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Cypress tree trunks in the early morning light.

Propinquity

New work, a new book and great food from the Taco Guys. Propinquity” photographed in mid November 2011 in the Presidio is one of the new photographs. Along the Way is a book my wife, Eileen, and I have collaborated on and have recently published. It’s an illustrated journal of our week on the ninth-century pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago Compostela, in Northern Spain. As Eileen says, “it’s just a walk but it’s the best walk we’ve ever taken!” We’ll be going back to finish the quest.

Come join me at the ICB Artists Winter Open Studios on December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Eighty-plus artists will be showing their work.

Friday December 2, 6 pm to 9 pm, Saturday December 3, 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday December 4, 11 am to 5 pm. The Taco Guys will be there on Saturday from noon till 5 pm.

7x7SF: ICB Artists Winter Open Studios: 11 artists to keep your eyes on

SF Gate: Bay Area arts and entertainment picks

Recent IJ article: Graham’s angle on Golden Gate Bridge wins an award

Photoshop.com Spotlight: Insights and ideas from Jay Graham

Upcoming January Lightroom Workshop: January 28th and 29th

Directions to studio 106 in the ICB Building
@ 480 Gate 5 Road in Sausalito
From 101 take the Sausalito / Marin City Exit.
Head South on Bridgeway. Left on Harbor Drive.
The ICB Building is the third building on the left.
Park in the parking lot on the West side of the building.
The entrance to my studio is from the deck on the West side.

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Spire by Andy Goldsworthy at dawn in the Presidio
Spire

This is my photo of Andy Goldsworthy’s work, “Spire,” in the Presidio. It reminds me of how each participant stood out in the fall Mendocino Workshop. At every location we photographed, each participant brought his or her own unique perspective and produced amazing results. So many ways of seeing and recording! As usual, I learned a lot.

The weekend workshop was a great introduction to lessons in location shooting and applying a Lightroom workflow. Now it’s time to go into Lightroom in more depth and reinforce the many aspects that make it so powerful. My next workshop will be held in Marin, Saturday, January 28th,  and Sunday, January 29th, roughly 9:00 to 5:00 both days (details to follow). The workshop will focus on creating and executing a workflow with Lightroom. We’ll be shooting locally for an hour or two Sunday morning. Other than that, all the instruction will take place at one location. And, of course, we’ll have a wine hour late Saturday afternoon. As Marianne, one of the recent participants noted, “Wine goes well with Lightroom.”

Thanks again for your inspiration, enthusiasm, and creativity. I look forward to seeing more of your work and working with you in January.

Reserve your spot today. Have questions? Click here to receive more information. Stay tuned for details. If you’d like one-on-one tutoring before January 28th, please email or call me and we can set up a time.

Don’t forget the ICB Artists Winter Open Studios. Discover hundreds of works of art in over 80 artist’s studios. My studio is #106 on the west side of the building, first floor with the entry on the west deck. Studios will be open Friday, December 2nd from 6 pm to 9 pm, Saturday, the 3rd from 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday the 4th from 11 am to 5 pm.

The Taco Guys will be outside my studio on Saturday the 3rd from noon to 4 pm. “No white linens or reservations… just the best tacos you’ve ever tasted.”

If you’d like to know more of my story, check out the recent interview by Paul Liberatore in the Marin IJ.

 

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Day Seven on the Camino – Viana to Logrono (about 12 kilometers, a measly three hours or so)

Jay and I feel sort of strange today. Not just because we are both feeling yesterday’s walk in a big way, but also because it’s the end of the line for us. When we took on this walk, we knew we’d only be able to dip our toes into the pilgrimage. Life wasn’t handing us 30 days to make it all the way to Santiago. We had to take what we could get.

So here we are, bidding our goodbyes to the triple-decker bunkbeds (no love lost there) and hauling our packs for the last day. I have my first real blister and am having the hardest time putting any pressure on my forefoot. It makes for a pretty odd gait. Jay’s left ankle is very swollen and he’s definitely a kilter.

No matter. We’re accompanied by the uber-walkers today. A pair of pilgrims whose path we’ve criss-crossed throughout our way. Tom has very long legs. I think they begin just below his ear lobes. His pal, the Dutch endurance queen, travels lightly and walks briskly—so briskly that it’s all I can do to quell my competitive urge and not hobble-run to catch up.

Jay shoots me a look and I calm down. It’s not a race. It’s just a walk.

Walking the Walk

Okay, let’s be honest. Anything I try to say or write about this pilgrimage is going to sound trite. It’s just a walk but it’s the best walk we’ve ever taken. We’ve met people we never would have met. We’ve engaged in conversations we never would have had. We’ve had time to think and to see—and to feel. Jay and I are both hurting but…what if? What if we waited to do this? Would our bodies have let us? Perhaps, but perhaps not so “easily.”

We walk through vineyards and Tom circles back to us with a picture-perfect cluster of grapes, dew-kissed and ready for their close up. “Here,” he says, handing them over. They are sweet, fragrant, and juicy—and of course, pilfered. Yum.

More vineyards, more golden bales of hay, stacked just so and adorning the fields like modern art. We move on and as Logrono appears before us, our souls dip. This is it. Really?

Tom and his pal slow down so we can catch up and we prepare to say adios. No, they say, coffee first. And we leave the path and wander into a fashionable part of town and stop at a café.

Over coffee, Tom tells us that they’ll be walking on and probably parting after the next stop. He’s been walking for four weeks or more and this is how it goes. You meet people, you walk, you part, and maybe you meet up again.

We nod in agreement. Yeah, that’s how it goes. And then, Tom’s eyes get a little teary. He apologizes profusely and we’re stunned. Not about the waterworks. It’s his apology, “I’m sorry,” he says. “People just touch me.”

What’s to apologize about? It’s best thing in the world. Again, a pilgrimage may start as a personal journey, but you’re never really alone. Everyone walks. Everyone struggles sometimes. We’re all in this together. Isn’t that what it’s all about in a big, grand, wonderful, messy kind of way?

Finally, we say our goodbyes and Jay and I go off to find the bus station and buy our tickets to San Sebastian where we’ll make our way back to France and eventually home.

The bus ride takes us on a major highway that intersects with parts of the Camino we walked. I’m shocked at how close we were to civilization—people with their busy lives, their commutes, their to-do lists and errands—and how very far away it all felt. I can see a pilgrim crossing a field in the distance and bid him (or her) a buen Camino.

We can’t wait to come back and finish the quest. Next year maybe. One thing is for sure; we’re not going to wait too long. The walking is just too good.

Day’s Wish List

What we’re glad we had: 

I should’ve mentioned bug spray. We did use it the day before (not that it helped much). Still, it would have been much worse without it.

On the more philosophical level, we’re really glad that we’ve had this chance and that we took it. Do not put off what you think you need or want to do. We’re so glad we just grabbed the time and went.

What we could’ve done without:

Blisters. But that’s not possible. We pretty much pushed it to make our flights back. I don’t know how anyone can do the walking we did and come away unscathed. Still, if you have time, pace yourself. Why not? Take it easy and enjoy the walk.

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Day Six on the Camino – Villamayor to Viana (about 32+ kilometers, eight hours or so)

My apologies – if you saw the photos from yesterday, you probably realized that there were a couple of highlights I forgot to mention. Yes, there is a fountain that dispenses wine. It’s not a fairytale. It really does exist and the wine is not bad. And yes, we did walk some of the ancient Roman road, we’re talking a road that is 1900 years old. Again, pretty cool.

And here’s the highlight for today – breakfast. The very kind Dutch volunteers at the “Harry Potter” auberge have provided breakfast for us. That may not seem like a big deal but when you’ve been walking for a number of days and hoping every morning that you’ll come upon a small store or café before noon (one that is actually open and offers something besides tobacco and large hams hanging from the ceiling), well, breakfast served up is a big deal.

Getting Down to the Essence

I don’t even remember what they served for breakfast. Yogurt in little containers. Some bread. So-so coffee. No matter. It was all heavenly. That’s the thing about this hiking business. Even the most ordinary of fare is the best ever. Everything is distilled down to its most basic and wonderful essence. The coffee is hot? It’s a small miracle. The shower offers more than a trickle of water and it’s not cold? Wondrous. There’s room on the communal wash line for our clothes? We are so lucky. This is definitely an attitude adjuster.

Jay and I are two happy campers as we ramble down the hill and into the rose-colored morning. The sun is just about to rise, life is good, and we’re moving along.

In fact, life is good until the sun doesn’t go away and we’re running dry. Our water supplies are low and we’re both a little concerned about getting to the next stop. We’ve decided to do a big hike today and all of that seemed well and good at the time.

The hours tick by and try as we might, we can’t find a stitch of shade. It’s about 80 degrees, which wouldn’t be a problem but with our heavy hiking boots and even heavier packs, it’s starting to feel oppressive. Plus, we’re in vineyard country and while that makes for a lovely postcard, it also makes for flies.

I’m starting to feel like Pigpen, the Charlie Brown character, as I walk along with a little cloud of buzzing flies around my head. Both Jay and I walk while waving our hiking poles to scare the flies away. I’m sure anyone looking at us from a distance would think we were slightly insane.

At one point, I’m so hungry and thirsty that I pick an olive from a tree and pop it in my mouth. Hey, it’s green just like those one at Whole Foods, and it’s right from the source. Must be good. Wrong. I spit it out immediately but not soon enough for my whole mouth to go dry and bitter.

The Hearts Bit 

What to do but keep my head down and hike. To keep going, I look for heart-shaped stones along the way and damned if they don’t appear every time I start feeling a little discouraged. Maybe I’m delirious. I keep thinking they are being sent by guardian angels. Maybe I’m right. I’d pick them up to prove my point but that means I have to carry them so I just enjoy their occasional appearance and walk on.

Jay and I arrive in Viana just as the evening sets in. We find the auberge and register for the night. It’s a triple-decker bunkbed arrangement and we are lucky (ha!) to get the bottom and middle bunks. We walk to get a beer and some sausage, cheese, and bread for dinner. Tomorrow is a shorter hike, our last in Part One of our Camino quest. It’s bittersweet and brings on all sorts of thoughts and emotions, but for now it’s time to sleep and hopefully dream of heart-shaped stones and golden fields.

Day’s Wish List 

What we wish we had: Electrolyte tablets. REI and sporting goods stores have these little tablets you can put in your water to help replenish your electrolytes, thereby helping you avoid hitting the proverbial wall. Ironically, I’ve used them for rowing races but why I didn’t think they’d be useful for eight-hour days of hiking under a blazing sun is a mystery to me. Another lesson learned.

What we’re glad we brought: Clothes we don’t mind tossing. We’re getting to the end of this part of the quest, I am going to offload a few items tonight. It will feel as good as tearing my towel in half did. Like I said, getting down to the essence feels great.

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Day Five on the Camino – Puenta la Reina to Villamayor de Monjardin (30-ish kilometers, about 8 hours)

They say that pilgrimages can be transformational. Well, if that’s the case, I think Jay is hoping I’ll have a transformation today. I’m a little cranky – as is he – after our night in our hotel in Puenta La Reina.

Turns out our bargain room was right by the church, a gorgeous, Romanesque-style church with a soaring steeple housing an SUV-sized church bell that rings every 15 minutes, round the clock.

It took us till about 3 a.m. to figure out that one ring meant 15 minutes after the hour, two meant the half hour, and so on. After that, it was just counting the rings until we knew it would be light enough to hike.

Divine Intervention 

Fortunately for both us, salvation arrives in the form of a hot chocolate croissant and, you-guessed-it, coffee (via vending machine). We rendezvous with other hikers, get a tip about to stay that night, and start back on the trail.

Today is all about just carrying on. Prior to our Camino trip someone asked me why Jay and I would do anything so arduous for a vacation, I replied, “Because it’s a luxury to only have to think about the next step.”

I still feel that way. Life is complicated; walking is simple. No multi-tasking, no emails. Just the simple act of one foot in front of the other. Sure some of the steps are a little painful but for the most part I just let my thoughts skip, float, and flow uninterrupted – until my stomach starts growling.

Lunch with an Archangel  

Around noon Jay and I spot a small stone chapel, seemingly abandoned, and a few picnic tables around it. Perfect for our pilgrim picnic of wine, cheese, fruit, and bread.

After lunch, I tell Jay I’m going to explore (that’s the Nebraskan for “find the ladies room”) and as I round the corner of the chapel, I see the chapel door partway open. I walk through and enter another world.

We’ve visited a lot of churches along the Camino and each is more ornate, more baroque, and awe-inspiring than the other. This one, on the other hand, is different.

No gold leaf, no stained glass windows, or frescoes. Just a small window shedding light on a simple stone altar covered with blessings left by pilgrims. There are scraps of paper written upon in every language, simple drawings, olive branches, and small piles of stones in the form of Cairns.

It’s probably one of the most powerful and sacred spaces I’ve ever been in. I run out and find Jay, grab a slip of paper, and scribble my own wish for blessings for our family and friends. I leave a note for my mom and friends who I am sure are hanging out with her in heaven.

As we leave and head back on the trail, I see a tiny plaque nearly hidden by weeds. It says this is the chapel of Michael, the archangel. I can’t think of anything more perfect or fitting. Jay and I have come without a guidebook or any real plan, and yet, time and time again on this trip, someone has appeared to point us in the right direction and keep us safe.

Dinner with Harry Potter and Heidi

The transformation goes on. We finish our massive day’s hike climbing a steep hill to an auberge in a 400-year-old house (sort of a Heidi-meets-Harry Potter structure in which you have to duck through doorways and find your way in a maze of stairways). There Dutch volunteers feed us and our fellow pilgrims a fantastic, hearty meal and once again on this trip, we’re thanking our lucky stars (and our guardian angels).

Day’s Wish List 

What we’re glad we have:  Neither Jay or I would be able to do this hike without the good company of each other, optimistic natures, and a healthy sense of humor. Oh yeah, and a full squadron of guardian angels.

What  we could do without: It’s becoming clear that you really only need two pairs of everything – shirts, pants, socks, etc.  As long as you have camp suds for laundry on the go, quick-drying clothes,  and plenty of clothespins, you can do your wash, let it dry overnight, and be on your way with fairly clean clothes the next day.

  • Jay Graham - October 25, 2011 - 8:33 pm

    Thanks for the kudos Nadia! There are two more posts to come. We’ll let you know when the book is out!

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