On the banks of the Loire

I’ve been away for a long time, but I have been finishing my book.

When it gets like this. When the slow suffocation of hermetic small town life is at choking point . When the incestuous air becomes unbreathable, then it is time to escape from this land locked rural backwater head for water – So far from the sea though. So far from océans – when you need mighty waves to break upon the shore, to wash up inside of you and purge the sadness, the anger. When you need water to cleanse and purify. When you simply need to stand on a lonely windswept beach and stare out acros the expanse of ocean and wonder what lies beyond.

No océans round here, but when I need water, I head down to the river, down to the banks of the mighty and majestic Loire. Late afternoon, sitting on a bench at St Satur staring out across the Loire. A handful of strollers, mostly elderly people, dog walkers, an afternoon constitutional in the balmy autumn weather. On the sand banks just beyond the shallows, a couple of reed cutters, cut down and strip the tall reeds.

I ask them what they use them for – « basket weaving » comes the answer. Kind of reassuring that there are still those who lake a living with an age old living.

The river is good for my pensive mood. I’m not so much in need of oceanic purification brought by mighty storm driven waves. I need quiet. The river runs calm and deep. The river runs its predestined course down to the sea. The river knows where it is going. Yet the river is deceptive. It runs fast. It hides sandbanks. This is not a river for unseasoned navigators. Beware the Sunday afternoon boatman who rows out into the mid flow. This is not a river for messing about in boats. This river can kill.

The river bank is a good place to reflect on récent life. Four years almost to the day I lost mum. That set of therapeutic scribblings that became a book has just gone to the publisher’s. Guess I’ve finally laid her soul to rest. Feels like my mourning time is finally over. Plenty to think about though like « what now ? » Why not start another book ? Delve down into that part of me where there is still something worth writing about. Dust down one of my many unfinished novels or start yet another never to be finished novel.

I drive home to my hermetic town of exile. Leaving the river bank and driving up into the rolling vine covered hills above Sancerre – this is wine country. The vineyards give way small fields seperated by thick hedgerows – we are in charolais country, and the fields are full of beautifully laid back bovines, nonchalantly grazing on the green green grass sweetened by the recent rains. I love this drive. I love rolling down from the fields and into the vast woodlands – oak, chestnut, pine, birch – the road runs long and pleasant through the golden autumn woods.

Soon, from afar, the spire of our local cathedral, and arriving back in my small town, it is time to complete the pensive ritual – lighting a candle for mum and placing it with the others slowly sending prayers and hopes heavenwards. I don’t have the faith of my fellow candle lighters who make the sign of the cross and kneel before the Our Lady. I have no rosary to count off inumérable Hail Mary’s, so, I just sit here in wonderous blue stained glass light, watching the candle burn and thinking of all those I love and have loved. And it is calm, and it is good to be on silent running. Oh to have faith like the woman a few seats away, feverishly praying and grinding her rosary into dust ? What does she want ? Praying away pain to a marble statue. Perhaps she wants the Virgin to shed tears ? Praying for a miracle ? Her passion becomes very vocal the more she polishes her rosary.

So, I have earthly concerns, and from this moment of spiritual communion, I turn to that moment of family communion where we shall sit this evening, breaking bread and sharing wine. The fridge is empty, and despite this most inspirational of places, I have no inspiration for dinner.