The Abbey

The garden at the Abbaye d'Ardenne. (P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

The garden at the Abbaye d’Ardenne.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

A Visit to the Garden

I can hear the pipes tonight, and I am pleased with the week’s research having discovered that at least one piper has given melodic life to the drifting winds around solemn grounds near Caen. I recall when my two friends and I chose to visit the Abbaye d’Ardenne and how as the Abbey came into view the silence in the car made us wonder what we might experience.

On these visits I always attempt to be continual aware of the surroundings and watch for the unexpected. I look for what could be easily overlooked if one just pushes through to the actual site. So much can be missed. When you visit these places take your time, watch how the branches bend their limbs and their leaves rustle, listen, feel the atmosphere.

As we came upon the road to the Abbey I watched as this place of God grew larger upon the horizon, and as we approached how each breath became increasingly deeper. The car is at last parked and once I am on the grounds the watchful eye of observation casts its gaze. I know the history but how will I remember this day in the future? What image can I take that will capture the final moments of lives past? Does the light stream through the trees, where are the shadows? What are the others experiencing?

The red poppies of remembrance come into view as we walk along the path. They bear silent respect to events from June 1944. As we move forward the poppies continue to remind us that this is a landscape that continues to echo to this day of the horrors of war. It is at this Abbey and in this garden that we recall that this was once a place of execution. It is here that Canadian soldiers of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and the Sherbrooke Fusilers Regiment were murdered as prisoners of war.

These events of June 7th and 8th when 18 Canadians were killed and again on June 17th when two more joined their brothers in arms are remembered here. A memorial sits within the garden and a panel along the side of the building reminds us of these soldier’s faces.  On this day and in the future I recall the gentle wind, the sounds and the silence. Perhaps if I had listened more carefully one might have heard a voice call…Hello, thank you for remembering.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


2 Responses to “The Abbey”

  1. Graham Harte says:

    The excellent intreguing articles maintain me coming back here time and time again. thank you so a lot.

  2. pferguson pferguson says:

    Image moved from bottom of article to top (1 November 2019).

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