Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pilgrimage

This morning, Sophia started to bark furiously, announcing that I had visitors: a woman about fifty and two attractive blond girls around twenty. They told me they had walked up to Gamone "on a pilgrimage"... which made me wonder for a moment if their excursion had something to do with the August 15 Assumption feast.

"You might remember me once dropping in here with my father," explained one of the girls, with a diamond stud in her nose, wearing tiny shorts and a plunging black T-shirt. Now, I wouldn't normally forget a visit to Gamone by such a stunning female, but it took me a little while to understand that she must have been about seven years old at the time of that previous visit. And I didn't need to tell her that she had changed a lot since then.

When I collected my thoughts, and after a few additional explanations, I realized that the lady was the daughter of the man named Marcel Gauthier who sold me the Gamone property back in 1993. The blond girl with the diamond [a hairdresser in Briançon] was her niece: one of the two daughters of the lady's brother, Maurice Gauthier, whom I used to know well. And the other girl was a friend. Their visit to Gamone was a "pilgrimage" in the sense that the lady used to stay here from time to time, when Marcel used the property to raise animals, back in the '70s. Although I had never seen the lady before, I once happened to meet up with her husband, a sawmill operator in a neighboring village who supplied me with the beautiful walnut slabs for the table on which my computer rests.

It was weird but wonderful to hear this lady, sixteen years younger than me, talking about her childhood recollections of Gamone. In particular, she could recall the exact situation of springs in the vicinity of the house, since this was a vital question before the property was linked to the municipal water supply. She told me that her father Marcel had called upon a dowser whose nickname was "Marseille" (no doubt because he came from that city), to find a spring on the slopes on the other side of Gamone Creek. Apparently this "Marseille" was a flamboyant personage with a huge white beard, who operated with dowsing rods, branches and a pendulum. Having located the spring, "Marseille" gave his forked branch to Marcel, then he took hold of Marcel's wrists, whereupon the branch turned earthwards. And the dowser declared joyfully: "See, Marcel, your hands can transmit the force just as well as mine. In fact, every human being is capable of transmitting these forces, but they don't realize they have this gift, and they refuse to accept it." [It goes without saying that I was greatly interested to hear this anecdote—which had clearly made an impression upon Marcel's daughter—in the recent context of Natacha's discovery of her dowsing skills.]

The most amazing aspect of this friendly encounter with Marcel's daughter and granddaughter was the fact that they were unaware [because of family communication ruptures] that the Gauthier patriarch is still the owner of land on the slopes opposite my house, including the spot where "Marseille" once found a spring. In fact, I never understood why Marcel had decided to hang on to those few acres of rugged land on the other side of the creek, instead of including them in the sales proposal that I received from him. This morning's anecdote about the dowser "Marseille" finding a spring makes things clearer in my mind. It's a fact that, for people like Marcel, the existence of a spring [whose exact location I ignore] was thought of as a valuable asset. But it's unlikely, today, that the municipality of Choranche would consider the existence of such a source of water as a justification for authorizing the construction of a dwelling at the site.

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