Tuesday, July 31, 2007

lourdes colour photos and mp3s

My web designer extraordinaire, Denise de la Cruz (http://www.duhkneez.com/), was burning the midnight oil last night pasting fourteen new colour shots of Lourdes into the Virgin Trails I photo album. These are pictures from my first visit when, for reasons lost in the murk of time, I shot only slides. The upshot, of course, is that I've hardly seen any of these pictures myself, except for the two or three times I've hauled out my slide projector (or rather, my friend Mark's slide projector) and cast them up on a white curtain (all kinds of funny ripples on the face of the basilica). The thing that struck me about them is how powerful the sunlight is. It was almost always misty and often raining in Lourdes in the morning. Then at mid-afternoon, just in time for the Eucharist Procession, the sun would come blazing through and everyone would say, "Ah, c'est un miracle!" The picture above shows pilgrims at the taps outside the Grotto, filling up their bottles with genuine Lourdes water.

My first two mp3s, with excerpts from Virgin Trails, are also up. They are very experimental, my first time in a studio staring at a mike and trying to imagine an audience. It's tough! And a lot of what I came up with didn't sound right to me, but I thought these tracks were all right. Next month I'll have some lively new stories from All the Good Pilgrims. You can listen to them in the car, or the shower, while vacuuming, or to help you sleep, or even while you're reading, if you like to hear the author's voice in stereo. Big big thanks to Helena Werren for getting me set up, telling me over and over I was doing fine, and then staying after work to edit out those little dry-mouth pops and heaves of breath before the beginning of sentences.

Monday, July 30, 2007

saint james day in bayfield

Saturday, Michiko and I went to Bayfield, on the shores of Lake Huron, for a little celebration in honour of Saint James Day (July 25th) in the company of the London, Ontario Camino circle. It was a perfect day for a mini-Camino through the woods (and spectacular gardens) of the area, followed by a potluck lunch at the cottage/estate of John and Ana Thompson.

Along the way we stopped at Bayfield's precious little nineteenth-century Church of the Trinity, where I read a few stories from All the Good Pilgrims. The acoustics of the church were incredible, and it was just a cozy fit for the thirty to thirty-five of us. It was a terrific experience for me, not just because I was able to read from the lectern of a church without lightning striking me down, but because it was my first public reading from the book (except for a couple of three-minute cameos at other events). It takes a few trials to figure out which stories are best adapted to reading aloud, and to get the timing of those stories down, and then there's the voices of the characters... I was lucky to have a sympathetic audience.

The atmosphere of the gathering was casual and friendly. On our walk, we naturally found our own pace, and then discovered walking and talking companions who suited our pace. It was very Camino. Thanks to everyone, especially John and Ana, John O'Henly, Roberta, the sweet kids who poured us lemonade at our garden stop, Wanda, and the glorious day, which rained nothing on us but sunshine.

Monday, July 23, 2007

photos and memories

I hope you have time while you're visiting the site to browse through the photo albums (I feel like I'm showing a house when I say things like that: "Did you notice the floors? Cedar. We sanded them all down and refinished them...") I have four albums, two each for Virgin Trails and All the Good Pilgrims. If you haven't read the books, they'll give you a teaser of what to expect. If you have, you'll find out what some of the people and places in the books actually look like.

Is this a good thing? You'll have to decide for yourself. I'm sure you've had the experience of seeing a movie based on a book you've read and thinking, "These actors are all wrong. They're not how I pictured them at all." You might find something similar with the photo albums - "That's not Karl. That's not Montse." - though in this case it's reality that isn't living up to your imagination. So if you want to keep your images pure and personal, approach the photo albums with caution.

You won't find pictures of everybody who appears in the books, however. (And maybe that's just as well: if there were pictures of everybody, nothing would be left to the imagination.) Not that this was a conscious ploy on my part. I dearly wish I had pictures of - just to toss out some names - Inacio and the Weird Sisters and Linda and that weirdly beautiful South African woman who told me I was part of her deja vu. If I don't have pictures of them, it's simply because I found it hard on the Camino to think in terms of posterity. We were all there together in that moment and we were going to be together for a while and no one was thinking of a time when we wouldn't be.

I noticed that a lot of pictures got taken in Santiago, when it sank in that we weren't going to be seeing each other again, maybe ever. But by that stage there were so many pilgrims you had lost track of, never to see again. And it's only when you get home and have time to go through your pictures that you realize, "I don't have a picture of Pepe? How could I not have a picture of Pepe?" But maybe that's just as well too, because when people live only in your memory, unanchored to any image, they sometimes become more fully who they are to you.

Check out the Virgin Trails album in a week or so and you'll find some bright additions. My best pictures of Lourdes are all on slides and I'm having a dozen or so converted to digital. They'll replace some of the duplicated images in the Virgin Trails album and give you a living-colour image of a fascinating place. If you want one, that is....

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Well, here we are at the beginning of a new adventure. My first blog. Not quite the same as starting out on the Camino, but daunting in its own way, like having a mike stuck in your face and being asked to say something. I guess the place to start is with a big welcome to you, whoever you may be (at this point, there's a very good chance you're a friend or member of my immediate family - but if not, Hey! come in and join the party), and a thank you for stopping by and looking around. I hope you enjoy your visit and come back often.

I'm going to try to keep this blog buzzing with information about the Camino and other pilgrimages, post bits and scraps of my writing new and old, spice things up with photos and links, and occasionally just yammer on about travelling and living and this strange business of writing. If you have any questions, topics to discuss, bones to chew, thoughts to pitch on the bonfire... Well, I look forward to hearing from you. You'll make my work here both easier and more interesting.

There will be more to come in this space soon. Meantime, I suggest you break out your Latin dictionaries and read the post from July 20th entitled lorem ipsum. I wonder if old Cicero would be pleased or miffed to know his writings on ethical theory are still alive two thousand years on - as "dummy text." That's literary immortality for you. (For more on lorem impsum, http://www.lipsum.com/)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lorem ipsum

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