Supposedly there were real monks and fields of lavender tucked away in a sunshine-y Provençal valley. I had to go.
I imagined myself there, my soul lighting up in that sacred place like some kind of Chosen One. My eyes would twinkle and every stress and disharmonious sliver of energy would dissolve away. Lavender, pungent and purifying, would float on the breeze and all my little cells would be miraculously fresh and new. A sense of peace, calm and clarity of purpose would wash over me…
There would be no choice but to undergo a spiritual awakening in such a monk & lavender-infused place.
Except, none of that happened.
I was hungry and the sun was scorching when we rolled in to the stoney parking lot. We had been clever and stowed away some pasta salads from the Monoprix for just such a moment. We sat on rocks in the shade of spindly pine trees to eat before braving the sun and the short walk to the Abbey.
Sénanque is the oldest of the three Cistercian sister abbeys in Provence. And so that must mean it’s the wisest and most magical. Obviously.
I had googled up the history and learned the monastery was founded in 1148 and has remained practically unchanged since…. Thus making it even more magical. Surely the ancient energy would be powerful enough to induce a life-altering change of course for my personal journey and path…. And I was ready for it, given my constant questioning, “Who am I?” and “What am I best meant to do?”
Bring it on, lavender monks!
We walked the short path to the stone wall of the field beside the Abbey. I was completely open for what may unfold and even scandalously avoided sunscreen should it cause an unwanted literal ‘block’ of magical energies.
It was beautiful—the abbey and her buildings—resting quietly in all their austere glory. The stone was an unwavering heavy warm grey and made no mistake about the weather she had endured over the centuries. She was solid. Safe. And sort of boring.
And there was no lavender to be found. Sure, I saw row on row, but the plants had been sliced down to dense green mounds with nary a smithereen of purple in sight. Bah! My glittery earth-shattering plan was melting into a dull slop at the bottom of a rusty bucket.
What about my damn spiritual awakening? And where the hell are those monks anyway?
Taking in a slow breath, I worked hard to steady myself into gratitude. Afterall, I was in France. I was with two of my favourite people on the planet. The sun was beaming bright. The sky was storybook blue.
Standing by the stone fence, I took some photos. I kicked at the gravel like a six-year-old.
Logically, I knew this was a gorgeous and blessed experience. But my inner Oprah was impatient and then my inner bossy pants piped up, C’mon, I want my Ah-Ha moment!
We circled around the left toward the side of the steadfast abbey. My architectural self was pleased as punch – the place was a fascinating study in shadow and light and form. My traveller was terribly satisfied with having arrived at a remote point of interest without incident. My selves of friend and wife were contented with the fine company.
I couldn’t report on the humble and tiny ever-burning champion flame of my deepest Self though…. what with all the fussing my inner bossy pants was doing.
We descended stone steps into the courtyard before the abbey’s entrance. Again and again I told bossy pants to stop being such an asshole – this is a sacred place, for Heaven’s sake!
Into the ancient stone abbey we tip-toed, trying our best to be quiet and respectful perfect tourists…
This is stupid, where’s the monks? Bossy pants couldn’t contain her frustration (or get her grammar right). My architect marveled at the stone work. Some other, more quiet part of me was struck by the strange ratio of windows to the amount of light flooding the place. It didn’t make sense but it was certainly happening. Teeny windows, yet formidable light.
I ran my fingers over the carvings in the stone, tracing a mason’s attempt at a Fibonacci spiral from the centre out to the ethers. Bossy pants had fallen mute.
Before returning outside I lingered in the doorway, bracing myself for the assault of sunshine. And I waited for bossy pants to catch up. But she was nowhere to be found.
Back outside in the courtyard there was an orange kitten. And I can never resist a cat, whether kitten or crone…. I knelt down in the crunchy gravel to say hello and give her a scratch. She appreciated it and attacked my ankles to prove it.
I waited there, with the orange kitten in the crunchy gravel, for bossy pants to return. But she must’ve been caught up with some complaint inside the abbey. Reluctant to just leave her behind, I stalled a minute longer with the orange kitten as my excuse.
My travel-mates had moved on. I bid the kitten farewell and caught up. We wandered about the grounds, peering over stone walls into the monk’s private garden and giggling beneath gnarly old olive trees.
The giftshop was filled with local wares, monk-made lavender products and every single book on the planet ever about monasteries in every language. I expected I’d find bossy pants in the gift shop, going on about this or that, eager to get going to the next stop of the day. But she wasn’t in there.
A simple little bottle of monk-made lavender oil called out to me and I was pleased to hand over my eight euros so that I might keep it. The same bottle at home would be quadruple the price, and certainly wasn’t monk oil.
We got back in the car. As we pulled away I took one last look. No bossy pants.
* * *
I never did see a Sénanque monk, nor experience blooming lavender on the breeze. But the monk-made lavender essential oil I brought home has proven to be a true treasure. One deep breath and my soul lights up, my eyes twinkle and every sliver of disharmonious energy dissolves away, sending bossy pants back to the Abbey.
Original images © Glamorous Monk
« I’m here. . . . . . . or . . . . . . Crystalline Supra Structure »