Long Ago and Far Away

Hanging unnoticed on a cluttered corner of my bulletin board for years, a photograph I had taken of Mont Saint Michel caught my daughter’s eye one evening. After studying it for a moment she declared simply that it was “a nice shot.” I agreed, surprised, thinking about the little Kodak camera I had used, and reminded her that she and her brother were in the back seat of a rented Volvo station wagon twelve years ago when I asked my husband to stop and pull over as Mont Saint Michel came into view. I remember everyone’s excitement more than I remember the moment. The kids, since through their eyes the gothic mountain of stone was an enormous castle, me, because visiting the abbey had been on my bucket list before the term bucket list existed, and my husband, because his intimidating task of driving his family across a foreign country had momentarily come to an end.

 

Long ago and far away,
I dreamed a dream one day
And now that dream is here beside me
Long the skies were overcast but now the clouds have passed
You’re here at last.

 

msm
I first saw the tidal wonders of Mont Saint Michel in my ninth grade French class on a standard high school Super 8 projector. Despite the grainy black and white film, viewing the powerful advance of the tide toward its rocky destination from my desk in the darkened classroom was spellbinding. Due to its site in a pocket of the English Channel, the former island experiences an amazing tidal range and at low tide the sea retreats beyond visibility exposing miles of sand, and comes roaring back again during high tide. The prospect of someday experiencing this spectacle in person was intoxicating, and I quickly placed it on my mental list of life goals.

It is difficult to describe this powerful event, how quickly the tide advances low on the horizon, waves churning in a determined dance until the miles of sand flats disappear, then making a sudden and dramatic crash onto the rocks below. The French describe it as “coming in as fast as a galloping horse.” I was happy to have experienced the sight of the furious race of the waves with my family high on the cliffs above, and remember lingering until dusk. It was dusk outside the window of my study as well, and as I placed the memory back on the bulletin board, I carefully aligned the small puncture hole with the point of the tack and secured it back in its spot in the corner, a sudden standout among the clutter.

74 comments

  • What a lovely vivid, layered story Elisa.. loved the description of the waves… and what a magic place it is…and how you described it…

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    • Valerie, your writing has inspired me to be better a better writer, to be brave and put myself out there. For that reason I’m always happy when you stop by and read my posts. Your comments are always better than the story…which I love.

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      • What a lovely thing to say, Elisa…I have to say that I always read your posts – don’t think I’ve missed any, ( unless I’m overcome from blog exhaustion)
        I always find your writing sensitive and thoughtful which are two qualities that really draw me in to reading…. and the sensitivity is even more valuable to me than the thoughtfulness… many people can be thoughtful,but only some are sensitive,
        And it’s not something you fake or decide to be – you just are… Enjoy your writing, I can see that you do, and don’t judge it, you are enough !!!.

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  • What a lovely share and to have made one of your wishes come true is marvelous… certainly sounds like a place to visit…

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    • Glad to be a memory faerie! What a fabulous destination for a class trip, I’d love to hear the story from your experience! Long ago and far away…

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  • This is a wonderful post. The photo is really fine too. You had the eye in the beginning, I see. I love hearing bits of your story, Elisa. Just makes me smile. Thanks.

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    • Thank you, George! I enjoyed wandering back into time, seems I do that more and more these days now that both of our kids are on their way out the door to take on the world. Glad you’ve been smiling, which in turn, makes me smile!

      Enjoy your day, and sneak a treat to Rita!

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    • Oh, studying abroad must have been wonderful. Everyone I know who was able to take the semester or year abroad always has a funny story or two to tell!

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  • What a BEAUTIFUL post! Thanks So much for sharing such a warm and loving memory! How’s that bucket list coming?

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    • How NICE it is to hear from you, Jasmine! Are you still on a break or preparing another fun, uplifting post! I hope so because you have been MISSED! Funny, I never did prepare an official bucket list, I’m still a fly-by-the-seat of my pants kind of girl. (I wonder what the origins of that phrase could possibly be?) Hope to see you back on WP soon!
      Take care,
      Elisa

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      • OH I’m still working I won’t be back back till like September. I figured I’ll be talking about my self enough then I should come support my FAVORITE BLOGS! I’m ALWAYS WATCHING LOL

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  • Great post. Amazing how a photo, vision or moment in time can make such an impression on person. It touches them to their soul. They are special. Thank you for sharing this one. -Max-

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    • Thank you for the lovely comment. I enjoyed visiting your Pinterest page, or do you call it a board? You’ve inspired me to get a little more involved with mine…one of these days!
      Take care,
      Elisa

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  • Lovely photo and family memory. It brought to mind one of my favourite paintings by my father. It was a dark moonlit view of St. Michael’s Mount (as the English insist on calling it). There were sailing boats in sillouette and the moon reflecting on the waves. I loved the magic of the painting. I wonder where it went? Who has it? When I visit in the autumn I will find it
    Thanks for the memories… another song.

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    • Your father must have been quite a talent, I’d love to see a shot of the painting if you ever track it down. Hopefully it will be yours to hang on the wall to enjoy and to reflect. Time sure does race by, doesn’t it.
      Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing your story!
      Elisa

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    • Yes, that is well said, and how lucky that we all can share in your art that often captures the hold that nature has on us.
      Take care,
      Elisa

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  • Such a great remembrance with a very pretty photo.

    BTW, I know the song “Long Ago and Far Away” much better than “Ice, Ice Baby”. πŸ˜‰

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    • A few years ago I had to have a skin graft through oral surgery…I’ll spare you the details, but the surgeon was a young guy who encouraged me to listen to my ipod to help me relax. I remember pressing shuffle right before he started the procedure, and to my horror (at first) Ice Ice Baby was the first song that came on – I hadn’t listened to it in years, and I was certain he heard it and thought I must be a little kooky. But at the end of the day, goofy song or not, it really helped me through those first horrifying minutes. I should have mentioned this story in my post to help salvage my reputation!!

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  • A lovely memory brought to life with both the image and your words! It is one thing that I find so alluring about photography: a snapshot in time can become so much more, not just for yourself but a viewer who may just live the moment through your eyes.

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    • I agree, and it really helped bring the moment back sharply into focus. All my memories are still alive, but seem to be fading these days. Just so darned busy!

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  • A great story and tribute to the memory your photo provides for you. I have always said that we capture today for tomorrow with a cameras and your post certainly shows that! Our daughter was there a few years ago on a school trip to France, I recognized the shot right away when I saw your post… I need to dig that up now!

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    • I’m happy that this photo jogged a few memories, including my own when it came to my attention again. It’s startling how many wonderful experiences are fading away into my brain, so you’re correct that we must capture more TODAYS! I’m excited that you’re daughter was able to visit this gorgeous sight. Hope you find the photograph!!
      Take good care,
      Elisa

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  • I want to thank you for writing this great blog πŸ™‚ Made me unearth my old flicks or well I say memories.

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    • There you are, how on earth did WP plop you in my spam folder! I should check it more often, in case that happens to other longtime blogger friends. I enjoyed your comment, and hope you are well!
      Elisa

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  • Look at how good you were with photography all those years ago! We were just talking this weekend about taking shots with film vs. digital (after discovering a cache of 35mm film) and how you never really knew if the photos you’d taken were good or not until they’d been developed. It was such a happy surprise when a picture actually turned out well. Thx for sharing your family memories. It makes each shot even more special.
    x Laura

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    • Thanks, Laura. I think was a lucky shot, in a lot of ways. I was always so rushed during family vacations…come to think of it, I’m in a constant rush, period! Glad you enjoyed, your comment was lovely.

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  • What a magical place, Elisa. I love the way you’ve described everything you saw that late afternoon so long ago. The words of that beautiful song are so fitting too. I love the melody too. πŸ™‚

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    • It’s funny, I was originally thinking of the James Taylor version of “Long Ago and Far Away,” but I never realized how sad the lyrics were until I studied them the other day. I do like this version much better!

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  • Elisa,

    Your photos are never anything less than captivating. “It is difficult to describe this powerful event, how quickly the tide advances low on the horizon, waves churning in a determined dance until the miles of sand flats disappear, then making a sudden and dramatic crash onto the rocks below.” Perhaps it is time to add “poet” to your repertoire? πŸ™‚

    Blessings,
    ~ Cara

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    • Cara, your comments are always so lovely and leave me with a smile. I’m not sure about the poet part, but the words did come from my soul. I was so happy to hear from you and hope you are well. I’m hopping over to your blog RIGHT NOW!

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  • You’ve captured Mont-Saint-Michel in all its glory! We enjoyed a late summer visit there two years ago. It was certainly magical standing out in the water as the tide started to come in.

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  • hi Elisa,
    I like your storytelling fragment “…thinking about the little Kodak camera I had used, and reminded her that she and her brother were in the back seat of a rented Volvo station wagon twelve years ago when I asked my husband to stop and pull over as Mont Saint Michel came into view…”

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  • I love this! Your post reminds me of my experience at Mont Saint Michele. I lived in England when I was a girl and one spring we took the ferry to Calais and drove through Normandy. We stayed a night in Mont Saint Michel. It is such a mystical place–mysterious, beautiful, and rugged. Your post brought back some great memories for me today. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Thank you for your wonderful comment and for sharing your experience at the mystical Mont Saint Michele. Your description was perfect!
      Elisa

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  • Now if only you had taught my college architectural history class (so many years ago) when this place was studied, maybe I would have appreciated this wonder even more and perhaps received a better grade. You made me dig out my old textbook to re-read about this Romanesque and Gothic mix of styles, on a mound of granite, rising from tidal mudflats, with what I imagine was a whole lot of grunting to lift stones in place…and that somehow survived countless wars, facility uses, and occupations. So do you still have that “historical” camera that takes such “a nice shot”? Nice post Elisa!

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    • I’m not sure I would have been cut out for teaching, but I do believe I could have fired up a few students about this architectural wonder. Thanks for having faith in me! Your comment gets an A plus.

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  • I love how you described the tide and how it felt as you were watching it. With your words I could see it in my mind. It must be such a great experience and it’s something I hope to see someday. I’m going to Paris next year but I don’t think I’ll have time to go to Normandy.
    Have a great week-end πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you, Jocelyne. You would love experiencing the mystery of MSM, but I’d say that Paris is a fabulous consolation prize!! I look forward to hearing about your visit to one of my favorite cities!

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  • Great photo. It is a beautiful place. I visited there last year but the tide was out by the time I got there and there was a lot of construction work going on around the river so the surrounding scenery did not look as nice as in your photo!

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    • Oooh, how nice that you were able to visit. I thought I read somewhere that they’re trying to make it an island again by building a dam and removing the causeway. A huge project, but what great inspiration to return and catch the tides surrounding an island as it did hundreds of years ago. It’s back on the top of my list!!

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Elisa

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  • Hi Elisa, you have such a beautiful blog, not just the pictures but the description are also so poetic, its a privilege to visit your blog and thanks for liking my blog πŸ™‚

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  • How very brave of you (and your husband) to drive around those parts.
    (Can’t remember if you speak French). πŸ™‚
    But it’s worth it.
    Were coming from Normandy into Brittany or the inverse.
    (Maybe Brittany from the angle of the picture. Looks like it’s before the Couesnon river)
    Take care
    Brian

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