HIKING IN AUVERGENE

 A small church in fields of poppies, Auvergne, France

...FEELING ALIVE...

 

What is it like to be alive
in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Auvergne?

Feelings: the sun beating down on me, warming my hair, getting caught between my lashes and my retinas. The cool respite of a cloud passing over the land. Itchy air, warm and tingly, like it is full of pollen. The breeze between my fingers. That thwacking swish swish swish noise of flowering grasses against leather boots. A stile over the meadows, and then another. The grasses give off a sweet smell. 

Then there is that moment when I just stop everything and look up from the ground, and I can hear my breath leave my mouth. It seems loud in the stillness. I feel like I have not seen a cloud in years, at least, not a real one; or maybe I have not been looking in the right way. Because, when I gaze correctly, each cloud has a shape that seems to denote the very width and depth of the landscape before me.

Now looking around seems the best thing to do, as I can see a great many things:  A brook, a deciduous tree, a small fountain, a ginormous dandelion clock, a stone covered in yellow moss, thorns on the blackberries... and, looking down for a moment again, the tracks of a small wild pig in the mud underfoot. 

But, really, looking is not enough, instead I have to pick that giant dandelion clock, and blow off all the seeds; and when we pass a farm I will always inhale all the smells very deeply; and I have to stop at a wild cherry tree to fill a hollow in my shirt with cherries for later, which I then eat straight away. And even then that is not enough, because I also have to swirl my hands in the waters that trickle from the fountain - they are cold - and I must duck into the small stone structure on the edge of the brook, to breath the air in there too - it is musty.

And when I do all of these, I feel very alive. 

Being alive is simple, too, it runs in my veins just like it runs in yours. I feel it when I walk uphill: heart colliding against my chest, and lungs pumping air. 


EPIPHANY

The most ultimate moment, though, was when we walked through the wheat fields under the storm. It had been brewing for a while, and it broke when we reached the grasses, which stretched on for miles. I could feel the electricity in my teeth. Thunder rolled through the fields like the sound of rice on a tin roof. With an uninterrupted view of the storm as it gathered, I realised that there was even more to feeling alive than simply seeing or breathing. There is also the occasional full-bodily epiphany: of the fragility of your own life, knowing that it could be snatched away from you in a second. It reminded me of the moment before a bungee-jump, when I was standing on the edge of the abyss, and I became acutely aware of just how compact and solid my body was compared to the vast expanse of air beneath me. 

Walking through the wheat-field full of lightning, I sensed the bright spark of my own life, and the thin lines connecting it to the wider whole - the powerful push and pull of nature in all her glory. Then, I truly felt alive.

 

 Hiking with Mariken, Ron and Elza the dog in the countryside of Auvergne
 A couple of wild cherry trees and some happy tummies
 A wild rose bush on a dusty lane in the French countryside
 A GIANT dandelion clock!!
 Hiding from the rain under a large leaf - using the leaf as an umbrella
 A storm approaching, and an old shrine to the Madonna in the French countryside
 A lightning storm coming on while we are hiking through the wheat fields, Auvergne
 A cross on the roadside and storm clouds, Auvergne