Many years ago, my wife and I once visited a herb farm in the French Alps. We were asked to accompany a group of herbalists there and had happily agreed. Jaques, a short, stocky, gray-haired, barefoot man and owner of the farm, showed us around. It quickly became apparent to me that this farm, with its sprawling garden-like fields on a slope of the foothills of the Alps, was only secondarily a working farm with an attached café and small bookstore. First and foremost, this farm was a place where contact was maintained with animate nature and its forces. A place where physical and spiritual existence were allowed to be in harmony in peace. I felt a deep soul connection with this man and his perception of the world. We met for an evening full moon meditation and he, a farmer’s wife with her daughter, and I prayed for the salvation of the world and sang resoundingly of his great garden. It was beautiful. The next day, we said goodbye and recorded that it had been a good meeting between the two of us.
This visit was the beginning of something. Already the return journey was remarkable. Our car gave up the ghost and we were driven here and there on our „odyssey“ home for days. To places and events of great and powerful significance. Over the next few months, I dreamed of Jaques on and off. I dreamed of a failed harvest and I dreamed of his sons who would have raised the farm in a very different and modern way. I knew that at some point I would have to return to this place. After six years I heard from acquaintances that the farm was not doing well economically and that the sons were not yet ready to take it over. I thought of my dreams and when my wife told me that she had some business to do nearby during the year, the decision was clear: we would use this business trip for a short vacation and visit Jaques on his farm.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to do there. He wouldn’t even remember me. But I wanted to talk to him. I had the feeling that there was something that would get rolling. So we drove off. It was a warm autumn day when we arrived at his farm on a Saturday. The café terrace was full. I walked – like many other visitors – through the grounds, this mixture of fields and garden. The time for harvesting was over. The earth lay fallow. Dry. Plant debris. Brown in brown. Desolate. Autumn, the time of harvest and subsequent dying. I saw scattered signs: „Do not enter the circle!“, „No passage!“. I had not noticed them at the time. I was surprised. Down the slope, a substantial area had been mowed by a large mowing machine. A young man and woman – probably harvesters for room and board – were idly trying with their rakes to rake this stubborn mixture of grass and brush into piles. Considering the size of the area, a depressing prospect. Desolate. Powerless. Up from the café terrace came loud talking and laughter. It broke the bleak silence, but didn’t make it any better. It was not talking and laughing that was in any way healing. I stood in the silence and became very thoughtful. This was not how I had imagined my return over the years. In my memory I had a place full of openness and power. This was the opposite of that. I no longer felt any power. And no openness either. I shied away from walking across the mowed down area past the two workers. That’s how much I felt they would scold me for it.
I found it remarkable that we had found our way here exactly at the season after the harvest of the fruits and before the death of nature. Exactly the time of dying. Nothing happens without reason. Had this place also given all its fruits and now wanted to go? To go, in order to arise again sometime? I came to the place where we had done the full moon meditation years before. On the wooden platform where the four of us had sat then, Ganesha, the elephant-headed Indian god of prosperity, now stood between his parents Shiva and Parvati. The wooden stairs to the platform had been destroyed, and the gaze of the family of gods was directed to a common point in front of the platform: a planted circle, overgrown almost beyond recognition, containing many different plants. Many of them poisonous and – it is said – magical. A ritual place. A place where with a ceremony was asked for economic success. Or where attempts were made to force it…. To force a dying person back to life…. A woman is standing next to me, looking at the elephant-headed Ganesha with a touched and blissful drawl around her mouth. She misses the real purpose of the installation. It’s not just pretty decoration. The desolation takes hold of me. Nothing is left of the light power of this place. It is dying. And you don’t want to let it. In business language, this means trying to ride a dead horse. Even in the capitalist system, where one usually squeezes everything to the last, one is advised against it. Dead horses are dead. And they stay dead.
I slowly climb the slope back up to the courtyard building and as I approach I can perceive the faces and chatter of the well-to-do, stylishly dressed old hippies on the terrace. That too: so desolate in this so sacred place, which is now only a backdrop for cultivated „sun-downing“ over chai and cake. The stage for self-expression in esoteric herbal ambience. My wife comes out of the café with a few packets of herbal tea. She smiles somewhat pityingly and says that Jaques has cashed in on her and is in a horrible mood. Of course he didn’t recognize her anymore and she left it at that. Whether I still wanted to speak to him. I reply in the negative. „Let’s go to the vacation home. Maybe I’ll drive here again tomorrow. I can’t tell you right now,“ I reply.
On the way back, my mind was racing. What was this? I had waited so long to now be faced with this sight and feeling? – Yes. Exactly because of this, said something in me. I realized: The thought that I had to approach Jaques for something to happen was an anticipation by my mind. A prediction. Meaningless. I was supposed to see everything exactly as I saw it. I was to realize that everything, no matter how great and wonderful and no matter how worthy of preservation it may seem to us, will eventually come to its natural end. I should see what happens when one is not willing to let go of that which is great and wonderful and worth preserving. To let go. I should see it, the narrowness, the anger, the powerlessness and the desolation into which it leads when one wants to hold on against the natural order. What happens when one is not willing to accept the rhythm. I was to learn exactly this.
I know that someday I will reach such a point in my life. And I ask that I will remember the teachings I received on that autumn day.