Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Lavender Fields Forever

I've wanted to see the lavender fields of Provence since French I in eighth grade. I recall some of the photos in the text book and the beautiful farms captured my imagination. It wasn't until a backpacking trip in the 1980s during my college years that I got to the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Unfortunately, the lavender wasn't in bloom. And on a subsequent visit, the timing was off as well. No flowers. Not on those visits.

So when our vacation saw us going through the area of southern France, the stars finally aligned and we made sure to rent a car for a drive from Nice to Avignon. I was eager, oh so eager, to finally see these fields and flowers. Perhaps picnic in the fields.

The Alpine mountains come so close to the fields. We were curving this way and that, around farms, around lakes, around rolling hills. We were enjoying the splendor of creation.

Soon, we got our first hint of lavender. You'd think it was in the vast expansive fields that we saw the plants. But it wasn't the sight of lavender fields that we encountered first

We started to smell lavender.

The scent of lavender started to seep in through the car vents. At first the smells were mild, and soon they got stronger, filling the car. We didn't realize what we were smelling at first, but eventually we finally figured it out. What a charge to realize what was happening!

The views soon arrived and they were remarkable. Our eyes were filled with wondrous visions of purple waves. The sun washed the flowers out in the open, the rays streamed through leafy trees onto the plants in sleepy shade, the stores and farmhouses offered bountiful products all made of lavender. We feasted on the floral wonderland.

And it was more, so much more, than just a visual delight. The scents continued to grow ever stronger. In fact, everywhere we went, in any building, in any church, there was refreshing lavender wafting through the air. Normally I'm ambivalent to lavender perfumes, but this was so fresh, so clean, so alive. I was bathing in the lavender from eyes to nose and I was lost in the beauty.

Soon we arrived at a 12th century Cisterian abbey, the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. To this day, the monks cultivate fields of lavender surrounding them in their secluded and stunning valley. When we went, they had already harvested the fields closest to the abbey but the fields further out were still in full bloom.

While walking around the grounds, we heard the bells ringing out, inviting us all to attend the church at the abbey. Normally, I'd jump at that invitation and enjoy the welcome. But this time I didn't. We stayed outside the church.

We stayed out, because we were already in church, the church of the world, with pews of purple after pews of purple. Purple is traditionally the color of Advent, of waiting, of repentance in the church. I saw the world draped in purple inviting us to change, asking us to welcome the hope of life. I didn't need to leave all that to go inside a church to be in church. I just needed to recognize that the wonder and awe surrounding me were gifts, gifts for me and for all, so that I could say "thank you, thank you, thank you".

Did I hear a sermon out in those fields? Yes. Yes I did. It sounded like "buzzzzzzzzz". You see, bees are needed to help the lavender bloom and let me tell you there were bees. Everywhere you smelled the lavender drifting in the wind, and everywhere you heard the light buzzing of the bees, spreading life around as they bounced from flower to flower. It was life preaching in a non-stop voice. And it was hard to resist saying "Amen".

As our visit came to a close, as the sun started to settle down, I smiled at the uncountable joys I saw, smelled, and heard. The flowers were soft to the touch and for those who wanted to taste, every conceivable food product was on offer with lavender flavors. It was intoxicating and like the wind of the Holy Spirit, it flowed through me with each breath, with each blink, with each smile.

My visit was short, but the lavender fields... the lavender fields are forever.

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