Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chartres, France


I fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Chartres Cathedral after years of pouring over images and historical accounts of the medieval site. Once there, the inlaid stone labyrinth in the nave reminded me of the inner and outer relationship we forge as pilgrims, as explorers in life.

The labyrinth stands as a medieval testimony to the importance of pilgrimage: If you were unable to take the outer journey to Santiago de Compostela or Rome or Jerusalem, you could walk the labyrinth and it offered a similar walking meditation that allowed you to take the the inner world onto the road and the outer world's offerings inward.

Often, when I go for a walk or a hike, I try to bring to it the intense presence and awareness of a walking meditation. At Chartres, it was impossible not to feel this intention. The town reminded me of its ancient foundations, dating back to an original settlement by the Carnutes, a Celtic-speaking people who saw the magical potential of this site over 2,000 years ago.

Such a walk around town also inspired a hearty appetite. As Chartres is in the Eure-et-Loir department, one of the local culinary specialties is rabbit, partridge, pigeon, or venison pie. I confess, I held out and returned to my apartment in Paris and treated myself to a raspberry eclair from my local bakery in the 9eme.

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