There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face
One meets all kinds on the Camino. The Italian girls, who are very pleasant, are pot-smoking Buddhists. They were meant to go to that gite, they said. From some of the paraphernalia around the house, they recognized Elisa as a fellow traveller, and asked me to write something to that effect in the Livre d'Or.
I was surprised to learn that Elisa was a Buddhist. To me she had the physiognomy of a reader of Tarot cards, but perhaps the two are compatible.
I don't know whether it was Buddhist austerity or practical husbandry, but breakfast, which I had to prepare myself, was four thin slices of bread and instant coffee. I left the latter and had my coffee at the bar in town.
When I arrived yesterday, and complained about the monotony of the long, straight road, Elisa said that the road without distractions was more conducive to meditation. Perhaps, but yesterday, I was in no frame of mind to meditate. Today, the sky was blue, my aches and pains were gone, and as I strode along, I thought about something the girls had asked me to write in the book. "Say that we believe in the harmony of man and nature," they had asked.
It seemed to me a perfectly reasonable principle to which we could all agree. After all, there is evidence all around us of harmony, and even joy, in nature. I see it and hear it every day in the hens that scratch around in the farm yard, the cows that ruminate in the pasture, the lambs that gambol in the field, the swine that roll about "as happy as pigs in muck", the horses that come up to the rail to be patted, and the dogs that wait for me at the entrance to a village, walk with me, and then return to wait for the next person. Surely we are part of this harmony.
And speaking of dogs, I was walking along the dirt road this morning when a lady drove up and asked me to look out for her dog, a whippet, that she was searching for. I was fearing the worst, for there were miles and miles of forest tracks, but later she drove back with the dog on the back seat. Relief all round!
But then I arrived at the outskirts of Belin-Beliet, where the trees had been razed to make way for a housing development. And I recalled that economic progress in the United Stated is measured out in housing starts. And a couple of days ago, I had to walk very quickly past the vines so that I didn't get caught downwind of a tractor that was spraying the grapes with a foul pesticide. And then there's the tar sands.
Rather foolishly perhaps, I had a full meal in town, and then, on the advice of the postie, who said I would save a few kilometres, set out along the highway. It was hot, but the quart de rouge seemed to fortify me, for I made it to the gite well before the six o'clock deadline.
I crossed into the Departement des Landes, and as confirmation that I was on les landes (the moors), I saw some heather in bloom. Heather is the only thing that les landes have in common with English moors. The heather is ground cover in between the pine trees that are now the natural vegetation of the region. I was told at supper tonight that the whole region used to be a swamp, but Napoleon Bonaparte planted pine trees to absorb all the water.
I am staying at a gite that caters to large parties but also takes individuals. There is a group of very young school kids here at the moment, probably first or second graders. They are very, very excited. They were eating outside with their teachers, one of whom who would tell them every so often to be quiet, even on one occasion appealing to their good manners by drawing their attention to us, two individuals, who were sitting at the next table, deafened. It didn't work, of course. They were absolutely silent for a moment, and then the noise would rise quite literally to a scream. But it is a good place for them to be. This is also an ecological camp, and perhaps they are learning to live in harmony with nature.