Voie de Vézelay ~ Day 3

journeys of the heart, photography, pilgrimage

As I have been busy acclimating to France, and starting my walking pilgrimage, all my posts are going to be be published out of order for awhile, so bear with me!

{Voie de Vézelay ~ Day 3} I am on day 3 of about 7, and just passed through Anthien.

This is totally in the middle of farmland. These French cows must think I’m crazy! (It might be my hot pink rain jacket).

Extremes on a pilgrimage are to be expected, and so with mine:

Thursday was 106 degrees, Friday was 90 degrees with a strong breeze, and today is 70 degrees with a light drizzle. That may sound horrible, but it’s actually been fine. I take twice as long to cover one kilometer and take a ton of breaks as I go, sometimes stopping to make a photo every five minutes. My style is definitely to saunter.

My film camera on pilgrimage

photography, the creative life, the spiritual life

A run to replace the tiny battery in my trusty old film camera also yielded a colorful set of notebooks made with fancy German paper – on sale and just the right size for a portable, packable journal. Preparations for my trip abroad are coming along, and the countdown is in the single digits. Giddy excited is the operative word.


I used to shoot exclusively with film – this very camera in fact took me through my first 10 years as a photographer. Eventually it was replaced with a digital SLR, and my iPhone for daily use. But as I am about to go wandering with a backpack through gorgeous rural France, I had to rethink how I was going to approach the photo essays I want to make along the way (literally The Way: Le Chemin de Saint Jacques).

(Re)Enter my Pentax K-1000. He takes 35mm film, has travelled Europe with me before, and has made for me some of my best photographs.

There are drawbacks, however. He is all mechanical and metal and a little heavy, I will have to carry film in hot weather which could damage it, and I will not get to see how the images turn out until I am home.

Yet this pilgrimage I am making has so many themes which shooting with film will help to remind me of and ground me in. 

At least for me, photographing with film is a very different experience than photographing with a digital camera. You have to be fully present to what is in front of your lens, more deliberate about framing and exposure, and patient with the time it takes to focus the lens properly or advance the film. In particular there is a trust needed: that your discernment and judgment in the moment may indeed yield something exquisite and profound, even though you do not see the outcome until much later. 

Metaphors such as these echo the journey of the spiritual life:

Intentionality, being in the present moment (attention + presence), prudence, trusting your intuition, and a peaceful detachment from needing a thing to turn out a certain way…

The constant emphasis of these themes have been why my life has felt like a pilgrimage for awhile now. It will be interesting to see how these flesh out as I shift from my Camino, at home, to making my Camino pilgrimage along the ancient ‘way of the stars’.

A pair of Patron Saints for creative entrepreneurs and family life

Janelle's artwork, photography, prayers, saints, the creative life

Through Alençon lace and watches, a family of saints was established.

Louis and Zélie were an entrepreneurial couple raising a bunch of girls in the middle of 19th century France. She ran a successful lace-making business, he was a watchmaker with his own shop. Skilled artisans who ran their own small businesses while raising a family of five… a family which just so happened to include a daughter, their youngest, who would one day be called “the greatest saint of modern times”… Saint Therese of Lisieux. Therese has long been my very favorite saint, and has proven over the years to be a tremendous spiritual sister, mentoring me through her radical trust and confidence in God and His goodness.

She was declared a saint in 1925, and ninety years later her parents were also declared to be saints, both of them together. Louis and Zélie Martin.

The watchmaker and the lace-maker.

Today, July 12th, is their feast day.

A few years back I made these photographs of antique handmade lace and a grandfather clock at half past four. Around the time this lovely couple was canonized I connected these images to them and their work and came up with the idea of making a holy card. You don’t see holy cards with photographs on them, but I wanted to try it out.

Since my graphic design skills tend to be rather pathetic, I haven’t come up with a design I like yet, but I’m working on it. A larger size than usual is what I have in mind, 4×6 or 5×7. Definitely printed on fine art paper, even as thick as watercolor paper (and a resounding no to laminated cards, thank you very much). What I would love to see is a card printed in letterpress, with the writing embossed. Must experiment with that someday. Collaboration, anyone?

As Louis and Zélie have more recently come into focus in the past decade, more is being written about their lives, and their story is dramatic, tragic and beautiful. From their meeting and marriage, to their very human and faith-filled family life, to Zélie’s early death from breast cancer and a humiliating onset of dementia for Louis, there is so much to be moved and inspired by. And then there’s the legacy of their daughters…

As I long to one day have a marriage as alive and deeply centered on Jesus as theirs was, running creative businesses while raising a family, I ask for their prayers to live my own faith with intention and generosity and to share my craft with skill and heart, just as they did.

Here is a prayer I wrote for their feast day:

Louis and Zélie

Intercede for me in my creative work

that I may meet it with perseverance and integrity

that the gifts of my mind, my hands and my heart

may bless and enlighten, encourage and strengthen.

Intercede also for me in my family

that my presence may bring peace, joy and freedom

that we would support and sustain one another through trials and difficulties 

and live united under the gaze of God’s tender love and healing mercy.

Amen.