For the whole month of February, my friend and talented jewelry designer Deanna is very generously donating 25% of online sales to the walk. Please check out her beautiful work, make a purchase, and help fund the trip!
I often visit the Golden Gate Park botanical gardens, as they're a block from my house. I sit next to a fountain by the entrance, to think and to enjoy the flora. The garden walls, and the benches on which I sit, are made up of stones from Santa Maria de Ovila monastery, a 12th century Cistercian building in northern Spain. I'm resting on stones that were originally hewn and assembled in medieval Spain, as part of the Reconquest of Spain from the Moors. How could they possibly be here, now? This does not compute, and so the garden continually amazes me. And the elements of the old monastery have been reconfigured into neatly joined walls; it's like something went terribly wrong with the time travel machine and I ended up neither here nor in medieval Spain, but in some halfway space where nothing is as it should be. If anything should be as it is. (Ok, self.)
Library Terrace Garden So how did the stones get here? They were brought over in 1930 by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, perhaps as the West Coast's answer to Rockefeller's NY Cloisters Museum (a crazy quilt of medieval cloisters and monasteries joined together, but that's another story). Hearst intended to reassemble the monastery as part of his retreat in Lake Shasta, but plans were scrapped due to his financial losses during the Depression. The City of SF purchased the stones with the intent of reassembling the monastery as part of the DeYoung Museum But fire and weather erased the identifying marks, making reassemble difficult. Eventually, some of the stones were made into benches and markers.
And that's what happens when you drag a chunk of Spain over here and attempt to reassemble it. It seems to me a very American story.
Column fragment. Entrance to the Garden of Fragrance. Vertebral, right?
More info on the stones here.
Map of the SF Botanical Gardens here.
Please join me for a hike on March 10, starting at Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Arrive at 12:30 for a look around the old mission, museum, graveyard, and basilica. At 1:30pm, we'll set out to hike some of San Francisco's beautiful hills, including Corona Heights Park, Mt. Olympus, Twin Peaks, Mt. Sutro, and possibly Grand View. You'll enjoy multiple panoramic views of the city.
Hike ends in the Inner Sunset (by UCSF), where we'll have a pint of beer (or soda) at the local!
Donations very welcome, but not required. $5 entrance to old mission, museum, and graveyard.
Please join me for a walk on March 10, from Mission San Jose (Fremont) to Mission Santa Clara. You'll get to experience the peacefulness of a long walk. We'll also see everything from a tree-lined oak lane (a la New Orleans) to suburban streets, from a waste treatment plant to a winding river through Milpitas + San Jose, where mastodon bones were discovered a few years ago.
It's a 15-mile walk but anyone can do it! We're made to walk long distances, people. Training is highly recommended but suggested regimen includes just 3 walks.
Although I didn't raise 10k by Feb 16 via Kickstarter, I did raise 42%! That's pretty great! Thanks everyone.
However, per Kickstarter rules, if I don't raise the full amount by deadline, I don't get any of the funds. If you pledged via Kickstarter, kindly resubmit your donation via the PayPal button on the Donate page.
The walk is most definitely happening; I do plan on setting off in late March / early April! And the trip will be fully funded, it will just take a bit longer.
Two weekends ago, at a friend's fundraiser*, I met a gent who told me about his friend Geoff. Geoff is a journalist in New Zealand. He was also a leader in the 1981 anti-apartheid protests against the visiting South African rugby team. And he wrote a 1994 article advocating the creation of a trail running the length of the country.
"...despairing of high unemployment and complaints about New Zealand’s direction, he proposed the creation of a walkway from Cape Reinga to Bluff. In a practical sense, he saw it as a means of getting people into worthwhile work and as a focus for volunteers. From a visionary perspective, he saw it as a means of uniting New Zealanders behind a greater purpose."
Geoff Chapple wasn't the first "modern" New Zealander to come up with the idea - 85 year-old (!) publisher A.H. Reed famously (accd to the literature) walked a route in 1960. But Geoff's article did spark a movement. Over the next 17 years, through the efforts of the project's various trust organizations, volunteers, donors, land owners, and local and national government officials - New Zealanders built the 1,864 mile trail. The route itself runs through "cities, towns, volcanoes, farms, forests and mountain ranges." They did an awful lot of work to fundraise, map, acquire rights of way, and just build the dang thing. In December 2011, the Te Araroa ("Long Pathway" in Maori) Trail officially opened.
The trail itself sounds pretty hardcore. Apparently, the overwhelming majority of it is off-road. The hiking is tough and there's a lot of camping involved. Some sections even require getting in a boat and paddling. (Yes, both getting into a boat AND paddling.) And it takes months to complete.
It seems that many New Zealanders were truly inspired by the idea of putting their feet to the ground and connecting to the land. I also wonder about the sociocultural/economic implications of building such a trail, especially given the country's colonial past. How did New Zealanders feel, including the Maori (as if there could be a single response)? I've been trying to read more about it. Though I'm sure the full story wouldn't emerge from a book or a few articles.
It's certainly an amazing feat! It also rings close to home; I think there's something special about walking the land you were born on - on a lot of levels.
It was great for me to run into this friend of Geoff's. And for those of us who are interesting in walking a California path - perhaps it's something to chew on.
*Fundraiser for another cause thing entirely. No, I'm not some kind of creepy fundraiser nerd. I do do other things besides fundraise and go to fundraisers. Normally.
Big thanks to everyone who came out to the CA Mission Walk Reception fundraiser last night! It was great to see everyone - old friends and new ones. I appreciate all your wonderful support and goodwill. I had fun - hope you did too! And congrats to Jen Hewett, winner of the raffle for the 6-month membership at the new StudioMix gym.
I'd also like to thank my neighbors Uli, Stephan, Shannon, and Sue for helping schlep and set up. To Tanya for the projector. To Stephan for generously offering his art studio as a venue, and Richard, Paolo, and the Odd Fellows Bldg for being gracious hosts.
Thanks also to my talented neighbor Shannon Wolfe and her pianist, Diamond Dave Austin for the great vintage jazz performance. You guys swing!
Thanks to ex-neighbor (...!) Deanna for her bringing her beautiful jewelry and for generously donating a portion of her sale proceeds to the walk.
Thanks to the other members of Los Errantes - Sue, Stephan y Mario - for bringing the Kitchen Peña (We did it, guys).
Holy crap, you people are kind.
Man, this is all turning me into one of those grateful people. I need to huddle in a dark closet with Louis C.K.
First, thanks to each of you for following along, and supporting the walk. I truly appreciate it. On a personal level, putting myself out there and asking for assistance is not easy. I've had to crowbar myself open. But it's getting easier.
One of the great things about walking the Camino de Santiago is how individuals assist each other on the path. You help and get helped by people (pilgrims and locals) you'll probably never see again. There is often no one else around....how can you not assist? Also, you're out there just walking with your backpack, and without distractions you especially appreciate these acts of kindness. I'm trying to create this walk in the same spirit, supported by individuals. And neighbors, friends, and people I've never met have helped out in so many ways. People really do step up to help, if you ask.
On a similar note, a few people have encouraged me to contact Ann Sieben, a woman who has done many amazing solo walks, including Canterbury to Rome. One that stands out is a walk from her home in Denver to Mexico City. That is seriously radical. (Yikes?!) Word on the street is that she may have walked the route WITHOUT MONEY. Now that is "radical" set on fire and launched to the moon. I will try to confirm this, but - regardless - it's interesting to think about asking for what you need as you walk along. I'm not sure that I would walk from Sonoma to San Diego in said manner. But what an experiment that would be.