owners of the camping site (who haven’t changed much since I saw them 9 years ago, though they’ve got two young children now). On my way to the site I got a bit lost, on account of getting off at the wrong stop, and ran into a group of old breton women who preceded to flirt with me uncomfortably. One asked if I’d hitchhiked, and when I told her no but mentioned I’d considered it, she answered “someone as nice and attractive as you? People will stop.”
As I said, after setting up the tent, I went for a long walk, visiting the chapel of Ste. Barbe (one of the oldest here) and several fountains which I’d remembered before. Walked until it was dark, headed back, made dinner and passed out to strange, scattered dreams.
I woke awfully early, took a shower, made breakfast (coffee, gallettes, jam) and decided to go for a short walk.
If, by short, one means 12 hours and 18 or so miles. The path I chose was a series of linked chemins which go along the bay towards Carnac in the south. It meanders through gorse, heather, blackberries, and wind-contorted pines and firs, past and through old villages, oyster farms, fountains, lavoirs (baths, though they’re a bit mucky and I have not used them) and insanely breath-taking views of the sea.
When I started out, the bay was near dry, gulls and herons feasting off of the crustaceons exposed to the air. There were huge piles of shells here and there, where the birds gathered their spoils and then left their refuse.
I forgot to bring food, or hadn’t cared to, so I ate as many blackberries and unripe blueberries as I could handle–this is a lot, you should know, and my hands were stained purple by the time I reached Carnac-ville.
What can I say about this walk? I would show you things, photos, but–fuck.
I lost my camera.
When I arrived in Carnac, I headed first to the chapel of St. Cornaille (I think that’s his name), one of the 6 founding saints of Bretagne (that is, on of the 6 christian founders). I need to maybe stop going to greet saints, for as I fumbled for my camera which I’d been using extensively during the walk, I found it gone.
This was utterly frustrating. After walking around a bit, buying a pain-au-chocolat (of course) and a baguette, I started the walk home, retracing my steps to find where I must have lost the camera.
Thing is, it was getting quite dark. I could already feel the day fading, and I had not brought my flashlight. But I found myself obsessing over this camera and where I could possibly have lost it. I needed it, you see.
Well, sort of. This made me think about several things (walking for miles is great for thinking), including why I’d been taking so many photos in the first place. It was, mostly, for you, dear reader, dear friends. I don’t resonate heavily with photos myself, unless they are extremely good, but I thought for certain this would be the best way to explain to you how fucking beautiful this place is, how strange and wondrous it is to come out from a copse of pine or oak to a small medieval village and then see the sea.
I walked extra, retracing my steps several times in order to find where I’d lost the fucking thing. It was getting quite close to sunset, I knew this was a lost hope, but I took another detour to check one last time.
I wonder, though. Did some higher part of myself leave it on the rocks on purpose? Or did I leave it at the chapel? It’s loss has actually been a very good thing for me. Here’s why: I’d see something profound, beautiful, breathtaking, Otherworldly, and immediately fumble for my camera, snap a couple of photos, check to see if I’d caught the image right, and then put it away and walk on.
That is, I stopped seeing things, except to see them for others. I realised this just as the sun was setting, just as I knew I had no hope of getting back before dark. I sat on a rock, frustrated, tired (my feet are mangled, by the way), and found myself seeing something unimaginable in its beauty.
The sun set over the bay, brilliant and dark hues of purples, violets, blues mixing with crimson reflecting off the water of the bay (the tide had come in fully now). Greens of seaweed floated like islands upon the water, and silver danced in the waves where the last whites of the sun hit. The stones of the shore are black, but also dun, as was the sand though giving off a yellow-gold that seemed like trapped sunlight from the warm day.
I cried, but not from sadness.
Nothing happened today.
This is not true, of course. But most of it was in my head. I wrote a letter, I read Tarot and Ogham and a book (a fucking great one, by the way, called The Art of Pilgrimage). And I ate.
Mostly, I hobbled. I rather messed up my feet with that walk. They’re better today, and I’m in the middle of another 10 mile walk.
Oh. One thing happened, I guess. After dark, I went for a walk and sat at a crossroads for several hours (probably 3 or 4, I’m guessing). I suggest it. I’ll have more to say on this later.
And I woke the next morning (but I’m not talking about this yet) to a dream of a giant sorting through my head.