Andy Goldsworthy sentinel near Authon

Andy Goldsworthy sentinel near Authon

Andy Goldsworthy built three sentinels in this part of France, and we hiked to two of them — the Authon sentinel on Day 2 and the sentinel in the valley of Bes on Day 4.  All are accessible by road, but Jean-Pierre felt that hiking to them would give us a better feel for the land elements that inspired Goldsworthy.  The sentinels stand like guardians in the landscape.  Although there is no mortar in the stacked stones, they are solidly built — sturdy and steadfast.

Day 2 was perhaps the most challenging day of hiking for me.  We were on the trail from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Jean-Pierre had to make last-minute changes to our planned itinerary.  We were to have sheltered for the night in one of the Refuges d’Art (huts that housed a Goldsworthy sculpture), but the mountain road was too muddy, and it was impossible to get a vehicle up there with our heavy bags and camping supplies.  The adapted itinerary kept us hiking, sometimes off trail, and through more difficult terrain, for a longer-than-normal day.  At times I felt like a mountain goat!  My worst moment was slipping on a rock and stepping one foot into slimy, smelly swamp sludge.  There was also a scary traverse across scree, short, but Jean-Pierre escorted us safely across one by one.  I had a terrific workout, and the reward for the day’s efforts was seeing the first of Andy Goldsworthy’s sentinels.

Terrain Day 2

Terrain Day 2

The Vancon Valley

The Vancon Valley

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I found this shell fossil in a rock along the trail.  This part of France has many fossil sites.

I found this shell fossil in a rock along the trail. This part of France has many fossil sites.

Cherry blossoms near our lunchtime picnic spot

Cherry blossoms near our lunchtime picnic spot

Guide, Jean-Pierre

Guide, Jean-Pierre

First glimpse of the sentinel near Authon

First glimpse of the sentinel near Authon

This sentinel is situated in an open space at a curve in the road.

This sentinel is situated in an open space at a curve in the road.

The shape of the sentinel mimics a distant mountain peak.

The shape of the sentinel mimics a distant mountain peak.

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That's me with the sentinel!

That’s me with the sentinel!

Sunset at the sentinel

Sunset at the sentinel

On Day 4, after another day of hiking, we saw a second Goldsworthy sentinel in the valley of Bes.  This one was situated in a natural alcove in the looming rock.  It felt like a tiny beacon in a dominating landscape, and yet it felt protected, sheltered and cocooned.

First glimpse of the second sentinel

First glimpse of the second sentinel

The valley of Bes

The valley of Bes

Goldsworthy's sentinel, valley of Bes

Goldsworthy’s sentinel, valley of Bes

Again, the top of the sentinel echoed the shape of a distant peak.

Again, the top of the sentinel echoed the shape of a distant peak.

“Oh, the joys of travel!  To feel the excitement of sudden departure, not always knowing whither.  Surely you and I are in agreement about that.  How often did my life seem concentrated in that single moment of departure.  To travel far, far — and that first morning’s awakening under a new sky!  And to find oneself in it — no, to discover more of oneself there.  To experience there, too, where one has never been before, one’s own continuity of being and, at the same time, to feel that something in your heart, somehow indigenous to this new land, is coming to life from the moment of your arrival.  You feel your blood infused with some new intelligence, wondrously nourished by things you had no way of knowing.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Iceland's rock cairns, bone women

Iceland’s rock cairns, bone women

“Throughout Iceland, cairns mark the way, over mountain passes, across the moonscape of the interior, through frequent lava wastes. . . . Cairns were sometimes called ‘bone women,’ or ‘beggar women.'”
— Charles Fergus, Summer at Little Lava: A Season at the Edge of the World

“From the sound of stone comes the silence of space.”
— Richard England

Seeing distant stone cairns from a bus window

Seeing distant stone cairns from a bus window

Cairn near a road, Keflavik

Cairn near a road, Keflavik

Bone women of Iceland

Bone women of Iceland

The Rilke quote opening today’s post captures for me the excitement and intoxication of travel.  I was certainly in the first thrills of my journey on my two-day stopover in Iceland.  I was still my old self, but in a foreign setting.  This “continuity of being” meant that it was extremely unlikely that I would suddenly turn into a new person, who hung out in nightclubs, for example.  No, I was still the same old me whose evenings were spent curled up in bed editing and uploading photos of the day.  And yet, I wanted to be broadened by my travels and open to new thoughts and ideas.  It remains to be seen how this trip will shape my future self.

My first taste of Iceland whetted my desire to return someday to explore more of this amazing country.  I think that next time I would like to return with my husband, rent a car for a week, and travel along the road that encircles this island.

I left Iceland with some of its iconic images burned in my memory, especially these rock cairns that so resemble people.  One of my regrets for this trip was that I found/made so little (almost none) time to sketch and paint.  Once again I carried my sketchbook and watercolors in my luggage, extra weight and bulk I could have left at home.  I was simply too busy every day to carve out the quiet time to paint.  But the one painting that I did manage was a watercolor sketch of Iceland’s bone women.  Here it is:

Preliminary pencil sketch for my painting

Preliminary pencil sketch for my painting

Watercolor sketch of Iceland's rock cairns, bone women

Watercolor sketch of Iceland’s rock cairns, bone women