Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Geographic Adventurer

Hey, check out December's National Geographic Adventurer! I got travel commentary published there, albeit published in the "Letters to the Editor" section. The commentary is about Spain - how did you guess? And El Camino de Santiago.

Will write for food! Pernacles, in fact...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pilgrims, Art Walkers and Diamond Mines

Last night I swept around the streets of Flagstaff, AZ with two girlfriends. They in brightly colored southwestern ponchos and Indian blanket shawls. Me in a boring leather motorcycle jacket. Hey, it's Italian leather, bought during travel at a trendy fashion boutique in Perugia, Umbria. And no matter that I just saw in our favorite Silpada Jewelry catalogue a model wearing a similarly cut jacket, I was labeled "boring" by other art walkers. Art walkers? In the Navajo Lands we have "skin walkers" -- sorcerers of sorts, 'shaman' would be the ethnographic-sensitive term. But art walkers, what are those?

On the first Friday of the month, the art galleries and boutiques of historic downtown Flagstaff swing wide their doors offering wine and cheese, and other delectable nibbles to visitors and locals alike. So popular are the 'First Friday Art Walks' that the streets last night were filled with folks ambling, socializing and walking between Flagstaff's eclectic assortment of art galleries: art walkers.

I saw many familiar faces amongst the art walkers and was surprised at how many young people come out for the festivities. Northern Arizona University is just around the proverbial corner from downtown Flagstaff, and when I think back to my own college days, I, too, was always up for free food.

With wool hats and sweaters bundled against the mountain-town chill, walkers parade arm-in-arm up and down Old Route 66, San Francisco Street and over to Heritage Square. And then escape to mingle tightly -- old and young -- into warm galleries. I saw Ray across the crowd in one tightly packed boutique.

"Ray," I shouted. The local musician playing her amplified acoustical guitar among the racks of mod clothing (there's a metaphor hiding there somewhere) made it a little hard to hear. Ray is hard of hearing anyway. His wrinkle-grizzled face looks stately under his Indiana Jones felt hat.

"How was your pilgrimage?" he asked.
"Thanks for your prayers; I needed them," I answered. "It was a tough 180 miles. My Achilles tendons are still bothering me." I ended my pilgrimage in Northern Spain over 30 days ago and my 53-year-old body is still healing."
"I had a friend that visited South Africa many years ago," Ray explained. The quick-minded wisdom of this 80-year old sage always surprises me. "He met with the owner of a diamond mining company. The man took him into his office, opened the safe and pulled out a small bag. He emptied the contents of the bag onto his desk. There was a mere fistful of diamonds laying there. 'To unearth these diamonds, I had to move thousands of tons of rock and mud.'" Ray's eyes met mine with a piercing knowing. "'But it was all worth it,' the diamond owner said."
"Yes," I agree thoughtfully. "My Camino was like that: a huge effort, but worth every nugget."
"Well, you look good," Ray states welcomingly. "I like your jacket."

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