Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekend Rambling

Yes, I was over at the coast yesterday. I had a perfectly good reason for being over there--the Monterey Scottish Games. A grand time: I tagged up with a couple of old friends from the band back home and got better acquainted with some in the band here. . .On the other hand, I had a monumentally bad run in the solos. The less said about it, the better, but it involved a chipped (and suddenly untunable) chanter reed, which led to an archaeological expedition through my Bad Old Reed Box where I discovered that all of the contents were old and bad, which led to me purchasing a reed which seemed like a usable substitution, but which proved to be made of two railroad ties bound together with several fathoms of that cable they use for docking ocean liners. Whatever the final score was, it was much in the reed's favour, and I ached all over from trying to get more than one consecutive note out of the chanter. . .All in all, it was a grand time.

The rest of the Games did look like a good time and all, and there were certainly some good musicians in evidence, but I'd had my heart set on the beach ever since I came over the hill and saw the fog, so I left the park about noon and, by dead reckoning, managed to find Carmel. A good extra reed (or better, a good extra chanter, already set up) was not the only thing I had neglected to bring. . .a change of clothes would have been an admirable bit of foresight. But I did the best I could, taking off my wool socks, and my shoes, and stashing my pipes and sporran in the trunk. No doubt I still looked quite odd, if one can judge from the looks I got from a group of German tourists, as I walked down towards the beach, but. . .aw, well, it was more than worth it. I spent about an hour up to my knees in the surf shooting the photos I put up yesterday, and watching the cormorants dive. Not quite cold, but it definitely was cloudy and grey, and I was as happy as a clam. Later I found out why clams are so happy. It is because they don't have to try to work their sandy little feet into a pair of knee-high woolen socks.

I hit the road for home with the best of intentions, but the road took me through San Juan Bautista, were a handy little sign reminds you that the mission is only a mile from the highway. It was a bit after four by then, and I figured one more stop couldn't hurt, especially if it was to have a look at a mission I had never seen.

Come to find out, the blocks around the Mission are quite sightly in their own right. I don't know if it was a reconstruction project, or whether the buildings really were built down there, and for some odd reason have survived. Here's a hotel across the street from the Mission with a painted sign boasting, "Established in 1856"--and complete with hitching posts and curbside parking.

Most of the Mission had already closed for the day, but inside the church, they were getting ready for Mass. A good time to get in. . .a bad time to be wandering around snapping pictures. Indoor lighting foiled me once more, but you can get some idea of the painting on the walls and pillars below. One thing I found very interesting about this church--unlike many of the other mission churches, although it has been rebuilt, it has never been abandoned since its building in 1803.
Oh, man, I wish the lighting here had been better! If you went out the door on the north side of the church, you would find yourself in the old graveyard. It was full of olive trees, and beyond the wall, farm fields melted into golden, cattle-dotted hills. In my mind, it is harder to find a better picture of California's soul. There was something very grand about standing in the silence with the great, sunwarmed church at your back, looking out at all the promise that was glorified in the setting sun. Does the picture show that? Well, no, that's why I had to mention it. It gave me an odd feeling, as if I were seeing something that was as old and solid as the world, but also the newest and grandest thing anyone ever saw.Olives were much in evidence all around the mission, handy for framing a distant view of the bell tower.
If I could try this one again, I'd shoot it in the morning when the sun is lighting up the garden and the church from the front, instead of falling behind the church, or tree, or whatever it was falling behind at that point. They don't stint on roses in San Juan Bautista, that's for sure!
The lighting on the other side of the bell tower was more agreeable, though it didn't favour the eaves much.
This is a green door in an adobe wall, in case you were wondering. It is in the corridor next to the church. It must be open sometimes, else, why the doormat? But where it goes, I couldn't tell you.

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