Paradise on earth for the book lover. That’s Hay-on-Wye in one sentence. I visited this little town in 1991 with my husband. We had heard about this village which was at that time described as the village with most bookshops and second-hand books in Europe. So we went. Indeed it was a great find. I still remember our surprise upon finding that some of the shops had a message up saying: please put money in the tin.
Years later I eventually returned to Hay.
It was January 2012. The weather as you can see was not particularly appealing, but Hay was and I insisted on taking a pic of the sign with the name of the village on.The sun came through several times though.
We left the car at the car park and walked into the village. At that point we did not have any map so we just followed our noses and I haphazardly took pics of any bookshop that came in sight. It’s quite amazing to see such a small village with such an amount of book shops. Every corner you turn you bump into a new one.
The name of another shop caught my eye:
In 2000 I trained with Deepak Chopra to become a meditation teacher at his network. The type of meditation we were taught was PSM (primordial sound meditation). Seeing this sign made me smile. One of the things we were told was to always beware to meditate in the sun. So seeing PSM outdoors made me reminisce..
The Hay castle bookshop has two departments (so to speak) outdoors as seen above right. The sheet attached to the pole says:
Honesty bookshop! Just put your money in the red box. The books were rather casually stacked in the cases and some had suffered some severe damage caused by dampness. This of course accounts for the very low prices. The other department is inside the castle and in there one can browse for a considerable amount of time. Not us though, since we arrived at this particular shop quite late. We walked out and around the corner only to find more ‘departments’ (or maybe book sheds) filled to the brim with books. There were at least 4 of them. My friend said: ‘give me any number between 1 and 4’. I said: 3. ‘Okay you go to the third book shed. Stand in front of it and close your eyes. Now start walking straight ahead’ So I walked straight ahead eyes (semi) closed. It was very dark inside anyway. At a certain point near the back he said: ‘turn left’ which I did. ‘Walk on 6 paces’ which I did. Now lift your hand above your head and point forwards. Lower your hand, a bit more, a bit more, more, stop. Bring your hand to the shelf. Open your eyes. Start with your hand at the left and very slowly move it in front of the books. Stop. Now take out the book which is right there in front.’ And I did and it was:
The fun thing about this was that a friend of mine in Holland had told me the week before that I should pick up Conversations with God part 1 again and do a re-read. And there it was, it fell right into my hands in Hay while playing this fun game. And there were no other books on spirituality on that shelf nor on the shelves above or underneath. I checked.
I was of course intrigued so picked up the book standing next to this one. It happened to be the diary of Teresa of Lisieux. This book I purchased years ago in France while on a personal pilgrimage to Lisieux visiting the Basilique and doing the Teresa walk through the village. Teresa was a very devout girl who wanted to join the Carmelite convent at the age of 13. However it was not allowed for anyone that young to take such a vow. The next year the family went on a pilgrimage to Rome to see the Pope. Teresa was instructed to not look up and definitely not speak to the Pope. He would bless each pilgrim while placing his hand on their head. When it was her turn, the by then 14 year old Teresa looked up and asked the Pope if he could please allow her to enter the convent right now. It is said that the Pope smiled and was somewhat amused but said to her she should ask her local bishop.
Anyway, at the age of 15 she was admitted and she took up the brown robe. Little Teresa was now a Carmelite nun who chose the name: Teresa of the little child Jesus (actually when Mother Teresa took her vows she chose her name in honour of this Teresa and not after Teresa of Avila).
How come I am writing all this? Well to me the little saint Teresa has been a stunning example of a person who was content being only a small flower, a simple daisy. ‘Dear God let me be a tiny daisy which is nothing compared to the splendour of the Lily and the Rose, let me be this little flower which makes the others shine and stand out to even greater advantage’. She was modest and totally fine with being so. She trusted Jesus would shed his love on her as he would on every blade of grass. She was forever trying to not be judgemental and praying while doing her work. I was very touched by her life. She was asked to write about her life in the convent by the Mother superior. When she was 23 she contracted tuberculosis and was severely ill. She died with a smile on her face. Totally trusting she would be awaited by Jesus. She said: ‘Je veux passer mon ciel à faire du bien sur terre’, meaning I want to spend my time in heaven helping those who are on earth. After her death her diary was found and published. The purity of her mind and the unconditional trust and love of the girl were such that she was made a ‘docteur de l’Eglise’, i.e. she was made a saint by the Pope. Saint Teresa of the Small child Jesus. Everyone who prays to Saint Teresa when in need can ask her for a sign. This will mostly come in the form of a flower on your path. I myself have had flowers appear miraculously on my path in times of great distress.
I learned about Saint Teresa through my nan. My grandmother once told me a story. It was during the war and she had no money. Nothing to buy food for her 3 children. Grandmother always used to pray to Saint Teresa. She would then ask for a sign that all would be well. After leaving the church she crossed the street and found a ten guilder note on the pavement. In those days that was a lot of money.
I have always felt that it was all right to be small and modest. Not everyone can be a rose. That is probably why Teresa struck such a deep chord within me.
I am happy to be small because only children and those who resemble them are to sit down at the celestial banquet.
This bust of Teresa sits in my house. I came across it one day while visiting the Museum of Holy statues in Enkhuizen, the Netherlands. The lady of that little museum has over a hundred statues in her basement. She also had a nice statue of Teresa.
I asked her which Saint she preferred and she told me Saint Nicolas, he is what Santa Claus is to the English and Americans. She asked me which Saint I preferred. I told her Teresa. She turned out to have this bust of Teresa which she was happy to sell. I said I probably could not afford it, but she gave it to me for 10 pounds. That made me realise this bust was meant to be with me. And it has been for over 10 years now. Reminding me of the purity of this little French girl.
And then one day I am in Hay-on-Wye and I pick up not only Neale Donald Walshes book, conversations with God, but also come across the English version of Saint Teresa’s book. Is that a miracle? To me it is miraculous that is for certain. And before you ask: no I am not a catholic. I am a person who believes in this great big field, this reservoir, this field of full potential, from which we all come and in which we all thrive, even when unaware of it.
And in this field of consciousness, miracles happen. I have lived many.
This is also one of those typical shops that makes one just want to step inside and browse endlessly. I love detective stories and have read a great many. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit this shop. Still I console myself saying that I will shortly return to Hay and then will make up for all the things I missed last time..
Terrible goose me, I forget the name of this shop. However I will find out later and let you know. In any case this is a wonderful shop. It’s all wood and books. And a very nice tearoom to add to that.
Notice my wonderful walking boots please. Not elegant, but soo comfy..
Great shop innit? And then I suddenly came across a heron. As you can see above. Now to me the heron has a particular meaning. (yes, yes, I attach great meaning to things other people raise their eyebrows over. I consider myself the Fool, the numberless number in the Tarot, so just bear with me ok?). In the secret language of animal totems the heron means: going after your goal aggressively, without hesitation. Also it means: do things alone. Don’t wait for other people’s approval. Just go your own way and you’ll be fine. The heron has been my totem for umpteen years. In Holland, where I live, herons galore, but very often one specifically crosses my path. Sitting down on the roof of my house, or at the pond just below my house. Or sitting down on the street lantern in my alley. Really quite conspicuous. Anyway. I hope the pic below is clear: you can see both the heron and me mirrored in it.
For any information on the language of animal totems I can refer you to the books by Ted Andrews or to his Totem Animal Tarot deck.
Above shop sign is a tyre. Name of the shop: Rest when tyred…
I like drawing as well. This sign above left is simple but to me lovely with the drawn books. And the trompe l’oeuil above I found in a street painted on an outside door. The man is stealing upstairs with a pile of books in his hands. I can relate to that. Nothing better than coming home from a second-hand-book-find-spree with a stack of books. Making a cup of tea and nestling oneself on the settee with the new found treasure.
So this was Hay in January. Good news: there is a book festival in Hay-on-Wye which takes place in June. This years dates: 31st of May – 10th June. The Hay-on-Wye festival is a must for book lovers. Find out more on the official website: www.hayfestival.com