We delighted in our annual Tour de Golfe this afternoon. The Gulf of Morbihan, home to 42 islands, is a sailor’s delight. It’s also a joy for photographers like me, and perfect (windy!) sailing conditions allowed for some spectacular shots of a grand regatta featuring perhaps 50 boats – each with four or five crew – in full sail. Add to that some truly spectacular fluffy cloud formations set in heights of deep cerulean blue, cormorants close-up, the glad familiarity of another returning, the best company, and a baguette picnic made up of ham, paté and smoked cheese, and I reflect that the later colours of the day made for splendid array.
When we see that we live in a mind-made world and that we ourselves are of that same formless energy, the idea of having to do anything to experience peace of Mind is as bizarre as the idea that a fish would have to do something to experience water. When you start to notice that the peace of Mind is always present, it begins to fill your consciousness more and more of the time.
The Space Within
It’s still early. I’m just awake. First light’s broad brush strokes newly primed canvas. Cyclical colours of experience, light to dark, dark to light, as old as the aeons, never to be seen in quite the same way again – the spectrum of my next twenty four hours. And others will form yours, though we will swim in the same school, the same river, the same sea.
Our minds will shape for us what was, what is, what will be.
It’s still early. I’m just awake. Experience of the morning riverbank stirs quietly. Already my mind’s eye seeks shape, intent and purpose for the day but, being early, being only newly awake, no effort at all is required to gaze long upon a single oak leaf in the dawn-lit window. And just above the surface a small bird sings in perfect French. And so it will indeed be.
Let me tell of a scented French apple orchard
set before a house of stone still warmed and
painted gold by the setting sun
Better perhaps to tell of it in French? –
but then again right now the language of the
telling really does not matter
For already the picture’s painted clear in you
behind your eyes and in your heart and you
sense without a further word
that you are here
The American Indian poet Joy Harjo told Bill Moyers
I don’t see time as linear. I don’t see things as beginning or ending. A lot of people have a hard time understanding native people and native patience – they wonder why we aren’t out marching to accomplish something. There is no question that we have an incredible history, but I think to understand Indian people and the native mind you have to understand that we experience the world very differently. For us, there is not just this world, there’s also a layering of others. Time is not divided by minutes and hours, and everything has presence and meaning within this landscape of timelessness.
I’m presently in France, ambling this morning along a perfectly beautiful riverbank, loving the tranquil presence here of the cimetiere de bateaux de la rivière du Bono – in the quiet backwater where venerable painted-oak fishing boats have come to their rest and where, over years and years, their once bright colours fade as the waters cover the sea.
Here too along the riverbank are earthenware remains of the defunct oyster industry, closed in the 1980’s by a spell of river pollution. Morning dew shimmers on cobwebs in a gentle breeze. Sea birds shout with raucous authority. Petit dejeuner is laid ready at table. The sun is warm on my back, and is the gladness in the harbour. My heart is full of happy anticipation for the day.
This afternoon we cycled to the Basilica de Sainte Anne d’Auray, Phare spirituel de la Bretagne depuis 400 ans – (Spiritual Lighthouse of Brittany for 400 years), twenty years almost to the day since the late Pope St John Paul II arrived here. Ancient faith and art meets modernity here too. Craftsmen’s art in the great basilica, as in the modern boulangerie across the road.
This evening I reflect on these things, and upon many more, and recognise a timelessness, a great and awe-inspiring Patience, a vast and wonderful landscape, and have little or no need to be ‘out marching to accomplish something’. Bound to past, present and future undivided, I sense that I am – that we are – here or anywhere, home from home.
The oystercatcher furtling about in the
mudbanks is silent and focused and the
butterfly and the lizard make no sound
that can be heard above the clank of mast
cables and the gentle river flow beside
which we’re absorbed in Ouest France
and our books into which pine needles
twirl – until the urgent tap-tap-tapping
of the woodpecker we’d forgotten we
met last year raises two smiling pairs of
We were crossing the Sound of Iona between Western Scotland’s Inner Hebridean islands of Mull and Iona – part of the Atlantic Ocean – just a little while ago, and marvelling at the ferry Loch Buie’s riding the strong current that seems set to impede her progress about half way across. I experience a little frisson of triumph whenever I see her safely arrived, either side.
And so it was again today, in Southern Brittany, during the five minute boat trip to the Île aux Moines (Isle of the Monks), the ‘pearl of the Gulf of Morbihan’. Surrounded by the Mare current, deemed to be the strongest in Europe, the little ferries do battle with the swirl dozens of times a day – something we’ve also experienced in kayaks when frisson doesn’t quite nail the encounter!
Explorers, we humans. And islands large and small have a voice that clearly beckons, no matter the waters.
We’ve cycled for miles again today. The new cycleways in Southern Brittany are superb, and real testament to the seriousness with which cycling and healthier living generally is taken here. We reckon that with judicious use of cycling panniers and baskets for regular shopping trips we could probably leave the car at home for all but the occasional ‘big shop’ or visits further afield. That adds up to an enjoyably healthy lifestyle – albeit that we succumbed a few years ago to the benefits and joys of modern e-bikes. Oh, the joy of that little angel at your back when faced with a long climb home!
There’s been time, too, for reading, a bit of painting, and considerable industry in the knitting department. Morbihan hasn’t seen much rain for months – not altogether great news for gardeners but appreciated by the holidaymakers who enjoy the many gorgeous beaches of the Golfe, the safe boating, the outdoor restaurants and – like us – simply sitting in a sunlit garden, appetites sated by good coffee, delicious bread with M. Daniel’s miel, glasses of jus de pomme, and slowing down awhile. September’s just right here. The colours are turning, scholars returning, and this riverside house so quiet and blissfully peaceful that we heard a tiny lizard before we saw him, scampering across scattered leaves. C’est une grande vie!