Friday, January 28, 2011

new web albums

Well look who it is, back already. I've got this lovely new blog, might as well use it, eh?

It's beyond my Neanderthal tech skills to add new albums to my website, so lately I've started uploading (downloading? outsourcing? inbreeding? I'm never going to get this computer lingo straight) photos to Picasa web albums. You just have to click here to see them.

Last night I was editing and captioning (in a sparse sort of way) the pictures I took in the fall of 2009, when I walked for eleven days along the camino/chemin from Le Puy to Figeac. For the most part, it's a country ramble through beautiful long stretches of nothing but you and the clouds and the hills and, yes, often the cows. You live on cheese and bread and wine and swear you've never lived better. Between Le Puy and Figeac, there is nothing that even remotely resembles a city, though in every village and hamlet, there is a magnificent little bakery and a charcuterie and even a cheap, clean place to sleep. Not that there was much demand for beds in October. There were three of us who started on the same day from Le Puy (unbeknownst to each other) and made it to Figeac (by which time we knew each other well), plus another eight or ten who were only walking for a week, or a day or two, or who mysteriously vanished between one sleepy hamlet and the next, never to be heard of again... We were definitely at the end of the season.

The part of the trip I remember best was the barren, stone-strewn highlands of Aubrac, where I felt like I could have been in Scotland. But there were pleasant walks through lush river valleys too, and some outrageously tiring climbs, and some real live forests. If I compared it to the Camino Frances in Spain, I'd say it was more natural, more strenuous, more solitary, and more varied in its landscape. The food? Oh, how to choose? The people? They were helpful, courteous, sometimes downright friendly - a living refutation of all those "snarky French" stereotypes. Surprisingly, one place where the Spanish Camino almost holds the edge is in church art and ornamentation. I'm not talking about the quality of the art, I mean that the roiling history of revolutions and wars of religion in this corner of France has left many a church wall stripped bare. Pleasing if you like austerity. A little sad if you were expecting medieval opulence.

Though if medieval opulence is your thing, there's always Conques, which takes your breath away and doesn't give it back. And the two treasure towns at the beginning and end of my little pilgrimage, Le Puy and Figeac, wonderful lively inhabited museums, unspoiled by tourism.

The photos don't begin to do justice to the beauty of these places. But go ahead and check them out anyway. You're welcome to look at my photos of Uruguay, Argentina and Chile too. Not that they have anything to do with my writing, but it's cold outside, why not let your mind travel to warm places?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

a new year, a new look, and a new blog to check out: "Pilgrim Roads"

Yo. Anybody out there?

I venture back into the land of Blog. Last spring, my CRM (centre for random musings) was booted off my server and it's taken me ages to get things sorted out again. The layout of my relocated site was a hash, when I tried to update my home page I got nothing but error messages... I was not a happy blogger.

So imagine my delight when I shambled into the living room this morning, cranked up my computer, and encountered - this. A brave new look. Soothing colours, clean lines. Order. And how did this blogstoration take place? Who got me back on the blogtrack?

May I introduce the new star of web-based Camino writers, Anna-Marie Krahn. Since last fall, Anna-Marie has been producing entertaining and thought-provoking little essays based on her own Camino experiences, along with interviews with other pilgrims and, since the beginning of this year, a sort of Camino/pilgrimage news centre. It's an ambitious project that only shows signs of getting bigger and you'll find it at Pilgrim Roads.

Now, apart from being a fine writer, Anna-Marie has mean computer smarts and true Camino spirit. Cause when she saw what a shambles my blog had turned into, she got out her wrench, pulled on her hip-waders, and had it all patched up in (she claims) five minutes. Apparently all I owe her is a bottle of Rioja. Thanks, Anna-Marie.

And what about me? Any projects for this year? You bet. A walk on Italy's Via Francigena, the medieval road from northern Europe to Rome. I was there last fall for a first look and will have some photos up shortly on a Picasa web album.

What else? My latest short-story/essay appears in the Fall 2010 edition of Queen's Quarterly. It's called "(Charlie's) Angels of the Camino," and it's about one of those odd bounces of the ping-pong ball of history that occur so often on the Camino. If you can't get your hands on QQ, be patient. The story is going to be reprinted this summer in Reader's Digest. As close to Oprah as I ever hope to get.

There's more stuff to tell you about, but for now I thought it would be enough just to affirm that I am still living and hatching writing schemes. Here's to a new year full of strange and wondrous journeys.