I both love and loathe my experience at Mont Saint-Michel. I’m enamored of its history—how the Archangel Michael appeared to a priest some 700 years ago and told him to build this church in the water, how the priest equivocated right up to the point where the angel put a hole in his head, and how the clergyman managed, without benefit of electricity, to build this amazing place on this incredible rock, in the mist, in the water, in the northern part of France. I am intrigued that the place was converted into a prison in Napoleon’s time and at other points.
My only regret is that I do not stay here longer. I’m on a day-trip bus tour from Paris, and there just isn’t time. I climb the space with our tour group, imagining life here in 709, in 1789, even today. I dislike the crowds and want more space to myself, more stillness, more incense, more God. I’m one of three and a half million visitors per year.
I look out over the water and see people in the sands of the bay and wish that I hadn’t taken a bus trip but had rented a car, opted to stay a few days here. I wish that I’d had time to be guided across those sands; I wish I’d experienced the thrill of tides that could wash me away. I’m going to have to come back now. I’ll be a pilgrim here again. I need to know more. I need to walk to the top without the company of quite so many other travelers; I need to figure out the slow season here; I need about a dozen books about this place. Some days, I might even need a dent in my head to figure out the path I am supposed to take.