On stony paths do roses grow

by Barbara Maria Rathbone


‘Say not the struggle nought availeth, the labour and the wounds are vain…’ says Arthur Hugh Clough, an idea that could have been folded into Nietzsche’s ideas of eternal recurrence and the constancy yet purpose of human struggle.   In his fight or flight world, struggle and travail lead to enlightenment, reason and understanding.  In Eze, an eagles nest village clasping the side of the Corniche on the Côte d’Azur, there is a precipitous path that connects the pretty, Medieval hilltop paradise with Eze-sur-Mer, its placid sister, where lies a quiet beach, ice-cream and the cradle of the iris blue Mediterranean . This path is known as the Chemin de Friedrich Nietzsche.

How aptly named I thought, as I wended my way down in flip-flops on a hot August day, desperately trying not to mis-step, where a mistake would toss me into a steep green, rocky cleft. Going was slow – steps had to be clearly prepared, and it was arid and ridden with uneven stony protuberances. Nietzsche stayed in Eze and liked to take this walk, conjugating the ideas of the Übermensch over in his fervent and wild mind as he too watched his step.

In struggle, if we are open, we are given understanding, we are awarded the gifts of unconditional love. We are tended by the arms of relief and succour, after the sweat and brow-beating of anger and impatience. I have found it all in the past few months, in small moments of recognition, the consolation of a deeply spiritual connexion, even with the one or thing that troubles me so.   At the end of suffering there can be a mystical peace.  But maybe that is just me.  I have had very little choice but to kick over the stones of a very stony path and there soon I will see a bloom or an angel, even if it is but a dream…