Forlorn: 1. desolate or dreary; unhappy or miserable, as in feeling, condition, or appearance. 2. lonely and sad; forsaken. 3. expressive of hopelessness; 4. bereft; destitute 
As we walk through France on our way to Jerusalem we have passed many villages and towns. Often we can be in the middle of a field and it is possible to the steeples of a few village churches. I am continually fascinated by the beauty I see in each village.
It is almost impossible to walk through a village and not be stopped in my tracks by something that catches my eye. It may be a brilliant display of flowers on a window sill. Maybe interesting curtains from another era. Possibly the interesting little treasures decorating the walls and windows – gnomes, artificial flowers, quirky figurines. Often times it is old forgotten sagging doors or broken windows, patched up where they have broken by whatever was at hand.
Walking through some villages they have been left in disrepair. There is a forlorn feeling, a sense of sadness. Yet I also feel a yearning for another time. A time when people inhabited this village. Where there was life and laughter and great love.
Traveling through these little forgotten ghostly villages there has been a running joke. In our journeying to date we have seen very few people even in some of the larger towns and cities.
I have often wondered that maybe France is just a figment of someones imagination. One could walk for days and not find a cafe or boulangerie that is open.
On some days I fantasise that some great catastrophe has befallen the land and we are the sole survivors walking through an eerie humans ape that was left as it was. The residents left leaving everything behind.
Behind The Curtain
I long to peer behind those curtains and open up those doors and see what was left behind. No doubt many of the elderly residents of these small villages have moved on but to another world.
I can’t help but feel a great loss. The loss of a culture and a way of seeing things. I long for deeper connection to these villages and the inhabitants. To understand, to know, to feel.
Open Your Heart
They remind me that not all is lost, they remind me to make sure that each day I open my door a little wider. To open my heart and share my life and experience and be open to accept the lives of others.
I wish I could communicate better with the elderly we meet along our journey. They hold a wealth of knowing behind those eyes. Like frail and sun bleached curtains concealing a world inside I seek to understand.
At one hotel we stayed at there was an elderly lady who ran the hotel She was boisterous and loud. I liked her spirit. Even though I couldn’t understand what she said it didn’t matter.
It was a beautiful hotel where things were starting to fall apart. The hot water didn’t work which meant a bracing cold water shower on a cold morning. The internet wifi on our day off didn’t connect which meant a long ride into Reims to call my wife. I couldn’t help but think of Faulty Towers, French style.
Arthur, who speaks and understands fluent French described that her her husband died last year, her health was failing, that she had the burden now of running the hotel with the help of her daughter and that she was overwhelmed with sheer grief and tiredness.
Behind the eyes, the windows to the soul, if we don’t look deep enough we can fail to see a different world. That knowledge about this on the outside boisterous and larger than life women made me realise sometimes to look a little deeper.
It has also made me want to spend time with people in the twilight years of their life. To not let those precious memories be lost without them being re-lived. To see the smile on those fallen lips. To know that their memories aren’t totally lost.
They also have thoughts and ideas that can help us live better more fulfilling lives. Through their wisdom we can learn without having to repeat the same lessons.
Beauty In Old
I see great beauty in old forgotten buildings. Ancient farmhouses where trees have grown through untended roofs. Barns that through the winter chill and patched together with bits of weathered timber and rusted corrugated iron. Village houses long forgotten veiled in a flourish of ivy. Decrepit mills along a stream that had fallen in disrepair.
Obsession With New
I feel a great sadness as I see how we treat elderly people. Because they no longer can work as hard and aren’t as ‘productive’ we want to throw them of the scrap heap, like a redundant smart phone as we rush headlong forward, always after the new. Character and values have been replaced bland modernity.
Old houses like elderly people have a certain lived-in character and charm tha many modern boxes don’t.
We will all get old. It’s a fact. We all are a great reservoir of life and experience.
People getting old are like houses – both start to fall apart.
Hinges rust, joints give way. Windows crack and get covered with dust and cobwebs. Eyes no longer see so clearly. Eaves and gutters begin to sag like skin. Timber weathered exposing the grain like wrinkly hands from a lifetime of toil. Shingles like teeth fall off. Others gather moss slowed down by age. Some shingles fall off like hair receding. Others sprout weeds in unwanted places like ear holes and nostrils. Buildings begin lilt under the weight of time. They fall apart just like
our bodies, and give way. Yet amongst the dilapidation and rubble their is a past, a life lived, stories, love, sacrifice, beauty, and joy.
If Houses Could Talk
As I walk through France I see lives in old buildings. I feel sadness that I cannot know. I see people gone, most long forgotten. I see buildings that wish to speak, waiting for those who will listen.
Never Silence Those Who Have Lost Their Voice
As I am about to conclude these words I am reminded of an incident last year. An aunt of mine whom at one time we lived with was terminally ill and dying. I flew interstate to see her in the hospice before she passed away. She couldn’t speak as she was very weak and the cancer was affecting the part of her brain that controlled speech. I remember feeling angered as they dismissed her. They thought that she was no longer conscious to thought.
My wife and I began to speak with her. Both of us smiling jovially hiding back tears. We spoke to her about Maltese words that she used to say when we were naughty, and brought up moments from our childhood. She summoned a smile that brought tears to my eyes.
The lights may have seemed off but their was definitely someone home. That person who lived inside, who had dreams, who experienced things, both joy and tragedy, and great love. She was there. Her home may have fallen apart around her but she was there.
With her passing I carry with me beautiful memories of childhood, of family visits, of a women filled with infinite patience as her home she came filled with a husband and two sons and their old cars, spare parts, vegetable gardens, avacoda tree, birds and aviaries, and fish and aquariums.
Holding Onto Goodness
I feel a powerless that I can’t stop memories from being lost forever.
I sense that as younger generations move to the big cities we lose part of our soul. We strive for globalisation and a numbing sameness and can’t help but think our future lies in these small villages. To resurrect what was good here, to retain collective identity, culture, things that have worked and that are good and not be tricked that the grass is greener on the other side of our future.