Tag Archives: drawing

The Beauty Under Foot

How often do we rush through life without noticing the small things? Mary Jean Irion said, “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.” Why is it that it seems we only pay attention to the beauty that is everywhere, even under our boots, when we are walking the Camnio? I resolve to pay more attention every day of my life.

Colored Pencil on paper. Image Size: 8 1/2″ X 8 1/2″.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”


Dancing Oaks

As I walk along the quiet lanes bordered by stone walls I hear the gentle sounds of morning. Cow bells chime lightly, birds stir in the trees, and small streams find their way along the contours of the earth under my boots. The air is crisp and cool on my skin, and my breath forms small clouds. I walk contentedly through the dawn with my recent cafe con leche still warming me, its scent mingling with the dew filled grass in the meadows. I think that the world can not get any more beautiful. A moment later the sun peeks over the horizon, filling the sky with warm pink, apricot and golden colors. The oak trees appear to dance with joy at the dawning of another serene Spanish day along the Camino.

If you would like to see more of my art work or purchase my book, “The Artist’s Journey”, please visit my website at http://www.theartistsjourney.com


The past  few days the landscape has changed to a much less cultivated way. We have been walking through 2 national parks where there are miles of cork oak and Holm oak trees spreading their twisted branches to silhouette against the blue skies. Below the trees there is a carpet of bright green grass with white daisies, pink, lavender, yellow and blue wildflowers. The trees throw deep shadows in interesting patterns over this beautiful land. In the higher mountains there is tall pink heather and yellow scotch broom surrounding rocky outcroppings. It is hard climbing in some places and our feet are beginning to tell the miles.

The skies are an incredible color. In the early morning as the sun rises it is a deep violet-blue that lightens to an intense cobalt as far as the eye can see. It has been in the high 80ś every day, which is perfect. We have started earlier each day because the early morning light is so incredibly beautiful and the temperatures are cool. It gets very warm for walking with a backpack by mid day.

We have been following the Via Pecuaria, an ancient Roman road stretching to the north. Militarios, or monolithic type stones about 5 feet tall, are scattered along the way. The Romans placed them at regular intervals to accurately marked the distances of the Via Pecuaria. Today some remain upright in their original positions,  while others lie in the fields. It is amazing to think of this timeless landscape having been walked this very way for so long.

It is entertaining to walk through the unfenced landscape filled with animals milling around us. There are  flocks of sheep and lambs,  cows, and pigs roaming the forests. The herds of goats have tiny new kids, which can not have been over 12 inches tall. Two friendly horses came up to me for a scratch and nuzzled me behind the ears. The pigs root around to find the acorns that have fallen from the trees for their dinner. This gives them their distinctive black color, and gives a unique flavor when they become jamon! (ham) As we walked past a serene pond, I tried to talk to them. I started a pig stampede! You can not believe how fast they can move. It was hilarious how fast they ran, jumping, snorting,  and wringing their tails, and bucking. I laughed until I had tears running down my face and my stomach hurt. Who knew they would be so frisky in the wild?

Distance from  Almaden de la Plata to El Real de la Jara= 10.2 Miles

Actual Distance Walked 12.24 Miles

Accommodations= We stayed in a private home, the Alajameinto Molina, for 10 Euro per person. It is a quiet, lovely home with a shaded patio, a fluffy gray cat, and bedrooms for 2 persons. They have been welcoming guests for many years.

There is an Albergue at the beginning of town, but it was very small, damp feeling and not very clean.


Oak forests and whitewashed villages

This morning we decided it was insane to walk 16 kilometers along the main highway, up hill, with no shoulder to travel on. We asked about a taxi, and a young woman said her husband would drive us to the entrance of the Parque Forrestal de El Berrocal. Santa Mila and Santo Alejandro had arrived in our lives! He did not want to take any money, but we gave him kisses on both cheeks and some Euro to cover the expensive gas and his time. I am sure this act of kindness saved us, because the day was hot (over 85*F on March 30) and the full distance was nearly 20 miles through the mountains.

The walk through the park was 12 miles of sheer beauty. The gnarled oak trees tumbled down meadows carpeted in tiny white daisies and other wildflowers. Hawks and vultures glided on  the air currents above us across cobalt skies. Streams cut through the rocks like they had been perfectly landscaped.

One little stream was so inviting that we took off our boots and cooled our feet as we had a picnic. Frogs serenaded us and skittered into the water’s grassy edges.We made sure that our feet dried completely in the sunshine before we put our boots back on to avoid blistering.

The last mile was straight up in the mid day sun. It was very difficult, but the view from the Mirador at the top was stunning. We looked down upon the whitewashed village of Almaden de la Plata nestled in the valley far below.  the town was founded by the Romans to service the marble quarries near here. It was later home to the Knights of Santiago and today is a sleepy, pretty little town. The town square is graced by orange trees and lovely wrought iron benches. At the head of the square stands a tall terra cotta colored bell tower topped with bright tiles and storks nests. In the lovely little church, trimmed in bright yellow ochre paint, the local people were preparing for Santa Semana, or the Holy Week proceeding Easter.  Life sized sculptures of biblical figures, accompanied by huge silver candlesticks and other ornate treasures were being brought from storage and polished. These will form the decorations for large floats that are carried through the town in religious processions by the town’s people to celebrate Santa Semana.

Distance from Castilblanco de los Arroyos to Almaden de la Plata= 18.9 Miles

Actual Distance Walked11.8 Miles

Accommodations= 75 Bed Municipal Albergue 5 Euro per person


The Virgin of Granada

A lovely church dedicated to the Virgin of Granada dominates the town square of Guillena. It was built at the beginning of the 1400’s  in the Mudejar style, which blends Islamic and Christian design elements. I was attracted to the tile imagery set into the white wall of the church.  The virgin portrayed is known as “Our lady of Sorrows“. The late afternoon sun warmed my back as I sat drawing her, wondering of her significance to the town. She holds the crown of thorns and a piece of cloth in her hands, as a halo of thorns circles her head. Tears appear on her face as she walks away from the scene of the crucifixion in her royal purple robes. Although this is a sad scene, the portrait somehow touched me deeply.

Why did the people of this small Spanish town choose her to be their patron saint? What are their deeply held beliefs? She seemed to be saying to me that no matter how terrible things seem, you must still walk on with dignity. We are capable of bearing the unimaginable. Things have to get better from here on out.  She reminded me of the deeper and more significant meaning of things that happen to us,     setting us on our personal Pilgrimages through life.   She seemed to be looking to the  light on the wall to her left, and traveling toward it. Symbolically, it cast a lovely multi-colored shadow. Do we walk to the light or to the darkness, or do we always encounter both on our journey?

This drawing was rendered in Faber Castel colored pencil and highlighted with a Micron ink pen. I used a Bee Paper Company Professional Series, 93 Lb.  Heavyweight drawing paper, 9 X 9 inches. It stood up well to the pressure applied by the color pencils, and had a nice tooth (texture) for layering the color.   This is the first drawing that I have done in colored pencil. I liked the waxy textures achieved by the layering of colors, and the variety that can be achieved with only a few basic colors.


Meeting the People: How’s your Spanish?

It was another 80* day with blue skies as we began walking our Camino. As we were walking along the side of the road just out of Italica, an old man in a small truck honked and pulled to the side of the road. We had just seen him do this to Judy, an Australian Pilgrim who was just ahead of us. Assuming he had something helpful and of great significance to tell us, like the road was under construction and there was a detour that was not clearly marked, I stopped at his open car window. Tiny and shrunken, he whispered something in a raspy voice like it was his dying breath. I motioned to my ear indicating that I could not hear him and he  waved me closer. I leaned into the “caro”, getting my pack stuck and knocking my hat off in the process, as I listened intently. He mumbled some more and as I leaned closer I heard the word “Beso“, or kiss. As I started to retreat he grabbed my arm in a vise like grim, be lying his status as a near invalid. As I tried in vain to exit the window, he told me to “entrada el coache”, or get in the car. I don’t think so! Pervert Alert! I told him I am married  and pointed to my wedding ring. Unfazed, and not relinquishing his iron grip, he somehow managed to pant a kiss on my cheek and stroke my arm. Where did that other hand come from? I don’t want to know! Desperately I blurted out the most ridiculous thing in bad Spanish, “Mi esposo is muy grande!  Es muy fuerte y tormentoso!” This sort of means, ” My husband is right behind us and really big . He is strong and has a stormy personality!”  He released me quickly and we continued on our way  laughing.

We  soon crossed under the freeway and were in rolling hills and lovely farm country. The farm land is very rich, and men are out on their John Deere tractors tilling and planting. I understand they grow acres of sunflowers and cotton here, so that may have been what they are planting. In other fields, The wheat is already about 8 inches tall and a bright green carpet on the rolling hills. It was very warm walking but the color of blue in the skies is so intense that I would not want it any other way. We saw our first storks of the journey circling above an area of wetlands. Small black winged, white birds with long orange legs fished along the edges of the marsh. In the mud by the stream we saw a perfect paw print of a rare, endangered Iberian Lynx.

This morning’s walk was just over 8 miles to a little whitewashed town called Guillena.  We had entered town by a different route than our guide book described due to a washed out trail. A nicely dressed man offered to show us to the Hostal Frances where we were going to stay.  It was getting to be such a long distance that I began wondering if he was another pervert. Just then  a short, round Senora eyed us suspiciously and began talking to him. Looking very uneasy and beginning to sweat, he proclaimed, ” I am taking these 2 Pilgrims to their hostal! Tell my wife I will be home soon! Nice to see you, Maria!” Satisfied, she waddled off and we proceeded much more quickly onward. He delivered us to our door as promised,  bowed, and wished us a Buen Camino.

We wandered through the delightful old section of town and found a good looking local bar for lunch.   There were all these cured hams hanging everywhere, and the owners were very friendly because we were trying so hard to learn how to say the name of their little town correctly. We ate huge  ham and cheese bacadillas, or sandwiches, accompanied by a beautiful local wine, as we were tutored by the entire bar full of patrons on how to correctly pronounce “Guillena”.    I would say it exactly like he did and he would patiently say , “No Senora, Guee Jee NA!”, and I would say it again perfectly. He would patiently say No Senora, Guee Jee NA …… around and around we went with everyone contributing to my lesson. I finally got it right but I still don’t know what I said differently. We had a very jolly time and then proceeded directly to siesta!

So how do you know who the good guys are and who the perverts are? My philosophy is to stay open, smile, and try to interact with anyone I can on a positive basis. I listen hard to understand some of their language and respond as well as I can in my very basic Spanish.  The one thing that does not change is the smile on my face and the sincerity that I hope projects  from my heart to them. They love the fact that you are trying. It is a miracle every time that I get to see how wonderful, helpful, sincere, and fun the Spanish truly are. Once in a while you encounter a bad guy, just like in any society. You do have to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your intuition. But would I miss all the interaction with the great people because I am afraid to smile? Not on your life!


Distance from Italica/Santiponce to Guillena= 7.2 miles

Actual Distance walked= 12.15 miles

Accomodations= Hostal Bar Frances, main street toward the end of Guillena, only a moderately nice room above the bar for an incredibly expensive 46 Euro for a double room. (Included breakfast of 1 piece of toast and 1 cup of coffee) We were told by the people here that there is a nicely remodeled municipal Albergue here now the church, which would be worth checking out if we had not already paid at the hostel Bar Frances. Albergue photo from Karl Martin Nagl, Germany:

Seville, The Plaza de Espana

After a sidewalk cafe lunch, stuffing ourselves on the menu del dia, we visited the Plaza de Espana, which was built for the 1929 Worlds Fair. I had visited it years ago, and it is a colorful semi-circle of astonishing tile work that forms a huge open space. There is a curved moat crossed by arching bridges all made of blue, white and yellow tile, where people row boats and laugh at their lack of skill. Every major city in Spain in represented in a tiled bench and surround that wraps around the entire base of the buildings forming the half circle. It was full of families and wedding parties being photographed on this lovely Saturday afternoon.

We topped off the day by visiting the Archeological museum. It is a great little museum that covers prehistory onward, but the best part was all the mosaics, columns, sculpture and other artifacts that came from the important Roman city of Italica that is just a few miles from here. We will go there tomorrow then begin walking our Camino the next day. We actually have to put on our packs tomorrow, and we are tired from these 2 exciting days in Seville. It will be a big shift in our focus.



We had a beautiful day in Seville, blue skies and temperatures in the upper 80´s. We strolled to the tourist office and found that nobody knows anything about getting a Pilgrim´s Credential. We were directed to a Backpackers Hostel in the old Triana district on the other side of the river. We found cute, soft white puppies playing fetch with abandon, cafe con leche in quaint side walk cafes, flower filled balconies and beautiful tiles gracing white, yellow ocher and cinnamon colored buildings. Palm trees and trellises of deep purple Wisteria in full bloom, their scent perfuming the air.

In this quarter bordering the Guadalquivir River there stands a 12 sided tower, originally a part of the Moorish town fortified walls, called the Torre del Oro, or Golden Tower. It is said to have been covered in golden tiles, and it also held the riches from all of the Americas in the Age of Discoveries. This is the city that Columbus and other explorers set out from and returned to, via the Rio Guadalquivir, discovering new worlds and changing the course of history forever.

We found the little hostel amid all of this visual candy and got our Pilgrims Passports, or credential del Peregrino.We bought 2 each because it will take us so long to walk the entire way. At the end of the day we stumbled upon a door in the Cathedral which we were allowed to enter. No tourists allowed, but as Peregrinas we were able to enter a beautiful and serene chapel decked out in Silver with Mary in primary attendance. We found the priest to stamp our credentials for the beginning of our journey, and there was a man who was very distraught because he wanted to begin walking tomorrow and had been frustrated in not finding a credential. Even the Cathedral does not supply them, and the priest could not tell him where to get one. I opened my purse and gave him my second credential. It felt like the right thing to do, he was most grateful and surprised, and the priest immediately declared it a miracle. So there will be a man named Peter in Australia, who will say “I don´t know who she was, but this Pilgrim gave me her credential, and I was able to be on my way.” I felt honored to be able to help a fellow Pilgrim and that it was really the right thing to do. I know I will be able to get another one somewhere, and I feel good about giving back a little bit of goodness to the Camino. When we finished our reflections in the Chapel, Peter was waiting outside with a most anxious look on his face. He rushed up to me, saying, ” You did not have to pay for this, did you, Love?” I told him one Euro only, kissed him on both cheeks and wished him a Buen Camino. Sigh. If only real life could work this way! I think I saw Santiago smiling.



We have arrived safely in Seville after a long trip. The first thing I did was to throw my ticket in the trash at the Seattle Airport 10 minutes before departure. Oops! It was in a slot my hand would not fit through, but lucky for me the garbage can was not locked. I am an experienced traveler! Our first Camino miracle occurred when we actually made our flight from Madrid to Sevilla even thought we arrived over 2 hours late. Then our walking sticks, which we had checked through, made it too.

We walked around the bustle of old town Seville in 80* sunshine, the palm trees swaying in the breeze. The sweet, strong scent of orange blossoms is everywhere and the bitter oranges brightly decorate every plaza. Tonight we walked through the tiny streets of the Santa Cruz district with hundreds of people out for a warm evening stroll. We had an excellent glass of Rioja wine, Croquettas and a beautiful salad crusted in sea salt with avocados. We were surrounded by elegant wedding dresses, vibrantly colored flamingo dresses, and polka dot shoes in the shop windows. Music and the lingering scent of orange blossoms and rosemary floated on the warm air. Open air dining in March!

Abrazos y Besos

We Are On Our Way!

I have packed everything that I will need for 2 ½ months. I carefully considered each item, knowing that I can buy any pharmacy needs in Spain.

I wear almost exclusively ExOfficio travel clothing because it is practical and stylish. These clothes are wrinkle resistant, weigh only ounces, and  dry in a minimum of time. These features are really important when you are washing by hand and do not have a dryer, as is typical in most other parts of the world. For example, I bought several types of Sports Bras, and the ExOfficio was dry overnight while one brand took 3 days to dry!

I chose black and khaki pants, shoes, and skirt. This way I can add color with different t-shirts. I separate my things into categories such as “Sleep” or “Underwear”. I then pack them by category in 1-gallon plastic ziplock bags. This allows me to dump everything out on my bunk when I get to an Albergue and quickly see what I need. It also offers waterproofing and keeps your clothes looking less wrinkled.

This system makes it very easy to find what you want quickly, instead of rummaging through your pack and getting frustrated. It is quite amazing that all of these things fit easily into my backpack that I will carry on the plane, and later the entire length of Spain. The black bag on the right has the items I want to access on the plane, but it easily fits into the top of my pack. The only items that I will be required to check through are my trekking poles and pocket knife. This provides a good feeling of security because I know that all of my carefully selected, lightweight, broken in  equipment will arrive safely for the journey.

I now need to turn my mind toward the Camino and away from my busy life. It is good to think of walking through the countryside each day, carrying everything that I will need. I look forward to this new adventure with gratitude and a sense of wonder.

Buen Camino!

Packing list

3 pairs underwear
2 sports bras
4 pairs socks/ different weights to allow for foot swelling
3 fast-drying T-shirts
1 pair silk boxer shorts (or something to sleep in)
1 long-sleeve, lightweight travel shirt
1 long-sleeve , lightweight T-Shirt
1 pair long travel pants
1 pair Capri-length yoga pants or other comfortable walking pants
1 travel-weight skirt
1 waterproof and windproof jacket
1 long-sleeve fleece jacket with a full zip
1 pair rain pants
1 pair gloves
1 “Buff”or scarf
1 OR brand wind stopper” ski hat
1 sun-blocking hat
1 pair hiking boots
1 pair alternate footbed liners for your boots
1 pair Crocks

1 water bottle or hydration system
1 small nylon shoulder bag or daypack: count the ounces!
Sunglasses/ reading glasses
1 pair earplugs
1 small fast-drying travel towel + washcloth
1 mini headlight
1 small sewing kit with 3 or 4 safety pins
1 stretchy travel laundry line with 4-6 plastic clips and a sink plug
1 small clock or watch that you can read in the dark
1 pair nail clippers
1 pocketknife
1 scallop shell: purchase in Spain or France

Toiletries/First Aid (See also “Purchase in Spain,”)
1 travel-size shampoo
1 small soap
1 toothbrush
1 small toothpaste
Dental floss
1 small sunscreen for your face
1 razor
1 set tweezers
1 chapstick
1 small bottle ibuprofen
Personal medications
A few Band-Aids / needle for blisters

Other items
1 well designed backpack
1 backpack rain cover
1 sleeping bag with waterproof stuff sack or sleep-sack for summer
1 pair trekking poles
1 “portable bathroom”
Several zip-lock plastic bags
1 journal and pen
1 camera, extra batteries, charger and plug adapter, extra memory chips
1 phone and charger
1 guidebook to the Camino / Spanish phrasebook

Art Materials
1 sketchbook 8 ½ “ Square
Small selection of Colored Pencils, 2 black pens, 1 eraser, 1 mini pencil sharpener

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