Hope the new year that just began a few days ago is going well for you so far! This week I continue with a look back at 2018 and some of the events, places and people that had an impact on me this past year. Last week, I described the influence that travel writer Rick Steves had on my view of traveling after attending his lecture in November. I’ve continued my learning after receiving as a Christmas gift from my youngest daughter, his book “Travel as a Political Act” with the subtitle: “How to leave your baggage behind!” Steves not only refers to the physical baggage (pack light for a more enjoyable experience and not have keep track of all that unnecessary stuff) but also to our preconceived notions and biases that we all have about the places we are heading off to visit. One thing I learned in my travels is that people take a great deal of pride in their communities and lives just like we do in ours. To us, some people may appear to be lacking the comforts and lifestyle we have but when getting to know them, we learn they are happy and satisfied with what they do have. I think we often are so enamored with increasing our possessions that we lose site of what’s important such as relationships, community, and learning. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t trade my US passport for anything but realize that most of the world wouldn’t trade theirs either. Something for all of us to think about, now back to 2018!
Sometimes our interactions with interesting people come at the most unexpected times. This was true when I was traveling on the High Road to Taos last April when I came across groups of plein air painters working on their art. Like most artists when creating, didn’t have a lot of time for conversations, they just want to continue while inspired. So after a few sentences of introduction and a request to photograph them, they continued their work. Here’s what I shared from my brief interactions.
“Moving on down the High Road, I began to see some painters with their easels, brushes and paints standing at the side of the road creating art from the landscape. My curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped to check out their work. Meet Cynthia and Lili painting the same scene but in different styles, one traditional and the other in abstract. I like them both! I found out they were part of a large convention of plein air (open air) painters from all over the country that was taking place in Santa Fe that week. Later that day I would find out just how many there were (well over 1000) when I tried to book a hotel room in Santa Fe!”
“Nearby there is a recreation area called Nambé Falls that looked interesting but it was closed to visitors that day without any explanation. After turning around, I came across another plein air painter and stopped to see her work. From the public road, she was painting this old adobe house set into the landscape.”
“As I was driving out of Nambé I noticed a large church by the side of the road. There I saw two more painters so again stopped to chat and see their art. Meet Sally and Barbara who were busy trying capture the essence of this adobe church. Just after I arrived, a very drunk guy showed up and started bothering the painters and me too! They asked me to hang around for a bit until he left or passed out! Soon he got bored watching them and them ignoring him and moved on.”
My visit to the Taos, New Mexico area was for a photography workshop with friends I met at a class on Madeline Island a few years before. Our workshop leader took us to a lot of interesting and some off the beaten path places but one of my favorites was the famous San Francisco de Asis near Taos. Here’s a couple of excerpts from posts about my visits to this iconic landmark.
“Our first stop was at the Church of San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, a “suburb” of the city of Taos. While not the oldest church in New Mexico it’s considered one of the best examples of Spanish Franciscan architecture. The church is designated as a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage Church. This church has inspired many artists over the years including a number of famous paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and photographs by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Ned Scott. The church so inspired me that I stopped there four times and took a couple hundred photos during my four days in Taos! Allow me to introduce you to this landmark by way of photos.”
“During one of my stops, I noticed the priest watering plants in the courtyard of the church. I struck up a conversation with him and learned the Father Dino Candelaria had been serving this congregation for five years but still felt like an outsider to the very close knit members mostly of Spanish descent. While we were talking, two young girls approached and asked if Father Dino would come to the church office to talk with her parents as their grandmother had just died and funeral arrangements were pending. Before leaving, Father Dino suggested I visit a nearby access point for the Rio Grande River Gorge. It was a great recommendation that I’ll write about in next week’s post. A little while later, I photographed the grieving family leaving the church after Father Dino offered some prayers for the deceased grandmother.”
One day of our workshop we made the trip to Abiquiú and after lunch at a roadside restaurant we visited this church behind a fence and warning signs to stay out. Here’s why is was so interesting and meaningful to me.
“Just a few minutes away, up a winding, dirt road is the Penitente Morada. The Penitente’s are a confraternity of lay Catholic men common in parts of New Mexico and Colorado. Sometimes called a secret society due to it’s history of self flagellation especially during lent. These practices caused bishops to attempt to suppress their gatherings as the church began it’s campaign for modernization in the 1800’s. During our photo shoot, a guy came by and shouted at us to quit taking photos. There was a huge No Trespassing sign that we honored but we told him were standing on a public road. After he vented at us and took off, we continued photographing. Here’s some of my favorites.”
On one of our trips to North Dakota this year to check on elderly family members, we made a stop in Lemmon, South Dakota at the Petrified Wood Park, Museum and Gift Shop. It was a rewarding couple hour visit, helped by locals that knew their stuff and were willing to share it with us.
“The Park was founded in 1930 by a local resident Ole Quammen who was interested in the abundance of petrified wood found in the area. To add interest, he and his workmen created a number of unusual structures including a castle like building all made of petrified wood. Mr. Quammen donated the park and all the contents to the City of Lemmon in 1954 who has run it diligently ever since.”
“In the museum, we chatted with this local volunteer, Bill Shockley. He patiently answered our many questions about the area and the petrified wood and pointed out some of the interesting artifacts in the museum. He’s a retired farmer and said that he found many pieces of petrified wood on his farm. He was very delightful and a great ambassador for the museum and Lemmon area. His wife, Yvonne, volunteered in the gift shop next door so we had to stop and see her too.”
Sometimes the world has to come to us. For eight days in 2018, our Friendship Force Club hosted a group of young up and coming leaders from the Republic of Georgia. They were such a delightful group; enthusiastic, energetic, and eager to learn. Here’s a little about their program and about them.
“Open World is a non-partisan international exchange agency in the US Legislative Branch of government and operated under auspices of the Library of Congress. After a successful pilot program in 1999, since 2000 this initiative has brought over 27,000 current and emerging young leaders from the former Soviet bloc countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and others to communities in the US for topic based learning and cultural experiences. It’s a cost effective way for up and coming leaders to learn and see US values and democratic institutions in action.
Georgia is located in the Caucasus region on the dividing line between Europe and Asia. It’s bordered by Russia to the north, Turkey and Armenia to the south, Azerbaijan to the southeast and the Black Sea to the west. Georgia is similar in size to the US state of West Virginia, it’s capitol and largest city is Tbilisi, and the country has a population of about 4 million people. The economy is fueled by agriculture with an emphasis on the making of wine. Tourism is becoming more important especially in resorts along the mild Black Sea, skiing in the winter and historical sites throughout the country. Georgia serves as conduit for oil and gas between Azerbaijan and Europe.
With that as background information, allow me to introduce you to the Georgian Open World delegation. In the photo below, from the left Tornike (aka Toko), Mariam (Mary), Teona (Teo), Tamar, Anano (the facilitator), and Giorgi (George). Mariam, Tamar and Giorgi work in the Tbilisi City Hall, Tornike and Anano works for NGO’s (Non-governmental Organizations), and Teona is a reporter for Georgian public broadcasting. This young and energetic group came to Madison to learn more about urban planning and environmental sustainability.”
With that retrospect I’ll put 2018 in the history books and look forward to 2019. We have lots of travel planned for the first 1/2 of the year and still lots of time to fill up the calendar for the rest of the year! I’ll do as much as my travel partner can tolerate being gone from her sewing room! And it will be my pleasure to share with you in the coming months.
Oh yes, what about those resolutions? Last year I resolved to journal more, didn’t do so good there but I did meet my goal of continuing to write and photograph for my blogs with 52 posts in 2018. I also had a goal to walk 3,000,000 steps, I missed that goal but did get 2,515,981 give or take a few thousand. My excuse is that I had a bout of plantar fasciitis so slowed me down for a couple of months. I’ll continue the blogging and walking goals for 2019 and add a goal to take and complete at least one writing class this coming year. Stay tuned for the next 12 months to see how I did towards meeting those goals. Well, I better get busy if I’m going to meet those goals!
Until next week, happy travels!