I loathe taking people to the airport. Not because I find it an inconvenience – I’m happy to do favors for friends and family. The reason I dislike it so intensely is because they are going somewhere and I am not. Jealousy, you green-eyed monster, you!
A lot of travelers hate flights in general. My husband is one of these. The cramped conditions, the noise, the germs from crying babies and coughing adults, all of it combines to make flying a thing of dread. I don’t mind it, though. I always load my mp3 player up with audiobooks and music, and make sure to bring paper and pen for uninterrupted writing time. I enjoy charting my flight progress on the interactive maps some airlines have. Looking out the window at the earth below is a favorite activity as well. Sometimes I’ll even snap a picture or two. This one was taken on a trip to Europe, as we flew over the Arctic lands. How beautiful and mysterious it looks from above.
Recently, I took a work trip to Jackson, Mississippi. I was only there for one night and was so busy that I had absolutely no time to see anything other than the (admittedly beautiful) hotel. On the trip there, though, I saw this out the window.
I think we were flying over Texas at the time, although I can’t be sure. The circles looked somewhat eerie. I assumed that they were farming plots, but now I’m not so sure. Do you know? Here’s a better shot:
The lights of Dallas Fort Worth, on a connecting flight home, glittered like jewels on a sea of black velvet. The low lighted conditions and the shuddering of the plane didn’t make for ideal photography, but nevertheless, here is a shot:
The next time you are on a plane heading out into the great unknown, spend a few moments enjoying the beauty and mystery of the world beneath. You might just come away with wonderful memories from that alone.
It was early May, and I continued to walk the Santiago de Compostela, bloodied but unbowed. Well, all right. Not bloodied. And only slightly bowed. My feet, however, hurt. When I would sit for a rest I was all right – until it was time to get up again. That’s when the grunting and groaning began. I wasn’t the only one with such afflictions, and commiserating with fellow pilgrims helped somewhat. So did views like this:
Before I left on the Camino, I daydreamed about how wonderful it would be to have a donkey as a companion on the road. Not only would he keep me company, but he could tote my cumbersome backpack as well. It soon became clear that such an endeavor would take more logistical energy than I had – where would the animal sleep, how would I feet it, where would I get it, what would I do with it when I finished my journey. I decided to let that dream go. Instead, I felt certain that God would bring a donkey into my Camino in some way. Sure enough, he did. I passed this duo on the way:
The donkey, perhaps, had much to eat along the way.
It was, doubtlessly, a blessing not to have to tug the poor creature away from such treats hour after hour.
Mileposts like these showed that my journey would soon be at an end.
Reminders of a simpler life cropped up unexpectedly. I halted on the trail as a married couple herded their cattle past. They were old, and wearing ragged clothing and mud-slick boots. I spied a wound on one of the cattle, and a broken down dog wore a giant goiter around his neck. How awful it would be to eke out an existence in such poverty, with old age slowing your steps. What if I could not afford to take my animals to the vet when they needed it? I thanked God for the goodness I take for granted so often – my easy suburban life in sunny southern California.
Between the little villages are peaceful places where nature reigns supreme.
Soon enough human habitations arise, made from stone, slick and mossy.
Little churches dot the wayside, like this one, Iglesia de Santa Maria de Leboreiro, built in the 14th century. It is simple and humble.
And the torments of past terrors, such as the ones suffered by Saint Sebastian, are ever near.
The Renaissance costumes betray a 16th century origin. Old to us. So old. Like the urge to walk onward, an instinct encoded in our genes from our days as nomads, wandering day by day.
My pilgrimage continues on in future pictures. Subscribe to see them, or backtrack, if it suits you, to other images in my 100 Spanish Photos series.
I was raised in the desert. I know heat, parched earth, scorching sun, and dry, dry air. The rain, when it comes, is either a light pitter patter or torrential floods. There is no in between, it seems. And so when I come to a place like the region of Spanish Galicia, “the country of a thousand rivers,” I find it irresistible. So much green! So much moisture. Misty and rain and moss. Mud and more. Gnarled trees and stone huts. All of them are here, and more.
Flat heavy stones are everywhere. Stacked to form walls, bridges, homes …
Even charming old chapels.
Grain is stored in these odd looking little huts to keep them safe from rodents. Every house seems to have one.
Hills everywhere. An endless panorama of them.
The sign beside it claims that this tree is 800 years old. Called a castaño, it produces chestnuts in the fall.
I never tired of the overflowing streams, and the constant drip, drip, drop from above. I don’t melt, and my shoes are waterproof. What more did I need but a rain jacket and backpack cover?
It is in such places that I am constantly surprised about the many hues green takes.
I took a longer route on this day’s walk, determined to visit the Benedictine monastery of Samos, founded in the 6th century.
Along with two Finnish women, we toured the cloisters with a monk who spoke only Spanish. He showed us the lovely frescoed walls with pride. The Botica interested me as well, a long ago pharmacy.
The monk blushed when I asked to take his picture. What a lovely, humble man he was. A credit to his profession.
More streams, as I traveled on.
More idyllic scenes.
And another bridge, leading to the unknown.
Join me, if you like, as my pilgrimage continues on. Or backtrack, if it suits you, to other images in my 100 Spanish Photos series.
Until next time, enjoy the new year. Indeed, we are blessed to experience it, with its many highs and occasional lows.
I’m a firm believer that adventure lies all around us, if we only look. I’m privileged to make my home near the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California, and the towns that surround it have wonderful parks and hiking trails hidden here, there, and everywhere. Last night the dogs and I went exploring at a nearby dog park that I hadn’t yet visited – Oak Canyon Dog Park.
It is nestled in a valley near the creek. Views of the mountains lie in all directions, as do the sights of happy, rambunctious dogs.
All three of mine come racing when I call like cowboys on horseback in a classic Western.
It is such fun when you are leashed all your life to run free. Doesn’t Rudy’s expression say so?
To the side of the park, in the cold winter shade, lies a trail. Why not? I thought. Sure, it looks a bit steep, but I can manage it. What followed was twenty steps and a rest. Twenty-five and a rest. Twenty more and a longer rest. You get the picture. At one point I thought of turning back because it was too hard. Then my rebelliousness kicked in. “I’ve already come this far. What’s a little more?” Then up, up, up, and desperate hoping that a trail lay at the very top so that I wouldn’t have to risk tumbling down the hill on descent.
Gloriously, I made it! And promptly collapsed on a little flat space, catching my breath as the dogs and I surveyed the valley below.
Then down, down, down to an oak grove both beautiful and serene.
As the sweat dried on my back, I enjoyed the exhilaration of summiting another hill with the best companions of all.
What adventure will you find this week?
It may be December, but the temperatures have been in the 70’s and the colors of fall show up every now and again. My favorite time to hike the hills is just before sunset. I haven’t been on this particular hike for quite some time – I used to take my dogs Ubu and Sam on it regularly, but alas, both of them are gone now. I have a new crop of dogs – three this time, and they were happy to accompany on a little adventure.
This little valley lies around a mile from the 101 freeway, but it is sheltered from the noise and pollution that suggests. The trailhead lies down Sunset Road, off of Rimrock. There are lots of little ranches around, and I park next to this one.
On the trail itself the dogs and I passed two women on three horses. Up and down we went until I spied poison oak looking quite pretty.
It looks less pretty when it turns my arms bright oozy red. But I have learned from past indiscretions and wear long sleeves now.
After a good long climb and some copious, but cleansing, sweating, we reached the top of the trail. I love how isolated it feels.
I didn’t want to be caught out here after dark, though, so I headed back after taking this photo. The sun through the oaks said a pretty goodbye.
Yet as we loaded into the car a chorus of coyotes broke out in strange song. My most fiesty dog, Kima, looked concerned and eager to track them down.
Such adventures would have to wait for another day, though. As will further posts on my Camino adventures. I want to finish that photo series by the end of the month, but holiday preparations have cut into my blogging time. Soon, though. Yes. Soon …
I am drawing closer to another milestone with my 100 Spanish Photos series (now 200 plus Spanish Photos!), and since it has been a while since I’ve posted, I am making this an extra long entry tonight. Last time I visited the fairy tale castle in Ponferrada. Onward I trekked, 18 kilometers from Ponferrada to Pieros, my feet hurting all the while. I ended my day early when I came to the lovely vegetarian albergue El Serbal y la Luna.
It is a large old home, made of bricks, mortar, and heavy wooden beams. I stayed in the room with four massive bunk beds and a view out the skylight to the starry night sky – truly one of my favorite stays. The communal meal was prepared by a chef who was next on her way to work for the summer on a Greek island. How romantic is that?
Two friends I knew from the trail showed up that afternoon – Antonia from California and Fiz from New Zealand or England, depending on the day. The albergue in the previous town, Cacabelos, was closed. As such, El Serbal y la Luna filled up quickly. However, in the late afternoon an older German couple showed up, huffing and puffing. Sweat running down his bald head, the husband proclaimed: “I am 72 years old. I will die if I cannot stay here!” We crowded in and made room lest he have to keep going.
Antonia and I headed off toward Trabedelo in the morning, taking a detour through cherry orchards and vineyards. The view was beautiful, I’m sure you will agree:
Antonia and I parted ways, certain that we would see one another again soon – such is the way with companions on the Camino. One does not wait too long before pilgrims come by, although this group of fast-walking French people did not seem inclined to stop and chat:
I passed gushing streams:
And little villages that looked a lot like American suburbs, minus the farm animals:
A few stops back, Scott from Georgia had told me a tale of his first Camino, when he had snagged a horseback ride up the long ascent to O Cebreiro. What could be better? I thought. When I saw this sign, I knew what to look for up ahead in Herrarias:
There was much to hold my attention on the way:
And soon I arrived at the sleepy village of Herrerias:
Though it was closing on 11 am, I rousted Victor out of bed, and he kept me waiting until he rounded up four more riders to accompany us up the long hill to O Cebreiro. One young German girl who had never ridden before chain-smoked cigarettes. As she contemplated the ride ahead, she repeated, “Mein Gott! Mein Gott!” Presently, Victor appeared with our mounts:
And off we went, up the spectacular heather-covered hills:
The views were inspiring:
Although the knotted muscles in my thighs protested loudly. I ignored the pain as we passed the winded pilgrims on foot. At last we came to the top of the world and the village of O Cebreiro, where winds blow cold and hard and the peasants lived in round stone huts:
You may notice that there is no chimney. The hearth inside is always lit, but the smoke seeps out through the woven mat roof. We supped on octopus, a regional specialty which I found to be chewy. And the intact suckers creeped me out a bit. Fiz and Antonia both showed up, and together we visited the simple church with a talented organist:
The panorama is magnificent, green hills all around:
The albergue perches sturdy and tall near an edge. Its boot room sports the most magnificent view of any I encountered:
If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.
Much like a pilgrim stumping up a long, steep hill, I’ve slowed on my posting of 100 Spanish Photos series (now 200 Spanish Photos!), but I have vowed to travel onward! Next stop? Ponferrada. The name means iron (ferrada) bridge (pon). Alas, the bridge was unremarkable. But the castle? Quite the opposite.
It is called the Templar Castle, built in the 13th century atop the remains of a Visogothic fort. Underneath this Visogothic fort lay the Roman one, which overlay a pre-Roman castro.
It was such a perfect day for exploring.
Looking out from the walls, you see the city below, and the thick bricks.
The road paralleling the wall leads to the church, standing proud and distinguished at the city center.
What treasures do the towers and thick walls hold? The most valuable things of all.
Lavishly illustrated, this book is the Cosmography of Claudio Ptolomeo from the 15th century. It is on loan from Paris. What is next? What is always next, on the Camino de Santiago …
Searching for the yellow shell at every intersection, and walking onward.
If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.
It’s been a little while since my last post in my 100 Spanish Photos series (now 200 Spanish Photos!), but I have much more to share. This section of photos has me traveling from Astorga to Rabanal, then beyond to Molinseca, which was the most challenging part of my Camino.
What do you do when you are walking the Camino de Santiago and it is a rainy day? Well, you walk right on through it, trudging up, up, up the hills. At the crest, you find these makeshift crosses. They are a celebration of sorts, declaring for all: “We made it. Our devotion has brought us thus far, and will take us further still.”
The hillside is beautiful with purple heather, and quiet mountains.
In the folds of the mountains lie little Spanish towns.
And as you walk in the footsteps of pilgrims throughout the ages, a saxophone player fills the land with beauty.
The strains of his song carry for hill after hill, accompanied by birdsong. Messages of love and generosity occur all along the Way.
At the top of a challenging hill, soaked by rain and chilled by cold, I reached the famed Cruz de Ferro, an iron monument sacred for many since Celtic times. The tradition is that you carry a stone with you during the whole Camino, symbolizing something you wish to give up. Then, prayerfully, you place it at the foot of the cross. Thus unburdened, you carry on with your Camino.
If you are lucky you may see a pilgrim that carries a staff and wears a heavy wool cloak.
Speaking of the past, atop a lonely hill near Manjarin I visited a handmade outpost occupied by Tomas, who claims to be the last of the Knights Templar. He gives pilgrims a dry bench to rest on, and offers a rather precarious outhouse with a stunning view of the valley below.
Heading onward to Molinseca I encountered the most difficult challenge of the way – wet slippery slate and large rocks underfoot, both of these made worse by sore feet and general exhaustion. Still, the beauty was undeniable, and I appreciated the vivid colors and grand views.
The peace and solitude may be glimpsed by this short video, which features a the call of a cuckoo bird.
If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.
My little break from my photo series 100 Spanish Photos (now almost to 200) continues for a few more days, it seems. Southern California afforded some great photos when my hiking friend and I visited a spot near Simi Valley that was scorched by wildfire within the last two months. Despite the charcoal smell and barren earth, beauty was present.
The golden hour faded to blue night while spindly branches reached toward the sky.
The moon shone tiny but silver overhead.
And an alien lifeform glowed atop a hill.
Won’t you join me on future adventures? I welcome companionship. Click follow or enter your email in the box on the right to subscribe.