Saturday, September 28, 2013

Travel Journal Seven: Walled Cities, Walled Mountains

Another question I've asked myself is this: at what point does a pilgrimage end?  I left the place where I've lived for 13 years, and since I won't be returning there anytime soon, the answer "when you return" doesn't suffice.

Bretagne pretty much screams fairy-tale, bleeds ancient gods, rains lost knowledge.  And I left Bretagne, and though I did not wish for my pilgrimage to end, I thought perhaps it must have.  Alsace is not Bretagne, no ancient druidic sites or dark forests, yeah?


September 24th: (Rennes/Paris/Strasbourg)

 I'm not sure if I mentioned, but the campsite where I stayed, run by the city of Rennes (almost every french city has one, and they've all been rather damn good), is utterly over-run by rabbits.  Hundreds.  Step out of your tent and there they are, glaring back at you as if to ask what you're looking at. 
I'm looking at hoardes of rabbits, that's what.

It took little time to leave Rennes in the morning.  In fact, I'd gotten so good at packing up my stuff by the end of my Bretagne journey it seemed almost a shame not to need to do so before sunrise, with the stars still out and the moon just setting, again.

In France, all grandes lignes (major train-lines) pass through Paris.  It isn't that Paris is central to France, but mostly because Paris considers itself to be.  And as much as I adore the city, I've utterly dreaded it equally.  Imagine the most graceful people you've ever met, wearing clothes which fit precisely perfectly and are always precisely the exact weight and coverage required for whatever the weather.  Now, imagine they built a city that extends near infinitely in all directions, with a transit system with precisely the amount of space required for said graceful people, tunnels through which they seem to glide effortlessly (yet expending enough energy to remain sleek).  Meals which are precisely the perfect size for their bodies and incomes (which are gracefully significant), doors dimensioned according to their needs, and toilets so discrete they don't need to sit, only bend their slender but well-formed legs slightly, nor use paper to clean themselves afterwards because, well, Parisiens are perfect.

I dread Paris for all these reasons and more (including the fact that respiration seems to require money, the city is so expensive), and I had forgotten that, in order to change from a train coming from the west of France to a train going to the east, you have to go to a different station.  As a matter of fact, I realized this pretty much 10 minutes before arriving in Paris, and found myself, my graceless, maladroit self navigating the Paris metro between Gare Montparnasse and Gare d'Est. 

The French metro has these bizarre pneumatic turnstiles, precisely timed and sized for a Parisien to pass through.  Fail and you are trapped, embarassingly, with all your bags toppled upon you as strange tubes attempted to close around you and the sleek and near invisible Parisiens suddenly become quite visibly present, as they're trapping you against the turnstyle which won't open for you any longer and oh! you forgot to take your ticket back out of the machine.

Actually, that was last time.  Maybe one of the greatest accomplishments of my adult life occured this day.  I wasn't trapped.  I found my way immediately through the Metro.  Only one parisien dog barked at me.  I even exchanged kinds and humorous words with some Parisiens, who laughed at what I said.  I was all grace, all sleekness, all...Paris.

For, like, 15 minutes. Then I spilled some coffee when I got on the train for Strasbourg.

In Strasbourg, I was met by my friend Duf at the station.  We met 9 years ago, through a punk friend of hers who grabbed my then-lover and I along on a drinking binge our fourth day in Strasbourg, eventually inviting us to the house of his friend (who unknown to me until a few days ago, had explicitly asked him no longer to bring home strays just before he brings us home) to await her return.

She's, like, pissed.  Dead silent.  Our french sucks, he's unhelpful, and she's eating with an aura of contemplative rage.  And I'm a bit drunk. And when she's finished eating, she asks, "who the fuck are you?"

Such events, you should know, are precisely how to make good friends.

September 25th: Inside

You would think it would be an utter relief to be inside of an apartment after so much camping.  And it is, actually, but there's a bit of adjustment required. Sleeping under stars and trees, rising and sleeping when you awaken and when you pass out, and, you know, pissing wherever's convenient--all rather liberating habits. Not so good for being in-of-doors, and it took me a while to re-civilize.  I felt a bit like a savage wild wood-man, unsure what to do with himself. 

But society's got it's benefits.  Clean clothes, showers, not needing to haul water, and, fuck-- the food's been damn nice.  The night before, we ate a Raclette, a bit like a reverse fondue, or think a chinese hot-pot except with meat and cheese--one melts ones own cheese over a burner, scrapes it over potatoes, and eats.  Simple yet utterly profound.  We ate this with Duf's two neighbors, and one of them was assigned to babysit me today.  Where do you take a man uncertain what to do with himself in a city after the forest?

To watch monkeys, of course.

He and I spent most of the day watching animals, playing music (I've got like 8 new songs I want to learn, mostly yiddish) and hanging with Czech punks in a city square.  The city is like a forest, without trees, a world full of animals who talk (in a language that isn't quite mine yet, but a little easier than willow or birch).

September 26th: The Animals I've Seen

I'm not quite in order here, as there's much more to tell than I've got the mind for at the moment.  I feel I should tell you about Strasbourg and its history, or the epic sandstone cathedral, or the old mills and gorgeous canals, the alsatian architecture and the insane food. 

What I really want to talk about, however, is Keups, Duf's dog.  Or, that is, animals in general.  It's strange to say, but I think I can say it honestly--I never really noticed animals until this trip.  I've given attention to certain birds who seem to try to tell me something, sure, or to my former cat, or to the occasional racoon, but, really, never to this degree.

I woke this day remembering a dream I'd had in the night: I was surrounded by animals who spoke a language I understood, that I'd had to learn, and they told me something both relieving and obscure: "we're glad you'll take our side."  A friend mentioned an animal spirit had prompted him to write me.  Another who works with that same spirit praised my writing.  And I'd sensed that same spirit at my back (I'm not much for animal guides, or wasn't, I guess).

I've held a toad for the first time in my life walking down a chemin.  A boar ate my salami (which, someone recently pointed out, is a bit cannibalistic). Ravens have stared me down, as have rabbits (and I'm not sure which is more fierce).  I watched a mole play by a holy well.  I've finally seen magpies, and a large hawk relatively close.  And, well, there's Keups, the dog, who's more fun than you can imagine.

Strange, though, to realize I've never given attention to what the animals are really on about until now.  Certainly studying druidry has given me a prompting for this, but for the most part I've just been out (sometimes literally) hugging trees.  But I've been out-of-doors for several weeks with no internet, no phone, and no companion, in a foreign country.  This, certainly, has helped too.

Oh, and Keups is damn cool.  There's a running joke now that we're in love and going to get married. 

September 27th: Thoughts on the City

Strasbourg is a walled city, walled also by a fortresses.  Strategic, and all that.  Massive cathedral on an island made by canals (really, I could show you photos, but why bother? Come see it yourself, please.)  Full of people, absurdly full of life. Gorgeous, enticing.  Precisely the sort of place in which one wants to lose oneself.  Good friends already, fascinating sights, more than enough to permanently distract. 

Cities are like this, and European cities much more.  For a gay man, a city's pretty much essential to survival, but for a druid or any other spiritually-incline person, it presents a massive problem.  Not so much forest, not so much nature, and almost no quiet. 

I think most spiritual people face this, and it's recently become a more looming difficulty for me.  When you start giving attention to intimations and intutions and spirits and such, downtown's an almost painful place to be.  All the reasons why cities are alluring to those seeking culture and freedom become distractions and barriers to spiritual pursuits.  The choices are typically: lose oneself in the everyday and its demands and sacrifice the voice of the soul, or cloister oneself away from everything in order to listen to the soul but sacrifice the ability to manifest any truths thus gleaned into the world.

Balance is near impossible.  Coming out of the intense silences and whicpers of Bretagne to the life and press of Strasbourg has been a bit difficult.  To be honest, I hadn't even noticed what was happening to me, until my host stated that it seemed like I needed time alone. 

Oh, right.

After six hours to myself, thinking, writing by a river, reading, watching the world from an attention less direct, I felt eminently better. Returned, drank with Duf and her neighbors and another who'd I'd met with her 9 years before, more alive, less torn between the now and the eternal.

September 28th: The Blind Saint, The Sorceress, and the Pagan's Wall

So, huh.  Again, wasn't sure if I was still on pilgrimage until today. 

For not having seen me for 9 years, my friend certainly divined the utterly perfect place to take a whimsical, melancholy student of druidry just out of several weeks in Bretagne, having a bit of trouble adjusting to society again.

We left near 9 in the morning with her friend Guillame, driving a bit north of Strasbourg to an alsatian mountain named for the patron saint of blindness, Sainte Oidele.  Story's rather simple--sometime in the 7th century, a blind girl was baptised and found her sight returned to her.  Her father kills her brother by beheading him, she brings him back to life, and then her father's okay with her becoming Christian instead of pagan, like him.  The story's a bit different from St. Barbara (only one of two saints I seem to get along with so far), who's father built a tower to keep her from marrying a christian and then God struck him dead with lightening.

And, like all kinds of other Christian saints, she, of course, decides to build a monastery on the site of an ancient pagan mountain, where there's a holy well.  And, interestingly, parallel to the story of Saint Gwenole and Saint Corentin, she builds her holy place on the top of a mountain already ringed with strange, ancient fortifications.

That is, Mont Saint Odile is not very different from Menez-Hom, the visions at which still haunt me severely.

One of the stone-stacks of the Druid's Grotto
Ringing the mountain, towards the top, are strange fortifications with unknown purpose.  Called Maennelstein in German and Le mur de Paien (The Pagan Wall) in French, it crowns the hill just under a site called Le grotte des druides (the Druid Grotto), the holy springs (there are several, one of which is said to cure blindness), and the summit where Sainte Odile built her monastery.

The pagan wall
Guillaume changed to mentioned the Dahu, a mythical beast like a goat except with two legs longer than the other two so it can ascend sideways.  There's another connection between Mont St. Odile and Menez-Hom: Dahut, the sorceress who drowned the city of Ys and who was said to have been drowned in turn by St. Corentin, is also said to have been turned into a Dahu, and if my memory serves me correctly, St. Odile in at least one place I've read is one of the saints said to have done this.

I need a library, like, now.

Sacrifical pit on pagan wall
The Forest on Mont St. Odile
 Also, not that I've been necessarily keeping score, but I've gotten to see two saint's relics now, the skull of a franciscan saint in Quimper (said to bring fortune, of all things) and the sarcophagus of Saint Odile. 

I leave Strasbourg on Monday for Berlin.  I'm not yet certain what I'll find there.   More than likely, just as now and before, more questions I never thought to ask. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mabon, 2013

I said to a friend, "we see the darkness."

We all see the darkness.  It's there, it lingers, it breathes just outside the light.  It shapes, it shadows.

I walked through a dark forest without light and saw the other light.

It is like ours, but without sun. It is like the moon, but without a face.

I said to a friend, "we see the darkness, and some go in."

Others don't.  I understand, but comprehension is not enough.

I walked again through a dark forest with a taper.  It melts, burns the hand that shields the fragile flame.  It illuminates even less than you'd expect, except when steps cease.  And outside the circle of light? Darkness which is deeper.

"We see the darkness, and some go in.  It is the abyss."

Tired?  He fled for so long.  There could be no blame.  Chased through sky and forests, rivers, wars, destruction.  Sea breaking upon land.  Axe in hand.


The last trick, final cunning, the last place he'd be found?  Glinting against sun, wind through pinions.  Before thrones, bound in prison.  Where else could he hide?

No.  I wasn't hiding.

I said to a friend, "We see the darkness, and some go in.  It is the abyss.  We have to find out what is there, to find where the meaning leaks out."

Our faces hold the light of others who are gone.  Our faces become lined with shadow in their absence.

A final stand, then?  Being chased so long, fatigue turned to rage, like the ermine seen by Breton kings just as the conquerors rolled in to slaughter.  Turned like the ermine, flattened under wheel, a final, futile gesture to inspire those who'd remain?

No.  That would have been futile, as you say. 

I said to a friend, "We see the darkness, and some go in.  It is the abyss.  We have to find out what is there, to find out if there is meaning. 
And we see only the abyss.
And some go mad.
And some never return.
And some--"

I don't know, then.  Why?

The hunted hunts.  There is no hunt without the hunted.  There is no hunt without the hunter. I wanted to see how much the hunter wanted me.

"And some," I said, "come back wielding light against that darkness.  Seeing nothing, we bring back fire, we light lamps, candles, torches.  We hold light that isn't ours, as how else would anyone else see?"

Hold a candle in a dark forest and walk into the trees.
The wax burns your hand, but it cools.  The light illuminates little as you walk.
And don't imagine for a second that the candle is for you, but hold it anyway, because something is looking for you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Travel Journal Six: Penn ar Breizh

Penn ar Breizh (the End of Bretagne)


I've been asking myself many questions to which I do not care to know the answer.  Rhetorical games with myself, I guess.  Unnecessary, perhaps, but useful.  And in writing this, I should admit that I talk to myself--a lot.  Sometimes I answer back, yes, and sometimes I argue with myself.  Mostly I just chuckle a bit, particularly now, particularly often.

After the night on Menez Hom, a resounding inquiry voiced itself: "What are you going to do now, without your fear?"  

This is deeper than it appears.  A long time ago, someone who cared for me deeply stated that my politics and way of life were extinguishable from my coping mechanisms, and he was, at that time, utterly correct. On the surface, there are two clear ways of confronting fear: the first, going directly at, towards, and through that which creates anxiety.  The typical opposite, in most estimations, is merely running away from it.  

But, no.  There's a third way.  Build yourself a magnificent castle, or a city ringed by fortresses in which you foster life inside.  Invite your friends, artists, musicians, poets, priests, artisans--create a world within a wall, and enlarge those walls when needed, and never once mention to yourself the founding terror of the place. People will come from miles to visit what's been built, what it inspires in them, but, of course, the unacknowledged core of its existence remains unspoken.

The experience on that mountain, asleep under the full moon without a tent, the dreams and visions and whispers ripped me from my fear, and, to be honest, I sort of miss it in the way that one might miss an abusive lover or a gilded cage.  

I'm not explaining this well.  I often don't.  My words rarely mean what I intend them to mean, and I haven't even quite come to grips with precisely what it is I'm even trying to say.  But something is missing, and it's weird to find it gone.

September 22nd (Alban Elued/Equinox)

I left Quimper with a strange heavyness.  Really--those more minded in the earth and the material will certainly find my explanation problematic or just silly, but it felt like every step towards the train station became more difficult, like the city was...pouting. Or maybe I was.  I don't know, but I made certain promises to myself and certain promises, aloud, to the rivers of that city that I shall either return or help build a world in which others come to see its beauty, come to hear the whispering of the water flowing through it like veins, come to stand in awe of the ancient, waiting spirit of the hills.  Mayhaps, even, come to learn and unravel better than I'll ever be able to its mysteries.

I'm still haunted by the woman I mentioned, behind a fence at a mental hospital.  She seemed--happy, but wild.  I've worked for years with the mentally-ill, but there's something fiercely different in her.  And she, on a hill, seemed maybe to have heard the same thing I did.  This is terrifying. This is also comforting.

After these promises, my pack felt lighter, my steps more certain, and I made it to the station with plenty of time to sit and smoke.  (As a side note, and as a matter of responsibility, I should mention it's often unwise to travel on sundays in France, as there are either few--or, in the case of Quimper, no-- buses.  Such a thing is quite inconvenient if one is travelling, but seeing almost an entire city thronging the streets on the same day each week is the heritage of theocratic governance--not all bad, I guess).  I talked at length with a Senegalese man, rolled him cigarettes (have I mention I failed at quitting?) and took the train to Rennes.

Waiting for a bus in Rennes, I got caught in the middle of a game of street soccer, happily inebriated youths laughing and only half-apologizing when the ball hit an old woman in the head.  I felt lumbering (70 pounds heavier with my three bags, yeah?) and overheated and a little grumpy until one of them circled me a few times, clownishly, and then stepped on each of my boots with his bare-feet and pretended I was a statue of a giant, too-solemn and too-somber.

It's hard to take yourself seriously after this.   The bus came, I got on with almost a hundred other people, and an old woman offered me her seat as I apparently looked more needy than her.  I accepted, and then found the few people who'd surrounded me in their game thronging me now, laughing and pulling out instruments.  They started playing, and then others on the bus started humming along, and again, that dream from before, "did you forget your recorder? You should not forget your recorder" returned and suddenly I'm playing along with them, and old Breton song called Tri Martolod (link follows at the end, just because it's a damn good song).

Followed them to a park (all my stuff with me, still), played some more music, drank, and then, hours later, finally set up my tent and, inadvertantly, passed out.


September 23rd

I spent the morning preparing my stuff to leave Bretagne altogether.  The next day, I was to go to Strasbourg (from whence I'm writing this), so I wandered one last time around Rennes, my eyes lingering upon every tree in my vision, the Breton streets I won't see again for awhile, and the people.

I wish I could better explain Bretons.  Actually, look--I wish I could better explain Bretagne.  I was only there for less than three weeks, and I feel like it's soaked itself into my skin, into my lungs, into my soul.

I worry a bit, though, that the more I attempt to explain it, the more distant it becomes now, sitting here in an apartment in an Alsatian city, far away from the rivers and the stones and alder.  Also, the magpies, the toads, and the (unseen) boar.  The streets, the fairy-tale quality of the clouds, the setting sun torching the sky in brilliant colors.  The feel of the rain, even the inconvenient rain.

In a daze, or perhaps in a dream I wandered those streets one last time, eating another pain au chocolat and an apple turnover (chausette au pomme, or apple-sock).  I stumbled into a Breton book store and found a copy of an academic text concerning the legend of the Isle of Ys (for you Gaulish/Celtic reconstructionists who don't know french, I'll be writing a review sometime soon), and then returned to my tent, made myself dinner, and wandered one last time into the woods, sitting alone as the sun set, candles lit about me, watching the stars peer through the clouds, listening one last time to the trees and the birds and whispering my own farewell.  Not adieu, but more au plus-tard, not "good-bye" but "until a bit later."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Travel Six: Three rivers at the end of the world

September 17th:  

I slept really hard that night.  The rains began, as Quimper seemed always misted, greyed, and doused of much life.  But, well, no--anyone who's lived in Seattle knows full well that a city can be grey and rainy yet still pulsing with some inner life--it's just a question, then, for anyone to consider what sort of life courses through its streets.

Quimper's fucking gorgeous, and fucking dark. It's Kemper in Breton, or "confluence," as it sits upon three rivers which meet before flowing out to the sea. These rivers cut gouges through the forested hills of the capitol of Finistere ("Penn ar Bed" in Breton, or "end of the world..." and it feels like it.), meet, flow away, sluggishly, as the people, as quickly, walk by it along the quays.

I don't mean to make it sound depressing--it kind of is, actually, but--but I want it.  I want to live there, almost desperately, and this urge surprises me.  It urged me on continuously, treading across the cobbles through the medieval warrens each of which seems, ultimately, to lead to the Cathedral of Saint Corentin.

I finally visited the place, as no matter which direction I walked from it, I'd be there again.  Saint Corentin is one of the 7 founding saints of christian brittany, attributed not just to the usual sets of miracles but also of living on an ancient, lost island city similar to Atlantis and multiplying fish just like Jesus.  

If you go there, don't use the holy water.  It's been pissed in, and not by me.  Possibly the angry drunk punks outside, possibly by some angry Breton.  And there's lots, and I don't know how to explain it, but I think something's waking up there. Not in the Cathedral, nor underneath, but something behind the dazed look on some of the faces of the Bretons you see on the street.

I don't want to tell you about the Cathedral of Saint Corentin or about Saint Corentin himself.  I'd rather tell you what I heard someone explain to me in a bar:  "He took away our joy.  He made us safe, him and the other christians, but we lost our joy."  This from an atheist.

There are pages and pages I could write about the modern Breton culture, breton nationalism (which looks less like nationalism and more like cultural survivalism, from what I've seen), and the conversations I had.  But I'm paying by the minute here at an internet cafe, and I'd like to study it more. But it's fascinating to see people actively attempting to regain their past and weave it into their present, even at a time of economic misery (Quimper, like much of Bretagne, is going through a hard recession).

There's more I'd say on this, but I need to go back to understand.

September 18th

Another hard rain and a strange darkness, woken into after strange dreams.  The rivers speak, the hills speak, but I do not know their language, and I think they fear they've forgotten how to speak.

Woke into the rain, into the sharp edge of solitude.

"Ah--zu want zur Tea in my tente?"

I looked at her.  Breton to the core, straight out of a Jean Jeunet film.  Her tent next to mine--I'd seen her a few times, said bonjour and all of that (it's a secret, by the way--want someone to remember you? say hello to them.  Otherwise you don't exist. It's like all of life) but had given little thought to her beyond this, wrapped so deeply in my own thoughts.

"Zur tente-not do zu say, sec?"

"Oh, it's dry," I replied in French.  This tent, it should be noted, has been excellent for the rains of Bretagne.

"Oh, good." She seemed downtrodden.  I felt diminished at my refusal, as she appeared to be.

I got to thinking...why do I refuse the kindness of strangers? I mostly survived off of it when I was younger, and it's essential when traveling.  What--what made me change?

I suspect Seattle.  Like extricating oneself from brambles, or worse, extricating ivy from a forest, I don't think I can quickly explain the tendrilled fear-of-the-other that city taught me.  But I'd been aware of it for quite some time, and remained so that day.

I roamed about the city for a while, thinking on this matter, thinking on the inexplicable dreams and the subtle, garbled whispers from the city.  I wrote some, read some more, and got lost.

If you want to know a place in which you don't live, get lost.  Forget your map, get rid of your GPS (I've multiple stories of running into tourists looking for places in Seattle which were directly in front of them, yet their phones told them to keep walking), and walk 'till your feet bleed.

I fucking fell in love with the darkness of the city that day, its dripping clouds soaking me, its back alleys and hidden alcoves becoming not shelter but gateways.

September 19th

Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke to an animal noise.  Snorting, rustling, very close to my ear.  In that state between sleeping and waking, I say to myself, "Oh. It's a boar.  She's hungry, poor thing," and then fall back to sleep.

I wake to find my tent covered in la merde d'oiseux and find the packaging for all of my food scattered about, and a package of salami oddly missing.

The woman next to me approached again. "A wild boar," she said in french.  "They come from the hills."

I did my best to clean up the mess, and then, a little later, the woman approached again.  I noticed I was going into "no" mode before even hearing her offer, so I checked myself and listened.

"My friend and I--we are going to an old medieval sea fort, perhaps you would come with us?"

I would have been an idiot to say no.

The deux Laurences (feminine name) have been friends since early school.  One utterly Breton, the other utterly gaulish, the both more fun than any two friends have right to be.  They drove us all to Concarneau, a strange castle-on-the-sea much like a small St. Malo.  For hours we wandered around the old ramparts, talking, eating Breton cookies, laughing at everything.  Me and two middle-aged women and a medieval fort.

I learned more about Bretagne from those two than any of the books I've read, and more about how I am being perceived.  Breton Laurence told me that she was certain, "You--you are not much like the other ones of your friends, right? I mean, you are strange, in a very good way.  Also, an american in Quimper? How rare!"

She seems to be right.  In fact, everywhere I've gone except in Rennes, with everyone I've spoken, it is the same refrain.  Not many Americans visit Bretagne, and in many cases I was the first some of them had met.

It felt fucking wonderful to be around people, to have conversation with others, and, in addition, I'll admit that I wasn't aware that my french had become so good that I could spend the day with two people and speak nothing but.

Dinner, and then...a gay bar.

I needed to fortify myself for the next day, you see.  Also...Breton men are excruciatingly gorgeous, and the idea of being a bit closer to them than merely passing on the street m'interesse'd greatly.

There's one in Quimper (there used to be three, but like many other places in the city, the others recently closed). Bar 100 Logique, I believe.  I arrived around 9, sat myself at the bar next to the four other people there, and began to write in my journal.

5 beers, 2 shots, and three hours later I walked myself home.  I bought one of those drinks, the others were all from the (very charming, rather gorgeous) and the two old breton gents with whom I spoke for the majority of the night.  Apparently, "c'est mignon" (it's cute) how I speak French, fumblingly, a little bro-ish, and often overly formal.  Also, I'm otherwise mignon, I was told.

Walking through ancient cobbled streets drunk is something not to be missed.  It's become a habit of mine to walk thusly and shout "older than shit!" at cathedrals (a habit I picked up in Strasbourg), but I was a bit more subdued.  I'd forgotten mostly what I meant to do the next day, though a few of the people at the bar to whom I'd mentioned it suggested I was quite "fou" (foolish), and wished me "bon courage."

A car pulls up next to me.  "Oi--Reeed. It's Rafael."

It was the bartender.

"I will drive you home," he said.

Another offer from a stranger, and I assented, as I'm not sure I would otherwise quite have made it.  He dropped me off at the entrance of the camping place, bid me farewell, and I passed out.

September 20th (Menez Hom)

Rafael had, at some point in the night or earlier the next morning, left an envelope on my tent containing a note with his phone number and a request that, if I ever return to Quimper, I call him.  I certainly shall.

A bit more hung over than perhaps I should have been, I gathered my stuff and took a bus 30 miles to the north to Menez Hom, an ancient hill in the "black mountains" of Finistere known to have been a religious site for druids.  They'd found statues of Brighid in martial dress and old walls with know apparent evident purpose.

The place is more storied than any other place I've visited.  And I don't know how to tell you about my story there.  It might not matter.

I need to go back.  I saw, along one of the trails, an identical landscape to a vision I'd seen a few months ago, and in the spot where I'd seen a tower in the vision I saw instead--well.

Look.  I don't know.  I'll be going back.  I'll need to return to find out why there are recently carved norse runes in the pavement in places, and what at least one of the six dreams I had as I slept under a full moon amongst corn without a tent meant.

But anyone who knows the old bardic myths knows that one does not hide from certain goddesses amongst corn.

September 21st

Nothing happened this day, except walking back down the hill in a confused daze, returning to Quimper, packing for Rennes, and indulging in a pizza (french pizza is strange) and sleeping and having more dreams.

Suffice it to say, however, this--I shall miss the fuck out of Quimper--

--and I shall return.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Travel journal five: Gorse, Heather, Alder, Vine

September 14th

The days are stringing together like a tapestry I didn't know the soul could weave.

The fourteenth?  Where...that was the day with the alignements and the deer and the heather, the day I lost the camera? No, that was a different--that is the same.

All is always now, except not, because the sun sets and I get sleepy, and the sun rises and I awaken, and between those moments is every color in which life is painted, every note in which life is sung, every word in which the world breathes intself into our souls.

What happened? The 14th...that was samedi...yes, the deer.

I awoke, the dream of the giant sorting through my thoughts, my desire, his voice deep, his voice quaking, like an old lover I'd forgotten I had, who returned to ask who it was had visited my heart since he last went hunting.  He held a fragment of cloth, a fragment of thought and asked, "whose was this?"  And I had to answer that I hadn't met him yet, but intend to, and I awoke.

Breakfast is always a baguette, except that it was a baguette and eggs and tea and coffee and framboise-jam.  I had awakened into ombre, shadow, feeling--was this the day of light? Of the fire?  I think so.

I sent off a letter (is it for this he was asking?) and went for a walk.  There are abbeys, but not ancient.  They are massive, dominating in their walled cloistered prayers, but they are only as old as Seattle, so they held less interest than other places.  I like all ages of lovers, but not in architecture.  They must be old enough to have great-grandfathered my great-grandmother for me to consider them worthy of my affection.

Still.  I had a walking stick, finally.  Pine, until later, when it became Alder.  There is a pine grove across from the entrance to the Abbey of St. Michel.  This does not surprise me, nor did the oak grove across from the alignments of Menec, but I'm not there yet.

A back path, a faded chemin. Heather in my pocket, because it was beautiful and I knew I would need to give it as a gift. When given the choice between stealing across private property and cutting through gorse, take the choice I didn't take. Gorse is friendly in that "hey I'm a little too drunk for this" sort of way. Gorse reminds me of the only time I was in San Francisco, at a bar with my then-lover whose finger was in a rather intimate place until I realised both of his hands were otherwise occupied.  That stranger's finger? That's Gorse. And it's beautiful, but overly friendly.

The chemins end, or continue onto roads before weaving back out of the interruption of modern transit.  Walking on a paved part of a chemin is like walking through mud, yet less earthy, and louder.  And there, at the side of the modern, I saw the corpse of a newly-dead fawn, its eyes open to the sky, unmourned perhaps.  I found the use of the heather and bid it safe passage.

The Alignments:  look.  I can't tell you about them.  I can't show them to you because of the camera.  All I can say--they are old not in that ancient way but in that chthonic way, older than primeval, radiating an intensity that isn't for us any longer, or not yet, not until we've learned the intensity that is for us.  But you should see them anyway, and stand in the oak grove across from them and be very, very quiet.

I watched a wedding begin at the chapel of St. Corentin.  I felt I needed to.  I did.

And then another long walk home, to dinner, to stars, and to a nearby...rave.  I slept through it.  It was for the wedding guests.  A bunch of them were crying afterwards. Raves, I guess, could do this.

September 15th.

Another day of rest.  Little to say until evening, when I walked one last time to the chapel of St. Barbe.  I don't know why it draws me more than the others...perhaps because she's the only saint who hasn't taken something from me, yet.  Long story.

I had a dream months ago.  I was in a house, and I was leaving, and I tried to go up a path (a chemin, it would turn out), and two men blocked me.  The first was in shadow, the second in light, but "his a face still forming" (t.s. eliot), and they would not let me leave.  The one in shadow smiled, like he was waiting for me, and the one in light said, only, "did you forget your recorder? You should not forget your recorder."

I brought my recorder to the chapel just before sunset and played.  At first I was alone, and then later others entered, sitting, listening.  I stopped at some point, afraid I was disturbing the silence, until a man with a young daughter said, "C'est mieux avec la musique," and so I continued.

The song I played was not one I'd heard before.  I don't feel like I made it up, more that it seemed an old song still echoing off the stones, one that I picked up.  It's hard to explain, but certain notes sounded better within those old walls, and certain progressions of these notes were better than others, and next thing you know you have a song, and it seems best described as the song of that place.  And as she was leaving, an old woman bowed her thanks to me.

And then a final visit to wells, and a farewell to the place.  I tied a bit of blue scarf to two elder trees growing in the water of a fountain, joining them together, and their combined branches made a gate that I looked through and found to be the same place I'd sat a few nights ago, the crossroads, three chemins meeting.

September 16th.

I left in the morning. My Alder staff in hand, rucksack on my back, treading one last time down the alleys and streets to the place where a bus would take me to a train to Quimper.  

Someone stopped.  She smiled, waved, and gave me a thumbs-up.

A little while later, a car honked, and both of the passengers waved and said, "merci."

Were they thanking me for visiting? For playing in the chapel? There were so many people in there that one or two of them could have been those people.  They all looked familiar.  They can't have seen all the trash I picked up around the standing stones (look, kids--if you're gonna fuck in the telluric springs, fucking bring your condom wrappers with you on the way out, yeah?).  

Or maybe they do this to everyone.  Still, it felt--warm.  Happy.  Right.

The train to Quimper did not take long.  I was starting to feel a bit feverish, and it's likely that I've gotten a bit ill.  Laying on the ground all the time, often when it's raining, is probably not incredibly good for the constitution in the short term. Long term? Probably fucking fantastic.  

Quimper is...fucking dark.  Alder everywhere, and beautiful people, and a sense of lust and madness and poverty.  I want to live here.  Dominated by the Cathedral of St. Corentin (him again...), founding mythically by King Gradlon after the sinking of the city of Ys (long story, and I hope to tell it better someday soon), the confluence of three rivers, hills dividing the city, flanking the valleys in which people live.  

Yet again, I tore away from my camp site just after setting up the tent and walked, walked...

I gotta stop doing this.  I ended up on one of the hills, which is where I was headed, because I didn't want to go to the Cathedral of Corentin yet.  And I'm on this massive hill which is hard to reach and fenced off, and there's a woman, drest well, behind a fence in a mental-hospital.  The hill is covered by psychiatric and other specialty hospitals.  

She said, "bon nuit," and I didn't answer, and not because I didn't understand.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Travel Journal, 4

September 11th

I have almost no time at the moment, but I wanted to update you folks.

I left Rennes and got to Plouharnel/Carnac a few hours later and pretty much lost myself immediately.  I almost didn't wait to set up my tent--I practically found myself running out onto the chemins, visiting as many holy sites as I could in a very short time before the sun set.  I almost missed the closing of the only grocery store in Plouharnel on account of this fanaticism. 

It's really damn hard to explain how insane this place is.

I arrived near 4pm, set up my tent, bavarded a bit with the the owners of the camping site (who haven't changed much since I saw them 9 years ago, though they've got two young children now).  On my way to the site I got a bit lost, on account of getting off at the wrong stop, and ran into a group of old breton women who preceded to flirt with me uncomfortably.  One asked if I'd hitchhiked, and when I told her no but mentioned I'd considered it, she answered "someone as nice and attractive as you? People will stop."

As I said, after setting up the tent, I went for a long walk, visiting the chapel of Ste. Barbe (one of the oldest here) and several fountains which I'd remembered before.  Walked until it was dark, headed back, made dinner and passed out to strange, scattered dreams.

September 12th

I woke awfully early, took a shower, made breakfast (coffee, gallettes, jam) and decided to go for a short walk. 

If, by short, one means 12 hours and 18 or so miles.  The path I chose was a series of linked chemins which go along the bay towards Carnac in the south.  It meanders through gorse, heather, blackberries, and wind-contorted pines and firs, past and through old villages, oyster farms, fountains, lavoirs (baths, though they're a bit mucky and I have not used them) and insanely breath-taking views of the sea.

When I started out, the bay was near dry, gulls and herons feasting off of the crustaceons exposed to the air.  There were huge piles of shells here and there, where the birds gathered their spoils and then left their refuse.

I forgot to bring food, or hadn't cared to, so I ate as many blackberries and unripe blueberries as I could handle--this is a lot, you should know, and my hands were stained purple by the time I reached Carnac-ville.

What can I say about this walk?  I would show you things, photos, but--fuck.

I lost my camera.

When I arrived in Carnac, I headed first to the chapel of St. Cornaille (I think that's his name), one of the 6 founding saints of Bretagne (that is, on of the 6 christian founders).  I need to maybe stop going to greet saints, for as I fumbled for my camera which I'd been using extensively during the walk, I found it gone.

This was utterly frustrating.  After walking around a bit, buying a pain-au-chocolat (of course) and a baguette, I started the walk home, retracing my steps to find where I must have lost the camera.

Thing is, it was getting quite dark.  I could already feel the day fading, and I had not brought my flashlight.  But I found myself obsessing over this camera and where I could possibly have lost it.  I needed it, you see.

Well, sort of.  This made me think about several things (walking for miles is great for thinking), including why I'd been taking so many photos in the first place.  It was, mostly, for you, dear reader, dear friends.  I don't resonate heavily with photos myself, unless they are extremely good, but I thought for certain this would be the best way to explain to you how fucking beautiful this place is, how strange and wondrous it is to come out from a copse of pine or oak to a small medieval village and then see the sea. 

I walked extra, retracing my steps several times in order to find where I'd lost the fucking thing.  It was getting quite close to sunset, I knew this was a lost hope, but I took another detour to check one last time. 


I wonder, though.  Did some higher part of myself leave it on the rocks on purpose?  Or did I leave it at the chapel?  It's loss has actually been a very good thing for me.  Here's why:  I'd see something profound, beautiful, breathtaking, Otherworldly, and immediately fumble for my camera, snap a couple of photos, check to see if I'd caught the image right, and then put it away and walk on. 

That is, I stopped seeing things, except to see them for others.  I realised this just as the sun was setting, just as I knew I had no hope of getting back before dark.  I sat on a rock, frustrated, tired (my feet are mangled, by the way), and found myself seeing something unimaginable in its beauty.

The sun set over the bay, brilliant and dark hues of purples, violets, blues mixing with crimson reflecting off the water of the bay (the tide had come in fully now).  Greens of seaweed floated like islands upon the water, and silver danced in the waves where the last whites of the sun hit.  The stones of the shore are black, but also dun, as was the sand though giving off a yellow-gold that seemed like trapped sunlight from the warm day.

I cried, but not from sadness.

September 13th.

Nothing happened today. 

This is not true, of course. But most of it was in my head. I wrote a letter, I read Tarot and Ogham and a book (a fucking great one, by the way, called The Art of Pilgrimage).  And I ate. 

Mostly, I hobbled.  I rather messed up my feet with that walk.  They're better today, and I'm in the middle of another 10 mile walk. 

Oh.  One thing happened, I guess.  After dark, I went for a walk and sat at a crossroads for several hours (probably 3 or 4, I'm guessing).  I suggest it.  I'll have more to say on this later. 

And I woke the next morning (but I'm not talking about this yet) to a dream of a giant sorting through my head. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Travel Journal, Three

September 9th

I had what should have been a bad day, except, well, no. 
I wandered around the grande ville again for several hours and found myself getting oddly lost, like I was walking in a labyrinth.  Mostly, I'd been trying to find that pool again, with the severed head.  I wanted to think and read tarot and journal at it, because it felt oddly sacred...but no.  No luck. 

I walked for HOURS, getting progressively more lost, finding myself each time turning back upon the same alleys.  But here's an interesting thing about labyrinths: they are mazes on the outside which walk you through similar, strange twists internally.  Anyone who's walked a labyrinth as part of a ritual understands this, I imagine. 
Where my mind was going, I'm not quite sure.  I was everywhere and nowhere, stumbling repeatedly upon the same cathedrals, the same chapels. 
Later, I went to ameliorate what was the most pressing problem of mine: lack of cooking fuel.  The campsite shop (every municipal one has this) had none, and I'd heard of a strange shopping center, about a mile and a half away from the campground, that would sell it. 
From the center of the city I took a bus, listening to the conversations around me while still turning within my head.  And I arrived, and oh gods....
Malls in the US terrify me.  I've been to one in the space of maybe 6 years because of this, and that was with a fellow druid, and we were only there to get a sandwich.  But I was now in another, except in France, and oh--
Culture shock comes for me when I go shopping for groceries.  Upon return from europe each time, I break down when I enter an american grocerystore.  And at some point it happens in Europe, too, surrounded by configurations which make NO sense. 
Still, found what I thought I was looking for, left, and cut across some back alleys and a Chemin (trail in French, in Bretagne the word usually refers to the Old Tracks).  There, I gorged on elderberries and blackberries and strolled with less care than before back to the campground.
But--oi.  Gas canisters used to be standardized in Europe.  The same one from the same company fit in everything they made, but it seems, unfortunately, they've caught on to the ridiculous absurd shit America does, where you ALWAYS IMPROVE and therefore ALWAYS MAKE OLDER STUFF OBSOLETE. 
I had to go back to the mall, this time to get a different cooking stove (the new and improved one which fits the three canisters I'd bought). Normally such a journey to undo something that didn't go correctly the first time really pisses me off, but at least I got to walk by more berries. I picked up a bottle of Breton cidre while I was at it, gathered more berries and flowers, and returned to my site, finally getting to make myself tea, and then dinner, and then a mulled cidre with the berries I'd gathered. 
I'm not fully certain what happened next, and some of it is not for this conversation, but I found myself out in the woods, not exactly drunk but most definitely intoxicated by something intensely different from what I normally experience.

September 10th.

There was a transit strike, so I spent most of the day at my tent, reading, thinking, and organizing.  Also, drinking more tea than one really ought (it'd been DAYS, you know). 
Most of the day I was in my head, dreaming, attempting to make sense of the world around me.  No--this isn't quite true.  Actually, I've been attempting to make sense of the world I left behind, now that there's a continent and an ocean between myself and it. 
Returned to the city, bought my train tickets for the next leg.  In about an hour I leave for Carnac/Plouharnel, where I've been before.  This is the place I've dreamt the most about, and the dream which compelled me to return to Bretagne took place there.  It's littered with standing stones and wells and old tracks and chapels, and though I'll be there a few more days than I was here, I'm not sure it's going to be enough time. 
I finally found that fountain with the severed head again.  I'd circled it repeatedly the day before.  This doesn't surprise me.
I may not be able to update for a few days, as the closest internet will be a 45 minute walk away, and I've much to do there. 
Many of you are in my thoughts, by the way.  I miss knowing there are people close by to talk to who know me. I've little time to reply individually to emails, but I've been reading 'em all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Travel Journal, Two

September 7

I arrived in Paris around 1pm, groggy.  Since customs had been done in Iceland, arriving in Charles de Gaul was not difficult, except for the 50 pound bag on my back.

The rucksack I have is rather great, actually.  It's heavy by itself, and incredibly heavy with everything I've got packed into it, but once you wear it, it's nearly weightless.  That is, of course, until you're on a bus which suddenly stops and you find you've got much more mass than you remember.

From Paris, I took a train to Rennes.  The train station is within part of the terminal (something which cannot happen in the united states, as everyone wants to blow us up and trains are socialist, right?).  Not difficult to reach, not difficult to negotiate, but all liquids for sale cost roughly 3 american dollars.  A pain au chocalat is still the correct price, as France has a long history of bread riots, so price gougers know better.

Arrived in Rennes around 6pm.  The first thing which hit me was the air.  I cannot describe it, nor could I possibly take a photo of it, but I can maybe tell you how it made me feel:
Like I'd breathed it before, in some other world for years, decades, perhaps an entire lifetime.

The campground I'm staying in is quite good.  It's nothing like an american camping ground--France has public, city-run campgrounds in almost every decent-sized city, and they're both plain and perfectly useful.  This one happens to be in a wooded park, near several could almost spend one's entire time within the park and the campground and feel one has fully vacationed, except, of course, for there being a city nearby.

And the city's quite excellent.  After setting up my tent, I all but ran back to it (jet-lag is for losers), except on a bus.  There's a bus directly from the campground to the centre-ville, and it takes about 20 minutes or so to get there.

I wandered for a few hours, purposefully without a map, turning corners into sudden explosions of ancient architecture (though most of what's here is no older than the 1600's) and streets thronged with people.

I got some street food (I'm sort of embarassed by its name, but it was good), took it to a square where punks were playing with their dogs and fashionably drest students were playing a Breton version of horse-shoes and ate, suddenly aware of something I hadn't quite experienced in a long time:


I was here, in a place which has called (back) to me for years, and had nothing to do but live.

When I returned to the campground, I hung out with an Irish couple who drank me a bit too much and regaled me with stories of their homeland (New Grange--I must go)m their occasional ice-cream shop (guinness ice-cream, it seems), their hopes to move to France.  Maybe the most absurdly hospitable people I've met in quite some time, I had a significant time attempting to persuade them that I really didn't need to smoke all of their cigarettes and drink all of their wine.  Also, I couldn't find camping fuel the first night, and the next day was a sunday, so they let me borrow their cooking stove to make tea in the morning.

September 8

I slept maybe the first very deep, very restful slumber in months.  Woke cold, the stars still out, rabbits everywhere. Felt damn good.

I saw Ian and Emily off (the aforementioned irish folk) with some tea that I'd brought with me from Seattle, as the french tend towards weak tea.  Even as I write this, a day later, I've still got Ian's irish accent in my head, a funny thing to have remain but also quite welcome.

Spent maybe four hours in Rennes after this, exploring more, eating more pain au chocolat (this will be a recurring theme), and sitting in random places with fountains and well of strange and wondrous design.  This one's my favorite so far:

I'm actually quite proud I got the reflection of the face, as I'm not generally a very good photographer.  And I've got all sorts of other photos already, but only a few will have to suffice for now, as the computers in this internet cafe are hit or miss (some shut down immediately when i plug in a camera, some work perfectly well) and I'm currently on one towards the side of "miss."  I like not having constant access to a computer.  I like that I don't see many smartphones around here.  I like that people are talking to each other--everywhere.

I dislike that I have to travel to another country to see this again.

No bitterness, though.  Seattle's rather far away at the moment.  I did a quick check on Facebook and confirmed that, yes, everyone is still posting pictures of what they had for dinner and yes, complaining about waiting a couple of minutes for a bus and yes, narrating their lives through tiny witticisms that sometimes land utterly flat.

I've been thinking about this a lot, particularly.  Narrating one's life is quite crucial and I think probably universal.  However, I've noticed there's plenty of times that I experience something and immediately wonder how to describe it to someone else.  This--this is probably not good.  Not everything is meaningful, not everything can be re-inscribed into the world of others (who really cares what you had for dinner?) or should be thus re-inscribed.

But obviously, some things can be and should be.  Why tell story in the first place?  Why write any of this at all, or read what others say?

Maybe we've gotten lazy, or maybe more desperate for material.  Maybe going to France was a very, very good idea for me.

Nah.  It was fucking brilliant.

As far as druid stuff goes, there's been plenty already.  I found myself collecting crystalline cedar resin and had a woman stop and ask me, fascinated, what I was doing. Had my necklace shatter dramatically in front of a statue of a saint in a church (still not sure what that was about), and, last night, saw a toad hopping across my path and said hello to him.  Not sure if it's quite common for toads to stop when you greet them instead of fleeing, or if it's quite common for them to let you pick them up after this.  At the very least, he seemed a very, very nice toad.

More in a few days.  There's a transit strike tomorrow, which may affect my plans to go to Carnac, but may not.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Travel Journal (one)

3 September, midday:

My higher-mind functions are a bit off currently.  I've been thinking about this as it relates to the binary thinking of sane/mad, spiritual/mundane. The last couple of days at work I wrote extensively in my spare moments, which were few as there were people screaming (always people screaming) and it was my last continuous access to both a computer and a printer.

The essay I was trying to write was regarding Madness and Belief.  If I ever finish it, I'll post it.  Suffice for now to say that I've been working on a conceptual framework and a theory as to why there was such an initial resistance within my mind when I started encountering the Other.

This statement isn't completely true--the resistance was more social than mental: that is, I more needed to check with others (constantly) that what I was seeing, sensing, hearing, dreaming and feeling did not qualify as madness, regardless of how otherwise quite well-trained I am in recognising the signs of mental imbalance in others.

Last night was my final shift as a low-level, underpaid social worker for a homelessness agency.  Not altogether bad, I guess, though I'm utterly relieved to be free of it.  One of the clients dressed in drag and prophesied for me (a strange experience in itself, which goes back to my attempts to find the precise line between the insane and the spiritually-aware): I am to have sex on the steps of a cathedral, and if I do not wish to take a plane, the woman who comes down from the stars will take me up, he said.  Another particularly mad client told me that, instead of going to France, I should go to Florida.

Speaking of Florida (strange woman), I have an extensive contingency plan in case I find myself not staying in Europe.  This involves hitting much of the east coast and then crashing with my sister in south florida for awhile until--well, I can barely plan a week ahead, so such a question is useless to ask.

The possibility of staying has come up a few times in other's readings of my situation, though my own divinations make it rather clear I'm to return for some reason.  I've been joking it will be with an army.

Washing my tent.  I went to a Radical Faerie gathering in Beltaine, and because I was perhaps the only fag who went for the pagan part of the pagan-sex aspect of the gathering, the forest gave me an STD anyway: poison oak.  I don't think I've mentioned this to many, but I think I laid a towel down on a patch of it and then dried my entire body after an open shower in a field.  My entire body.

The doctor, otherwise professional, could not stop cringing and laughing sympathetically when he saw how incredibly large certain areas had become.

So, on the off-chance some of the oil from the plant remains in the tent, I washed it.  Simultaneously sorting through the stuff I intend to take.  I am stubbornly leering at my journals, willing them to become a bit lighter, as I refuse to not take every one of them.

4 September

I packed my bag and everything fits.  I can say with almost complete confidence that I'm not forgetting anything, that everything I need will be inside that bag.  If all goes well, it might even make it to Europe with me.

I've been really into the idea of story for most of the last decade, but it's taken on a new meaning and power for me since beginning druidry.  The first grade, the Bardic grade, focuses much on learning the uses of story, the hidden meanings woven into certain sacred myths, and the stories that can be told about the mundane which infuse the world with the existence of the Other.

And the last couple of weeks have seemed much about completing stories, ending them, or at least closing circles of the worlds contained within that story so that it's unwoven threads do not snag or fray.  Particularly as I am leaving this city and have no intentions of returning, these stories, which are also the stuff of my dreams, the material of my meaning, have each paraded themselves before me as if to say, "write my ending."

The psychological way of putting this is "getting closure."  I dislike the sterility of the term, but it's another useful way of understanding what I mean.

I've had two deep, profound loves while in Seattle.  I've had many loves, each of them beautiful and meaningful, but the ones where you decide to write your story with another, when two people decide not just to love and fuck and care for each other but to co-create their worlds--that is what I mean by deep, profound love, and of these I have two.

The most recent one ended last winter, and it's been a little difficult to narrate that story into completion and, more so, narrate that story into my life now without letting the sadness of its ending stain its threads.  Also, funny thing about me that I've recently recognised--the ideas of love lasting forever and the notion of a lover being "enough" for one (that is, monogamy) have always held intense sway over my heart, simultaneous to me being quite the prophet of open-relationships and knowing that all things must end for them to have ever begun.

A lover isn't just a partner or a friend, he's a fucking world, a dream incarnate, a canvas upon which you paint your desires, a spring from which you draw your inspiration, a wind which carries upon it hope.  The unraveling of that kind of love is always difficult, and it's even harder to write the ending of those stories than any other.

The most recent lover and I met for a final time last night and made dinner together like we used to, ending it with hot cocoa (an old roommate sagely saw this as code for "you've just had sex, huh?", just as the cooking of a specific meal heralded that we were having a "spend-the-night-friend," though this hot cocoa was merely what it was).  It was an old pattern, soaked in meaning, but fraught with nothing except kind recollection.  And we both told each other I think what was most necessary to hear--we shall remember the other always in love, with no hurt or sorrow or "what if," just in love.

The previous lover, a wild, dream-filled 9 year affair, reminded me in an email yesterday that I will be leaving for France very close to the time when he and I returned from France roughly 9 years ago.  He's right, and this is another way in which stories exist--those that have ended sometimes have sequels.  It's a principle of magic that certain things have correspondences in other things, that certain patterns from the past affect the patterns of the future, that certain events in the future redeem certain events in the past. 

And so it is, then. Some stories end, some stories wait to be finished, some stories wait merely for more chapters.  I'm going to several places that I've been before, places where a certain sense began to speak to me deeply.  Many of my dreams have returned to this place, and sometimes I wonder if I haven't been spending most of the last decade attempting to understand what the hell that strange beckoning meant, why everything felt so odd yet so familiar, why I remember specific places there more vividly then I can remember what I had for dinner the night before.