Thursday, 25 July 2013


It has been more than a week now since my diagnosis and the beginning of treatment for this case of shingles -- zona -- with which I am still afflicted. (Oh, I do like that word "afflicted", it carries with it a mantle of suffering worthy of Job....) But thanks to strong antiviral drugs and painkillers, I am on the other side of this malady, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel (more on tunnels later). Nevertheless, I will welcome a "magnetiseuse" this afternoon, who may put the final touch on my recovery.

This is one of the many ways in which life here is different from anything I knew in Canada. In the last week, on hearing of my case of shingles, four French friends have immediately said, "But you must see a healer/conjurer/witch/magnetiseur!" They come by many names, but the relevant factor is that some people are given the "gift" of healing burns -- sometimes even before they happen -- and the sensation of burning pain. It appears to be more common in this part of France than elsewhere.

When I had radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery three years ago, even the nurses at the hospital recommended that I see a healer during the six-week period of radiation, it seems to be "something everyone does". Indeed, I did make regular visits to a local "magnetiseur", Monsieur Domenichini, and so I know that the woman who is coming today will probably not touch me, but will move her hands slowly around my head, taking away the pain.

She is the wife of Eric, who helps me with garden chores I cannot manage on my own, and he says she has "the gift". One never pays directly for this treatment, as it is a "don de Dieu" and therefore cannot be "commercialized"... But I will find a way to pay Eric a little more for his work.

In the meantime, I follow my own treatment, which is to find ways to take my mind off my head (so to speak). And a couple of days ago, I found a fine focus for my attention... I was startled to find the spider web below on my kitchen window, as it seemed to have appeared overnight. It is the work of only one small creature who has made it in order to trap unwary insects... It is an intricate, beautiful killing apparatus, and as such reminds me of a great argument I had with Pierre, a French friend who lives up the hill nearby. He is an afficiando of fighter jets, and  loves to watch them do their manoeuvres over the Cevennes -- they come over this way from Salon-de-Provence to practice. He stated that he believes they are "beautiful". With much agitation, I disagreed, my point being that a killing machine can never be beautiful because of its function... And here I am, Pierre, eating my words.

Look at the engineering that has produced the attaching filaments.
 The little spider who made this marvel is called a funnelweb spider (agelenidae), and there are at least 400 varieties around the world who makes their webs into tunnels in order to trap their prey -- those in Australia can be poisonous, but here in the south of France, humans need have no worries. There are different shapes of tunnel-webs, and with this in mind I went out this morning to see what others I might find.

Look carefully in the upper righthand corner of the web.
What you see here is a massive exercise in optimism, really... the spider, having done his/her work, waits at the bottom of the tunnel for roomservice breakfast to arrive... In this case, all that's been caught is the empty husk of a cicada who has left this body behind in order to become its better, final, mating self... making that crazy buzz-saw music all day long that drives me slightly mad... At this season, as the cicadas go through this metamorphic process, you find these empty little left-over "bodies" all over the orchard and garden, attached to tree branches, iris leaves, lily stems...

Amazingly perfect, even though discarded
Ah, wouldn't it be wonderful if we human could discard our old bodies as we move from stage to stage in our lives, the way that the cicadas (in French, cigales) are able to do. I'd sure trade in mine right now...