|My Quaker friend Alastair, waiting patiently for a bus towards La Fleyssiere|
I thought about visiting again when I was in Montpellier; my host there, Patrice, suggested I do so.
I didn't finally decide to make the visit, though, until I was with the Quakers in Congenies. Alastair told me he had spent seven months at the community in La Fleyssiere, that he was going to visit in a few days, and he asked if I'd like to come along. When he offered to pay the bus fare, how could I refuse?
|Our shared room at La Fleyssiere, L'Arche de Lanza del Vasto|
|Alastair working hard|
|Weeding the garden|
|La Fleysierre's vegetable garden|
When I walked onto the community's grounds, everything was quiet, and I walked up the steps of an old building to have a look around. Inside there was a man sitting, quietly preparing sweet peas for jarring. He had the appearance of a Hindu ascetic, though I was to learn later that he is a Muslim, and a Sufi.
"You're Ken," he said softly.
"You are walking for peace."
I nodded, eagerly awaiting the next prophetic declaration from Sebastian, but he offered a chair instead, and showed me how to help him clean the pea pods he was preparing. As we worked together, he explained that he too was walking for peace, in France, and specifically for Ekta Parishad, which is an activist movement for land rights in India. Sebastian had already spent time in India for Ekta Parishad with his wife (who is a Quaker), and now he is hoping to raise awareness for the movement in France. His blog is: marchedoucementsurlaterre.blogspot.com
While we stored the peas in jars and prepared them for boiling, to preserve them, we compared our walks. The conversation ran from what our motives were to whether we walked with a staff or not, or where our minds were while walking. Sebastian hopes to finish his pilgrimage in Paris, and he hopes people will join him as he enters the city.
I joined the community for evening prayers, where I met most of its permanent members and visitors. Prayers are held twice a day, once in the morning, with everyone in a line facing the mountains and the rising sun; and again at the end of the day, with members gathered in a circle. Though I didn't understand much of what was said, a sense of peace and joy ran through me at these gatherings.
|The site of morning prayers|
|Where to wash clothes|
|The showers. Hot water once a week.|
|Lunch! This is the most important meal served, as it is the one meal of the day where all the members of the community, and all the visitors, gather to share the product of the community's labor.|
|Sebastien, also a pilgrim, walking in France for EKTA Parishad.|
After an invigorating morning of wholesome labor, the communal lunch of purely vegetarian, homemade and homegrown food was delicious and filling. La Fleyssiere makes its own cheese, which was also delicious. After this midday break, there was more invigorating work in the potato patch near Bori Noble, which is another L'Arche community a few kilometers away.
In the evening, after dinner and prayers, several of us met Sebastian in the common room with his guitar and he taught some of us some very beautiful and spiritual music and chants. However, having little aptitude for learning chants in Hebrew (I think it was), and being tired, I went to bed.
Alastair and I talked a bit before we fell asleep; our short time together had convinced us we were already close friends. The next morning I was on the schoolbus with two of La Fleyssieres' teenagers and two of its long standing members on worldly business to descend from the mountain and return to the relative chaos and madness of our society.
|La Fleyssiere's potato patch, near Bori Noble|
|The potato patch crew|
|Céline, the cook of the day while I was there. Wholesome, organic, nutritious food!|