The coast of South Finistère (5/6)

Further along the coast, you hit the baie d’Audierne. The landscape is huge in all directions. The sky, the sea, the land feel infinite. The sand dune and the beach stretch almost to the horizon. During the day, the sun dazzles and burns, creates a haze. The light clouds move at speed. Only at night can you see the distant lights of Audierne, Pors-Poulant, Keristenvet, Penhors, Plovan, far to the right. To the left, far away too, the Pointe de Penmarc’h, its town and its lighthouse.

The sea breaks into waves, the waves crash onto the sand. Always have, always will. Surfers only leave a trace of scum for an instant, before disappearing under water. At each rising tide, the waves wipe away all the footprints. In the dry sand, the wind blows, creates small ripples, chips away at footprints, and gradually smooths them away into anonymous dips.

The yellow sand deposited by the sea is in fact crumbs of the shells of razor clams (couteaux, literally “knives”), broken down and ground by wave after wave against the shore. Each retreating wave along the beach carves, around each black granite pebble, a little depression in the sand. It reminds me of a zen garden. At each rising tide, the new wave on the beach is met by little stints (bécasseaux minutes). They fly along the beach in loose groups of twenty, then they land and seem to enter a race, back and forth, to keep in an inch of water, no more no less. They feed on the awakening coquillages (“shellfish”).

The pebbles accumulate in places at the top of the beach. The dune is the beach prolonging inland, formed 3000 years ago as the sea retreated. Maram grass (oyats) fix the sands until the wind loses strength. Behind the wind break of the dune, a lagoon where seagulls come to bathe, ducks and waders take shelter. At night, the calls of natter jack toads and frogs take over from the whistling wind.

No wonder people here pondered the immensity of time, and how small and short-lived, they were. Half a kilometre inland, the chapel Notre-Dame-du-Tronoën, has a beautiful calvaire (monumental calvary). More than five centuries ago, the God-fearing locals, erected and carved it. Megalith tradition revisited. The immensity of time, of God, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are carved into the stone. On the sides exposed to the salty sea wind, nature has taken its toll, and figures are difficult to make out. But on the sheltered sides, you can clearly read the Gospel of the Poors.

Much later on, on the beach, men have dotted the landscape with blockhouses, as if their mind boggled in front of too much space and time. Their concrete, and that of the pebble crusher (concasseur de galets) just behind the sand dune, are now taken over by graffiti artists of decent standards. It helps. As a child, I used to hate blockhouses. Blotches on the landscape, they were scary reminders of war, and, also, usually littered with broken bottles and stinking of piss. But I am glad to say I have become a bit more philosophical about blockhouses.

Next onto the Pointe du Raz, the western-most tip of Cap Sizun.

Published by languagesandlights

Solitary vagabond, philosopher, writer, poet, teacher

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