Castles, Climate & Creative Alchemy

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Castles Climate & Creative Alchemy

Reflection and images by Martin Peña | Kenwood, CA

On my first Camino, the presence of ancient castles, fortresses, and churches triggered a surge of creativity and provided an avenue for reflection. Like silent sentinels, these ancient castles stood prominently, their stones whispering forgotten tales of knights, kingdoms, religious struggles, lost loves, and forgotten eras. Each castle became a canvas for my imagination, facilitating the creation of narratives that transcended time and experience.

Music accompanied me throughout my pilgrimage, enhancing the experience. As I walked, familiar songs from my past resonated with the landscapes, historical sites, and moments of introspection. One particular song from the 1970s, “Castles In the Sand” by Seals & Crofts, stuck with me. The title phrase brought to mind counterparts in other languages like “Castillos en el aire” in Spanish and “Batir châteaux en Espagne” in French, all expressing the theme of building or dreaming about something that is unlikely to happen, impractical, or even illusory.

Castles in the Sand, bw photograph.
In envisioning “Castles in the Sand,” I pictured the Ermita de San Miguel Arcángel in Villatuerta, bravely extending into the ocean just beyond the shoreline, confronting the relentless tide of rising sea levels.

A major catalyst for my pilgrimage was a destructive wildfire that ravaged our California hometown, a clear result of climate change. The idiom “Castles in the Sand” became a poignant metaphor for the precarious nature of human endeavors in the face of climate change. The lyrics of the song, delving into the fragility of life, transient dreams, and impermanence of possessions, became both a companion and a mantra for me as I walked.

As I returned home to “the real world,” I attempted to draw meaning from my Camino experiences. I found myself immersed in a creative alchemy that combined photos, illustration, music, and poetry to explore forgotten places and untold stories. My Camino became my crucible, where my experiences, thoughts, emotions, and environmental awareness wove together into a tapestry of evocative images. 

Through this process, I discovered a harmony between my personal introspection and environmental consciousness. The creative alchemy sparked by these entanglements not only illuminated my individual journey but also revealed the interconnectedness of humanity and the planet—a reminder that we all hold the potential to weave a more sustainable and mindful future.

Castillos en el Aire, Martin Peña.
In the depiction of “Castillos en el Aire,” my image places the 12th-century Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol in Villafranca del Bierzo amid the clouds as a divine gesture of forgiveness and perseverance.
Horreos in sand
The iconic hórreo, symbolic of the fertile Galician landscape, stands within a harsh and arid environment—a glimpse into a potential future where significant changes in rainfall patterns might reshape the world.

Editor’s note: Explore more of Martin’s Camino-inspired images at MARTIN-PENA.MYPORTFOLIO.COM

This artwork was featured in our Winter 2024 issue of La Concha. The theme was “The Artist’s Way”, and you can find the full issue in our archive here.

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