Le Mont Saint Michel- it is my inspiration, my quest, my respite, one of my greatest loves and greatest memories. My Restoration.
When I was 23, I walked its 300 steps to the cathedral for the first time. I remember WW1 and WW2 soldiers’ inscriptions on tower walls. I remember the first time I saw barrel-vaulted ceilings and marveled at their beauty. Other than that, I hardly remember the trip itself, but more the brashness of my fiancé’s voice. For the first time, it hurt my ears. I do remember walking around the island with him as his shoes caked with mud (the shop proprietors would not let us in their stores until he cleaned them off as he insulted them) and my boots-ready for the trip- remained streamlined. I remember throwing out little rocks in front of us to look for the pockets of quicksand the land around the island was notorious for. I’m not sure they would have worked. I wasn’t good at finding quicksand as I later found out, when I married my fiancé.
When I was 31, I saw my first straw-tick mattress and realized the hotel I had been booked at could make or break my return visit to my beloved island. So exhausted from travel, I re-dressed and set out to find The Hotel I had stayed at before. When I found it, an hour later I asked the proprietor if she remembered me (I had written to her through the years). That though my fiancé and I never made good on our promise to return for our honeymoon, now I was divorced and very happy about it- so here I am! We both laughed and somehow she made room for me in her full-up hotel.
That was the trip that changed my life. I learned that the cathedral was built on granite in the midst of quicksand. That the building took several centuries to build- and that it was built on faith and very few blueprints. It had been the beauty of Normandy, and a sanctuary. But it had also been trashed during the Revolution, was a prison, and then later a fortress in WW1 and WW2.
I touched the stones, as I heard these stories, and whispered to them, “but deep inside YOU never changed. You were still here. You were you. All along.”
I learned of miracles. And then I witnessed one.
It was the time of dancing butterflies, white feathers, the tides of the galloping horses, and the “crazy” inverted thought that maybe this – what I was experiencing at this beautiful place- was what was real. Cubicles, office politics, paying bills, doing what we were “supposed to” was part of life- but enough of a distraction to trick us to think that that was all there was to reality. But really, the opposite was true.
I ate chocolate meringue cookies for breakfast, and pâté de campagne et une baguette for dinner. I accidentally ate an oyster and by doing so learned a new word in French. (Liked the learning part, did not like the eating part). I wrote my stories hours on end. I sketched and pasteled. And I learned to sing again. In fact, through the miracle I mentioned, I learned that our songs of joy can be louder and more effective, than our cries of fear.
This wonderful tiny island is so special to me, it has become a part of my soul. Its barrel-vaulted ceilings lend support to the deepest part of my spine. It’s 300 steps remind me that nothing worthwhile is easy. Its tide of galloping horses show how nothing can hold me back if I truly believe in something and am in line with my nature. And its windows and vistas give glimpses of possibilities and what “could be.” Finally, it’s millions of stones quietly answer me when I question my life, “We may be all of these things, but who we really are, never change,” and once again I remember the only true constancy is the deepest part of me.
I love this place. I hope to see it again, but then it is always with me in my heart and soul.
Le Mont Saint Michel is my Muse, my wisest Classroom, and the Landscape of my Spirit. It has become such a deep part of me, that like the stones that make up the cathedral, it does not change, but inspires.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Muse.”