whistlestop caboose

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Monday, June 19, 2006


I drove down a country road today, looking for a place called the Chateau de Vullierens, in the Swiss countryside. I took my daughter out of school to see the doctor and decided that we needed to do something nice afterwards to make up for the unpleasant part of the morning.

The chateau is famous for its iris gardens. Tara, who has physical and mental handicaps, might like the open spaces and benches in the shady woods with their giant 300-year-old trees, I thought.

The weather is hot and endlessly sunny at the moment. I had plans to come back as soon as I could and get to work. My list of things to do was long and the day in the office short.

We drove around a bend in Etoy, a farm village above Lake Geneva. Suddenly, there was a cherry tree that I don't notice during the year but every June I watch this magnificent bearer of fruit as its branches quickly get heavier and the fruit turns red. Every year it becomes covered in cherries. In another week long ladders will be leaning against it.

I paused in wonder at the curious honesty that Switzerland manages to breed: someone probably snitches a few of these cherries, but not many. People walk by, admire, and move on.

Then, driving through a small town called Cottens I slowed down without thinking about it and took a deep breath. The air was pungeant, almost intoxicating, with the sweet, sweet smell of freshly mowed hay.

There is no other smell on earth like this. For just a moment I longed to be a farmer, living next to this, breathing it in all day and all night.

At the iris park we sat on the grass and watched bumblebees move in and out of tall foxgloves, very orderly about their business. Their droning was hypnotic. I forgot I was wearing a watch.

I had to get Tara back to school, but then, passing another newly-mown field and slowly down to breathe it in, I was tempted, so tempted, to just forget all obligations and wander around taking photos all day. I stopped at the top of a hill with a view of multi-toned green crops in long stripes, the deep blue of the lake behind them and the pale hint of high Alps further back, almost lost in the hazy heat.

I thought again about Christine who wrote in a comment here that she longed for those meadows and easier times of childhood. An article that I read yesterday in China Daily came back to me. It suggested that if you're feeling down you should just take a day off. It turned out to be directed at World Cup widows, and I'll have to go back to find out if they mean women should not bothering going to the office or they should stay out of the kitchen.

My father came to mind, as well. I thought he was very religious when I was young because every year he went to Mount Mellory Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa and spent a few days on retreat with the monks there. When we picked him up he was calm and always had a loaf of the best white bread I've ever tasted, with their own honey. It was sweet in every way, having him home again.

My mind drifted to Chartreuse and the monastery there, south of Geneva, in France. I was racing around in that part of France once, doing research for a travel article, with too many tasks and too little time. I gave myself 15 minutes to visit the monastery while husband and small son napped in the car.

I fell in love and would have begged them to take me in, right there and then, if they had taken women. It was tranquility itself: whitewashed walls balanced the ancient wooden beams and windows of the simple cells. Monks chanted somewhere in the distance. Faint sounds of hammering and garden tools clinking drifted in through a long open corridor. The view from the hillside monastery was magnificent, offset by the comfort of the orderly rows of herbs that go into the famous alcoholic drink they make.

What I was really looking for was a small escape hatch, a moment and a place where all obligations could be suspended and I could be a quiet speck in the universe.

I think the Chinese might be right: we should give in to these urges sometimes.


Blogger christin m p in massachusetts said...

It’s reassuring to know that someone else understands what it feels like to be a woman who wishes she could join a monastery – at least for a little while. Sometimes the weight of the world is just too heavy.

Although I might not have been able to find exactly those words, "What I was really looking for was a small escape hatch, a moment and a place where all obligations could be suspended and I could be a quiet speck in the universe." says exactly what I’ve been feeling.

3:38 AM  
Blogger whistlestop caboose said...

I think we have to find ways to create our own mini-monasteries. I suppose that is what my garden does for me. Nobody bothers me too much out there because they know I will try to put them to work :-)

6:25 AM  

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