Here, for your interest and inspiration, I offer a chapter – THINGS! – Las Cosas! – you might like to take with you on your walk across Spain. In no particular order. Mere suggestions. Go your own way. Find the Plant-Based Food chapter separately.
Ask yourself: do I need it? Can I live without it? Can I buy it along the way? (Yes, you probably can). Please note: the longest time on the Camino del Norte/Primitivo without a shop is 22km. There will be a shop soon.
In the middle of the city, I passed a dishevelled man. He crouched by the wall of a big, inner-city shop, holding out his cap. He called out, ‘Change?’ He had no expression on his face. He did not look at anyone. His gaze was straight ahead. ‘Change?’ He did not sound hopeful.
Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I disembarked from container ship MV Ontario II on the 22 February 2020 at The Port of Brisbane and caught a train to the centre of town. Brisbane, the third biggest city in Australia, has good bus/rail/ferry links for city travellers. The local Translink system – together with nifty app – works well. You get a GO card and set your course. Thank you, dear friends, who looked after me during my stay in Brissie! (We all kept our distance.)
My experience of sustainable travel was not fast. It was not cheap. It was not convenient. But it was the trip of my lifetime!
Some of you may have already seen some of my photos, experiences and reflections. Here’s a chance to catch up with all the missing pieces! Please comment along the way, share your own sustainable travel journeys and CHANGE!
I’ve just been swimming in a chemically-treated, lightly-perfumed, over-lit indoor pool in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain. I loved it. On my way to the pool I pass this fountain.
Oviedo fountain fireworks – waterworks doesn’t quite describe the uplift and spray, does it?
It’s the centre piece of a roundabout which illustrates the cycle of water showering through it every minute. Round and round we go. Up and down, through the pipes, over and over again. Humans have used water, in more or less elaborate ways, to enhance our lives as long as we’ve been drinking liquid to survive. You do know you’re soaking in it? In my time in Spain I’ve seen fountains in plazas, roundabouts and parks. I’ve also seen viaducts.
Segovia viaduct built with no mortar
As I’ve said before, imagine having to work in a frock and sandals to make this big old drain run from mountain to castle for your Roman leaders.
There’s plenty of sculptures too, like this one in the city of Valencia, remembering the river that used to run through it.
Valencia remembers their river with a colossus striding over water
One of the most amazing things about Valencia is that for the last thousand years a group of Spanish farmers, or their representatives, meet, every week, on the steps of the Valencia Cathedral; the tribunal de las aguas. They’re there to debate water; who gets how much, when. You can see them on a Thursday. They don’t keep records and their decisions are final.
Tour guide in Valencia explains the democratic nature of water decisions on the steps of the Cathedral
Compare that to negotiations around the Murray Darling basin in Australia.Irrigation is the largest user of water from the Murray/Darling rivers. Admittedly white farmers haven’t been there for a thousand years yet but they are certainly having trouble working out equitable ways to share the water and keep a healthy river. Couple of Aussie blokes made a tv series about it, if you’re inclined to view a cruise down a river?
Back in Spain, Valencia went so far as to move their river away from the city.
Old Valencia river bed is now a running track
Now a lovely park featuring running tracks, modern architecture and playgrounds, the river bed flooded too often and the civic powers showed the flow who was boss and shoved it out the back somewhere.
Valencia tamed their river beds and turned their minds to the future
The same thing happened in Seville. The Gualdaquiver, once a bustling shipping artery, was split to control potential flooding.
Seville’s quiet backwaters
I suppose in Spain climate change may be working for humans because there’s been less rain than normal for many years.
El Torre de Oro – The Tower of Gold – built in the 13th Century – across the river Gualdaquiver
The public face of the river in Seville
On the other side of the Iberian Peninsula, I lived last year on the border of two provinces, Barcelona and Girona, in Catalunya. The border was a river, La Tordera.
Standing on the bridge looking out to the sea and the railway bridge on one side and up to the township of Tordera on the other
In the summer La Tordera dried up. You could walk across it. In the winter it was a full, flowing river. I used to take a photo every time I walked home. There’s no sound track on the following slide show. Do you want to listen to Al Green while you check out the pretty Spanish river?
In the beginning of my little compilation, you can see the mouth of the river at Blanes beach. In the summer, the mouth is closed. As the waters build up through the cooler months, they breach the sand. Water will find a way.
With my back to Blanes beach, here’s the mouth of La Tordera in cooler days.
Also, the nearby city of Girona features a river bed dry and bare in the summer. The winter rains and their outpourings created marvellous reflections for tourist photos.
Girona quiet waters in autumn – not a marvellous tourist photo
This year I work in the Valle de Nalón in Asturias. When I arrived, El Rio Nalón was a mere trickle.
Tiny little Nalón in autumn
Nalón in the Winter
Now spring is here and the snows are melting in the nearby mountains.
Nalón in spring
Churning white waters fleck the brown flood that chunders down the river bed.
The Source of the river Aube, one of the tributaries of the Seine, in the Haute-Marne region of France
When I stayed near Auberive, Champagne-Ardenne, France, I was fortunate to visit the Source of the river Aube, set in mysterious forest and retaining an atmosphere of magic. For about twenty metres around this area, the ground is wet and the steady seepage from below begins a flow that ends up joining the Seine. Here was a place it was easy to imagine a Naiad living.
Would we be more interested in protecting water if we returned to the days of worshipping? Would that be enough for us to form a human shield against the likes of Nestlé and Coca Cola? Remembering corporations already carry their own personhood, like Deities!
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, hydro-electricity is looking a lot greener these days. And rivers are so beautiful that Don McGlashan wrote a song about them. Made famous by singer Hollie Smith, here’s a version featuring the composer, a casual rehearsal to swim in.
When I remarked upon the Pope’s encyclical, I had not seen George Monbiot’s passionate piece about love for nature. He’s right that economical arguments around the cost of environmental damage do not appear to be successful. Time to try something else. Like our emotional response to nature.
Chris builds the Northern Lights in Northern Exposure http://alaskanriviera.com/2014/12/09/4-18-northern-lights/
There’s no debate about the need to get outside to help depression. Sunlight triggers serotonin. Even the World Health Organisation says so. When you are outside you feel better, you love nature, you will protect it. It’s common sense. How strange that our response to nature swings to extremes – sun burn – cancer – sun screen – indoors – deficiency – short sightedness …
Is this guy lighting a cigarette? Tevs. http://top10for.com/top-10-best-health-benefits-of-sunlight/
Clearly everything in moderation – where I live – 15 mins three times a week is fine. Between eleven and three get under a tree or wear sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
The reason for Facebook friends? They post things like this:
Recently there have been many news items of interest to those of us who consider ourselves animals. The Melbourne Cup racing day, of course, injured at least one and killed a couple of horses – one assumes Red Cadeaux’s days are numbered.
In casual conversation with a woman waiting for a meeting the other day, an acquaintance, no more, we covered some of these topics. She sighed and looked out of the window, ‘Oh, I just can’t go there’.
What did she mean? This is a highly educated psychologist explaining that thinking about environmental news of the day is too much for her. She finds considering our relationship to nature too depressing to even contemplate. She feels overwhelmed. She feels hopeless.
This is one of my preoccupations. I even tried writing a short story about it once. I fear that the great beneficiary to human destruction of the environment is what they call ‘Big Pharma’.
Instead of getting angry, taking to the streets, writing/phoning their representatives; DOING SOMETHING, ANYTHING, people take the meds, click on Change.org or thepetitionsite.com, or Aavaz.org and feel their protests have to be enough to assuage their enormous hopelessness before they look away.
I wish we could all wake up, start feeling and take action but I fully comprehend those overwhelming feelings of belittlement and weakness we all face. That said, perhaps it is time to examine the big picture and follow the money. Who is making money from your emotional well-being? What would make you feel better?
Chatting to my sister on the phone over the weekend, we talked about the Bowie exhibition and the film about Amy Winehouse. Her remarks about talent gave me pause. Is it all about the talent? But what is talent? Or is it something else?
I love the Calvin Coolidge quote: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
The most talented people do not always win. Many of them are deeply, DEEPLY insecure (in fact, the MOST talented people I know are also the most full of self-doubt) and fall by the wayside at the first or second rejection. If you really want this career, you are going to have a million little rejections along the way: not getting roles you desperately want, working with difficult colleagues or bosses/conductors/directors who bully you or belittle you, being slammed in reviews. If you can’t cope with rejection, get out now.
Amy. The product. The film about the product. The film about bear-baiting. The film about prodding a little caged bird with a stick, ‘Sing! Sing!’ Amy the person lost, abandoned, crushed. She said at the outset she felt lucky to be able to sing. It was something she enjoyed doing, wanted to do well and was glad she could do it. But it wasn’t about being famous. Or rich. She just wanted to do her own thing.
Her final concert; the treatment by her record label representatives, fellow musicians on stage and audience made me consider that human beings, together as a species, have bulimia. We don’t know when to stop stuffing ourselves with the good things, things we like, like pretty singers and booze and fish and fossil fuels and porn. Maybe we’re all looking for someone to tell us what to do. To be a friend. To bring us into line. To manage us. Amy portrays a desperately sad story of management gone seriously, badly, wrong.
Is this human nature?
On the other side of the talent coin, Bowie on exhibition, shows all the stuff out of his shed (admittedly it’s a way cool shed). He was allowed to grow up, possibly he was a physically stronger person to start with and he survived. The man was a dancer, trained with Lindsay Kemp. Incredibly disciplined, focused and energetic.
It’s obvious when you watch the clip of Bowie as a mime artist struggling with a mask, he is extremely fit and muscular; must have been taking all sorts of classes as well as conniving amazing frocks and sets and writing songs and finding new people to work with. Remembering that ‘collaboration’ means ‘working with the enemy’, Bowie sought input and inspiration from a wide assortment of recently graduated stars. Determined, ambitious and curious, Bowie kept seeking new things, including drugs.
Tony Bennett said about Amy, that he would have told her to slow down, that life teaches you how to live, eventually. If you live that long.
The arts are tough. There are many talented folk who want a go in the limelight and the people who spin the golden wheels need only a few to put through the grinder at any one time. And how do the ingenues come through the grind? Some survive and go on to a happy relaxed retirement, the odd brilliant cameo and wonderfully photogenic grandchildren. Really?
All we want is an audience, and I’m speaking for myself here, just some helpful souls to recognise the work and listen/absorb/contemplate the ideas. I don’t know about creating demand for more. That’s not factored in to my story. But for those who can, who know how to take a cut, who want to be friends so they can benefit? (Lucky I don’t know anyone like that!)
At an arts forum the other night, an empresario encouraged the ‘artists’ present to think of themselves as somehow different, as the ones with ideas, the creative ones. But I think he’s wrong. I think everyone is creative, more or less, everyone has ideas, it’s human nature. You’ve just got to be allowed (by yourself as much as anyone else) to shape them and share them. So do. Make that thing! Sing that song!