High above the Mediterranean Sea, west of Nice, hilltop villages look over the coastline. These medieval walled villages were built for defense, but today have become havens for tourists seeking quaint alleyways, cobbled lanes, and walker-friendly towns. Saint Paul de Vence, our neighboring village, is such a town, today an artist’s haven. Indeed, you must park outside the walls and walk into the village, for the roads are too narrow for traffic.
These hills, at the base of the Alps Maritime, sit between the mountains and the sea. The skies are large, with dramatic changes of weather as clouds are blown down from the peaks, and mist settles over the waters far below. Yesterday was clear with a dome of blue above us, a light breeze. Perfect. Today gray skies carry brisk winds that swirl around our auberge. A bit of sun tries to burn through. A good day to read and reflect.
This is Mary Magdalene country, for legend claims she sailed to Marseilles with her companions, escaping persecution in Jerusalem. She preached for thirty years in the area, then retired to a cave in the Sainte-Baume Massif, a low mountain range to the east. We have visited her cave in the past, walking through an ancient protected forest, up the mountainside to the chapel grotto in the cliff face. I told Mary’s story in Offerings and I wish to return to the legend in my work-in-progress, hoping to set a scene in the cave itself. As part of my research, I’m reading a wonderful book, St. Mary Magdalen in Provence, the Coffin and the Cave by Michael Donley (Gracewing, 2008). So I sit in the garden watching the weather change and reading about Mary Magdalen who spent her last years not so far away from here, also on a mountainside in Provence.
Time sometimes disappears, folds together, becomes one. Soon we will be in Lourdes, where another Mary, the Mother of God, spoke to a young girl, also in a grotto.
Such miracles, tres miraculeuse.