Granted, I’ve always lived in big godless urban machines, but it seems to me God (if there is one) is a lot more present here than in the US. But not in an oppressive hideous way (with the possible exception of the ceramic Virgin Mary that’s on the shelf near the TV).
Of course, in the US we tend to hide all traces of God away in order not to offend those who may worship different dieties. As a result He/She only seems present in violent bursts. Usually when a bunch of gun-wielding people remind us.
Here, there are the obvious physical manifestations — like the ubiquitous ancient churches in the center of every town. But His/Her presence can also be heard hourly with the church bells’ constant updates.
If you’re the really spiritual type, I suppose you could see God in the beautiful setting, the trees, the birds, the colors, the blooming flowers, the sound of children playing, a donkey braying or just in the intimate patterns of a small village.
They also have tons of religious holidays here that just kind of jump out at you unexpectedly. Like Sundays. And Pentecost. And Ascension day. (click for a list of French national holidays).
In the villages, even the really important people, like the butcher and baker take Sunday afternoon off as well as all day Monday. Which can be a total bummer if you’re caught unaware. You wake up one morning with no milk for your coffee trudge to the local grocery store, find it closed, walk two miles to Mery sur Oise and find they’re all closed too. That’s when you find yourself cursing God (on His/Her day, no less).
Truth is, I don’t give God a whole lot of thought. From everything I’ve seen and read up to now, he seems a little judgmental and narcissistic. But if I’m to judge by the one I’m getting glimpses of in Auvers, He/She is cool by me.
Here, God is more like the Auvers church looking over the village from the hill. It’s been there for ages. You don’t have to visit it. You don’t have to even notice it. But if you lose your sense of direction you can scan the horizon and there it is, guiding you towards home.