Here’s the 4th and final excerpt from Stan Hampton’s Journey Of The Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed making this trip with him via his wonderful photographs. At the end of this post I’ll share an excerpt from The Ledger, available in Stan’s Intimate Journeys Anthology. Thanks again to Stan for sharing. You’re welcome back any time.
Did I mention I am a published writer? Not self-publishing, though. Several years ago on an author loop run by Melange Books LLC, I met the very talented Charmaine Pauls. We have become very good friends, and she is one of two authors that I regularly pepper with questions, particularly regarding female dress and perspective. (Ahem, she is the friend who came to my rescue by calling from Montpellier for a taxi in Vers-Pont-du-Gard—and, don’t ask why I don’t know enough French to call my own taxi.) After my arrival she took me on a quick walking tour of Montpellier, and we stopped for lunch.
One of the sites she showed me was a 700-year old church. Beautiful and incredible—I’ve used those words so many times since arrival in France, and especially during Winter Break, that I must find other words to use. But words really do not do justice to what I have seen and experienced.
Charmaine showed me the bookstore Le Bookshop in the old town where she once held a book signing. This is the cellar—the ground floor is just as fantastic. And no, the stones are not mere decoration. Imagine, a bookstore in the cellar of a building several hundred, if not a thousand, years old!
After resting and visiting with Charmaine and her wonderful family in Montpellier, I returned to Pau on Sunday night, 5 March.
This has been incredible. I have gazed upon what I had only read about and finally I have walked where Romans, Gauls, and Medieval men and women once walked. My journey of the spirit has come to a close for now. But there are more journeys in the next two months.
And after that? I want to return to France to live for a year or two, to write and especially to photograph. And you know what? Such a happening is a very real possibility—I can do this rather than simply dream and wish as I once did. I can do this.
Intimate Journeys Anthology, Melange Books, February 2012.
BLURB: Every journey through life is an intimate journey simply because it is someone’s personal journey. Sometimes the journey is like being alone in a small boat at the mercy of wild ocean currents, and sometimes the journey is like being part of a crew in a strong ship with billowing, wind-filled sails…
EXCERPT: The wintry night of New Year’s Eve 1899 was filled with excitement, hope, and wonder. The world was leaving the 19th century behind and entering the 20th century and no one could guess what wonders the new century offered.
Except Caleb Winston could care less. He was a heavyset man with a thick gray beard and mustache, and long gray hair slicked back over his head. As he sat in his favorite office chair brought from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the newly built home in New York, he let out a sorrowful sigh.
“It’s time to retire,” Abigail, his wife of thirty-six years, and his grown children had reminded him for several years until he gave in.
It was with a heavy and sometimes resentful heart that he turned over the operation of his sutler stores, convenience stores that served the soldiers in their far-flung forts, the local civilian population, and sometimes the Indians, to a long-time and trusted employee. He had two stores each in Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, and a pair of Indian trading posts in Wyoming and Arizona. Before he retired, management was usually conducted by mail and telegraph, though he sometimes visited his distant stores and posts. Though he was no longer a young man he enjoyed the travel.
At last, he and Abigail packed up their home and moved east that last spring of the 19th century; Abigail was ecstatic as their three children and their families lived within walking distance of their new home.
Yet, settling into a comfortable retirement was difficult. Caleb missed the vast wildness of the west with its beautiful snowy, forested mountains, isolated mountain valleys, full rushing rivers, and grassy prairies that extended to the edge of the world. During his travels he sometimes felt that he was watching a hard, yet pristine world, vanishing before the onslaught of endless settlers and a growing, yet mystifying technology. Future generations would never know the West as he had known it.
His resentment and unhappiness wasn’t only due to leaving a beloved life and world behind, but a realization that he was old. His health wasn’t the best and he sometimes felt his path in life was becoming narrower and darker, as if he was entering a deep sunless gorge that he would never leave…