Thursday, 31 January 2008
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
From Jonathan Sumption's book Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion (1975)
My photo was taken in the abbey church of Saint-Pierre, Moissac.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Monday, 28 January 2008
Sunday, 27 January 2008
My 2nd photo shows some of the typical landscape on the way to the beautiful, historic and architecturally significant town of Viana, a major pilgrim halt. Cesare Borgia, of Italy's infamous Borgia family, is buried here in the Church of Santa Maria. He was the son of Roderigo Borgia (elected Pope Alexander VI in 1492) and brother of Lucrezia. Commander of the Papal armies, he was banished to Spain on the death of his father by his father's papal successor. He died near here defending Viana in the siege of 1507. He was a friend of both Leonardo da Vinci (who had been his military architect) and Niccolo Machiavelli. During the course of his life he fathered 11 illegitimate children.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Friday, 25 January 2008
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Monday, 21 January 2008
long months hibernating
then hearing your voice melting snowfall
no axe breaking the frozen sea
but soft wind warming cold river
from dark earth crocus flowers
and cherry blossoms on twisted twigs
black crows strut on black earth
tricking the eye
and coyote howls the world
back into light
Both the the crow and the coyote figure - often as "trickster" characters - in various creation myths. Aeolus is the Greek god of wind. So "aeolian" means "carried by the wind" - new life, or inspiration perhaps. Coleridge mentions the strings of this Aeolian lute in his great ode, Dejection; and Lawrence talks of the wind that blows through me in his poem Song Of A Man Who Has Come Through. The 3rd line is supposed to recall Franz Kafka's idea that a book (art) must be the axe to break the frozen sea within us.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
We must become the change we want to see in the world. MAHATMA GANDHI
I am an Earth Pilgrim. If I've learnt anything from my journey in life, it's come through wandering this wonderful world. SATISH KUMAR
Hope everyone caught today's Natural World programme on BBC2. The ecologist, writer, thinker, peace campaigner, former Jain monk and Gandhi disciple Satish Kumar gave a spiritual interpretation of Dartmoor in all its seasons. He defined Nature as what is born and what will die - of which we are all a part. Death and birth, winter and spring, are both to be welcomed, both to be celebrated. Both are essential aspects of life's continuum. The changeless cycle of death and re-birth - this is how he understands the meaning of eternal life. The universe is one poem, one verse, one song - a totally interdependent, self-organizing, self-healing system. (Have a look at James Lovelock's books on Gaia for a sympathetic "scientific" perspective on this.) Kumar comments, after walking through Dartmoor's ancient Wistman's Wood: Nowadays people don't get Enlightenment - because they don't sit under a tree.
3 qualities are necessary for a quality life, believes Kumar - CLARITY, SIMPLICITY and COMPASSION.
Passing a malodorous magnesium extraction plant on the outskirts of this small town, I walked 5 km along the Arga valley to Larrosoana, which I entered over its medieval bridge. The albergue was right in the centre but unusually it had no kitchen (in the evenings pilgrims often prepared their own meals and shared them), so I ate a delicious dinner of Basque food and wine at a bar-restaurant just around the corner. There I saw again 2 lovely Spanish pilgrims, a brother and sister called Fernando and Tere (short for Teresa), whom I'd met in Roncesvalles and at other times throughout the day. I would keep bumping into them for the next 8 days - and with each encounter the delight at seeing each other increased, and the hugging and kissing got more ecstatic!
Saturday, 19 January 2008
Friday, 18 January 2008
From Nicholas Shrady's Sacred Roads: Adventures from the Pilgrimage Trail (1999)
Thursday, 17 January 2008
...The range is one of startling contrasts. On the northern slopes mountains fall steeply to the plains, while the Spanish side is confused by a series of successive ridges - or sierras - which run in a maze away from the main crest to subside in the badlands of the Ebro basin. In the west the Basque country receives heavy, moisture-laden winds from the Atlantic, but the eastern sector has a truly Mediterranean climate with low rainfall confined to the winter months, and summers that are very hot.
Scenically the landscape is full of diversity, offering a rich variety of features guaranteed to excite and entice the first-time visitor. Forests of oak, pine and beech in the west are far removed from vineyards and orchards that dress the sun-baked plateaux of Catalonia. But between these two extremes the High Pyrenees contain all the attractions of alpine scenery: sharp, irregular peaks splashed with snow, shallow glaciers, deep, trench-like canyons, great amphitheatres (cirques), and many hundreds of glistening mountain tarns.
From the Introduction to Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees (2001, 4th ed) by Kev Reynolds
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
From James Harpur's Sacred Tracks: 2000 Years of Christian Pilgrimage (2002)
Gradually the landscape changed again as I approached the département of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and the rolling hills and river valleys of the Basque Country. I was in a state of perpetual excitement and expectation. For I was close to the Pyrenean foothills and would soon be in Spain and at the half-way point of my journey.
Sunday, 13 January 2008
Hillary said: My most worthwhile things have been the building of schools and clinics. That has given me more satisfaction than a footprint on a mountain.
Read here Cameron McNeish's tribute.
Saturday, 12 January 2008
In 1930 the Tarn burst its banks and flooded Moissac, destroying 617 houses and drowning 120 people. I left Moissac on 3 November and my morning's walk continued this watery theme. I followed the Canal de Garonne for 12 km. This canal runs from Bordeaux to Toulouse where it joins the Canal du Midi, thereby connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea. (The complete stretch is known as the Canal des Deux Mers.) At one point I knew I passed the confluence of the Tarn and Garonne rivers. But it was quite misty and I couldn't make out anything very much except for the occasional lone cyclist or jogger who ghosted by. From the canalside village of Pommevic (there's a nuclear power station here but I didn't see it) I headed on a quiet country road across flat farmland towards the hilltop village of Auvillar.
Auvillar was the 1st of many bastide towns and villages I would either see distantly or visit throughout the rest of the département of Tarn-et-Garonne and in the next département of the Gers. Bastides were fortified settlements built in south-west France, in medieval Languedoc, Gascony and Aquitaine, during the 13th and 14th centuries. They were normally built to a grid pattern, and situated on hilltops for defensive reasons. The photo shows the beautifully restored medieval market hall in Auvillar's central square.
At Auvillar I encountered an artist painting, in the style of Van Gogh, a large and colourful mural for the local school. As was my custom I approached him for a chat. We talked about the big influx of English people to the area. "10% of the population of Auvillar is now English," he commented. I asked if that caused any problems (we often hear the French blaming incomers for the property price hikes affecting the whole of France). "Well, house prices have gone up, it's true," he said. "But there are many reasons for that. We have nothing against the English living here. As long as they mix in and join village society. However there are some English cliques which keep themselves to themselves and won't even attempt to learn French or take part in communal village life..."
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
It Ain't What You Do It's What It Does To You
I have not bummed across America
with only a dollar to spare, one pair
of busted Levi's and a bowie knife.
I have lived with thieves in Manchester.
I have not padded through the Taj Mahal,
barefoot, listening to the space between
each footfall picking up and putting down
its print against the marble floor. But I
skimmed flat stones across Black Moss on a day
so still I could hear each set of ripples
as they crossed. I felt each stone's inertia
spend itself against the water; then sink.
I have not toyed with a parachute cord
while perched on the lip of a light-aircraft;
but I held the wobbly head of a boy
at the day centre, and stroked his fat hands.
And I guess that the tightness in the throat
and the tiny cascading sensation
somewhere inside us are both part of that
sense of something else. That feeling, I mean.