Monday, 19 August 2013

'Gigantic solitude'

Today began at 7.00am. During breakfast-which included Apricot and Mint jam- our hostess advised us that rain was forecast. Immediately outside the Auberge was a plaque to a man who had been born in the next hamlet. The man was Louis Dalle. Only in his teens he was interred in Buckenwald for over a year. After the war he became a missionary to the Altiplano of Peru. He ultimately became the Bishop of Ayaviri in Peru which,at 4000m, claims to be the diocese at the highest altitude in the world. Bishop Dalle  died in a road accident at the relatively early age of 60. To find a plaque in such an isolated part of France was though provoking. One of the motifs of the Camino is about spreading the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Louis Dalle certainly did that!
Quite soon our hostess' prediction proved correct and a light rain began to fall allowing me to try out my poncho. It is far from elegant, but most effective. Throughout the day we were walking over the Aubrac plateau. The first section was very reminiscent of the border country South of Peebles.  For the first time I had a sense that I was walking an ancient path which had ensured for millenia. I was reminded of the advice that we were given at the Pilgrim's day in London about taking care to look back. Yesterday Matt had commented that looking back made him feel satisfied since that was land that had been covered. Today I am reminded of Eliot:
'At the still point of the turning World . And do not call it fixity. Neither from nor towards . At the point the dance is'.
Being on pilgrimage is about tarrying at the still point and becoming absorbed in it . Here in the Aubrac it id not just the prrsent but also theblong procession of humanity. At times the obvious antiquity of the rocks inspired even deeper reflection.  After more than two hours I came to a small town. I visited the church and then, as the rain was heavier, I retired to a bar for a coffee. The next two hours were over a moor very like Northumberland. Not surprisingly two images from that part of England came to mind. Early in his Ecclesiastical History Bede compares the life of man to a bird which flies into the hall of an earldorman and out again without any one noticing. The same image is used by Kathleen Raine in her Northumberland Sequences IV:
' Let in the nameless formless power that beats upon my door. .. the banshee howling on the moor.
The bracken bush on the bleak hillside....
How can my fearful heart conceive gigantic solitude'.

 On the Chemin it is easy to conceive gigantic solitude. It is not loneliness but an intense sense of presence. Presence to God, to self and to others . These were my thoughts as I wound my way slowly across the moor. Today the flowers were different.  There was one which attracted my attention. It had five petals. The top four were like two sets of wings and the fifth made a tail. The petals were intense purple . The top two with a border which was almost black. I called it my butterfly flower
After nearly two hours I reached the village of Aubrac. At the entrance to the village was an Alsatian cross with the following inscription: In the silence and the solitude the only thing that you notice is the essential. I was amazed at how closely this matched my reflections. In Aubrac there were some lovely touches. There was an elderly couple sitting on a bench by the path. When she saw my poncho the lady said that I would need it as rain was on the way. Another man wished me 'courage'. On the road out of the village a couple of the occupants of passing cars waved enthusiastically. Below the village the raspberries re-appeared. After 7 and a half hours I was at the Auberge

1 comment:

  1. Basil I feel I am there with you, a lovely sequence of writing