Letters From the Way: A Walking Journey: Barbara V. Anderson
Author Barbara V. Anderson decided to take a long walking trip in April 2012. This trip would take her 500 miles on the GR 65 in France from Le Puy-en Velay to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. But that was just the beginning because in the Spring of 2013 she decided to walk 600 miles on the GR 653, from Arles, France to Puente la Reina, Spain. The author shares information about each place, but what makes the trip come alive are the magnificent photos that she took and the letters that she shares with her friends and readers long the way. The introduction sets the stage as she relates why she decided to take this long walk, that it has nothing to do with losing weight or getting in share nor was it part of a bucket list. So, she begins her walk, started writing her family and friends and at the end of the journey she had letters that would translate her thoughts, feelings and her long walk. Starting as most mysteries do with a prologue that sets the stage for what has come or is going to come she begins with Spring of 2012 and her first journey. Leaving France to walk the GR 65 she shares her trip to Paris, her train ride and what information she learned from Google about ancient times and men that climbed this volcanic chimney to worship the Dolmen, which he defines in parenthesis. Next she tells about her trip to the Cathedral for the pilgrim mass and then the gift shop. The remainder of the prologue focuses on the history of the church, the cathedral and the altar, the resin replica and information about the Moorish artist that carved the second from the top cedar. We then continue with her arrival in Spain and the new friends she made as we fast forward to 2013 and the letters, which begin in Arles. Before beginning she titles the first ones: May 13-17. Her arrival in Arles and the long trips she took. She describes the small town and the history. Taking a city bus that was really a school bus from Arles to the Pont De Gau Ornithological Park in the Camargue. She describes this place so vividly and the pictures help bring it to life as we see a flock of flying flamingos pictured in our minds as a “cloud of pink feathers tinged with the blackest of black at the windtips. Her walk would begin the next day on May 14th. Letter 2 focuses on Arles to St. Guilhem-Le-Desert on May 22 and the pictures on pages 19 – 21 bring her walk right inside the readers’ home and allow you to join her all the way. Letters three and four focus on Saint- Guilhem-Le-Desert to Lodeve and Lodeve to Joncels. Check out the pictures on pages 25 and see the lovely gites. Letter five is titled Clear Skies and Letter Six takes us to Genarmerie and Chemin where one of the pilgrims that went on the trip got lost. What happens is described and why it’s so easy to get lost explained. Walking down the wrong road or not seeing the right landmark or if one of the GR crosses looks so much like another you can get lost. But, did they find her you won’t get that from me you have to read Letter 6 for yourself to learn the answer and see why you have to understand the landmarks by checking out the photos on pages 31- 34. The letters are more like short stories rather than letters addressed to anyone in particular as the author relates Letter Seven titled: Why My Way is Not Martin Sheen’s Way: Castres to Toulouse. Find out what that means when you read letter seven. The pictures are breathtaking and the scenery will capture your attention making you wish you were there. Letter eight adds more to the mystery about Toulouse to Morlass and you learn more about Catholicism the religion of her childhood. Check out the pictures and the amazing blue skies on page 41 and the figure on page 43. To find out more read page 42.
The final letters 9 and 10 focus on Morlass and a friend named Ellen who arrived in Auch and they began their journey together making it more exciting and meaningful. The author states that this trip was different from the previous years as this time most of the churches she states were locked not allowing her to visit many of them which made the trip the year before quite meaningful. But, when she goes into a church the author has the need to sing religious songs. She describes the muddy road, her boots and added to her misery and the weather the hotel was horrific. To find out how awful and really wonder why she compared it to the Bates Motel in the movie Psycho read pages 45 and 46. But, there were more disappointments and more complaints and tons of unhappy people learn why when you read Letter 9 and then move to 10 and 11. Letter 12 brings the author in front and center and you see some of her fellow walkers and learn more about them as they go from Juca to Obanos. The final letter is titled After Arriving and we go to Puente La Reina and she talks about the beauty of the leaves, the generosity of the pilgrims leaving her in awe about them and other beings. She reflects on her fragility and strength and that of others. She reflects that she walks away from her journey having what she learned, what she might never know, and thinking that God was trying to talk to her but that “the me I brought with me on the journey just didn’t (couldn’t) hear…
Leaving the reader with a picture of her walking shoes that tell their own story and a special thank you for coming along. Read the Epilogue and note from Pamploma to find out more and then being home and asking friends what they thought or learned from her letters. Questions asked and the answers included will enlighten readers to why she wrote the letters, what she hoped others learned from receiving them and the answers that might spark her to do it all over again. What did they think of her questions? Could they answer them? Find out when you read the chapter titled: The Question and the next The Answer. Read the poem that says it all on page 95. Told in the first person and you hear the author’s voice and her thoughts this is a really great way to visit so many places and learn about them for anyone planning on a trip walking or touring and any student that wants to learn the history of so many places many of us might never visit but can learn about.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer