24 June, 2012
My heart leaps up when I behold a church spire in the sky
Most meals at a restaurant are quite formal. The waiter appears at appropriate moments, takes your order, and brings your dishes.
Last night's was quite the opposite. When I arrived, the patron put a basket of bread and a bottle of red on my table. Not your finest Bordeau, mind you, but quite drinkable. The bottles, unlabelled and uncorked, were lined up behind the bar, and as the diners arrived, the bottles appeared.
A big bowl of pea soup was placed on my table, and I helped myself. Then a plate of crudités. Then I had to make a choice: rabbit or beef. Remembering Phyllis's bunny, I thought I'd better choose beef. Then salad, and then a choice of cheeses and choice of deserts from a large plates. All very pleasant and informal .
It was a very long day. At first, I walked across the plains between fields of corn and barley, and then through the woods again, deciduous then pine, and finally up and down the slopes of wine-growing terrain.
My heart lifts up with hope when I behold a church spire. The church is the centre of the village, and beside the church there may be a bar where I can take a break and have a coffee. At the very least, I can sit on the bench or picnic table that can usually be found beside the church, or failing that, I can eat my lunch on the steps with my back against the door.
Today, I stopped at the churches of Saint-Gery, Fraisse, and Montfaucon. These were the markers that divided my day into four parts. I rested beside each of these churches.
The church is still the centre of village life. Not in the way it once was, of course, although many of the villagers are still baptised, married and buried there. At the church of Saint-Gery where I made my first stop this morning, there must have been a wedding the day before. Two small decorated trees had been "planted" on either side of the church door, a carpet of pine leaves had been laid in front of the steps, and confetti and rose petals had obviously been strewn upon the couple.
But the church gives an identity to the secular villagers as well. Everything is defined in relation to the church - the bakery is opposite it, or behind it, or on the street that runs down from it. It gives the villagers a geographical identity. It orients them. They live in the shadow of the church. And they are part of the tradition it embodies, going back for more than a thousand years.
As I came down from the hills I was pointed in the right direction and given food for thought.