A friend posted a brief response to a remark I had made online to the subject of my title: B-L-F-G (Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Germany). He guessed correctly, and the time away has given me some food for thought as well as some amazing food for the stomach.
The smallness of Europe hit home as we sped down motorways and side roads leaving Brussels and 4 hours later arriving home in Freiburg, having crossed, or at least entered 4 countries in the process. The mini-holiday is n0w over, but it has given me some time to reflect on some larger issues.
I took my camera with me on the trip and fortunately the Automatic features were acting up for some reason. I say, fortunately because I was then forced to do everything manually like I use to do by default with my old Mamiya 35mm. Having to relearn the ƒ-stops, and shutter speed settings was good medicine. A parishioner regularly posts “today’s moment calm” which I enjoy seeing, both for the creativity and for the much needed pause in the day. Equally important for my trip was to slow down and set the scene, wait for the right light, and adjust the settings on the camera for the perfect picture. Of course not all the photos worked out well, and I am certainly glad that I was not limited to the 24 or so exposures that film would have offered. Nonetheless, I have a few random photos that are from France that I want to speak about.
Boundaries: The first is the gate of the manor house in which we were able to stay amongst extended family members. This old house has rooms for the servants, as well as stately rooms for the former residents, yet on the grounds, which were expansive indeed, is an old iron foundry which is unoccupied. The manor is gated and on the outskirts of the small French village surrounded only by fields of wheat, or pastures of cows. In this area, like many other areas in Europe, the harvest happens all day and night. The heavy machinery needed to harvest the grain is too expensive for each farmer to own, so only one or two large combines and tractors work round the clock. The grain in the picture at the front gate of the manor was gone overnight leaving stubble behind. I took the photo as it symbolized boundaries. The boundaries of farm and manor, industry and agriculture. The stone pillars and the far horizon set the tone for entry into rest and work.
Something that is important to hold onto is the boundaries between rest and work.
Rest: Another photo is a close up of a large snail shell in amongst the green Hosta plants. The snail is right outside the large wooden doors at the front of the house. The snails are much larger than what I would have experienced on the West Coast of Canada, and so are the Hostas as those would often be eaten by the deer moments after planting, or emerging from the ground. The snail was tucked up quietly in its own shell waiting for some cooler temperatures, but it did make me ponder the houses we live in – the largess of a manor house now used for foreign visitors during the summer months, and the smallness of the snails home which travels with and is its source of protection. It is important to curl away in a sleep mood and take time to rest no matter how large or small your house.
Growth and Harvest: In and around the area are several hiking trails, one of which is symbolized with a yellow and green stripe painted onto poles and fence posts. I thought the one captured on camera had all the tones of the surrounding area. One side of the road was green with grass and weeds; the other was newly harvested grain that has dried for weeks in the field. On all our journeys there are times of green growth often right next to golden harvest. The landscape reflected these colours and this mood. In all of life there is time to plant, and time to harvest and sometimes we are fortunate to see it happen before our eyes.
Risk: One of the final photos of the day was at a small stream. The track took me though hot fields and dry roadways. A small bench was situated next to the stream that was full of trout and looked like an ideal place to swim for all the children staying at the manor house. The green trees brought shade and the water was rippled in some places only by small water insects gliding over the surface. The growl of an engine steadily grew as I soon saw a car approaching. Even on some of the smaller roads the speed limit can be significant (90-100 km/hr) and I watched in astonishment as a small car barely slowed to drive through the water. I was filled with envy when I saw this happen as I’ve always wanted to drive through water like that, having only done it once after convincing my Dad to drive his truck through a flooded roadway.
This picture made me think about risk. We would have risked swimming here, and I could have risked taking our own car through the water. The element of risk is sometimes important to shock our systems into life. Just like risking our vulnerability in opening up to people about our feelings, or risking scathing comments for some mediocre photographs.
Vacations, no matter how small, can teach us something. A reminder to risk. To look for signs of growth, and places to harvest. To take the time to be small and rest. To be aware of the boundaries of work and play, heaven and earth.