Thursday, August 5, 2004

We Didn't Find It Difficult

When we went to sleep last night, it was not yet dark. Even with the thick drapes which Ben arranged so as to close the gaps, the glow of dusk crept in. So we just closed our eyes and fell asleep. We didn't find it difficult.

And when we opened our eyes this morning, the light had returned. It was as if we had only closed them for a moment. The light of pre-dawn was sneaking in thru those same cracks in the drapes that Ben had worked so hard to close.

We got out of bed and got ready for the day. It was 5:30am, and we were very tired. It would soon be time to go, and we'd be gone before breakfast was served.

But didn't find it difficult, for today we were leaving for Mont Saint Michel.

Trip to France - Day 7
leaving Bayeux

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The Plane Tree

We knew it was old from the look of it -- a trunk that would take five people or more to girdle round hand in hand. We came back by it after one last walk in the evening past the cathedral standing in the middle of town.

The tree stood at the northeast corner of the cathedral in a small square nestled against the stone walls of the building. Banners of red and yellow hung around the edge of the square -- for the festival coming in a few days. But the tree dominated the scene. We didn't appreciate its size until we walked up next to it.

Its gnarled trunk pushed up high into the air before the first branches broke away, each one big enough to be a massive tree in its own right. Not a single other tree stood there, just this one. Yet the square stands in shade all day, for a canopy of green extends from one side to the other, from the walls of the cathedral to the city hall on the other side.

At the base of the tree, the year of its planting is etched into a marker of stone: 1797.

Trip to France - Day 6

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The American Cemetery

The cemetery affected me more than I thought it would. As I stood and looked at the sculpture with hand upstretched in a gesture of freedom, I began to sob. I'm not sure why. I just began to sob.

But then I heard Charlie telling his family around him about June 6, 1944 as the 79th and many others disembarked on the beaches. And I heard a daughter ask him to point to the map and show them where that bridge across the Seine was.

How could I sob as he stood there pointing and telling the story of that bridge and the march toward Paris that he had obviously told them many times? I gathered my composure.

But when we turned and walked into the cemetery proper, when we turned to face the graves arrayed on the hill, I found myself hit by a tidal wave of emotion. I could not continue walking, the onslaught was so severe, and tears came to my eyes again. It was all I could do to walk to a corner where the ropes along the paths came together and sob quietly and stand by myself and wipe my tears away.

The sun was shining, and the sky was bright blue. The wind was blowing thru the Austrian Pine trees that line the path along the cliffs that look out over the channel. The sound of the wind was as waves breaking on the beach that we could see far below.

I did not feel, right then, that I would be able to walk down the middle of the park, with the white crosses and stars of David shining brightly in the sun on the close-cut lawn. So we walked around the periphery, to a spot at the far end, were we sat for a while, gazing back at the crosses and stars and gazing the other way thru a window in the forest that looked out on the fields of Normandy.

We sat there for a while, quietly, trying to ignore the smoke of two women who sat nearby. And then we stood up and continued our walked around the edges, between the white graves and the landscape that is such a credit to the people who keep that place, and a such fit place for all those men to rest.

Trip to France - Day 6
D-Day Beaches, The American Cemetery

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