Walk the ancient stones

buildings on the banks of the river in Girona, Spain
Apartments buildings on the banks of the Riu Onyar in Girona, Spain

In early may we took a trip to Barcelona, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal; along the way we made some day trips to other cities nearby. Here are a few selects from our day in Girona, Spain. These images are of the monastery, the cathedral, and the remains of the medieval wall that once girdled the city.

What’s missing from these are the charming streets, squares, and arcades of shops and restaurants that add to the reasons for a visit to this beautiful city of rivers and hills. I wasn’t so much focused on photographing those aspects as much as simply enjoying them.

Looking up at the bell tower of the Monastery Sant Pere de Galligants
Looking up at the bell tower of the Monastery Sant Pere de Galligants
Layers of imposing structures of the Monastery Sant Pere de Galligants
View on a stretch of the medieval wall that once protected Girona
View on a stretch of the medieval wall that once protected Girona
Cypress trees along the city wall of Girona, Spain
Cypress bend in the breeze where the original stones meet a reconstructed part of the wall
Steps lead down one of the many alleys of the medieval town
Girona Cathedral
Girona Cathedral
The steps of Girona Cathedral
A view down the steps of the Cathedral of Girona, where artists were setting up an installation of ropes and sticks
Charred façade of a building in the square behind the cathedral
Charred façade of a building in the square behind the cathedral
An apartment of stunning contrasts: modern windows fitted into an ancient structure
An apartment of stunning contrasts: modern windows fitted into an ancient structure
The monastery again, in stark black and white
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Time Travel: Girona

A corner around the corder from the cathedral in Girona, Spain

Weeks after the adventure,
I return to Girona,
Walled medieval city
with all the ease of
modernity

And blue skies,
sangria in a gentle square,
and a pocket device
so I can time-travel

See the ancient stones,
feel the cobbles underfoot,
Study shadows and
find secrets that

I missed
the first time.

Shifting shadows and dusk in Barcelona

Barcelona cathedral in black and white
Barcelona cathedral in black and white from our first morning wandering around.
photo of an old document with drawings of a "procession for a good death"
An old document spied in a window in the Gothic Quarter— “procession for a good death”
silhouettes of backlit people walking through a shadowed archway
Silhouetted walkers in El Born, near the Gothic Quarter
Shadows of trees on a stonework building
The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in early evening
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in early evening
Large scale sculpture of a seated nude woman, with tall columns upholding nothing  in the distance
This large scale sculpture sits in front of the museum, while tall columns uphold nothing in the distance. This is in around the steps leading down to the Magic Fountain.
Dusk falls over the plaça looking down from the Museum steps
Dusk falls over the waterfalls that lie between the steps leading down to the fountain
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia façade in black and white
Another sunny exploration day: Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, on of the façades
Façade of Casa Mila, also by Gaudi
The side street Façade of Casa Mila, another of Gaudi’s biomorphic masterworks.
View of the water feature in the Industrial Park nearby the Sants train station
Here’s a view of the water feature in the Industrial Park nearby the Sants train station
Part of a façade of a modern market hall building in Barceloneta.
And here’s part of a façade of a modern market hall building in Barceloneta. Seen in whole, it looked like a kind of steampunk spaceship.

Another city of seven hills: Lisbon

The blue church and trolley wires at the edge of the Baixa neighborhood
The blue church and trolley wires at the edge of the Baixa neighborhood

Having spent some hours scanning through my photographs from my recent trip to Barcelona and Lisbon, with side trips to Gerona and Sintra; gathering selects, retouching, etc, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I’m not interested in creating some kind of narrative or linear story of our trip, as it wasn’t linear, and the narrative changed constantly.

So I’ve decided to start with some high-chroma and steep (naturally) scenes from Lisbon, in the Baixa-Shiado and Alfama neighborhoods, and a couple farther afield. The Alfama ones were from our Castelo Sao Jorge day— it was a grand afternoon of meandering and taking things slowly. We also met some peacocks, but that’ll keep til another day.

For now just take in the angles, colors, and alleyways and feel the sun on your face and the cobbles under your feet.

A house tiles in bright aqua in Lsibon
A house tiled in bright aqua
Clothes in the line in Alfama, Lisbon
Clothes in the line in Alfama
an inviting alleyway of yellow in Alfama, Lisbon
an inviting alleyway of yellow in Alfama
Blue patterned tiles on a house in Alfama, Lisbon
Blue patterned tiles on a house in Alfama

On the way to Rossio train station to head out to Sintra
On the way to Rossio train station to head out to Sintra
Looking down steps into a courtyard with a mural devoted to Fado
Looking down steps into a courtyard and its mural devoted to Fado
Terra cotta tiles cover the rooftops of Lisbon
Terra cotta tiles cover the rooftops of Lisbon
An old terra cotta stucco house against bright blue sky
Approaching LX Factory after our day sailing the harbor
Approaching LX Factory after our day sailing the harbor
In a square surrounded by tables full of diners and trees blossoming purple
The square where the Carmo Convent sits, awash in purple blossoms
More orange rooftops looking out to the harbour
Looking down from Castelo de São Jorge at the lovely terraced houses that cascade harborward to the Tagus River
In one of Lisbon’s marinas, bristling with masts of sailing vessels
In one of Lisbon’s marinas, bristling with masts of sailing vessels
A section of the figured arrayed around a caravel on the Monument to the Discoveries in Belém
A section of the figures arrayed around a caravel on the Monument to the Discoveries in Belém

Netflix and draw: Blue Planet odyssey

pencil drawings of undersea creatures

When I watch something like Blue Planet II, practically every frame of the incredible footage begs to be drawn or painted, so I spent several hours last night sketching some of the beasties— and consequently missing many of the others. Next time I can draw some of the ones I missed this time around.

pencil drawings of more aquatic creatures, including walruses

Last week I did the same thing while watching (re-watching) Civilizations. Some sketched interpretations of ancient art came from that session.

Sketches inspired by the ancient art in Civilizations.

Little cabins in the mountains

black and white watercolor sketch of some simple mountain cabins and pine trees

I painted this little sketch from Friday night this afternoon, and finally made use of the goose-neck phone holder to record a time-lapse of it.

I’ve long been a collector of forks

photo of almost 200 forks, most of my collection

Above is a photograph of most of my fork collection, arrayed by size and type. I remembered, as I reexamined them for the first time in years, that I downsized and edited the collection once before; there used to be many more sets of little cocktail novelty forks and fondue forks, &c.

A reasoned edit was the goal yesterday as well, and I wanted to have a photo of as many as possible— see them all in one place and count them. (185 shown I think)

photo of the forks I've decided to keep, bundles for storage. (not including the strawberry forks, which are in a little box, as they are so delicate)

Here is a photo of the keepers, bundled to go back in the box, with the exception only of the strawberry forks, given me by a friend’s mother (they’re back in their box, as they’re so delicate).

another photo of the forks tied in bundles, from last weekend

Here is a similar photo from last week, when I initially laid them out to assess. This image shows them on a lumpy old sheet, and includes almost all of them, before I removed many of the busted ones and contemporary stainless steel ones.

The calm monochrome that follows the feast days

an abandoned sidewalk xmas tree— set out to the street before xmas fully dressed (b&w photo)

These days following the winter feasts bring a quiet with them, not necessarily unwelcome. Often grey and a little lonely, or too-quiet for some, yet there is a gentleness to them that eases the emotional tumult forced by the calendar shift into a new year.

the giant pine in the yard upstate, blocking snowfall on the yard liek an umbrella (b&w photo)

When I was younger, I longed for the new year to turn at Springtide, or during the full heat of Summer. As I’ve got older, the shift has felt more accustomed and proper happening in the dead of winter— it allows a moment, at least, for reflection which those other times wouldn’t afford.

Several pine trees upstate in snowfall (b&w photo)

(I’ll own, this is clearly the result of living one’s entire life in the northern hemisphere, in the west. Nurture and nature have their sway.)

Upstate at the Farm over the winter holiday is something I’d not trade. Cold, and snowy, I can see the sun and shade of summer in every angle— but those white cloaked fields are equal in my mind to their mild counterparts. Some of my best memories are of being alone in a quiet icicled clearing in the woods; or frigid rides along field paths as snow-blanketed as the horse’s backs, and my eyelashes— in awe of the change a bit of weather can make.

Sure, we get more irritable in the cabin-fever months. But also we get closer, cozier, if allowed. Weather does change things. It’s one of the things my cold-climate friends and I always joked about— nothing akin to Russian novels ever comes out of easy climates!

the house at the Farm, blanketed in easy snow (b&w photo)

We complain, yet we can’t rightly imagine life without seasons. Or we try, and give it up for folly. Relegate easy to vacation times, to the fleeting (and also irritating but in different ways) Summer. It all balances out in ways we’ve grown accustomed to; in ways that make sense to us.

telephone pole and wires in snow (b&w photo)

Anyway, I rather enjoy and look forward to the quiet spell after the hectic holiday time —before it turns into the doldrums— at which point I’ll want winter to go. There’s a period during which it’s welcome and agreeable; and productive, honestly.

Eventually, of course, the grey just becomes too much, and all we want is the return of green trees and sunshine. That’ll be hitting us around mid-February, I suspect, when the whole city has lost its luster; after the fairy-lights’ve been long taken down, and all the world just feels like it’s given up.

But, just as we reach our wit’s end, some modest glorious crocus will raise her chilly new petals from the snow, and give a beacon of spring, a bit of hope to see us through.