These sketches are from my illustrated journal is a recent trip to the Burgundy region of France. There are many hundreds of Romanesque churches, built between the 10th and 12th centuries. Before then, the area had been occupied and ruled over by Romans. Then they were gone but their architecture and design influence remained and were powerful influences in the creation of these churches. It was a time of crusades and pilgrimages, both of which brought travelers into tiny villages needing accommodation, food, and other practical provisions: these churches attracted these pilgrims and profited from their donations, as did the towns around them.
Hilaire Belloc, writing about his pilgrimage from France to Rome wrote of such places that: “In such shrines Mass is to be said but rarely, sometimes but once a year in a special commemoration. The rest of the time they stand empty, and some of the older or simpler, one might take for ruins. They mark everywhere some strong emotion of supplication, thanks, or reverence, and they anchor these wild places to their own past, making up in memories what they lack in multitudinous life.”
Click on an image to see a larger [read more]
Skomer is an island off the coast of Wales which serves as a wildlife refuge with millions of pairs of breeding birds. An overnight stay is often cold, wet, and indescribably satisfying.
To read more posts about my visits to Skomer, go to:
I have walked past this church so many times but until recently never noticed how lovely some of its old headstones are in its surrounding cemetery. I have now, and here are a few of them.
On the island of Skomer, off the coast of Wales, is the largest population of Manx Shearwaters in the world. Under cover of the middle of the night, they fly in from the sea where they have been feeding. Hundreds of thousands of birds go hell for leather into the safety of their underground burrows. In the morning, the paths of Skomer are littered with the occasional bodies, or what is left of them, of the unlucky ones who didn’t make it but instead fell prey to the Greater Black Back Gulls who feed on them. All that is left is a pair of wings on a path and they fascinate me. They are the most striking memento mori – reminders that we must die – that I have ever seen (and I’m a gal who likes a good memento mori). So a typical morning on Skomer is: get up, have some coffee, hike, hike, hike, and oh, hey, remember that we must die: thanks guys, got it. And strangely, these visceral tokens of life and how quickly and randomly it is snuffed out are so lovely and unlikely.
From my post on Skomer:
The next morning, paths around the island are [read more]
“The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. But God knows I have tried.” – Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
I wish I could subtitle this: “It Can’t Always be Paris,” because as a rule, my love of travel takes me to cities, ones that I’ve fantasized about my whole life. To museums, churches, cafes, and copious amounts of people watching, opera going, and pastry eating. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that, more and more I find myself drawn to places off the beaten track, looking for something you can’t find at the end of a subway ride. More and more I go in search of a different kind of church, a different type of watching.
Last week marked my third stay on Skomer, an island off the coast of southwest Wales. It is a place of pronounced beauty and mystery, wild in locale – it can be reached only by boat – and demeanour, if an island can be said to have such a thing. While humans have lived on Skomer for thousands of years – remnants of an Iron Age [read more]
If I got to choose what I would do on my last day, there is a good chance I would ask for three hours at a good flea market on a sunny day with friends, because that is just about my idea of heaven.
One of my favorite quotes is from director Robert Bresson: “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.” For me, a flea market is not about shopping per se but about a feeling I sometimes have that something – in this place where there are worlds inside of worlds jammed up against other worlds and time is all over the place – is waiting for me to find it: to make it visible.
Because while Bresson is clearly speaking of the act of creating, this can take many forms. It might be film, drawing, or artistic endeavours, but it can also be cooking a memorable meal or putting together an iconic look or saying or doing the needed thing at the right moment. It can be the ability to look at a jumbled-up box under a messy table and see the one piece of treasure there, the one thing that needs to be found.
I have been lucky enough to visit art museums in many cities. This is consistently one of my favorites. There are other museums that have more, but in a way that is the point. The Louvre, the National Gallery, and their like are amazing, but they are too large to really take in and emotionally digest what you find there. This is where Zurich’s Kunsthaus is different. Yes, it has relatively little in the way of old masters and prehistoric whatnot and many of the things that make other world museums so dynamic, but what it has is truly choice and can be experienced in an afternoon. It is just the right amount of beauty to be taken in, felt, remembered, and treasured.
Van Gogh, Rodin, Chagall, Picasso, Monet, Beckman, Ernst, Kandinsky, Giacometti, Klee, Rousseau, Matisse, and on and on. Just as important is what it doesn’t have: a mad crush of bodies getting between you and the experience. Most museums in major cities are in a constant state of crush, with flashing cameras and hordes of tourists mobbing a handful of well known works, making it very difficult to savor [read more]