We live in a global society. by Marguerite Jill Dye
It was thrilling to see the sound and light spectacle in the Cour d’Honneur of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon with our friends Jean-Paul and Colette. “Les Luminessences” projected colorful and changing designs on all four stone walls depicting the history of Avignon. Seven popes lived in the Palais des Papes between the 12th-14th centuries. Images from the Hundred Year War, Black Plague, Rhone River floods, and fires contrasted with construction blueprints and vivid illuminated manuscripts that danced across the walls.
The next morning we four left Avignon in the Department of the Var, crossed the Rhone near Le Pont d’Avignon, and entered the Region de l’Occitanie, the new name for Languedoc Rousillon. Cypress trees, scrub brush, old stone farm houses, and hilltop windmills dotted arid fields. Wildfires scarred sections of the rugged landscape from summer drought and heat, but soon verdant vineyards began to appear. Colorfully clad workers were harvesting grapes, climbing ladders to dump the fruit in backpack baskets into waiting trucks. The “vendange” had begun. As we approached the Spanish border, hearty oaks, flammable pines (due to their sap), and cork trees covered rolling Pyrenees foothills.
I asked our French friends what words they’d like to share with Americans, and Colette said “We are open to the world. Our way of thinking is dominated by our history and culture. We are Europeans. Europe for us is like the United States. Although we have our own language, we share our culture and identity with other European states.”
Jean-Paul said, “The French people think Trump was a mistake. He is like the hurricane that is blowing very fast but will soon disappear. France is trying to not make the same mistake.” We talked about terrorism and Jean-Paul said, “although we have a lot of terrorism in France and the terrorists kill people, do you see any one in France go to the Muslim district to kill people? The French people don’t seek revenge. In Europe we are very wise because 50 and 75 years ago we had massacres.”
We live in a global society. I can think of no city that embodies that better than Barcelona. Situated along Spain’s Costa Brava, Barcelona is Catalan, Spanish, European, and universal with people from all over the world.
Strolling down the Ramblas with thousands enjoying the paseo, promenade, we stopped to honor those who lost their lives or were injured in the recent terrorist attack. Flowers, photos, drawings, multi-lingual messages, and a photo of the American killed on a honeymoon in Spain. The mood was somber, respectful, and quiet, but further down Las Ramblas, kiosks and restaurants, boutiques and bars were humming with business as people carried on. I sought out a local to recommend their favorite restaurant but the people I encountered came from afar, all over Europe, South America, the Near, Middle and Far East. Everyone came from elsewhere. It was astounding. This city attracts and embraces the whole world to its heart, and its citizens are warm and welcoming, extending hands in brotherhood and friendship.
We passed by the Placa Cataluna where five years ago we joined in a demonstration of solidarity with Egypt’s Arab Spring. The construction of the plaza floor had been completed since then. Like everything in Cataluna, it was created with attention to detail. The Catalan sense of beauty is sophisticated and elevated.
We have three dear friends who live in Cataluna whom we met while walking the Camino Frances: Josep from Figueres, Mimi who lives in Barcelona, and Padre Bonet who is a priest at the Sagrada Familia. Josep is a fellow artist and writer whose paintings are poetry, and poetry paints vivid images in words.
Sometimes I see strokes and symbols in his abstract oils that are reminiscent of Dali. Both men come from the same soil. Josep exudes calm and balance. Yoga is a big part of his life. He paints on the farm of his grandfather, abuelo, just outside of town where memories inspire him and fill him with joy and a sense of his place in the world.
Mimi is lively, full of joie de vivre and zest, but not when we met on the Camino. Then she was in her deepest sorrow from the loss of her beloved sister and father in tragedies one year apart. She was unable to function or cope. She’d never been on a hike before, but somehow found herself walking the 500 miles to Santiago. She limped along with tendinitis and blisters but believed the pain was cleansing her soul. She suffered all the way, but mostly from her great loss. Since that time, she returned to work preparing chemotherapy treatments, then decided to pursue her dream to study nursing. She’ll complete her degree in two years. It is wonderful to see her excited and full of life.
Our third friend is Father Bonet who sent us on our first pilgrimage five years ago, and once again in 2014. He gave us a pilgrim blessing when we met and stamped our pilgrim credentials. We visited Father Bonet once again three years ago. His father worked with Gaudi and took over as lead architect after Gaudi’s death, and his brother has served as the architect since their own father’s passing. Father Bonet lives in Gaudi’s apartment and works in his study in the oldest part of La Sagrada Familia Basilica. Father Bonet is leading the beatification movement for Antoni Gaudi to become a Saint. Much progress has been made on La Sagrada Familia since we were last there.
When I asked a young man named Jose in a bar restaurant near the old port what he would like to say to America. He hesitated then softly said: “Instead of sending soldiers and arms, send teachers and books.”
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Gulf Coast of Florida.
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