Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Shortest Day, the Longest Walk

Camino Day 18 
Tuesday was the shortest day and yet the longest walk of the Camino, so far. It was only a 10ish mile gig, a cake walk, really, but there were two things that made it so long. First, there were no facilities along the entire route, by which I mean no café to stop and have a cup of café con leche or coke when my feet or legs got tired; this meant, by default, that there were no “servicios,” either. No el bano, no WC, no toilets. 
As a 54 year old woman, I think you’ll agree that I had every right to be concerned. I planned out my walk with grim determination, doing the only thing I could do to ensure a comfortable day’s walk: I decided to dehydrate myself. If I didn’t drink any water, chances are I wouldn’t need the use of any servicios. 

Also, I made sure I had some tissues, just in case I needed to respond to the call of the wild.

I was a little nervous, not just about the lack of facilities, but in the length of the walk. Sure, I could stop and rest along the road if I got too tired—and there were picnic areas with tables and benches (but no WC) set up for that, but let’s face it: that would just extend the amount of time I would be in between bathrooms.

So I set off, making the lone pit stop at a gas station on the way out of town, a mere five minutes after I left my hotel. This reminded me of how I would prepare for running races.. On the day of the race, I’d show up at least 30 minutes early to get my bib number and then I would take my place at the end of the (very long)  line for the porta potties. I would reach my destination and get rid of the few dribbles in my system, then I would take my place at the end of the (still very long) line to the porta potties and repeat until it was time to take my place at the starting line.

There are some instances in which you can’t be too careful.

So I set off with a jaunty air curious to see how the day would unfold.

I made it to my destination with no need for unintended pit stops for rest or… Release. Pice of cake. It was, after all, my shortest day, as I’ve said. And the longest I have walked without a break.
But it was also the longest walk, not just due to lack of services but also to the complete and utter lack of scenery. Once I left the city limits of Carrion de los Condes it was if all the vibrant colors of flowers and the jigsaw puzzles of different crops fitting together were left behind as well. There was, once again, no shade, and the air was still, with no breeze playfully tousling the hair of the wheat that grew silently next to me. 

Add to this the fact that the path I was on was level and stable and it never.varied. I was on a white gravel road in a straight line from point A to point B with no trees, no towns, no turns to “mar” the view. 
This made me realize how my body and mind had gotten used to the elegant diversity of the Camino, thus far. The wild flowers that bloomed along earlier paths were rowdy and singular, even if they shared the same ancestors, and the fields of wheat and oat and barley rippling in the breeze had made me feel as if I was a modern day itinerant Moses, walking through the waves of grain on dry land.
But on this day, I felt less like Moses and more like the anti—hero from the 1971 movie, “Vanishing Point.” I remember us five kids watching this movie with our Dad when it came out. All I can recall is an endless scene of Kowalski, played by Barry Newman, driving and driving and driving while radio DJ Super Soul (Cleavon Little) would sporadically encourage him through the radio: “Come on! We believe in you!” (I confess I had to google this to remind myself what the plot was, as immemorable as it was.) 

The only difference is, I had no one exhorting me to keep going; I had only the white, dusty road in a straight line ahead of me, with no sign of human civilization in sight.

I was okay with this for much of the day. With no exterior stimulation, my thoughts turned down the interior labyrinthine path that leads to my center and I spent much of the day in reflection about my life, things for which I’m grateful (these things are really relationships- my son, my family, my gf, my friends-and experiences over the years) and things I still want to accomplish. And it was a rich, interior route along a path much more varied than the one outside. 
But then, a shift occurred. According to my GPS, I was nearing my destination. I was a mile away, then .5, then .2 miles away. The flat landscape stretched on and on and still there was no sign of a village. It had been hours, it seemed, since the last tractor had passed me by, covering me in the dust from the road, which stuck to my sweat like dollar store glitter.  I sensed a low grade panic arising in me. 
Where was the town? It had been over 10 miles., there was nothing obstructing my view, and yet still I couldn’t see anything or anyone! I had primed my body to walk for 10 miles without stopping and without servicios but now I was ready to be done. 
Finally, so dim in the afternoon haze that it seemed to be a mirage, I glimpsed a simple structure with a smaller building attached to the right of the road.. The sight did little to inspire confidence.
That was it? No wonder I got to stay in such a nice place the night before, they were preparing me for this. 
But as I kept walking, that building stayed firmly to my right, at least a quarter mile from the road which, by the way, refused to bend toward that structure. I began this internal pleading with my environment, as if by reasoning with the road, I could make it see the error of its way, but to no avail.
I kept looking at my GPS as it counted down the distance to my hotel. It reached .10 of a mile and still nothing. I despaired of ever leaving that road. Like Newman, I would just walk and walk and walk in the arid landscape. It didn’t help that I had no idea how the movie ended; we left the theater long before that vanishing point.
Finally, just when all seemed lost I came to a sudden dip in the road; there in a hidden valley was the village of Calzadilla de la Cueza: my destination was at hand. And it was such a cheerful little village-- so much more than the structure I had been fixated on, so determined was I to be able to see where I was going. Gladly I jogged down that hill to the finish line. I don’t know about Kowalski, but I had arrived!

As I sat drinking a cerveza (after using the servicios, of course) I thought about how easy I had anticipated this day being. Ten miles? After what I’ve been through? Cake walk! But there is more than distance to journey and often what makes the shortest day the longest walk is a sense of desolation, an inability to see where we’re going, and no one-not wildflower or DJ—to cheer us on. Sometimes those benign pockets of white noise, white dust, contain more despair than the most challenging terrain. These are the times when hopelessness can creep in and giving up seem a viable option. These are the times we must have faith, faith in the journey, faith in the call that brought us here, faith in the village that awaits us, just beyond the bend.

Monday, June 27, 2016

From a Distance

Camino Day 17 From a Distance
Today was a relatively short day for me; I travelled just under 13 miles from Fromista to Carrion de los Condes. My Camino guidebook, which basically gives me a map of the day, showing where there are villages and cafes (bars) to stop, telling of interesting historical things to see along the way or where there are fountains you can fill your water bottles, did warn me, however, that we would begin the “soulless” pilgrims route along the road. There have been places where the path has  naturally paralleled roads before—even highways—but this, I guess, is a newer, intentional pathway that keeps close company with a fairly busy road.  My guidebook suggested an alternate route that was a bit longer but went down a quiet, more shaded path.
I, however, was curious to see how the feeling of the Way would change, if at all, in a more—well, urban isn’t exactly the word; think driving from Salida to Manitou, COS friends, and you’ll get the idea—I guess more populated is the term I’m looking for. It’s not as if I were in a metropolitan center. The villages were few, and far between. In fact, the one village where I had been counting on taking my long, midway break, at about the 6 mile mark, turned out to be virtually a ghost town. The only (enchanting) action I saw was a shepherd with his flock.
But before then, when I was just starting out, I was curious to see how it would feel. I will say that, suddenly, as if springing sui generis from the hard packed earth, there were more pilgrims than I had seen in the past three days combined. 
I crossed over a busy highway where a pilgrim sculpture greeted me and ushered me onto the “soulless” modern way. I have to say, at first I was very impressed. I had been fearing a cement path—given its modern roots—but it was a gravel and dirt path much like I had been walking for the past few days. The path was narrow, but not uncomfortably so. On the  previous days, the Camino utilized secondary roads that were infrequently used by vehicles, only as wide as an alley in the United States. This path was about half that size but clearly marked with Camino signs on concrete stands that appeared with great frequency. 
As I began my descent from the overpass, I could see what looked like construction workers on the Camino and I mused how even well worn Ways, followed by countless peregrin@s for over 1,000 years still must yield to the inevitable “road work” signs.
The workers wore orange jumpsuits and as I passed each one, I said, “Buenos Dias! Hola!” 
To which they replied in kind, often adding, “Buen Camino!”
“Gracias,!” I replied.
As I passed by them, I was dimly aware of a sound more suited to my neighborhood, than an ancient pilgrimage: a weed-eater. One man was using that, while another raked the green remains off the path and onto the earth beyond.
It was only as I passed the point where they had been working and came upon what was next in their path that I had a realization that filled with me something akin to horror: they were mowing down the wildflowers and grasses that crowded the sides of the path!
I felt this knowledge like a blow to my spirit; it was visceral, and painful and tragic. I felt as if a relative, a distant one, perhaps, far removed from my normal, daily existence, had been brutally cut down in their prime. Tears came to my eyes.

Go ahead: roll your eyes. I probably would have done the same, a few weeks ago.

But what you need to understand is that over the past 17 days, these wildflowers, grasses, and rowdy plants of indeterminate husbandry had become my friends. Not just friends—my biggest fans, my cheerleaders, always rising earlier than me so that they could take their places along the path in wilder places, ready to cheer me on as I passed by, distracting me from my pain with their beauty, judiciously perfuming the air with their aroma which was much sweeter than I smelled. 

I confess: I kissed more than a few of these succulent beauties as I passed by.

And here they were, being mowed down, for—what? Convenience? So they wouldn’t brush the skin of passing pilgrims? I was aware in a deep way, a way that I’ve never before been aware, of the need for this wild beauty in my life; in all of our lives. I understood, finally, at an atomic level that it matters what happens to these wild lives. 

I thought how joyful my gf was to share with me, just a couple of days ago,  a picture of a columbine flower near her home in Guffey. In our spring time hikes there, she had shown me the place where she looked for this particular flower to bloom each year. This year was no exception, although she told me there were tire tracks nearby—a careless driver almost taking out her girl. I had mentioned how glad I was she was safe. My gf said, “Me, too! I’ve been looking for her, and finding her, for the past 20 years!”
I thought of a good friend in Manitou Springs, who had successfully “rehomed” a poison oak plant from her front yard to her back. She had gotten a notice from the city that it was a “noxious weed” and needed to be destroyed. Her response was to move it to the back yard where, for all I know, it's flourishing now, feeling such love and acceptance in a world that normally avoids her like the plague.

And I have been grateful for both these stories of survival against the odds, of humans loving and being in relationship with our wilder, more vulnerable relatives. But today, I experienced for myself what a heartbreak it was to see such wanton destruction of such wild beauty.
As I walked the narrow path, where the wild flowers still grew, unaware of-- or perhaps, aware, and resigned—to their fate, determined to let their beauty be evident every moment of their brief life,  I once again reached out my hands to touch their velvety beauty as I passed by. It wasn’t the ebullient high fives we exchanged on my birthday, but rather a more tender touch; a caress—or no, a reaching for one another in consolation, in recognition that, no matter how short our lives might be, we understood the connection between us, we saw the beauty in one another, we honored the glory of of our lives and the meaning that each life has, no matter how brief, or unseen. It was only when I (inadvertently) took the alternate route that I could finally let some of my sadness and horror go, here where I walked among the wilder, country cousins who had yet to learn the fear of the scythe.

And of course, I realize the wild flowers and grasses would grow back--that’s the nature of their lives, and certainly I understand the need to weed things out so that others might grow. I was reminded of the last class I taught with All Souls member, Jessie Trovik. It was the second in a four part series called Seasons and Cycles and it’s designed to help us frantic, techno-doped humans get back in sync with the earth. This class was created by my colleague, Ahriana Platten, and she graciously gave us permission to teach it at All Souls.  The class we taught, the Saturday before I left for this adventure, was about summer and manifesting abundance. We talked about how our human tendency in summer is to play, take vacations, sleep in, but that, in the natural world, summer is a busy season of working hard. Even the plants reach out to the sun, and the garden and fields are lush with plants working so hard to reach fruition.
Part of the making room for abundance, we commented, involved weeding, and part of our class was reflecting on where we needed to work hard—what intentions needed watering, sun, fertilizer, and where we needed to "weed” our gardens, getting rid of ideas, thoughts, resentments, fantasies that were choking out the good growth in the areas where we were focused. 
I knew I’d be thinking a lot about that this summer, as I walked this path; where do I need to weed out what might have once served me, but is now only a brittle dead stick, or worse—has taken over the rest of the garden?
Yesterday while I was walking in the hot sun, in the afternoon, sweat pooling and pouring down my face,  a bee hovered right under the brim of my hat, sniffing out the possibilities and saying in that sly, nectar wise voice some bees have, “will work for honey.”
I thanked him for his generous offer but assured him that I had already pollinated my dreams with my sweat and that, even now, a garden of possibilities were riotously growing in my heart, in my spirit, with impossible colors, and fragrances, and blossoms, each one so full of life and wonder. And now it was up to me to weed out those that were beautiful but not feasible right now, those that were frenetically taking over the whole garden; it is up to me now, to weed things out so that what is wholesome and good, and enriching, and soul-thrilling and fulfilling can grow.
So I get the whole weed-whacking concept.

And certainly, my mind has been filled for these past several days, with things happening outside the quiet haven of my pilgrimage. My heart still aches with deep loss over the 49 killed at the Pulse, even while my pulse quickens with joy and pride at the sit-in staged by Democratic leaders, demanding we make meaningful gun reform laws now. My spirit is troubled by the “Brexit” vote and the xenophobic, exclusionary spirit of it, even as we move to an election here in the US that could have equally cataclysmic results. On a personal level, I found out that a friend and colleague died suddenly, apparently the result of a heart attack that caused her to fall, this happening while many of my colleagues were gathering in Columbus, OH for the annual Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. I thought of the comfort they could give one another, in the face of this shocking news, and how I am here, alone, walking this path, with no one to comfort me, or for me to comfort.
It’s a strange and marvelous and terrible world all at once, isn’t it? And yet I confess I am grateful to be experiencing the world’s valour and villainy from a distance. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes—author of Women Who Run with Wolves—posted on her fb page yesterday that, in these unsettling times, we need to breathe, to return to our center, to see even just the tiniest piece of nature—either in the night or day sky, or in the fields or forests, or waters where you live. She said to go outside without concern with what will happen in 10 minutes or 10 days or 10 years.

That’s where your center lies, she said.

And maybe, I thought, as I walked on my way today, it’s not self-indulgent, or silly to be concerned with the plight of a stand of wild flowers, scheduled for destruction. Maybe, just maybe, that’s where hope can be found: when, in the midst of such turbulent times for humans and our concerns, we can cry over the rows of wild flowers cut down too soon, even as we reach with hope to their resurrection on another day.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Walking without a Net

Camino Day 14 

Today, I finished week two of this journey; I've put 180.8 miles behind me (and some loose change) and have three weeks left to go. Next week, on Wednesday or so, I'll cross the halfway point. 
Yesterday I posted on Facebook that both of my trekking poles simultaneously imploded. Well, actually, they both, simultaneously, broke. I had them reduced to their smallest size so as not to get in the way at my resting point, where other peregrin@s were assembled and then,when I went to telescope them out to my hiking size, first one, then the other, sprang forth from the main pole, bent, then broke. It was quite the sight (as I’m sure my face was when it was happening.) Fortunately, there was a trash bin nearby so I didn't have to carry the evidence with me for the remaking 4+ miles. Which I walked just fine.
But I wondered about today. When I posted this on FB responses from friends varied from sympathy, to hope someone would give me new poles, to gratitude they didn’t break during one of the (many) tricky up or downhill climbs to (gaia bless her, something only a fellow minister would say:) “that pole story will preach!” 
I agreed with her, of course. That pole story will preach. The only thing I didn’t know was, at Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. How would it preach? Would it be a miracle story of poles mysteriously appearing in my room? Of a Camino friend handing out walking sticks (as happened with another colleague, who has walked this Way before) or something else?
I still don’t know if I know the answer to “the story” but I do know that today it was splendid to walk without them. In fact, today was my best day ever.
Granted, this has been my easiest day so far, terrain wise, and the weather—a swelteringly 90+ average over the past three days was decidedly cooler, albeit still sunny and for the most part without shade. But life was good on the Camino for this peregrina.
It was a day of trying new things. Besides going stick less, I also decided to try walking in my Hoka trail running shoes. My BFF, Rachel, upon hearing of my foot woes last week, took it upon herself to go to the REI store where I had purchased my hiking shoes and speak to the Camino shoe expert there. Dennis was mortified that I was experiencing such agonizing pain on the bottom of my feet and suggested a couple of things. One of them was metatarsal support inserts and the other was in the form of a question. Did I get my shoes a half size or full size bigger than my regular size to accommodate for the inevitable swelling that would occur?
I had not-(and I’m pretty sure Dennis didn’t sell me my first pair of hiking shoes; that guy, whoever he is, was only concerned with me walking up and down a fake mountain and asking if my toes or heels bumped against the shoes.) So through these past two weeks, my poor little feet have been swelling and pushing against my great hiking shoes, giving a whole new visual to the term “muffin top.”
I had brought along my Hoka trail running shoes, though, just in case they might come in handy. I had bought these a half size bigger, knowing that my feet swell when running long distances (let’s not ask why I couldn’t, all by myself, make that quantum leap of logic when buying hiking shoes for hiking 500 miles in 35 days. Some things are better left un examined.) My Hokas, besides being roomier, are also designed for people with knee problems, so they’re cushy, too.
So today, I struck out valiantly from my hotel and, other than the fact that I got lost on my way to The Way, and wandered about for a mile/20 minutes before finding my Way, it was a great day. 
Let me just say, it can be much harder to find the signs in a large city when there are so many other signs vying for your attention: Buy this! See that! One Way! Stop! Caution! Detour! 
That’s why mindfulness is even more important in busy times and places than in solitary ones.
At any rate, I finally found my way to the yellow arrows and scallop shells and was off. Burgos is a large city, and it took me over three miles of my 13 (but for me, 14) mile walk to even reach the city limits.
I found I enjoyed the freedom of not having trekking poles. My arms swung happily by my sides and my walk seemed a bit jauntier. I wondered if the absence of the poles made me feel less encumbered by the mechanics of the walk. Certainly, there were times when I’m fairly sure they saved my life in the early days of my pilgrimage with the epic steep ascents and descents with treacherous footing and slippery rocks and gravel, but maybe I had come to rely on them too much. Maybe I had allowed them to set the pace to the metronomic beat established in my head in those early, arduous days—or even the more recent days made arduous more by weather and lack of cover than terrain.
I remember when I was learning how to ski, taking beginner ski lessons at Keystone Ski Resort during my weekends off when I was in the USAF tech school at Lowry AFB in Denver, CO, February, 1981. My dad lived in Dillon, CO at the time, and he would come to pick me up every Friday afternoon so that I could spend the weekend with him and learn to ski. My dad was from Norway and was a natural; as for me, well, let’s just say I didn’t inherit those genes (anymore than I inherited my mother’s amazing creative crafting genes—but that’s another story.) So each Saturday, I would take beginner ski lessons. This isn’t just an indictment of my skill (or lack thereof,) it was cheaper to buy the beginner package which consisted of morning lessons and included an all day lift pass.
In those few weeks, I had the same ski instructor more than once and, if he recognized me as a return student,he never said. But one Saturday, after trying his best to help me learn balance, he said, “give me your ski poles.” 
I looked at him in disbelief. “What?”
“Give them to me,” he repeated. “You are relying on them to hold you up and that’s not what they’re for. You can ski without them.”
Still in disbelief, I gave them over, then grimly rode the pommel lift to the top of the bunny slope where the lessons were held. Shockingly, I was able to traverse my way down without the poles! My instructor was right! I was overusing them. After a time, after I had learned my lesson, he gave them back.
Maybe that’s part of the preaching this pole story will tell. Maybe the Universe will give them back, in some form or another, once I’ve remembered that I don’t need them to traverse this course.
Of course, I still have three weeks to go, anything could happen.
But what I do know is this: I felt freer, my load felt lighter (although it weighs the same 10 pounds it always does) and I felt like I had hit my stride.
I realized, too, that my attitude had changed over the past few days. When the first 90+ degree day happened, when I had to walk and walk with no shade and just the relentless sun beating upon me, I felt as if I were engaged in a competition with the weather, with the stark, unforgiving terrain. I grimly marched forth, determined to beat the day with its damn heat and no shade and few villages in which to find shelter.
Today, as I walked, I felt myself surrender to the moment, each moment, in a more pliable way. Today, there was shade for the first few miles but then, nothing. But instead of focusing on that, I gave thanks for the lovely breeze—a tailwind, no less!!—that buffeted me along and kept me cool. Today, there was only one place to stop, but instead of focusing on the barrenness of civilization, I took in the beauty of the never-ending landscape. Today, my feet still swelled up and were sore, but my comfy, roomier Hokas seemed to have ample space for them to take up. Today, I didn’t have poles, but I sauntered along with joy.
As I neared the town of Hornillos de Camino another miracle occurred! It was, I swear to Gandhi, the first village that ended in a valley, not requiring me to chug up a steep hill in order to rest. The terrain throughout the day had been mostly level on dirt and gravel roads. As I looked at my watch, I realized I would come the closest yet to having a 3 mile an hour pace for the last six miles, which I began after my lunch break. I thought, “Dang it. I’m going to miss it by just a couple minutes.”
Then, who knows what happened next? Maybe my feet and running shoes had been quietly reminiscing about the four half marathons they ran together last summer, maybe I just really wanted to make that seemingly unreachable pace, maybe I was enchanted by the wide road with the very subtle descent, but, whatever the reason, 10 lb pack and all, I began to run. And I ran the last five minutes to the outskirts of town. I wasn’t running fast (note: I never do) but I was running! It felt good to have the different muscles in my legs put to use, to feel the pack against my back, and to get into the runner’s stride once more.
When I reached the border of the town, I felt great, in spite of the heat, and the gear, and the decidedly non-runner clothes I was wearing. I realized these past few days, I had reached the towns whimpering with exhaustion and pain but today, with no one to witness my heroic burst of energy, I was the champion, my friend. 
I decided that, whenever I wear my Hokas at least, I would run the last few feet or yards or minutes to my destination, that I would remember the glory of this pilgrimage, so that even on the days I slog along, there will be a moment of victory, too.
I don’t know if I would have done that last minute run if I had my poles, but something tells me, no.
Now, I don’t know if that’s the only pole story that will preach, but it sure preached for me, today.
And three weeks still to go.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Communion of Saints

Camino Day 13

“Well, how is it?” A friend messaged me. I read her message after arriving in Burgos, at the end of a three day heat wave, with temps in the 90s and the humidity just enough to make itself known. Today was supposed to be the hottest of these three days though, mercifully, it was actually the coolest, with a high of 88.
How is it? I pondered that question, while waiting for my feet to stop throbbing and my phone to charge up (I had made an inconceivable error last night in forgetting to charge phone; as a consequence no pics of today’s walk—just imagine beauty everywhere or revisit my pics from previous days or wait for tomorrow’s. You’ll get the point.)
I confess that for the past three days, this pilgrimage has been less of a mystical event- or even a glorious nature hike—and more of a desperate plodding through hot, hot days with no shade. I would stop in every little village and get something—a sparkling water or a Coke (Coke’s the real thing on the pilgrimage!) Although I carry water, of course, I was simply desperate to escape the relentless gaze of the sun for just a few moments, and so I would sit in the cool, dark bars and just give my eyes and flesh a chance to rest.
As I’ve slogged along, over these past few days, I was honestly too weary—almost defeated by the sun—to even try to reach for anything resembling profundity, although every day, as I set off on that day’s walk, I say a silent prayer to the Universe, “Show me what this day holds, help me to be open to the moment, each moment of this day, help me to see what I need to see, to hear what I need to hear, to say what I need to say, to know what I need to know.” 
Merely by saying the words, my intention and attention become attuned to the day, to the signs, as I wrote about last, to living mindfully, to not becoming so inured to the beauty---the voluptuous beauty of this planet—because of its constant presence along the way.

We do that, sometimes, we humans, don’t we? We bask in the glory, the gift of a moment, and when its beauty remains, we become used to it, we take it for granted, and, in fact, if for some reason it doesn’t shine as we remember we criticize it and judge it. 
This happens in virtually any situation, but nowhere is it more keen than in human relationships. We fall in love, find a new friend, land our dream job, and say, “I don’t deserve this!” In a voice filled with wonder and awe and gratitude. Then, time passes on, and we stop seeing that miracle with eyes looking for miracles, we lose our focus on the wonder and instead see the tiny cracks, and tears in the fabric, and dust that inevitably settles on even the most beautiful piece of art. Even the Mona Lisa needs dusting. And then we say, again, but in a decidedly different one, “I don’t deserve this!” And walk away.

So, in these hot, hot days, I didn’t want to lose my ability to look for miracles and I still saw the beauty and felt the wonder of this amazing Camino. Just with less enthusiasm. :)

Yesterday, I travelled from a bustling town of 2000 where supermarkets and cafes abounded to a remote inland in the mountains (not Colorado mountains, but still) that consisted of a monastery with the alburgue (hostel) and its bar/café, and the small hotel where I stayed and the dozen or less homes that attached themselves to house the 20 citizens of San Juan de Ortega. Like many villages I pass through, this one was founded especially to help the peregrin@s who passed through. It was established  circa 1112 by a young man, a devout person of faith, who had gone on pilgrimages and wanted to provide a haven of safety and sanctuary for the pilgrims—particularly on this stretch of road where bandits were known to prey on the hapless travelers. 
After I had  arrived into town and got settled, I strolled over in the sweltering heat to visit the cathedral. I stay in hotels every night, and though they’re often close to the Camino, they are typically situated several blocks (or miles) away and so I haven’t gotten to to explore the churches as much as I’d like. Also, every night, typically at 6 PM, there is a Pilgrim’s Mass at the church in the center of the Camino cluster in each town. I had never been to one, due to logistics, until last night.
When I visited the church earlier in the day, I was struck by how cool it was—at least 25-30 degrees cooler than outside where 91 was reigning triumphantly. There were even blankets for those who wanted to sit and meditate. The tomb of San Juan de Ortega was there, on one side, and on the other, beautiful artwork and an altar, all of it from the 12th-13th c. On both sides there were candles for sale for folks to buy and light before the altar. I didn’t have any coins with me, but knew I would come do that following the Mass.
At the appointed hour, I entered the church and was excited to see that the main sanctuary—which had a locked gate barring people from entering earlier—had been opened and that’s where the Mass was to be held. I picked up an English/Spanish order of service so I could follow along.
As the priest began the introductory rivets and led us in the Kryie Elieson, I felt my throat constrict as I thought of the unending line of pilgrims from the beginning of the 12th c and on who found safe haven within this massive edifice. I thought of the different reasons pilgrims walked this path; looking around at the 15 or so of us gathered in that sacred space, from so many different nations and faiths, I thought of what brought each of us on this Way, to that moment, in that Communion of Saints.
We had two scriptures from the Christian scriptures and a Psalm from the Hebrew sacred texts. I knew all of them well and marveled at what a wonderful choice for this service. The first reading was from 1 Corinthians 13—the love chapter. 
“Aunque hablara las lenguas de los hombres y de Los Angeles, si no ten go cardiac, soy como bronce que suena o cimbalo que retine,” the priest began.
I followed along on the English side: If I speak in the tongues of [humans] or angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal.”
As he read Psalm 27 next, followed by Acts 4:43-37 there were responsive readings which we all murmured in Spanish.
I felt verklempt in the presence of the holy. Not the presence of a certain God and definitely not the speaking of a certain creed, but rather in the presence of the holy people gathered there, each of us on a pilgrimage, each of us taking our place in the lineage of peregrin@s who have stood in that place before and will stand there long after I am gone. 
I thought of how it really does take a village—or villages, actually; we each need someone to prepare a place for us, as Juan de Ortega did all those years ago. We each need to prepare room for others who will come to our doorsteps in one form or another, seeking shelter, safety, sanctuary. 
In the spirit of this communion of saints, this Community of Strangers, Friends, Loved Ones, I stood up and went forward to receive the communion wafer the priest offered. I’m sure he has no illusions that everyone who comes forward in this mass has his same beliefs, or the beliefs of the Catholic Church—even those who consider themselves Catholic. But I do believe he also understood that we do share a communion as saints in our pilgrimage.
Following the service, he invited us over for a special Pilgrim’s blessing where he invoked blessing and protection, peace and well-being upon us on our pilgrim’s journey. Then he gave each of us a necklace with the cross of San Juan as a gift. It’s a simple cross on a cord and not expensive but I bent my neck and took my gratefully. From the old man in Pamplona, to the flowers and trees and path, to my family and loved ones who cheer me on and pray for me and do long distance Reiki for my feet and well-being, or tonglen meditations, to this priest, I’ll take all the blessings I can get.
Afterward, I went to the altar on the other side of the sanctuary and took three candles for the 50 cent suggested donations. I lit one for my friend who is on her own pilgrimage, as she walks with metastatic breast cancer, down the unseen road where that will lead; I lit a candle for my relationship and for all those whom I love, and I lit a candle for my own Camino, my own pilgrimage.
Today I went from a community of 20 to the much bigger city of Burgos, with a population of 180,000, and tomorrow, my resting place will have 70 citizens there. I realized though, that even larger cities can be just a patchwork quilt of smaller neighborhoods, smaller communities, threaded together with roads and stop lights and strip malls. This Communion of Saints isn’t dependent on the size of the community-or even upon having commonly held beliefs. It does require love, though, otherwise it’s just a bunch of people making a bunch of noise—like gongs or cymbals—disturbing the Peace.
“Well, how is it?” My friend asked. 
“Amazing in parts,” I told her. “And really hot and just slogging along in others.”
Which I guess is life, after all. Still, beauty awaits, and holiness, and mystery.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Camino Day 11

I have survived the two long days followed by two shorter days. My feet seem to be resigning themselves to the long walk; they still hurt mightily at day’s end, but not quite so much as before. 

I guess that’s a consolation.

For the two long days, I taped both feet with kinesio tape I already knew how to search for that instructional video on YouTube, being a fan of the tape since my half marathon days last summer when the long distance running led to intense pain in my right knee. I brought the tape along thinking I might need it for my knee again, with so many steep hills to climb up and down, but my knees have been fine. So, I looked up “Ball of feet pain” and found the official YouTube video on how to apply. The guy ( a PT, I think) who leads the demonstration always gives suggestions for what could be causing this particular pain. On my video he mentioned running long distances on hard surface and overuse.

No shit.

Anyway, I taped up my feet and held to a regimen of ibuprofen and off I went! It was difficult to know the way out of Logronos. It is a fairly large city for the Camino (155,000) and I was in the middle of the town, away from the traditional signs for the Camino. These can be anything from an official sign with a yellow scallop shell, an official yellow arrow sign, blue signs that say Camino de Santiago—some giving how many more km it is to get there. Pamplona and other larger cities even had metal scallop shells embedded in their sidewalks. In many places, however, the only signs were yellow arrows spray painted onto sidewalks, street signs, utility poles, trees, rocks, or anything else that could be spray painted at an intersection.
And Logronos had those, too, along with embedded metal shells but neither type of sign could be found very frequently. In fact, my guidebook warned that the way marks might be disturbed and not as frequent due to road improvements. 
As I stood on one corner looking uncertainly around, a citizen said, “Camino—and motioned to turn right. Almost as soon as he’d said that, I noticed a yellow arrow across the street on the sidewalk. I followed along but soon came to another busy intersection with no apparent way mark. I was turning around in circles, when three other peregrin@s approached. I told them I lost the signs and one of them pointed to another yellow arrow, about half a block away. So I began following them, not too close so I wouldn’t appear stalkerish but not too far behind, either, since they clearly had better eyes in the city than I did.
I was also looking around, admiring the mixture of modern and Middle Ages architecture, and then would also look down for the signs. As I crossed one intersection, I noticed a stylized yellow arrow embedded into the sidewalk, pointing left. I followed along but after only going about a half of a block, realized that the three pilgrims I had been following were no longer in front of me. Looking back, I could see them just disappearing around the corner in the opposite direction.
I was torn. Did they miss the sign? Should I try to reach them? They were walking much faster than I was and were already more than a block away at that point. Finally, I turned back around and continued on my way. But the question remained with me? Should I have tried to let them know? I felt particularly indebted since they had helped me earlier. But maybe they weren’t lost at all; maybe they were heading to an ATM machine or to grab a bite to eat before leaving the city. 
At any rate, the opportunity had passed. I consoled myself with the knowledge that if they were lost, it wouldn’t be for long and they could ask virtually any person on the street for directions back to the Camino.
Still, I’ve been thinking about the signs as I’ve travelled these past few days. It’s a marvel, really, that these way marks will lead me almost 500 miles to Compostela de Santiago. And I’ve become adept at looking up and around when I approach an intersection---whether in a busy city or a deserted trail in the countryside—to look for the sign pointing the way that I should go. Sometimes, they aren’t visible right away and I’ve learned to pause and to search carefully, not choosing a path until I’m sure it’s the right one.
And then there’s that whole level of trust, isn’t there? I mean—yellow arrows spray painted on a variety of surfaces; someone could really mislead us—all it takes is a can of paint and the desire to point pilgrims away from the path.
As I was first seeking, then following these signs, I reflected on how often in my life, I haven’t  want to stop and look. I wanted to plunge ahead! I wanted  to go left or right—any direction! Just so long as I kept moving! In her book, “When Things Fall Apart,” Pema Chodron talks about this all too human inclination. She says that sometimes what is needed is to be still, to sit on the edge of a razor and wait before making a choice. It’s hard; we feel unsettled, or out of control, if we think we’re lost or if we aren’t moving in some direction, but the reality is that sometimes we miss the signs, blundering past them in our desire to be someplace else.

And pausing invites us to trust that there is a way for us, maybe not mapped out as completely as the Camino—where I know where I will end up if I follow the signs—but that a way exists for us, a path, a Camino is being mapped out foot step by footstep, sometimes with only the next step seen, not knowing what lies around the bend or beyond the steep incline, but knowing there is something there.
Of course, I don’t want to be paralyzed into inaction because I’m not sure of the way, and I don’t think we need to wait for a sign before we take any steps; it’s more about living mindfully, intentionally, paying attention to the road upon which we find ourselves. It’s about letting go of the need to control, living open-heartedly, trusting that life has good things in store for us, rather than cynically, or fearfully, worrying about what might be lurking behind the next big rock.
Sometimes, sadly, things do lurk there—or jump out from behind a tree. Big, scary things like a diagnosis, or a divorce, or death, or any number of smaller things. We are living a life, after all, the unabridged version. But I’ve learned, am learning, will always be learning that life offers sweetness and joy abundantly.  It’s just we’re so often on the lookout for danger signs that we walk right past the signs to happiness in that moment. I want to walk daily on the Camino de Joy, where I see the signs I look for and trust that they’re for me and thank the Source, Universe, for putting them millennia ago, so that I can find them now.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Learning to Walk

Camino day 6 and 7

Camino Day 7 Learning to Walk

I have discovered something which, heretofore, I had been completely unaware—at least for the last 53 years:
Walking is hard. 

I used to think (after the last time I got the hang out it) that was walking was fairly easy; you just put one foot in front of the other, as the song goes. But as I walked today, I realized that it ain’t so easy as all that. And, if I had paid any attention at all, my body was trying to tell me that yesterday.

But yesterday, on the road from Puente la Reine to Estella, on my 54th birthday, I was all about beauty and gratitude, gratitude and beauty. I was continually amazed (as you will notice if you’ve been following my pics on Facebook—and that’s the only place they are now, as this mobile blog app is crap when it comes to trying to artfully insert photos) at how much I see, or rather, #thingsyoumissdriving75mph. I felt as if my vision has somehow been sharpened. I seemingly noticed every ant on the trail and succumbed (only once!) to taking a picture of a hard-working little guy carrying something that looked to weight at least three times as much as he did. I also was fascinated by the snails, and the flowers and grasses and the bees on the flowers, and a ladybug.

And it was such a beautiful day! The Camino de Santiago, I am discovering, is always interesting. On any given day I can be walking through single track trails, on gravel secondary roads, on cobble stones or the original 14thc road which has rocks rearing up in an interesting pattern. Also popular, it seems, is the path filled with huge rocks, anywhere fromm 2- 6 inches in circumference that make it impossible to get a level step and require great care and mindfulness when traversing. See? See how both my body and the Camino were trying to tell me something yesterday?

But yesterday I was too awestruck by all the beauty around me and gratitude for it, and for another successful revolution around the sun for me. I walked alone all day and as I took in the voluptuous beauty of nature I would make eye contact with plants and flowers and trees and grasses and the crops in the field (I already knew this: that I could make eye contact with these—and even the rocks on the road) and I would ebulliently say, “You’re beautiful! Thank you! Muchas gracias! You’re doing a GREAT job—keep it up!! Buenos Dias! Thank you! Hello.” 

A few times, like when I saw a spectacular specimen, just bursting with her own gorgeousness, or the ant, I would pause admiringly and say, “Ok, now you’re just showing off.”

When I walked through the single track path with the flowers and grasses crowding the sides as if to cheer me on, I picked up my trekking poles and held my arms out, fingers extended giving both side a high five! When the wind picked up, I didn’t neglect him. “Thank you for this cooling breeze,” I exclaimed. “You inspire me!!”

Even when I got caught completely unprepared  in a downpour, complete with thunder, lightning and hail, I was grateful and accepting. A new friend today told me her mantra has become #keepcalmandcaminoon. I love it.

And today, all those things were still true. The day was equally beautiful, the path varied and curving up and down hills through all times of scenery, and I was equally in awe and grateful—and told many flowers and insects exactly that. But what I realized is how hard walking is.
What has become the norm over the past two days of walking is my feet are in exquisite agony when I reach my hotel but then they calm down after resting, a bath, a time with my green rubz ball (ahhhhhh) and the recovery sandals I originally discovered last summer for putting on immediately after finishing my half marathons or long training runs.

But what I’ve also noticed in the last two days of walking is how that pain free walking only lasts about the first mile into my hike and then the pain returns. It is pretty much non-stop pain on the bottom of my feet. After awhile, it begins to feel as if my feet have transformed into some semi-solid ….mush, or a blog just sloshing around in my shoes radiating pain with the magical trick of somehow taking back on the form of feet and toes when I pull off my socks at the day’s end.

I’ve been learning to walk again.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to reduce the pain. I’m experimenting with taking breaks more often (on days 3-4 of walking, I made up a little ditty that I would sing to distract me from the growing pain. It went a little something like this: Every 10 kilometers, I get to take a break!! I would repeat that as necessary and when I made the requisite 6.2 miles I would stop for about 45 minutes. That was a little less than half of the mileage for those days. Yesterday, on my birthday, that worked for the first stop but then I began taking mini breaks at the three miles mark or even less. Still, after sitting for about 5 minutes or so, my feet would begin hurting again immediately upon walking.

Today, I experimented with stopping every four miles. This meant two main stops of about 30 minutes each along with those mini stops for about 3 minutes in the last half of the trip. And still my dogs, as my dad used to say, were barking. Nonstop.

Up until now my days have fallen into the 13-15 mile range. That changes for the next two days. As in two days in a row. Where I will clock first 17.3 miles followed by 18 miles before mercifully coming back to a “short” 13.2 mile day. 

What I’m learning is that my old understanding of how walking works doesn’t work on the Camino. I need to find my pace, my stride, my rest periods that will reduce the pain in my feet while knowing (hoping, anyway) that my feet will also adjust to the new demands being made on them. I can’t criticize the poor dears for not being in top form, nor can I criticize the path. I just need to work with both, be tender with each and learn how to walk this Way, while still seeing the beauty and being grateful for each day. Which I am. Abundantly so.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Blessings and Tears

Camino Day 5.  Blessings and Tears

Today’s hike started with blessings and tears. I wrote my gf an email, letting her know I was off after two relaxing nights in Pamplona. In my email I said to her, “I’m so blessed!”
Then I made the mistake of reading some of the news stories friends had posted about Orlando. One was a video with pics and some stories of some of the victims and all of the names of those who were killed. Needless to say, that made it impossible to finish breakfast without crying.
I thought of my words to my gf in the email I just sent, and I thought of the pain we are all feeling—knowing it is only a microscopic amount compared to the pain the families and friends are feeling.  I recalled a song from my Christian days, by Susan Ashton, called “Benediction.” The lyrics, in part, say: I long for the shape of things to be true to their form; love in a circle, hearts in a line, molded by sacred design.”
I thought to myself, that’s what I long for—such a simple thing: Mas Amor, por favor. I long for this uncomplicated world where guns and swords are beaten into plow shares, and everyone has enough. But of course, that isn’t the world in which we live.

And I confess, though my heart is in Orlando, and with all my queer friends the world ‘round, I felt  glad to be here, walking through northern Spain, unable to be glued to the newsfeed showing the latest rhetoric of love or hate or ignorance in response to the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub. I felt  glad that I would be unplugging from the Internet and then just walking for several hours with no access to media.

I shut down my wifi connection, shouldered my backpack, and set out. The chorus to Susan Ashton’s song was the soundtrack for this morning as I headed out of Pamplona:
Taking a road that I’ve never been down, tell me that you’ll be there. Help me to turn a discouraging word into a word of prayer. I need your benediction. Where’s your benediction?

Benediction, typically the last words given at most Christian worship services, means, literally, good word. It means a blessing.  Although I had told my gf I felt blessed, where, indeed, was the blessing?

It was an interesting experience, leaving Pamplona. I had entered into the city of 200,000 through the ancient, medieval gate and had stayed in the old part of the city. It had been charming, with narrow streets –including the one where the running of the bulls would occur a month from now—but as I left the city, I left the ancient streets, too, and wound up walking with my backpack and trekking poles and scallop she'll through a busy, modern, urban city. I had left late-about 930 AM—and given the size of the city and the myriad places where pilgrims could stay the night, it was no surprise that I was the lone pilgrim on city streets filled with men and women walking their dogs, jogging, walking, perhaps heading to work. In some ways, it felt as if I were walking from Manitou Springs through Colorado Springs, heading out of town, seemingly out of place with my hiking gear.
But then, at one stop light, a father was pushing his baby in a stroller and stood next to me, waiting for the light to change. He looked at me, then looked at his baby, gesturing to me, saying, “Dice, Buen Camino! Dice, Buen Camino!” Say, “Buen Camino!” Say, “Buen Camino!”
The baby gurgled with joy and I said, “Gracias!”
But a lump formed inside my throat, and I felt tears sting my eyes. I was being given a blessing by citizens of Pamplona who saw countless numbers of pilgrims pass through, although I felt as if I were the only one. It was a benediction.
I continued walking, passing through parks and downtown streets where offices ruled and office workers strode past. I stopped to take a picture of a distance hill with wind turbines dotting the horizon; according to my guidebook, I would soon be walking up and over that hill looming in the distance. I was nearly out of town—perhaps just over a mile to go—when, an old man crossed the street purposefully in my direction. Stopping in front of me he said, strongly, with great feeling, “Buen Camino!” 
That was the standard greeting, and though I confess it felt more meaningful coming from a citizen who was not also on The Way, I thought that was the end of it. Then he looked tenderly into my eyes and said several things, including pointing up to the sky and looking up, which I can only surmise meant asking God’s blessing. Then he pointed to my heart and touched his own and said, “Corazon—grande!!” A great heart! And, then reaching over to grasp my left shoulder with his right hand ended with, “Para el amor.” For love.
I felt the tears spring once again to my eyes before he had finished. 
“Gracias,” I said. “Muchas gracias.”
He went on his way, and I went on mine, though I was weepy until I had passed the city limits.
I don’t know all of what he told me, but I do know that he blessed me, that he told me I had a big heart and that I was walking this Camino for love. And, even if I got the syntax wrong, the message was clear and true. I am walking this for love. It was a benediction.

The rest of the day has passed pretty uneventfully. I walked in solitude for virtually the entire day. I stopped for lunch right before the steepest climb of the day, but after being there about 20 minutes, a Dutch couple asked if they could join me. They spoke excellent English and so, about five minutes later, I bid them Buen Camino and continued on. I had a need to just be in silence.
I reflected on how a friend had said on fb that maybe I needed to not check in on social media, do this pilgrimage on my own and with no contact. I replied that I’m on sabbatical not in an isolation booth and that what I wanted to do was share this pilgrimage. But I realized that, even with sharing, so much of this journey is mine alone, and in deep, reverential reflection, that won’t find its way into this blog or on fb.
I felt as if I were an ant, crawling through the grasses and gravel, minuscule and insignificant and completely unimportant to the grand scheme of human events. ‘With this attitude, I took great care to step over any ants—or other insects—that might cross my path. I was them, they were me.
The scenery was breathtaking and I found even walking through the streets of Pamplona to be wonder—full. I thought about what it must be like to live in a city where pilgrims pass through, where you knew there was a greater horizon than the one with which you were born, and where you knew the center of your heart and hearth but also heard, perhaps, the beckoning of the pilgrim’s way, the road to revelation, which can, after all, be found in the streets of your hometown, if only you travel them by heart.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Walking the Camino, Thinking about the World

As I write this I am sitting in a charming hotel in Pamplona. I made it here following a serene, solitary 13 mile hike from Zubiri. Much of the trek was through single-track trails, canopied by thick green trees.  The earth was lush with with wildflowers, cattails and other grasses that reached up for me, caressing me as I walked by. 
It was such an antidote to the day before. On Sunday, the second day of my pilgrimage, the terrain was equally as difficult as the first day—only the elevation was less and, given the fact even at the highest point on Saturday’s walk—4500 ft elevation—that was still about 2000 feet lower than  where I live, the lower elevation didn't make much of a difference to me. 
Also, on Sunday, I guess my feet were in a state of shock. They were screaming invectives at me, complaining that they had already walked a long distance the day before. Remember? Wait—we’re doing going to be doing this EVERY day???
The walk was allegedly only 13.6 miles on Sunday but clearly the miles were long. About halfway through, after having been walking alone for most of the day, I asked the Universe for a companion to talk with, to help get my mind off of the pain coursing through my feet.
Sure enough, I soon came upon a German woman who was stopped, resting. She had a HUGE bandage/brace thing on her right knee. I asked if she had fallen and she explained that she had broken her knee two years ago—right before she was to do the pilgrimage and was finally getting to do it, but her knee still causes her pain. 
Dear gawd, that put it all in perspective. We were facing a verrry long, verrrry steep, verry rough ascent so I stayed with her. We paused frequently, which was fine with me. She spoke very good English and soon we were chatting along like old friends. When she told me her name was Sigrid, my jaw dropped. I had a great aunt with that name, I told her.
She said it’s not as common in Germany as in Norway.
When we exhausted our getting to know you questions and answers she asked me, “So what do you think about Trump?”
That conversation was good for at least 10 minutes as we talked about how completely inappropriate he would be as president and she expressed such genuine surprise and bafflement at why anyone would vote for him; how he has gotten so far in the process.
“He says ridiculous things-crazy things—and then everyone just—“ here she cheered loudly and pantomimed waving a flag.
“I know,” I said, "I’m from the US and I have no idea how why anyone would vote for him.”
This led, naturally, to a conversation about guns in America. She told me in Germany, you don’t get to own guns like that—only police and the military. And if you want to use a gun to hunt, you not only have to take a class on gun safety but also in how how to properly dress a wild boar.
She said a cousin from the US visited her last year and before he came said he wanted to hunt wild boar, that he would bring a gun. He had five guns, he told her.
“Why does every American have to have a gun?” She asked me, bewildered yet again by our strange customs. “Why does he need five?”
I could only answer as I had before, that I don’t know why, I don’t know what’s wrong with our culture. I think it’s horrible that guns—particularly weapons of war—are so easily available.
By the time we reached Zubiri, I was spent, physically and emotionally. The arduous hike seemed like it would never end. Sigrid and I cheered and hugged one another when we saw the entrance to the city. We each appreciated having the company to get us through.
Then, of course, I reached my hotel room, and saw the first reports of the massacre in Florida.
How ironic, I thought, after my conversation with Sigrid about guns in America, that this is what I would see when I booted up my ipad.
Ironic and tragic. 
And now, of course, the news is that the shooter was, himself, gay—or that he struggled with it.
I was not surprised to hear that, either.
I will say that I am surprised at how many of my queer friends are taking this personally. Yes, the shooter targeted a gay club, but that’s merely peripheral to the tragedy. He was clearly mentally disturbed and would have shot some target, any target.
He chose a gay bar, another shooter chose a school where little kids were, another shooter chose New Life church, another a UU church in Tennessee and another a theater in Aurora, CO where the Dark Knight was playing.
All of these shooters were struggling with demons within themselves and who they shot was secondary to the internal violence within. 
There is just as much homophobia in Germany, say, and religious repression abides in dark places in hearts and souls in every land. 
There are people in every nation struggling with mental illness that takes the shape of these violent demons that the list above struggle with. 
But guess what? Those countries don’t have mass murders. Is there gay-bashing? I’m sure—and racism and misogyny and any other number of prejudices and bigotry that take root exclusively in human hearts and turn outward in violence.
But not where 50 people are murdered.
Frankly, as a queer woman, I don’t feel unsafe because of my sexual orientation; I feel unsafe because I live in the United States where everyone is a target, because anyone can go into their corner Guns R Us store and buy a weapon made for combat and as much ammo as they can stuff into their backpack.
This week it was a gay bar,next week it could be a community center. But for sure it will be in the United States, not in Germany.
Less than a week before I left for my pilgrimage, I spoke at a #wearorange rally for gun safety on the steps of city hall in Colorado Springs. It was on June 2nd—what would have been the 19th birthday of Hadiyah Pendleton, who had been gunned down just weeks after performing in President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony. Here is what I said, in part:

“We are gathered here tonight because we have lost too many people to gun violence. We gather here in the midst of an epidemic of rampant violence, in the face of politicians and lawmakers who would rather ignore the deaths to placate powerful gun lobbies whose only interest is greed and more power, who defend senseless laws that allow weapons of war and mass destruction to fall into the hands of civilians, who then use them to take life. 
This evening we remember Hadiyah Pendleton who would have been 19 today. And those killed yesterday at UCLA and all those whose lives have been taken. We gather as survivors to share our pain with others. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can feel so hopeless. And that’s why it’s important that we gather here. That’s why we show up. As long as we have a voice we must use it. That is what gives up hope: our refusal in the face of overwhelming indifference to give up. We will not give up, give in, shut up, sit down as long as people are being killed by weapons of war in our own neighborhoods. And beyond showing up  there are things we can do. 
Work to change laws that allow open carry and don't frequent businesses that allow it.
Vote for candidates who support sane gun safety laws and work to ensure more rigorous and safe background checks so that folks won't be able to privately buy a gun without a background check. 
We can save lives. We can turn the tide of indifference and end the slaughter of people taken too soon from us. 
We can and we must be the voices of reason and hope and again, we must not sit down or shut up or give up until we have created a nation where lives are  protected and each of us has the right to live safely without fear. 
For the sake of all those whom we have loved and lost and all of our shattered families. May we one day be made whole.“
I thought about Sigrid as I made my way to Pamplona yesterday. It was such a serene walk, the tall grasses and wildflowers reaching out to caress me, the green boughs of the trees overhead sheltering me from the heat of the day; it was as if all of Mother Earth was holding me in her warm, comforting embrace, reminding me of all the beauty in the world, that there is so much more than what see on the front page of our newspaper. It’s about love and hope and creating beauty---so much beauty that there is no place for the inelegant violence of humans to take root. And that gives me hope, too. That summons me to continue to speak and act for sane, safe gun legislation. As I walked alone along the Camino, I came upon a piece of graffitti, a message from the Universe, a plea to us all. 
Today, I cannot make this about the LGBTQ community. It’s about guns. It always has been. And no matter who you love, if you live in the United States,  you’re at risk. Until laws change. And that is up to us.
Walk with me a while, won't you? Let's see the beauty of this great earth, and create more of it. 
Buen Camino.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Terrorism Embedded in our Nation

June 12, 9 PM (MDT)
Today, after a long, arduous trek from Roncesvalles to Zubiri Spain, I logged online only to hear the breaking news of a mass shooting at the gay bar, Pulse, in Orlando, FL. By the time I left for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the death toll had  been confirmed at 50 and counting; 53 were injured. A third of the bar’s occupants were gunned down. 
I broke my pledge to not be online in public, needing to find out more, reading the stunned, outraged, grieving posts of my friends on Facebook, wiping away the tears that fell silently down my face as the news sank in.
Now, almost 24 hours after the shooting, we have learned that the man responsible, 29 year old Omar Mateen, claimed allegiance to the Islamic State in a 91 call he made at the time of the attack.
It’s a somewhat new and devious ploy engaged by Daesh  making it possible for anyone to suddenly claim terrorist status, who may not be officially affiliated with their group, and thus not on the radar of any nation’s security surveillance.
And certainly, hatred and killing of those who are LGBTQ or suspected to be, is a hallmark of Daesh and its supporters; indeed, in some ways, Daesh is simply a larger, more violent group built with the blueprints of Westboro Baptist church, who seeks attention by hating just about anyone that will get their name in the paper. One of Westboro’s more charming websites, although it appears to be defunct now, was godhatessweden. Their home page is 
But allegiance to a militant, sociopathic group alone is not responsible for the tragedy that occurred in the early hours of June 12. Mateen, we are told, bought his guns and ammo legally. This should not come as a surprise to any of us. In virtually all of the recent mass shootings, whether or not they were politically motivated, all of the guns were bought legally by the assailants, or by their family members or friends.
It we are going to call this an act of terror—and surely it was—we need to also implicate the NRA, the American gun manufacturers, the lobbyists, and the politicians who continue, in the face of calamitous tragedy, to be a pipeline for terrorist acts in their insistence in allowing weapons of war to be accessible to any person who is mentally ill, politically unstable, or merely harbors a momentary grudge against another theater-goer. 
If we are going to demand swift retribution against those who would spill blood on American soil for any reason, we need to begin to demand retribution from those who supply the arms and weapons used in these terrorist attacks.
The fact that Mateen pledged allegiance to Daesh and gunned down over a hundred people who were presumably members of the LGBTQ community, or our allies; the fact that the shooter said he hoped to disrupt Gay Pride month festivities, is, horrific, and a sign that, despite recent legal victories for the queer communities, hatred and bigotry still runs deep. But the real tragedy is that we, as a nation, have once again allowed a hater to do unspeakable damage; that those whose addiction to guns and weapons of war feel that their illness takes precedence over our safety can put another 50 notches on their collective gun barrel  of destruction that is inexorably killing us all. 
This newest mass shooting has the largest death toll in American history. But that title won’t last for long, not as long as we continue to turn a blind eye, to swallow the lie that guns don’t kill people, people do. Actually, guns do kill people. We’ve seen it over and over again.
When I posted my first blog about my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, I spoke of the cruelty of human violence in comparison to the elegance of the violence that happens in nature—a golden eagle bearing down on a trembling rabbit.
A friend posted a comment that she thought it was odd that I would choose to reflect on violence at the start of a peaceful pilgrimage.
She was right, I suppose, but maybe I had been influenced by the last post I had written in my blog, months earlier, which contained the text of my sermon on the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
Six months later, here we are again. Five thousand miles away, I cannot escape the violence humans do to one another—in a bar in Florida, in the gun lobbyists offices, in the manufacturing plants that create and supply these weapons of mass destruction.
Today, with the rest of you, I will grieve the unnecessary loss of human life.
Tomorrow, I will continue to work for sane gun laws in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be one act of terror that calls us to account, this will go down in history as the mass shooting with the highest death toll because we will have enacted laws that prevent the possibility of this happening ever again. This is not a pipe dream; sane gun laws have essentially stopped mass shootings in other countries. All it takes is all of us demanding it.
Wondering where to start? Here's what the Newtown Action Alliance said in an email sent out today:

Love is love. Hate is hate. Terror is terror. A hate crime is a hate crime. Please join us in rejecting the gun lobby's fear tactics and rhetoric by honoring with ACTION to end gun violence. After you pray for the victims and their families of Orlando, please call your Congressional representatives at 202-224-3121 to tell them to take immediate action to #EndGunViolence. 

These are some common sense federal gun laws that should be passed: 

1. Assault weapons ban and limitations on high capacity magazines 
2. Universal background checks on all gun sales to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers, other violent criminals, the severely mentally ill and those who are suicidal
3. Close the Charleston loophole: no firearm sale without a completed background check
4. Close the terror gap by prohibiting gun sales to those on the No-Fly list
5. End the CDC ban on gun violence research
6. Domestic violence restraining order to prevent abusers with a temporary restraining order from possessing firearms
7. Repeal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) to hold irresponsible dealers and manufacturers accountable
8. Child access prevention law for safe storage of firearms

#WeAreOrlando #WeAreNewtown #WeAreEveryTown

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Camino Day 1

Day One Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalle

I have officially survived day one of the actual camino which is, I’m told and hope to gawd it’s true, the most physically challenging day. 
And my survival was questionable from the get-go when I attempted to depart my hotel using the back exit rather than the exit to the street, followed by turning left rather than right on the actual beginning of the Camino. 
Fortunately, that only took me a half a block out of the way before I realized the error of my ways (using my vast intelligence and deducing that since all the other pilgrims were heading in the opposite direction, perhaps I should, too.
Once on the right path, I did quite well, although the much vaunted yellow signs were few and far between. I walked alone, even passing a few folks; since I, ahem, got a later start than most, there wasn’t a big rush hour I had to battle and I soon settled into a rhythm. It started out as a steep hike and then got steeper, still. 
The weather was cool, cloudy and misty and the scenery was stunning: lush green fields and trees, a small mountain lane, sheeps and cows and horses free-grazing contentedly along the route.
Soon, though, it was like hiking up the Manitou Incline, nearly vertical on this rocky lane that seemingly went on and on forever. According to my guidebook, as things got harder, I was only 2 km away from the Orisson albergue and café. There I could rest, order some food (a good think since my first pilgrim’s breakfast consisted of a variety of breads, croissants, and jam—no protein in sight, though the coffee I bolted down was delish!) 


But this 2 km went on for at least 10 miles, it seemed, as the path just got steeper and narrower. I began to walk it like the Incline: take a few steps, pause for a moment, take a few steps more. 

I was not the only one utilizing this strategy.

FINALLY, right when the mist turned into rain, the Orisson alburgue arose like a cold, damp mirage (if there can be such a thing.) I gratefully entered a steamy room filled with other pilrims, eating, drinking coca cola or beer, laughing, talking. This was at about the 7 mile marker. My Garmin watch, which lasted until just then before the battery died, informed me that, although my first six miles were in the 25-28 minute range, that last one took 37 minutes to make. I was not surprised.
As I said, it was crowded and I was suddenly too overwhelmed to order anything but a coke, so I got that, guzzled it down and ate a protein bar I had brought with me. Then I consulted the directions in the travel guide to see what lay before me. It said:
“Cruciero, a bleak wayside cross leads us onto a rough grass track that cuts through a gap in the ridge ahead…. We leave the road at this point….pass through the gap in the ridge onto a woodland path turning left at wire fence along a heavily eroded gully passing a stone marker to a cattle grid that marks the Spanish border.”

Were they kidding??? Did they not know how directionally impaired I was???

It was at this point that I made my most inspired decision of the day: I began frantically asking every person who I had head speak English if they were going to Roncesvalles. I struck out the first three times; they were all staying put, right there in Orisson, about ¾ of the way up the mountain.
Finally, I hit pay dirt. A young woman waiting in line behind me for the one bathroom asked me in great English if I was sure someone was in there (it had been awhile, ahem.) I assured her there was. Then I asked if she was going on to Roncesvalles and she said yes!!! I asked if I could tag along, because I was afraid I’d get lost otherwise. She very graciously said yes!
So we left the Orrison alburgue in the company of two young men travelling together who had joined up with Parisa earlier.
And that’s where it really gets interesting.
Parisa, I learned is an Iranian who has been living in Sweden for the past several years, having gone to school there and then staying for work as a chemical engineer.
The two young men, John and Ryan, when they heard I was from Colorado Springs, told me they were, too! They had just graduated from USAFA the week before. I exclaimed, “I was at your graduation!” I had gone to hear President Obama speak. 
It’s a small world, after all.
I walked with each of these three individually and all of us together and I have to say, I’m not sure how I could have survived the remaining steep 450 m ascent before we hit the “allegedly” flat terrain before starting down.
Adding to the fun was a couple from Chicago, John and Sue, who joined in. The time went much faster than the morning spent by myself and I was very glad for the company.
We reached Roncesvalles at 530 PM, 9 hours almost to the minute after I had left my hotel in the morning and having gone 25km (15.1 miles) although my trusty guidebook says it should be adjusted to 32 km to account for the extra effort and time needed over and above a flat terrain hike. Tomorrow is a mere 21.9 km (13.6 mile) jaunt on a path that begins downhill and then steadies out for the most part, before a final downhill stroll into Zubiri. It will be practically like giving my legs and lungs a holiday!
Now I am ensconced in my hotel room after taking two long hot baths—one  when I got here and the other after dinner—a hearty meal where I completely devoured an entire bread basket, a bowl of delicious vegetable soup and a main course of two eggs, potatoes and two (Norwegian!!) sausages—all of it washed down with some good red wine.
And tomorrow, as Scarlett reminds us, is another day.
Buen Camino!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Camino T minus two days

As I write this, I am on a fast train to Biarritz, where I will spend the night, soaking in the sea and the sun, before heading to Saint Jean Pied de Port to begin the Camino. The train I am riding on can reach speeds of up to two hundred miles an hour, yet it is quiet and smooth, the green French countryside passing by like a silent movie.
I confess my time in Paris consisted mainly of walking around a plaza by my hotel, eating a marvelous dinner –steak and fries with a hearty Medoc and then collapsing into the bed where I slept long and, finally, well.
I am glad I chose to take a couple of days to get over my jet lag and to acclimate myself to the journey. I could have chosen to fly straight to Biarritz for not much more money and have started my Camino a couple of days earlier,  but I sensed—even in February, when I made the arrangements for this trip—that I should begin to slow down, to disrupt the speed at which life goes by. From the plane, I really couldn’t see the scenery, merely an ongoing kaleidoscope of clouds, punctuated every now and then by the distant glimmer of city lights, until we hit the long, dark expanse of the ocean.
Now, although the scenery is flying by, I am close enough to soak it in, to admire the green pastures dotted with cows, the vineyards with their lush grapes, and the homes with their unique character and architecture. In just two days, I’ll be witnessing even more intimately the countryside I traverse, as I begin my 500 mile trek through northern Spain. 
I find it fascinating how each method of travel evokes different responses from me. In the plane, I could view the twinkling lights of human development with bemusement or choose to follow my flight on the interactive map on the screen in front of me. This switches from showing approximately where we are on a green map, to detailing how fast we are going and how many more miles to our destination. It also adds altitude and weather information. This map coupled with my own outside view, lulls me into thinking I know exactly where I am and how long it will be until I get to where I’m going.

I should know better. 

This is the longest and most complex trip I’ve taken to a country whose native tongue I do not know. A friend jokingly reassured me that if I’m 3% fluent in Spanish (the level I was never able to surpass in my Duolingo language app) I am, at least 2% fluent in French.

I have found this to be woefully inadequate.

Even though navigating the Charles de Gaulle airport was fairly easy, since their directions to baggage, etc. were in English, as well as French, I had trouble accessing the ticketing needed to get a train to my hotel. Clearly my accent on saying “Montparnesse” was not the best, as I was first directed to a ticket counter that wanted to sell me a ticket to  a city that sounded similar and was four hours away. I just wanted the Montparnesse  train station; if I could make it there,  I knew my hotel was only about 300  yards away.
Finally, after almost an hour, I was able to purchase the necessary ticket. Further questioning of helpful employees, let me know I would need to transfer from the train to the subway at the Gare Nord station. 
Exhausted and numb with relief, I sank into my seat, grateful to be on my way. Around me,  other passengers spoke in a stream of French that was exhausting to hear. It is counter intuitive to me that it is so difficult to hear conversation in another language, but my unwitting brain strains so earnestly to make sense of it for me that it works twice as hard and for no gain.
Of course, I realized, once I got to the Gare Nord station where I needed to transfer, that I had somehow lost my ticket and so then began another long effort of approaching a person, saying “Englais?” hesistantly, and then asking where I could buy another ticket. 
When I finally reached my destination station, I then pulled up the hotels.comapp with my room confirmation and hotel address and, pointing at it, asked directions from first a host at a restaurant and then a cop, giving parking tickets. I took a very roundabout way but finally got to the Hotel des Bains and found my room whereupon, I collapsed on the bed for a full hour before I could muster the strength to shower and find a restaurant. 
While I had seen several creperies on the scenic route to my hotel, I decided a steak was in order—it had been about 18 hours since my last proper meal. Before leaving the hotel, I looked up the translation for steak and fries, and red wine (un steak frittes, vin rouge) but the restaurant had its menu in both French and English and the waiter was graciously fluent in both. The meal was delicious and I felt a sense of well-being; I knew where I was, where my hotel was, and how  to return at the evening’s end. I was oriented to my surroundings.
It had been a stressful day, in many ways. Although I  knew where I was when I landed at CDG and knew the address of where I was going, I had no clue how to get there. Since I’m directionally impaired on a good day, this would have been challenging even if I had landed in Atlanta, GA rather than Paris, France. But add to the typical disorientation of a new place, the challenge of not speaking or understanding the native language and not being able to just use my GPS as I have no phone service in Europe and you can imagine how I might have felt a little overwhelmed! 
This meant I had to both ask for help and trust the advice I was getting. I had no idea where I was in relation to my hotel, I simply knew it was in the same city as I was. 
In her book,”An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith,” Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of the spiritual practice of Getting Lost and that is what I have felt during this day. She writes of the comfort level we humans feel when we are in known surroundings, taking long remembered routes to get to places we can visualize in our minds. She says, “I am convinced that this is normal human behaviour, which means that something extra is needed to override it. Why override it? Because once you leave the cowpath, the unpredictable territory is full of life. True you can no longer see where you are putting your feet. This means you can no longer afford to stay unconscious. You can no longer count on the [well known road] making all of your choices for you. Leaving it, you agree to make your own choices for a spell. You agree to become aware of each step you take, tuning all of your senses to exactly where you are and exactly what you are doing.”
True, this can be exhausting and make me feel vulnerable and uncertain, but I saw more in the neighborhood of my hotel exactly because I didn’t know where I was going, and I appreciated its warm, snug room much more fervently than I would have had I simply taken a taxi from door to door, or had been able to use my GPS system to get me there without encountering another person at all. 
Now, I am sitting in a comfort coach, sharing a table with 3 others. It is a pleasant ride, but I’ve noticed we are silent, not speaking to one another. I don’t think I can blame the language barrier as the others, who all speak French, don’t seem to speak to those they don’t know. Everyone is in their own world.As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been re-reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s, “An Altar in the World.” When I first boarded the train  I read a piece in the last final chapter on Blessings. She writes, of people in the airport, “They are on their way somewhere, the same way you are. They are between places, too, with no more certainty than you about what will happen at the other end. Pronounce a silent blessing and pay attention to what happens in the air between you and that other person, all those other people.”
So I did that for my three other seatmates. I silently blessed their lives, blessed their journeys, blessed they way have come and the way they are going.  I did notice a different in the air, almost too ephemeral to see, but it was there—a lightness, like that in the sky just after a rain before the rainbow appears. And a reminder that we are all pilgrims, whether or not we seem to know where we are.

I was thinking of how different this summer is than last year. Last year, I had just run my first half marathon at this stage and my knees were virtually destroyed, it seemed. My thoughts were consumed with the condition of my knees, with my health, with my desire to complete the pilgrimage before me: that of four half marathons.
I did complete that goal, though not in any spectacular fashion; my knee and health issues forced me to not train as much as I’d have liked and, well, let’s face it: I’m not exactly built for the sport! But more importantly, I did something I never thought I could do and I learned a lot about myself, about my limits, my desires, my needs.
What was most surprising was how many people---women, really, about my age or a little younger or older, came up to me and said, “I’ve been following your running on facebook. You’ve inspired me. Now I’ve begun running, too, though I never have before.”
I saw one of those women at a couple of races and though I inspired her, and she hadn’t been running for as long as I had,, she was faster and always placed before me in our age group.
The same thing has happened as I have been sharing my training and preparation for the Camino de Santiago. Women—my age or a little older or younger—have said, “You’ve inspired me. Maybe I can do this, too.”
One of the ways I seem to have inspired them is by talking about my method. People often ask first if I am going to camp out under the stars, in some field, or in an alburgue—a hostel which can have anywhere from 8 to a hundred bunks per room. I then confess almost guiltily that I will be staying in a private hotel room with a private bath each night and that, most importantly, the travel company who organized this, also will transport my main suitcase from one hotel to the next; I’ll only have to carry a day pack with my water, snacks, raingear, journal, camera and phone. To be sure, this will still weigh about 5 pounds but it’s nothing compared to carrying everything for the journey on my back and I don’t have to worry about vying for a room at the end of a long day’s walk.
As I said, I have been tempted to feel as if I am somehow not a “real” pilgrim, that I’m cheating somehow, but what I’ve seen in the faces of the women with whom I share this is relief and hope. Like me, they couldn’t see how to make the journey having to do everything on their own, but knowing there was a soft bed at night, knowing there are others who will help carry the load, makes the pilgrimage seem attainable.
I wonder how many things we don’t attempt because we don’t think we can do them on our own? How many grand adventures we have missed out because we know we don’t have the resources within us ourselves—whether physically, emotionally, financially—to do it?
I acknowledge that learning about – the company who both reserved all my rooms and will transport my luggage—was the determining factor in undertaking this pilgrimage. I’m turning 54 on this journey, but, really, even in my younger years I was never a hostel, take my chances on a room and then sleep with dozens of other folks,  kinda girl. 
And even beyond the assistance for the actual walk, I have not had to go it alone while preparing for this trek. One friend bought my daypack and surprised me with cash for the journey, another used her significant employee discount to grant me a 30% savings on items bought at the store where she works. Still another bought me some sturdy—and pretty—wool socks. One of my sisters sent me off with a Camino devotional and my whole family made sure to send my birthday cards early. At a Bon Voyage party some friends threw me on my last weekend, one man reached into his wallet and pulled out a €10 note. Still another friend gave me one of those space blankets and yet another new friend gave me a cover for my eyes so I can sleep when I need to!
All of these folks, and more—have blessed me, have offered to help carry the load, to ease my burdens and to make it possible for me to take this pilgrimage.
This is life at its best, really. When we realize we don’t have to do everything on our own, we don’t have to wait until we are strong enough or rich enough or sure enough before we set out. We just need to be open to the myriad ways the Universe makes visible the vast network of love and support that is always there just waiting for a chance to be of service, just waiting for an opportunity to be a part of the journey.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pilgrim's Progress Camino Day T-4

For the past couple of weeks people have been asking me if I’m getting excited or if I’m nervous or if there are butterflies in my stomach. I have answered honestly, saying no to each of these questions. The truth is, I’ve been so busy with things that needed my attention before I take off, that I haven’t had time to think about what was looming before me. Even yesterday, my packing was interrupted by a last minute meeting set up for 4 PM
Following that, I spent the evening with a friend and then breakfast with some other new friends. Then, I headed home to check my suitcase and backpack one last time before pulling the zippers shut and pronouncing myself ready.
Finally, on the way to the Denver airport, I felt a frisson of excitement chase its tail in my belly. Suddenly, it occurred to me that after two years of dreaming, planning, getting the right gear and training, I am on my way.
“As of this moment,” I said to my friend, Wenda, “I am a peregrina (Spanish for female pilgrim)” She looked over at me and smiled, the mile markers on the 225 flew by. Soon, we were pulled up in front of IcelandAir, my behemoth of a suitcase lugged onto the pavement, hugging goodbye.
The other day, driving home from Guffey, I saw, first one, then a second, golden eagle flying low and silent over a field; I felt a momentary shudder for the rabbit or marmot or other prey who wouldn’t know the eagle was there until its beak snapped around their delicate, trembling flesh.
I thought of the elegant violence of nature, the exacting quality of the predator and prey, each playing their part in the order of things.
My mind unwillingly went back to a news article I had read earlier in the week: several white high school football players who had tricked an African American teammate into believing they wanted to give him a hug, and instead, raped him with a coat hanger. I wondered about the fear and humiliation felt by the young black man, mentally disabled, who trusted so willingly those students who had already assaulted him numerous times with words, with taunts and racial epithets, under the silence watch of the school coach and other authorities.
That horrific image led me to another recent event in my own town of Colorado Springs in which a 21 year old homeless man—recently relocated here from Florida, I think—repeatedly raped a homeless woman who had been paralyzed in a fall after this man threw her from a ledge. For three days, she lay there, unable to move while he violated her further, until she was found and given treatment. 

Some things I can only look at from the corner of my mind’s eye, lest the night terrors come in full daylight at the inhumane, inelegant violence we humans do to one another, to the earth on which we live. 

The eagle flying over head had no thought of doing harm; he was not seeking a cheap thrill by hurting another. He was merely seeking to live. His fingered feather tips on his wings reached out as if to embrace the whole world, including the rabbit in his sights.

I am sitting now in Lefty’s Grill in terminal A, having a cheeseburger and a glass of wine. My pilgrim backpack and I have made it safely through security. Soon, I’ll board a plane that will take me first to  Reykjavik, Iceland and then to Paris, France. From there I will take a series of trains that will bring me, ultimately, to Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, where I will officially begin my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, the 500 mile walk across northern Spain  
Standing in the ticketing line I felt, for the first time, tears spring to my eyes as I thought about The Way ahead. I said a silent prayer to the eagle, and to the rabbit, that I might remember to be more like them, that I might renounce the evolution of violence and degradation that dogs our own peculiar species, that I might open my own wings to embrace the world, all of it, that my pilgrimage may take me to the deepest, most untrodden roads within myself and there, I might embrace myself and find solace and meaning in this often meaningless world in which we humans live.

Sent from my iPad