Monday, August 13, 2007

Strange skills

In my article of 23 July 2007 entitled Wandering in a spiritual wonderland [display], I indicated that Natacha, Alain and I had visited a fascinating Carthusian site: the spring that has been providing the monastery with water, nonstop, over the last nine centuries. As I pointed out in that post, we were surprised to discover considerable stone vestiges at the place where the water emerged from the ground. There was another anecdotal aspect of Natacha's encounter with the Carthusian spring that I didn't bother to mention in my post. She told us, as soon as she reached the site, that she experienced weird physical sensations, of a distinctly uncomfortable nature. In fact, these sensations were apparently so unpleasant that Natacha left the site almost as soon as she had reached it... which surprised me, because she's the sort of person who normally takes pleasure in observing calmly all the curiosities of such an exceptional place.

A few days after this excursion, Natacha and Alain dropped in for a moment at Gamone, before their return journey to Marseille. Natacha returned to the subject of her curious sensations at the Carthusian spring, shown here [surmounted by a whitish building whose role remains unexplained for the moment] in an 1894 photo:

On the off chance of finding some kind of explanation for her sensations, I asked Natacha if she had heard about the strange and ancient phenomenon of dowsing, which consists of prospecting for subterranean water by means of primitive tools such as metal rods, a Y-shaped branch of a tree, or a metal pendulum.

Shortly after my arrival at Gamone, in 1994, my son François used a pair of thin plastic-covered steel rods, bent in such a way that he held them like a pair of revolvers, to provide me with dubious but nevertheless surprising demonstrations of dowsing.

In particular, François claimed that he had sensed the alignment of the water supply from Pont-en-Royans. I immediately informed him, with a snigger, that his finding was some ten meters off the correct alignment, which I thought I knew. In fact, I was a sneering idiot. Several months later, during a Gamone summer, the exceptional dry-weather vegetation revealed that the apparent alignment of the subterranean water pipes corresponded exactly to the results of my son's dowsing.

Faced with the question of Natacha's strange sensations, I handed her my son's dowsing rods and invited her to wander around my lawn at Gamone, looking for possible sensations. The results were, in fact, sensational! Natacha seemed to function with the precision of an aquatic gauge. Alain, too, seemed to have the same skill, to a lesser degree than his wife, whereas I remained inert, as usual, unresponsive to any sensations whatsoever. Natacha would say [and I'm delighted with this evaluation, evoking one of my French intellectual heroes] that I'm simply too Cartesian.

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