A Madelinot took me on transformative journey along the red sandstone cliffs of Belle Anse. Not too far West from where I'm laying my head in Fatima, Belle Anse feels like a dramatic departure. It's West-facing, cave-filled cliffs conjure up feelings of mystery, initiation and metamorphosis.
The "beautiful cove" is a significant place for my guide, particularly one cave. Over twenty years ago, the cave was a personal source of creative inspiration and transformation for them, strongly connected to the wind. They hadn't returned in many years so, on this day, we were searching for the cave whose exact location had been forgotten and whose form had likely changed due to erosion (both to landscape and memory).
When we arrived, we followed a path along the cliff-side littered with mounds of sea parsley, exchanging words along the way. They spoke mostly French. I, English. However there was a lot that was understood. The wind was really whipping up the landscape on this day, and with every turn I was struck by how much Belle Anse lived up to its name.
We reached a point on the cliff-side where it seemed we could no longer walk along it, so we proceeded inland to find another way. We walked back a half a kilometer, past an abandoned, wind-beaten shack, until we found the beginning of a path through the woods. The path didn't last long however, and once in the woods, we were scrambling over and under thick brush. We moved down into a bog with water flowing back toward the cliffs, so we followed it. After much time, we finally reached the edge of the woods and found ourselves in a watery open area, fifty feet away from the cliff's edge. I looked to my left and noticed an open and short path that we could have taken. But the journey through the woods felt necessary.
We walked further along the cliffs, and I spotted fish eggs that were gathered in the shape of a circle inside a cove. We stopped and watched it for some time, as two black guillemots floated nearby. The foam was continuously hinting at changing form, revealing some possibility, but it always maintained its circular shape.
We then began to walk to the other side of the cove, as we couldn't see the back of it from where we were standing. We had to make our way inland again to round a long and narrow cliff inlet. I stopped at the back of the inlet to listen, as my guide moved further ahead. The sea waves we're picking up density and momentum as they moved through the narrow passage, and slammed against the back of the inlet, making a low, thud sound that vibrated through the earth I stood on.
After staying with the full-body sound experience for awhile, I noticed my guide was now on the other side of the cove standing still, looking to the back of it. So I made my way to them to see tear-filled eyes. I looked to where they were looking, and saw the most beautiful cave I have ever seen. And, in front of it, was the white circle of foam that we had intently watched from the other side, mirroring the shape of the cave's mouth.
I was so moved by what I was witnessing. It felt sacred. The sense of sacredness wasn't so much to do with the beauty of the form, but something felt and unseen. It was the energy, the process, the story in the land, the moment. It was the journey we had taken. It was my guide reconnecting with a significant place.
I didn't take a photo of the cave. Nor did I record any sound. I just focussed on fully witnessing the moment, through all the senses. I knew that this was a place one should only fully experience by being present, which included making the journey there.
What makes a place sacred? What is our responsibility when we witness something sacred? Feel free to comment below.
I invite you to watch an interview with Max "Duramunmun" Harrison, an elder of the Yuin Nation of Southeast Australia. In the beginning of the video, he talks about sacredness in the land, saying: "You can't see sacredness, you can't see spirituality, but you can feel it, you can live it."
View The Invisible Paths map by clicking here.