One day in France,  I departed the hotel of my dreams in Versailles, to return to Paris.

There is a corridor main road between Paris and Versailles off the peripherique (the circle/ring road around Paris) that brings commuters to and fro day in and day out.

The taxi driver was flying along. The roads into Paris were absolutely empty.

Unheard of.

I looked across the barrier to the traffic going in the opposite direction, and it was standing still, bumper to bumper thick. The roads leading south, out of Paris were jammed and not moving.

So, I asked him, “What’s going on?” He smiled quietly and said, “Madame, it is La Toussaint. It is one of the biggest holy/holidays in France. Everyone goes home to be with their family and visit those who have departed.”

Pause.

That was quite a while ago — way before I ever even considered I’d be living in France.

Here now in this life, we live in a small village across from the village church. Every year for weeks leading up to La Toussaint, the French come and tend the graves of their families. They bring buckets, brushes and rags. They soap up and scrub down the polished marble stones…they talk out loud to their dear ones…they pray…they reflect…and they visit their neighbors who happen to be there at the same time doing the same thing.

The last week before La Toussaint, the entire cemetiere becomes  a park of living color. The families come home, eat together, visit and laugh, pay their respects,  ponder life and living, and those who have departed.

They teach their children to do the same; generations come together…Cars roll by one after the other, parking in front of the houses, walking a block to the church, all with huge plants of mums and asters in full bloom, leaving them as gifts to mark the last year turning into the next.

Then there is Ireland…where Toussaint is marked and cherished as well…

‘Druids, chanting, fires and mulled wine on a hill top overlooking all  of the county, we are pitch black in our wellies, in the wind and cold.

It’s lit up with candles and fires..

We start off from the village green and walk up to the base of the hill, about a 1-mile walk in a candle lit procession.  We climb the hill led by Druids chanting.

It is fantastic looking forward to it.

It’s the only time of the year when you feel closer to those who have died; it’s the time when the veil is the thinnest between the living and the dead. You feel as if they are all around you. It’s a  magical place at any time of the year…and we are so lucky to live near it.’

Here it is, the 1st of November. Our life is full but always filling.

Just celebrated my 60th birthday with a fine dining experience in the countryside of Brittany. So my reflections of this past year are of pages turning in the book of life; chapters closing, chapters opening. Softly, gently, like breath itself.

It feels like New Year’s is supposed to feel but it is La Toussaint:)

I’ve reflected and witnessed chapters being absolutely ‘done’…on friends that have come, and gone…on my response to the changes; a constant mantra to what has gone before — ‘may the wind be always at your back.’

I’ve found myself saying this more than once this year. It’s a good approach; a soft and gentle one, to acknowledge what has come, what has been shared, what has been lost, and what remains.

Last night on Hallowed’s Eve in the dark of our garden, I lit a bonfire too. Ushered out the old, welcomed in the new.

Looking out today with the crisp autumn air and east morning sun?

It is brilliant and soul-filling.

Thank you, France, for being in this my life.

……………………….And thank you, Ireland, for being in this, my blood:)

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