Saturday, August 18, 2012


"There is a way to master silence
 Control its curves, inhabit its dark corners
 And listen to the hiss of time outside."
                            Paul Bowles

Sea of Sunflowers
104 yesterday or 40 celsius (sounds a lot cooler, doesn't it?) I still can't do the math.  I've got the kilometres and the litres down; somehow the temperature formula evades me.  But it all translates to aisselles en sueur (sweaty armpits) and a languid "Out of Africa" feeling.  The air is still as a stickpin. Rien ne bouge = nothing moves until the sun goes down or at first light. Two weeks ago I glided through fields of sunflowers that parted like the sea.  Once it even rained--the clouds squeezing out giant teardrops.

This morning, at the crack O'dawn I rode my bike to O'Sullivans, the French cafe in Feuillade, to listen in on the farmers' talking crops, the "meteo" (weather report), catch up on compost and whatever else I can glean from the hard to decipher Charentais accent.  The symbol of this region is the "escargot"-- joke being that the people move like snails-- au contraire, I've seen the tractors plowing, threshing, baling at midnight & out again at  4 a.m.  Struggling thru the lead piece in the local rag, La Charente Libre, on the future of farming here, I am not surprised to discover there are no skeptics re GW. Plans for 2085 are for cultivation, harvesting etc. to take place solely at night and in the early morning hours. Water in our enchanting emerald green secret garden will become scarce...the river of De-Nile ain't happening here. 

The story about O'Sullivans (perhaps apocryphal), since it is completely owned and run by a French family, is that the original proprietere traveled to Ireland, fell in love with the country, their pubs, beer & shamrocks and decided to replicate the experience.  Oddly the only thing about O'Sullivans that smacks of Ireland is its name, and a dog named Guiness who lives up the road.

Most mornings I visit him and his pal, Nokie, as I pedal through Doumerac to Feuillade.  With their capable paws, Guiness and Nokie manage the sheep farm and also keep order among the chickens and errant goats.  Beer drinking is kept to a minimum.  But on this suffocatingly hot morning I see a dead sheep in the pen and what seems to be a helpless, rather distraught look in the dogs' limpid eyes (Border Collies take their job seriously!). Creatures just expire in this kind of heat like the 14,000 French  two-leggeds who died during the infamous summer of 2003, the hottest on record since 1540--seven days of 104 degree temps.

But on this stolid morning it is a mere 90 degrees,
nothing to get too excited about. 

When I was a young armchair traveler I dreamed of going to exotic places transported by the stories from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.  I was sure I would find Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, rub it and be granted three wishes.  My uncle kept a threadbare oriental rug up in the hayloft of our barn, & I designated it as my "magic carpet".  Somehow I missed out on how many of the tales' plots had to do with violence and virgins, Jinns, Ghouls & Apes.

Later on I graduated from the Ali B world to the novels and short stories of Paul & Jane Bowles. I imagined myself smoking Kif with Paul (never with Jane) adrift in his existential world of Tangier. In North Africa, together he & I would discover le dejenoun, the Arabian mountain where the spirits and genies dwell, master the craft of storytelling, (he'd already gone a long way) the power of the curse -- the exalted the sacred and the divine! We would "write in bed in hotels in the desert",  how could we go wrong??

From Bowles' essay:  "A Hundred Camels in the 
Courtyard" - "Moroccan kif-smokers like to speak of the "two worlds," the one ruled by inexorable natural laws, and the other, the kif world, in which each person perceives "reality" according to the projections of his own essence, the state of consciousness in which the elements of the physical universe are automatically rearranged by cannabis to suit the requirements of the individual.  These distorted variations in themselves generally are of scant interest to anyone but the subject at the time he is experiencing them.  An intelligent smoker, nevertheless, can aid in directing the process of deformation in such a way that the results will have value to him in his daily life.  If he has faith in the accuracy of his interpretations, he will accept them as decisive, and use them to determine a subsequent plan of action.  Thus, for a dedicated smoker, the passage to the "other world" is often a pilgrimage undertaken for the express purpose of oracular consultation." BINGO.

Alors, as you have probably guessed by now, none of my cleverly constructed maps were ever circumnavigated, and Paul and Jane merrily lived out their creative lives without me.

I was searching for presence and essence all those years.  The pilgrimage undertaken landed me in France where the real magic takes place:  Here we have diamonds (organic manure) on the souls of our shoes, tapdancing through the sacred and divine paysage. The French farmers do wheelies on my heart.  The invasion of rapacious empires is receding from our sunflower shores.  The insatiable thirst for air conditioning and electric dryers is not quenched here.  I have been granted three wishes:  Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite along with the bonus of sanity, balance and harmony.  Abracadabra!

A picnic in the Vineyard with Valerie, the French stone mason
Moon Flowers

Clothes Dryer


We will be known as the culture that feared death and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity for the few and cared little for the penury of the many.  We will be known as a culture that taught and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke little if at all about the quality of life for people (other people), for dogs, for rivers.  All commodity. And they will say that this structure was held together
politically, which it was, and they will say also that our politics was no more than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of the heart, and that the heart, in those days, was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

  - Mary Oliver

Festival of the Earth
Homeward bound, I spot a new "affiche" (poster) at the turnoff to Marthon, for the Fete de la Terre, held at the end of August, comparable to our "Earth Day" back in Etats-Unis.  A celebration of the soil, organic gardening; a labyrinthe vegetal; horse drawn plows pulled out of barns (I've seen some farmers using them this year).  Demonstrations and animations, petits et grandes.  Spinning my wheels, I'm off to check the homemade plum wine fermenting in our kitchen. There was a Harmonic Convergence on August 16/17. The 25th synchronized meditation for world peace-- a Closing of the Cycle.  The honeycomb of humanity buzzing in unison.


The Devil - Tarot Metal Sculpture - St. Suzanne, France

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