"…and know the place for the first time"


We take pictures, for the most part, to remember specific times and places. Capturing the moments that, years and even decades later, we can return to with photograph in hand. We daydream, creating these nostalgic, mythical places all wrapped around a single image. 

A few months ago, Marianne and I were filming in northern Spain, working on a project for International Teams (a global non-profit I had the chance to work with a couple years ago). It's this beautiful concept that explores the way we treat, of all things, "exploration." About how we spend so much of our waking existence grabbing at the things around us, greedily trying to suck the marrow out of life, looking for meaning in the noise and rush. And what if we were to slow it all down, to pull out of the current, to look not outwards for meaning but quietly search inwards? To run away to the mountains and just listen. What would we find when it is just us and God? I love how T.S. Elliot puts it in one of his poems: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

And this is where my story begins. In the rolling green hills of Galicia, Spain, there is this tiny town along the route we were filming called Triacastela. Narrow winding streets, crumbled down buildings, moss growing on all the red-tiled roofs. We had stopped for a brief respite, and were strolling through the back roads of the town in hopes of an afternoon coffee, taking in all the hidden alcoves and tree-shaded alleys. And as we rounded a tight corner, I saw it: through the bars of a gated courtyard, this old bell tower, weather-beaten yet standing tall. A picture so beautiful, so peaceful and remote, removed from the everyday both in feel and in the mere fact that there is only one small vantage point by which it can be glimpsed. And yet, also so familiar. Because that exact bell tower hangs in black and white, a photograph blown up on our bedroom wall thousands of miles away. You see, two years ago I backpacked almost 100 miles of Spain's infamous Camino de Santiago, winding my way through Galicia to arrive in the town of Santiago de Compostela. And one quiet, exhausted morning on that journey, walking dazedly through the quiet streets of Triacastela, I had slung my camera up and shot a quick, afterthought of a photo. A photo that, years later when my travels were all over and I was married and living in the city and life couldn't be more different, I printed and framed in our bedroom, waking up to it every single morning.

And as I stood there I thought, how crazy, we so often find ourselves looking at pictures, desperately trying to remember a place. And here I am, in the total reverse, finding myself in a place I once stood, remembering a picture. With a rush, all of this emotion came flooding back to me, years of life gone by. I had no idea that I would ever be standing in this exact spot again, and in truth, I didn't even recognize the spot nor its significance until I stood in it.

Again, but for the first time. 

We're excited to get to work editing this project, and can't wait to share it with you soon! Until then, here are some photos to give you a glimpse. All the best!