Land

Visiting Normandy, France was a life changing event in my life. I know that the majority of visitors are changed after gazing at thousands of grave markers that identify so many young people’s lost lives. I hope you can feel the mystery of this part of the world that holds fast the final breath of all those who lay there.

I was very touched by the French countryside as we traveled around France.  Many elements of my observations are depicted in this story. Those of you have been there….will understand.  I also emphasize the true value of land.

We recently returned from a trip to France. Flying over Brittany to land in Rennes, I marveled at the pristine beauty of the countryside. The farmlands, orchards and rolling country basking in the sunlight of a bright and cloudless day was our welcome to this northwestern region of France. A new area of exploration for us. We spent two weeks in Brittany and nearby Normandy.

We enjoyed a river boat cruise experience with one hundred other passengers.  Coming from different states, different heritages and different backgrounds professionally, we all found a certain commonality each day of this marvelous adventure.  Many memories were made and will be cherished by my husband and me.

normandy-countrysideI found myself thinking, imagining, what life was and had been like in the rolling hills and hedgerows of these regions. Pastures dotted with grazing cattle, goats and pigs which we passed on our bus excursions, lent a certain tranquility combined with the small villages and their lively street life.

Many of the fields had small patches of trees with running brooks used for irrigation.  I could imagine during WWII patriots, perhaps part of the resistance, hiding behind stone walls waiting for the enemy to raise its ugly head.  I could imagine the many who died gazing up at blue skies through waving stalks of corn.  I could imagine the sweet smell of black earth cushioning a small child as he lay hidden with his family.  To me all of these were gifts from nature…gifts from the land.

In our modern, busy lives few of us can fathom any life other than the one we have.  Yet, the original settlers in all countries, prided the land — making their living from its bounty.  I thought about the quiet, rolling hills before us, thinking of all those early people who came before whether they were Britons, Vikings or others to prepare the world for our future.

So what did I learn?  I learned to again appreciate the land, the trees and the flowing brooks.  If I listened carefully, I could hear the rugged plows, see the quaint sheds and smell the scent of cow manure.  The land in Normandy eventually produced abundant apple trees, delicious grapes and healthy cows whose milk made wonderful Camembert cheese.  And, of course, thanks to the goats, chevre. And, the most well known of all Normandy desserts — tarte tatin. All of these gifts from the land came at a price.  That price was war; to hold on to, to protect and to keep sacred this heritage.  In this case, the French traditions.

I am excited to report that these days of being near the fields tapped all of my senses. I have grown to appreciate the bounty of the earth and the need to fight for each inch of soil.  Land has always been the greatest commodity, investment and family gift to keep.  Ironically this gift comes with a price — sometimes dollars but even more so —  people’s lives.

GOD BLESS YOU DEAR NORMANDY

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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