"How ‘long ago and far away’…is enough?" or "A walk in the park meets the backstory".
My next little picture is The Barn. I had seen a few buildings of this type in Tierra de Campos. They were off in the distance, far from the walking path, seemingly isolated in the middle of fields, and not easy not to notice. It took me a while to figure them out. All that pork and no pigs…?
Distance functions here like the thick fringe of trees along BC highways that mask the blight of clear-cut. This is not the chickens-scratching-in-the-dirt kind of farming.
Distance means too far to hear, too far to smell.
Distance allows us to ‘distance’ ourselves….
However, the tele-photo lens offers a kind of transport, can ‘virtually’ carry you closer. So can a magnifying glass, a finger spread or command +. So I chose to paint the barn quite tiny. An individual background brush stroke becomes a little hill.
How far is far?
To get to the Camino, to get to the start of our pilgrimage, we flew 8,000k from the Pacific coast, across Canada, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, to Roissy CDG. We crossed Paris on the RER and Metro, 24 k to the Gare St Lazare, then travelled 770k southwest by train to Bayonne on the coast.
An hour’s bus ride, 53k, down a winding country road, took me, my partner and 50 other back-packing, pole-carrying, broad brimmed prospective ‘pilgrims’’ into the spring green heart of Basque country.
We finally arrived at the terminus in Donibane Garazi, St.Jean Pied-de-Port, the starting point of the Camino Francés. My destination that night was the Hotel Camou which according to Google maps was in the neighbouring town Uharte Cize about 700m away.
Maybe take a taxi?
“Is it far?” I asked our taxi driver.
He smiled, laughed, and said <ça dépend.>
(To paraphrase Obélix “Ils sont fous, ces touristes”).
Perhaps it was the preponderance of x’s in written Basque, “Euskari”, that made me connect Basque with the story of Astérix and Obélix.
Perhaps Welsh being also a ‘unique’ language, and the Welsh being Celts, with a reputation of people resistant to Romanization, Latinization, There emerges a kind of Xena -fication of history, a mythological, anecdotal, orally transmitted soup. A connection of time, not place. Like some vague family history.
But in reality it’s possible that the Basque are ancestors of the Welsh.During the last Ice Age this region, Navarre, was habitable, free of glaciers.
At the retreat of the ice the population of this area spread north and so ‘the Basque Refuge”, may be understood to be the cradle of European peoples, making the Basque ancestors to the British!
And in fact it may be that the famous Celt village of Asterix, so French a cultural artefact, may well be proven to have been in Spain, or more precisely, in Basque country.
All may not be as it appears.
Forty years after its creation, the work of Goscinny and Uderzo seems to reach the pantheon of the great myths of our time with the film “Asterix and Obelix against Caesar”, currently on Spanish screens. Everything seems French to the extreme in this blockbuster.
With one exception: if, taking into account History, we move from fiction to reality, instead of being in Gaul, the legendary village resistant to the invader should rather be in Spain. And, more precisely, in our ineffable Basque Country. History says that after the defeat of Vercingetorix all Gaul submitted to Julius Caesar. However, in Hispania……….. Alvaro Bermeio
Courrier International 15/12 2004
Quarante ans après sa création, l’oeuvre de Goscinny et Uderzo semble accéder au panthéon des grands mythes de notre époque avec le film Astérix et Obélix contre César, actuellement sur les écrans espagnols. Tout semble français à l’extrême dans cette superproduction.
A une exception près: si, en tenant compte de l’Histoire, on passe de la fiction à la réalité, au lieu d’être en Gaule, le village légendaire résistant à l’envahisseur devrait plutôt se trouver en Espagne. Et, plus précisément, dans notre ineffable Pays basque. L’Histoire dit qu’après la défaite de Vercingétorix toute la Gaule s’est soumise à Jules César. Or, en Hispanie…..
Xena Warrior Princess – TV, New Zealand
(facts = data = writing)
Looking towards Santiago -‘west’ on Painted Steps- the next little picture I painted is The Wild Boar / El Jabalí.
Leaving Carrión De Los Condes (before the pueblo of Moratinos), the main route looked quite flat. It was bone straight, and edged the highway. So, encouraged by our Camino friend Terry (who was walking for the 2nd or third time.) we took the alternative route or ‘variante balise’ as it was marked in our guide book “Miam-Miam DoDo”.
The path led us up into a rolling landscape of tilled fields between scrub tree hills. We didn’t mind that it was uphill and a little farther. We were in good shape.
Throughout that section of the land we saw only two people, one driving a tractor, the other hoeing a field. We waved and yelled Hola! He seemed glad, waved and called back.
Terry had walked on down round the next curve. I looked ahead into a field of ripening grain, saw a dark shape standing stalk still. An animal cut-out? a buffalo, a baby moose?
It caught scent or sight of us, instantly turned and bounded off up the scrub-covered hillside bordering the field. A wild boar, the sanglier of Asterix & Obelix fame! It dodged through tufts of thicket to emerge and bound along the crest of the hill in perfect silhouette. Powerful, fast, beautiful.
A perfect birthday gift for my partner. A reward for literally 'taking the road less traveled’.
We were so pleased! I didn’t get a photo, it happened so fast. So for Painted Steps I looked for pictures on the internet.
I was taken aback to discover that boars are often considered either as pest animals, or as big game. They are pictured as infesting human space, like the deer in nature-loving Victoria, raccoons in Montreal, or foxes in other towns & cities. Or, they are chased, cornered with trucks and dogs to harass them into vicious dangerous beasts, worthy challenges to mighty hunters. (I recall the ‘Order of the Boar’ from Heinrich Boll’s Billiards at half-past Nine. The meaning is retroactively resonant.)
Apparently boars occasionally wander into the suburbs of Madrid. The problem of the wild boar’s loss of natural habitat and interface with humans is augmented by the creation of feral hogs, farmed pigs abandoned into the ‘wild’ by industries finding them not profitable.
I also found a picture of a boar sow crossing a dirt road with a string of furry, striped piglets trotting behind in single file like ducklings!
And I did find some photos that reflected the boar of my experience. I painted 3 boar pictures but hopefully in a way that suggests they are three positions of one creature in movement.
Or so I thought!
Since then, in a casual way I’m adding to his length to his legs peaking through the grass- the longer grass.
I went back to the photos and yes I’ve painted it only up to his elbows. His legs are really longer. Perhaps one of the reasons he reminded me of a baby moose is that when I saw the moose he was sunk deep in the snow.
Hi Sandy, Hi Denny, thanks for the moose!