Summer of 2015. It wasn’t a pilgrimage in the strictest sense. After all, it was the white chalk cliff of Etretat that has brought us to Normandy, not a religious shrine. The cliffs have inspired impressionists like Claude Monet to paint masterpieces out of this natural landscape. True enough, you can sit all day at its pebble beach taking all the view in. We were lucky with the weather – the sun was out the day we visited.
The following day however, it started to rain and we decided to visit the Mont St. Michel monastery instead of going to the beach. The Mont St. Michel we learned was part of the first stage of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) pilgrimage route in France. I can imagine after a long journey on foot, reaching the monastery could enliven the spirit.
Legend has it that it was the archangel Michael who ordered the building of the monastery on the island. In the New Testament, St. Michael the archangel is the leader of God’s army against the forces of evil and leading God’s army to victory. And as far as battles go, who would forget the D-Day in Normandy? The bravery of the allied forces liberating Europe is remembered in Omaha beach. If you were into Counterstrike as I were 15 or so years ago, you would know Omaha beach is a suicide mission – no cover, open field and if you didn’t get out of the water you’ll drown. Imagine the bravery. And the people of Europe were grateful for it and remember it. Aside from the monument, one can also find a museum with relics, and film documentary about the Battle of Normandy. When you walk in the streets near the beach, you can find American flags in some houses. People remember. I can’t help but also think of my own people, how easily the sacrifices of those whose lives were lost during the Marcos regime were forgotten.
Before going back to Holland we stopped by Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny. The gardens were the subject of some of his most famous impressionist masterpieces. Makes me wonder that life perhaps is one big pilgrimage and we are all impressionists, expressing our views of life in our own peculiar ways. Only Monet does it better. I told Joel this maybe the reason why we feel so temporary. We are pilgrims. Joel: We feel temporary because we are temporary. Me: Great, just when I thought I am on to something profound.