Twenty-four Hours At Fontevraud Abbey

Oct. 12, 2019:

In the quiet of the Grand-Moûtier at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, the wind carried on it the constant whisper of a thousand years.

I sat, regretful in my exhale, as the Abbey sleeps.

It is the silence when I am the most terrified and at peace. I lingered on the waxing moon, just three days short of full release, and shook.

This place—this holy, sacred, venomous, cruel place—soothed me in the darkness, and I submit.

Midnight, at Fontevraud.

The twenty-four hours I spent in seclusion at Fontevraud reshaped me as a person and also reshaped the storyline of Woman On The Wall in profound sorts of ways.

It was here that I learned of the legacy of the Boubons, of the underground river of Fontevraud, the cloisters, the immense power of the Abbess of Fontevraud, and the remarkable features of this place that help us all reach beyond the veil.

It is my hope to return to Fontevraud soon and spend a significant amount of time doing some serious study of the site, as it has emerged as the Mother House—the pivot point—which every story/novel that comes from my work on the Woman On The Wall will revolve.

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The moon rising over Fontevraud

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The galleries of the Grand-Moûtier

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The Grand-Moûtier

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L’eglise abbaye

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Royal crypt

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In the refectory

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Walking the galleries at Midnight

 

A Journey Without Expectations

I’d tried desperately to curb my urges, yet preparation for France owned me.

My kids made it clear they wanted no more of this level of obsession.

“All you think about, all you talk about is France, mom,” my oldest daughter kept saying, deservedly irritated that she got little of my focus.  “What are you going to do when you don’t have France anymore?”

“That’s not possible,” I would always reply.

Really, though, I worried.

For three months, I’d immersed myself in planning and research for the novel research to come. I spent three hours a day learning French, surfed French websites, made appointments with French historians, booked tours, packed twelve times, read every book I could. With two weeks to cram it all in, I had to make sure my focus proved laser-sharp, and I wouldn’t walk away from this experience wishing I’d gone and done something different.

I literally planned every moment of every day. Error, jet lag, language barrier, time—none could be a factor. I had sworn off the need to account for any of them.

Ken said I was the Fort Knox of travel planning. Everything right down to what would happen if I caught a cold had a solution in place or a detailed map and itinerary attached to it.

Then, the day before I left, in the middle of working on Woman On The Wall this popped up. Just a little note. Nothing profound. Nothing more than a reminder sliding in while I pounded away at the story of Elijah, the main character:

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It hit me like a brick. What if no moment I’d so carefully mapped out worked out the way I planned? What if I went to France and found nothing? Or something totally different? Or hated it? Or everything went sideways on the first day and the rest of the trip was garbage? What if I couldn’t keep up with my schedule? What if I missed this or that? What would I possibly do?

This was the first solo research trip of my life, and I’d left no room in it to just experience anything, to see where a lead took me, or listen to the wind and follow it.

I could freak out, unable to control it all. Or, I told myself after recovering from the icky, cold sweat I broke into, I could go without any expectations and have faith that all of the work I put in to get there would lead me to experience France in a way in which stories simply blossomed, taking shape without being forced.

Hmmmm.

I promptly dumped my rigid itinerary in the trash, marked the few things that I could not miss, and hopped on the plane with the mindset that anything I faced in those next 14 days would be transformative.

I’ve tried to control nearly everything my whole life. It was time to just experience it all.

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From that moment, I swear it was like the universe offered up its nod of approval, jacked me into the energy of place, and set me on a path to discovery that even I could never have imagined.

France took me in, opened its soul for me to be a part of, and left me a changed woman.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting the tales of magick, time travel, serendipity, and the great confluence of modern-day life alongside that of the Renaissance which defined my French sojourn, deeply reshaped the story being told in Woman On The Wall, and brought me to a place at the edge of the veil where I found far more than details for my novel.

I look forward to sharing this experience with all of you.

 

 

Prep Notes for France – Three Pre-Travel Revelations

With just about forty days left before I hit the skies for France, the pace of preparation is beginning to pick up.

It’s no mystery that my excitement for this novel research trip overflows. Hiding my enthusiasm is not a thing I even attempt to muster a capacity to achieve.

Last week, friends offered incredible amounts of wisdom and high-fiving when I opened up on social media about the bits and pieces of this trip which worry me: getting mugged on the RER from CDG to Gare du Nord; leaving my luggage at the hotel before check-in; passport security.

The best advice I received: “Everyone is going to know you are not French anyway. Just don’t look foolish.”

 

imagesI totally concur and would give this advice to anyone coming to Vancouver. I cannot tell you how often I see out-of-towners with their backpacks unzipped, luggage unattended, wallets and Iphones hanging out on the Skytrain and while they are waiting for the bus. It’s like saying, “Here, have my $700 cash and three credit cards. I really wanted to visit the consulate here in Vancouver anyway. My old passport photo sucked and I wanted to pay $250 to rush a new one with the money you just stole from me.”

Now, I can’t help but stop said tourists and let them know of their prone condition before something truly shitty happens to them. I tell myself it is my wee investment in maintaining the “Canadians are the nicest people” reputation. Really, though, it’s a selfish act of karma stacking.

It’s official. I must be traveling soon because  I just had the “Forgot my passport and missed my flight” dream last night.

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

I have the same dream in the same dream-dimension airport where I end up in some version of a country I can’t identify near the ocean in the desert every time I go someplace.

It’s like the high school exam dream. Plus, with this one, five people I hardly know decided to come to France with me. That was probably the worst part. 😉

Finally, last night, I discovered les bouquinistes de Paris.

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I suspect the reason my lovely friends did not reveal their existence to me is they knew it would deeply impact my Paris itinerary (and budget).

I now fear and delight that all I will see of the City of Lights is the left bank of the Seine from Pont Marie to Quai Voltaire. That is entirely untrue, as I will be tracing the path of The Woman On The Wall’s main character, Elijah Gale.

I also will have to make sure I know the location of the closest location of La Poste. There will be a need for packages of written things to be mailed.