“When you think of the Camino, what’s the typical scene you see in your head?” Michael asked me. We had been talking about walking the Camino de Santiago together next summer and Michael, true to form, was beginning his research. Or so I thought.
“Well, there are lots of different scenes. It depends on which part of the trail you’re on. In the Basque country there’s more woods than on the Maseta. Sometimes you’re walking on dirt farm roads, sometimes on trails . . . ”
“Yeah, but if you had to pick just one scene you would say gives the best picture of what it’s like–”
“Well, I guess I’d say the scenes from the Maeseta. It’s flat — but not like Kansas-flat. There are some hills, and you can see the path stretching out into the distance. And there’s usually a church steeple in sight–that’s the next town. And of course you can see other pilgrims on the trail ahead of you–sometimes way ahead of you.”
We continued on and I didn’t think anything more of Michael’s question until my surprise birthday party. As I greeted guests in the living room, I walked by our bedroom, then did a double take. What was that on our bed? Yes, coats were piled all over it, but at the top of the bed, leaning against the wall, was a three by four foot painting. I recognized the style and the scene right away and tears sprung to my eyes. I knew instantly: Michael had somehow tracked down my friend Jane, a painter who had walked the Camino, and commissioned her to do a painting of the scene I’d described to him. There were the hills. The pilgrims on the path ahead, the church steeple in the distance. And in the front left corner, sitting on the side of the trail writing, was me.
How he found Jane I wasn’t sure. He’d never met her. At the Farmer’s Market a few months earlier we’d run into my friend Janet and I remember telling Michael, “She and her partner Jane walked the Camino.” And I must have mentioned that Jane painted scenes of it while she was there.
I later learned that Michael tried to find Jane on my Facebook page, but had no luck (she’s not on Facebook). Then he started Googling: Jane, Camino, painter, Asheville. And eventually he found a web site that might be hers. He looked through her work, and when he found paintings done of the Camino he knew he’d found the right person.
A couple weeks after my birthday party, Michael, Janet and Jane explained to me how it all happened. “I went to meet Jane at the Asheville Gallery of Art ,” Michael said, “to see her stuff and talk about what I wanted. ” Jane recalls Michael said he was thinking of something about “three by four.” She thought he meant inches. “And I thought, wow, that’s really small. How am I going to do that? Then he said ‘feet’ and I thought, Wow, that’s really big! How am I going to do that?”
Then he said he wanted me in it. “But in an abstract kind of way. She’s a writer, a blogger, maybe have her writing.”
Jane began her own research. She asked Janet to go on Facebook and find pictures of me on the Camino. Jane also pulled out the pictures from her own journey along The Way. She decided on colors. She sent Michael four possible poses for me. There are details only I would recognize. The orange stripe on my backpack. The red-orange shirt I wore almost every day. My green guidebook sticking out of the side pocket of my pack. Yet anyone who’s walked the trail will recognize the scene.
Whereas I wrote while on my first Camino, Jane sketched and painted. I’ve loved the idea of having a journal in which I could also sketch the images I see. The only problem is: I can’t draw. But Jane tells me anyone can learn to draw–and she teaches people how. So every Thursday evening in February, Michael and I and a few of our friends will become Jane’s students. And maybe one day I’ll be able to post not just my words on this blog, but maybe some of my sketches.
To see more of Jane’s work, visit JaneSnyderArt.com.