Signal Hill has long been a communications point on the Southern California landscape. In an earlier era, Native Americans signaled their brethren with fire and smoke, from Santa Catalina Island to the foothills of the Coastal Range bordering what is now L.A.

Today the signals are electronic, connecting us--at the click of a mouse--to vast, new worldwide networks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spain: A Secular Pilgrimage

We spent most of the month of October in Spain.  We wanted to experience the country's cultural, political and artistic diversity, so we moved around a bit.  We rented apartments for a week each in Barcelona, Madrid and Sevilla.  Also, in a rented car, we visited the Rioja wine district in the north not far from Pamplona, and later the historic cities of Córdoba and Granada to absorb the Moorish-influenced Andalucía in the south... and many points in between.

A big part of travel, we've found, is what the traveler brings to the experience:  What is your perspective, what are your interests, what are your intentions?  What is your "mission"?  One writer has identified tourists in two groups: 1) Those who are consumers and 2) those who are pilgrims.  Pilgrims, as I understand it, are those--secular and otherwise--who take risks in new lands, often experience mild discomforts and leave a little of themselves behind, as they explore new depths in unfamiliar worlds. Speaking of visitors to that great, sacred city Kyoto, Preston L. Houser, in the Forward to Japanese Garden Design by Marc P. Keane, said: "... the pilgrims come to gain a sense of artistic heritage which will expand and enrich their cultural identities... For the shoppers, on the other hand, traveling is a kind of consumption called 'doing,' as 'doing' New York or 'doing' the Louvre..."

We were fortunate to be traveling with long-time Sacramento friends (and pilgrims) Larry Baird and Maggie Jimenez, who joined us in confronting the unfamiliar, and brought a lot of their own experience, research and perspective to the trip--sharing their unique ways of viewing the world.  Larry has a Ph.D. in Political Science and is currently doing research in alternative energy for the California State Senate.  (Spain, we learned is in the vanguard of wind power development, among other sources of alternative energy, and we saw wind farms everywhere.)  In addition to Larry's  jovial manner, we all benefited from this knowledge, and from his general curiosity and interest in philosophy and history.

Maggie, an energetic artist and photographer, was constantly alerting us to colors, shapes, textures and the way light played off the landscape. Thanks to her, we saw more of the visual marvels around us--from the works of turn-of the-20th century architect and designer Antoni Gaudí's in Barcelona to the those of the ancients that crafted the Mezquita of Córdoba and the Real Alcazar of Sevilla.   Maggie is--among other things--a mosaic artist. 
If you click on these two links immediately above, you'll see a few photos that will tell you why Maggie was in her element.      -- RCH

1 comment:

  1. Great site and so good to learn more about you, especially your wife. I too am a USC alum (masters and doctorate school of education), political junkie, community organizer, and lover of Spain.

    see you both at Thursday Pilates.