Towards Nature -- Part Three
As the cabin reached the summit, the village looked tiny and fairy-like. The Chateaux fort de Lourdes, which had first been besieged by Charles Magne and became a prison during the French Revolution, looked solemn from the West side. No longer a prison -- I was told by a villager while we got off the cabin -- but a museum of folk arts.
I made a note of all this, in case I decided to pay a short visit to the place. As I stepped out, the sight of the white mountain range made me pause. Here something deep and otherwordly hovered in the air, but nothing reminded me of Catholicism.
It was elemental. It could have been another planet altogether, where only the presence of invisible beings made itself palpable in the blowing wind. The strange layers of translucid air, like watercolour strata of brightness, were hanging like curtains and melting in the pale blue sky. Now I could see the trees, the pristine denizens of a dense forest covered in snow.
A winding path led to a mountain chalet, where mountaneers could rest around the fire for an hour or so.
Inside, a blond woman was serving soup to four generations of men: the patriarch, a grey-haired man with a stern mouth, a middle-aged bald man with big black eyes and enormous hands, a long-haired youth in his twenties -- the only smiling face of the company -- and a child who must have been five or six.
The woman offered soup to all wanderers, mountaneers and tourists who happened to drop by. That was her job, she said. I noticed her bright eyes. The smell of onions was promising.
I sat at a small wooden table near the window and ate the soup with a passion.
When I left the cosy refuge, the forest glistened in the slanting sunlight, while bluish patches of snow were reverberating in my eyes. The wind had ceased.
I strolled along the mountain path, lost between awe and thoughtfulness.
Here lived another race of beings, another world was in the making. I felt invisible eyes all around me; unseen creatures were keeping me company. It was not uncomfortable, just unusual.
As I pushed on, spell-bound by this crystal-like environment, I forgot time. I found myself in the middle of a snow tempest and no place where I could find shelter.
I stopped in the thick of the forest, hoping that the fir trees would provide some respite from the freezing whirlwinds of snowflakes, but I then realized I had to go back to the chalet.
When I knocked at the door again, the hostess seemed glad to see me. They didn't see many tourists at that time of the year, she explained. The fire burnt briskly and was an extra blessing. I decided to stay for the night, instead of going back to the hotel in the village. It cost only a few francs and I had not much choice, given the weather conditions.
TO BE CONTINUED...