In West-Flanders, one of the provinces that form
Here I was in ‘de Westhoek’ (the West corner); it is the area of the North French border, the corner between the
Yes, Le plat pays, where I was born…
It was the first of August, at the height of summer.
A gentle breeze came from the sea, the distance shimmering with the heat from the land rich in harvest.
The light was too harsh to photograph ‘well’.
But it was now or not, what would you choose when you are there?
In this world where everything is in the fast lane and rushed, where we have no time to ‘stand and stare’ anymore so it seems …
I see so many arriving at some beauty spot, jump out of the car, stretch their arm, look for a couple of seconds, take a few shots and off, on to the next.
Meandering along the tiny canals, the old waterways, aimlessly, wherever, taking in the beauty, we arrived in a typically Flemish village. The small church in the middle, surrounded by an old graveyard, a few houses circled around, to the left the road ends at a Belgian military cemetery.
If you want to hear the sound of silence, that is the place to go, or so one would think?
The rustling of the poplars and light breeze waves the leaves of the trees and we can hear sparrows twittering nearby, their chorus changes into a chirping frenzy, probably to warn of danger to the birds sunbathing in the soft earth, between the carpet of green and the rows upon rows of headstones, uniform, with the Belgian flag enameled into the stone, above the names, the age, the rank.
All those young lives curtailed, so much sadness, the silence has descended within me.
Under a row of poplars is a bench, I sit and day dream and wait for Paul to take his images. It is so peaceful.
We head back to where we left the car, not saying much, thinking a lot.
We try the small church, to our joy the heavy door creeps open with a low groan, a coolness greets us, the scent of incense, and more silence.
Except, there is music playing, hardly disturbing the silence, it is a soft classical melody, with the waves of the sea.
The soles of our rubber shoes squeak on the cold shiny blue stone ashlars floor as we walk around.
I go and sit on the front row, the sunlight streams through the windows, creating pools and patches of warmth and colour. I sit and stare once more, soaking up the atmosphere, looking, seeing new things constantly. In places of worship there's a special mood, a serenity that envelopes one.
The light patterns of the donated window attract my attention, families used to give out of gratitude, if someone had survived a grave illness for example, their prayers had been answered.
The walls are white with some stone left visible in places, it all speaks of sobriety.
How many were baptised in this little old church, how many got married… how many were buried here, part of the Roman tower under which I’m sitting dates from the 12th century?
It is hard to believe that during the Great War this church survived, in the middle of the battle-fields.
Time has stopped, I am at a zenith of peace.
After a while I pick up my camera, check the settings and from where I sit, I take my images, the altar with the fresh flowers, the organ with the shiny pipes and rich wood… the shutter of the camera sounds like a gun so loud.
I walk around and see the wood-carved ‘family’, an old silver lamp without the candle, but the door is open, I photograph the holy-water font which looks cracked and sober.
I look back one last time before the heat and brightness hits us, we pass the old graves with the rusted crosses and fading portraits.
We drive off in silence, still tasting the timeless moment.
My advice to any photographer here is, if it is something that is not ‘a moment’, absorb the mood first, look and you will see, then, take your photos with the emotion and attention they deserve…
Thanx, M, (*_*)