Thursday, 4 October 2012

Saint du Barrys and sensations

If you separate them into details, you might not get the whole. The pebble, sunlight, cool air, leaf, small bird, red of the small bird, the flutter, the puff of dust as it lands on the feeder, the different stains of brown on the feeder, the slight angle as it takes the bird's titny weight, even the brightness of the eye. Add to this the coffee and cigar I have taken outside to watch the evening in the garden from a favourite couch, and the sensation of all these details, and of course many, many more: I asked my heart what it felt, and the answer was calm and lifted up. Sitting there, a snippet of the liturgy came to mind:

Priest: Lift up your hearts.
Congregation: We lift them up.

There must be myriads of sensations in each moment, and quite unconciously, they focus to make a moment real.

Inside, for the first time ever in October, I have lit a fire. It's not really necessary, but the winter this year has curled its tail around the months when it should have stretched out, shaken itself and moved on. The world outside is full of blossoms, buds and rich smells, and the temperature is about 17C. The Europeans will laugh at the fire. The cats and dogs are not embarrassed. They have come to join me.

I filled up the bird-feeders, all four, and sat down to watch, and paid attention to what my heart did as I observed. Three pigeons strutted over the pebbles. My heart simply saw them and stayed even. They remind me of sheep. Then two finches darted down. My heart lifted by two pebbles' worth. Pebbles held in the strong evening light. Then a red bishop came down. My heart lifted by another three pebbles' worth. And so it went until the whole garden was slightly more raised and I found myself relaxed and content.

There's a curious exchange between the outer and the inner when it comes to establishing the ruling sensation of the moment. I have watched guests sit down, open bottle of wine, turn the glass a little, pour, taste, and then sit back. I am certain I can feel what they feel in this moment. I have observed guests peer into their room for the first time, walk in, look around, walk into the bathroom, then step back and their entire posture speaks of relief and satisfaction.

Going on a journey is mostly about wanting to experience new sensations, whether the novelty, challenge or fascination. Yet sometimes the journey is because of sad occasions, sorrowful memories or poignant purpose. Once we had a couple who got engaged during a private dinner. It was supposed to be a secret for her, and it was, but the rest of the company in the dining-room on the other side of the door waited in anticipation until at last the announcement came.

When we leave Saint du Barrys one day it will be with an exceptional awareness of the enrichment of the experience of owning a guest house. After guests leave, I wonder what memory remains for them a day, week, year later.

The mark of good literature is memorability. Perhaps the mark of a good guest house is the imprint of comfortable and happy sensation that is retained over time.