Therefore the sisters should be occupied
at certain times in manual labor,
and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.
To that end we think that the times for each may be prescribed as follows.
From Easter until the Calends of October,
when they come out from Prime in the morning
let them labor at whatever is necessary
until about the fourth hour,
and from the fourth hour until about the sixth
let them apply themselves to reading.
After the sixth hour, having left the table,
let them rest on their beds in perfect silence;
or if anyone may perhaps want to read,
let her read to herself
in such a way as not to disturb anyone else."
Chapter 48, On the Daily Manual Labor
For me the perfect life would be some combination of the above. A mixture of manual labor, reading and contemplation. Last week was all that and more.
Mike came up to Versailles from Dax and we scraped, sanded and painted every garden wall here at the Flophouse. Our work accelerated after a quick look at the meteo (weather report) that predicted rain for Versailles later in the week and so we scraped, sanded and painted even faster. It was an all out effort but we made it. Here are the before and after pictures:
What I like about this kind of work is that it is perfect for contemplation. I get a lot of thinking done in the garden - it's as if working the muscles frees the mind. On my mind was a book I read a couple of weeks ago called Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora by Daniel Kanstroom. Your mileage may vary but it made my stomach hurt. What he describes may be in complete accordance with the law but certainly does not culminate in what I would call justice. Victor Hugo's words sum it up quite beautifully: "Le droit et la loi, telles sont les deux forces: de leur accord naît l'ordre, de leur antagonisme naissent les catastrophes."
Whatever the intentions (and it should be noted that with this law and policy there is complete continuity between George Bush and Barack Obama) this catastrophe has had terrible consequences for American immigrants and citizens alike.
Now that I've had time to reflect on it, I will write a longer review of the book and we can discuss. Easy to point out the injustices of any system - harder to come up with solutions, but Kanstroom tries and what he proposes seems sensible. Of course, it is too little, too late, for about 13 million people...
Saturday we rested (sort of) and went to the garden store, Truffaut. I had a list of plants I wanted: creeping thyme, astilbe and another ornamental tree for the front courtyard. There was the list (and I did find everything on the list) and then there were the deals I just couldn't pass up: flats of vegetables for the potager and two huge black plastic pots marked down to 10 euros each. These are perfect for fulfilling a vision I've had for the front courtyard: a small fountain just under the bedroom window to cut the noise from the street and add some whimsy. Here's what it looks like so far:
I'm still filling the pot with water - I just turn the hose that direction when I go out to water and let the rain do the rest. The next step will be to get a small floating solar water jet - something like this, for example.
This morning we are off to visit the King's Kitchen Garden near the castle and I will end this post with this prayer I read silently to myself as I was sitting in the pew at St. Michel on Easter morning waiting for the services to start. A good one for all exiles everywhere...
Mon Dieu, sur la terre où je m’exile, où sont les chants de ta maison ? Dans le pays qui veut me perdre, où donc est le festin ? Dans les déserts où je m’enfonce, où sont les eaux de mon baptême? Viens me secourir : assoiffe encore mon cœur et ma chair, pour que je me souvienne, dans ma nuit, et que je te cherche, dès l’aube. Alors, de toute mon âme, je m’attacherai à toi, je lèverai les mains et je te bénirai.
My God, in the land of my exile, where are the songs of your house? In the country that wishes to lose me, where is the feast? In the deserts where I sink every deeper, where are the waters of my baptism? Come to my aid: make thirsty my heart and my flesh so that I remember in my night to seek you in the dawn. And so with all my heart I will bind myself to you, I will raise my hands and bless you.