Spain Day 3: New Horizons

Travel Photo at Faro del Cabo Mayor in San Sebastian, Spain

Anyone who knows me knows that I am most definitely not a morning person. However, that’s something I’ve been working really hard to change, because I hate to think about how many sunrises I’ll miss out on in my lifetime if I hit snooze. So, one of my traveling goals (because, let’s be honest, I have goals for everything) this year has been to awaken before sunrise at least once on each trip so that I can see my chosen location in a different, often magical, light.

Despite being 7 hours ahead, I had acclimated to our new timezone quite quickly, so I wouldn’t call this particular Spanish morning an easy wakeup. Still, it was most definitely worth it. We got up sometime around 7 (thank goodness for late sunrises in winter!) and trekked the mile and a half uphill to the edge of the lighthouse tower’s grassy lookout point. We hadn’t timed it quite right to see the entirety of the sunrise from the hill - I may have hit snooze too many times - but we still got to watch the sky change from indigo to a warm light blue while we walked.

Once we arrived, I immediately opened up my camera bag and got to work. I suppose the idea of getting up to watch the sunrise is to enjoy the peace and quiet of a slow morning. I won’t say that the idea of simply plopping down in the grass and watching the city awaken while I lay in repose wasn’t tempting. But my primary enjoyment of almost anything, particularly a good sunrise, comes from working with the conditions at hand to create art.

It’s not simply the end product that I enjoy. The at once mechanical and logical, yet subjective and preference-driven act of clicking the shutter is meditative for me. So, in a way, I did spend my morning meditating.

I ended up with 100s of digital images, but I probably spent more time making film photos because I had to think critically about each frame knowing I wouldn’t have Photoshop to cheat. The good and bad thing about using analog photography is that it is not a 100% reliable process (not that digital is either) so I was less excited about these particular film images than my previous Spain photos. However, that’s primarily user error in that I didn’t wind the film onto the reel correctly. After 100s of rolls of film, it was bound to happen eventually and naturally to my favorite film stock (Ektar 100) shot in Spain. But, that’s why I always take my digital camera to a new-to-me destination if I know that I want to create prints as well as enjoy the process!

Totally unsurprisingly, this was one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. Even watching it in real time, it looked so much like a painting slowly being brushed over the horizon that it was hard to believe we were actually there. Once we had both photographed to our hearts’ content, we eventually did sit down to soak in the view. This was the first bit of sunshine we’d seen throughout our whole Spain trip, so we threw off our jackets to soak in some Vitamin D, too. Then we sat for probably 10 minutes not talking, just perched on our rocks and staring at each of the vista’s layers in turn, taking in each hue and every line while breathing in the crisp, clean, surprisingly unsalty air.

I think I said this in a previous Spain post, but we’ve finally learned from experience the important roll of rest within an adventure. Since we’d stayed up until 3 listening to Harry Potter, we decided that breakfast and a nap would be just the ticket to ensure an enjoyable last full day in Spain. So, rather than try to eek out every second of the time we had by pushing through sleepiness, we had our tea and pastries and immediately fell back asleep.

Once rested, the final thing we had to cross off our travel list was a picnic on the beach stocked with food we’d bought from the market. I was envisioning a bustling marketplace buzzing with conversations from haggling shoppers, smelling of fish and packed with people. But, as la Mercado de la Esperanza was closed and the next local market we went to turned out to be more of a food court, we had to settle for a corner store.

We hadn’t taken into account the need for a corkscrew and the market didn’t have one, so I had to resort to rather desperate measures and *gasp* push the cork into the bottle. I’m clearly not a wine snob.

Because the sun was starting to set by the time we finally arrived, hotel towels and all, the picnic was not quite the warm affair that we had dreamed about. Nonetheless, we opened up our jar of olives and cartons of strawberries and cherry tomatoes, whipped out a plastic knife for our cheese, fig spread and chorizo, and poured our rioja into clear plastic cups like the 20-somethings we are. We enjoyed our makeshift charcuterie as we watched the tide roll in, trying out various flavor combinations and working very hard not to make a mess.

At one point, I jumped up to take a picture and got so sidetracked taking photos that I didn’t come back until 20 minutes later. Oops! By then, I’d captured everything I wanted to so I started playing around with slow shutter speeds and zooming in while taking the photo. I love these times between commercial jobs when I can really mess around with creative techniques that I might want to incorporate into my practice.

After our picnic we settled in for the night, but there was one final thing that had been calling me all trip. Every evening after dark we had gone down to the ocean - since our hotel was only one block from the beach - and stood quietly enjoying the ambience of the ocean at night. And every night I’d thought about jumping in, making literal the metaphorical leap into the unknown that has been these past few months. So, I got us up and moving with the promise of dessert. We dashed to corner bakery just as it was closing and purchased cake and chocolates each, the walked down to the water to contemplate our next move.

To me, the idea wasn’t complete without a little “danger” so my plan was to throw off my dress as I was running towards the water and sprint in just in my underwear. Mind you, the water was probably only 50 degrees and there were still people walking at either end of the beach as well as along the boardwalk. But it was dark, I didn’t know anyone else there, and I was ready to practice being bold. So, I took a deep breath, tossed my dress to Erin and dove under the waves. I came up breathless, shocked from the cold even though I knew it was coming. I ran back in, ready to get warm. But somehow, I still wasn’t satisfied. I hadn’t fully reveled in the feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. So, I ran back in and this time held my breath under water for a few seconds, coming up to stand in the waist deep waves while I gazed into the vast, dark expanse.

I had wanted to do this by myself, as much of this personal journey has necessarily been solo (since most of the work was in my own head.) But I didn’t want to exclude Erin from jumping in if she wanted to, so I held our stuff as she took her own turn. I could see her hesitation, sense that perhaps her lesson was learning to accept help, so I ran in a third time and we went under together.

Ceremony is very important to me. Any sort of birthday, anniversary or celebration of an important event must be marked with reflection as well as festivities. For me, this trip signified the end of another growth phase, and the beginning of a new period of balanced achievement and selfcare. I didn’t and do not still know what lies ahead, but jumped into that cold water not once but three times showed me that I was more than ready to take each challenge head on.