Aunt Julie

pink flowers

Twenty-nine years ago this summer I was decorating my first apartment.   Hamilton and I were engaged and we added an apartment above his shop for our first home.   We lived there for nine years, it was rent-free which allowed me to finish school and stay home with my babies.   We only needed one car because Hamilton just walked downstairs to work.   After we moved to town the apartment was continuously occupied by family members, friends and employees, giving them a rent-free space to live.   Now we are back on the farm and want to use the apartment as office and guest space but the interior is pretty tired so I’m in the process of renovating.

As I am back in the space for the first time in 20 years memories of that time of my life have come flooding back, almost like watching a movie.   As I started to take down the 80’s wallpaper I thought of Aunt Julie.   Hamilton’s cousin Tony built the apartment and his Aunt Julie offered to teach me to wallpaper the bathroom.    I was so excited to make my little place as cute as possible.

Over the years I would periodically call Aunt Julie.  There were many times I needed her gentle support.  As in most families, I have a couple of close relatives who can be very difficult.  Aunt Julie was the one person who really understood.   We never talked badly about anyone but I knew she knew what I was going through.  I just needed to be reassured that although there was nothing that could be done someone saw me.

Around this same time I was student teaching.   I had a very difficult supervising teacher who was not allowed another student teacher after me.  Those were hard days,  I came home to my only friend, General Hospital on the VCR.   Every day I would take a few students to a reading specialist named Karen.  She was always kind and went out of her way to speak to me.  We never spoke of my difficult teacher but once again I knew that she knew.   Yet again someone saw me.   That was all I needed to soldier on.

I’m so glad to have these memories of kind women who helped a young twentysomething negotiate tough interpersonal relationships, not by advice but by just simply being there. I hope that I have passed on this kindness to someone else.   Please thank a friend or relative that has done that for you.  Aunt Julie has passed on but this week I’m remembering to say a prayer for her and her sweet kindness.

wallpaper

1980’s wallpaper on the way to the trash

A Fawn

fawn

Hamilton was on his second attempt to bush-hog the field across the street.   The first time he was interrupted by a mighty thunderstorm.   He hadn’t gone but a few times round the field when he saw an animal out of the corner of his eye.   He first thought it was a rabbit but then on closer inspection saw that it was a new fawn.   The mother had hidden the little guy in some tall grass and it was too young to walk around on his own.

He called me and I came to see what could be done.   I called the local vet school and talked to a wild life specialist.   She said it was too young for them to take so we agreed that I move him out of the 90 degree heat to the shade and hope the mother returns.   I carefully wrapped him in a towel so I wouldn’t touch him and moved him about 20 feet to the shade.  Only the size of a long legged Chihuahua, he was delicate and beautiful. I couldn’t believe I was picking up such a tiny baby.    We left the area in hopes mom would come back soon.   I did some internet research and was reassured that we did the best thing for his survival.

It is rare to see such a tiny one since the mom usually has them well hidden.   Hamilton went back a few hours later and was distressed to see him still there but on my way to check on him we were lucky enough to see the mom bounding around nearby.   We left the area with hopes that mom would find him and he would live to be a magnificent buck.

I sent Alexandra a picture of the little guy and this is her return text. “TOO MUCH TOO MUCH IT HURTS OMG OMG PLEASE BABY DEER DON’T DIE”.   When I told her the plan she sent this text “Okay good. Keep in mind; I am willing and able to raise him as my own.”    A kind offer but unfortunately illegal so we left him to his mother’s care and took the tractor out of the field so we could give him time to grow.

A week later Hamilton went to finish the field and saw the little guy up and around and able to run out of his hiding place and saw the mom in the creek bottom, a happy ending to the story.

In the language of animal totems, deer means gentleness and a new innocence being born in you.   I like to be reminded of gentleness, we all need to be gentle with ourselves and each other.   There is far too much harshness in this world.    The doe keeps her baby hidden and nurtured until he is strong enough to be in the world.   We too need to keep our deepest experiences, new insights and joys hidden and nurtured, away from the harshness of criticism and ignorance until they are strong.  Alexandra doesn’t want to talk about her Camino experience with her friends, she wants to keep it her private joy, safe and nurtured.    So try a little gentle love on your spiritual journey so your heart can have the space to be safe and grow into something magnificent.

 

Essential books for your spiritual library:

Animal –Speak and Animal-Wise by Ted Andrews

Animal Wisdom by Susie Green

 

St James of the Field of Stars (Santiago de Compostela)

 

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Chapel used for English Mass

It wasn’t until the last week on the Camino that I could even think about Santiago, yet that was always the goal.   Every day I concentrated on the next 20 km or talked about the next big town, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon.   After Astorga, Santiago started to come into focus.   There were rumors about a celebration in Santiago about the time I planned to get there.  That was when I realized that if I arrived one day early I would be in Santiago for Pentecost, a holy day and a guaranteed Botafumeiro, the mammoth swinging incense censer in the nave of the Cathedral.   See a video of the Botafumeiro here.

Pentecost is the graduation day for the Apostles, including St. James, after Christ’s Ascension.   The Holy Spirit came to them in the Upper Room and sent tongues of fire to anoint them to go preach the Gospel.   No more perfect day to finish my pilgrimage and graduate to the next stage of my life.

While Alexandra slept I spent Pentecost with St. James.  I first listened to the beautiful chant of the Rosary.   Next the Botafumeiro made its mighty journey through the Cathedral to the sounds of the organ and choir.  I dreamed of this moment along with the centuries of pilgrims who had dreamed that same dream.   I went to a chapel to celebrate Mass in English with an Irish priest.  He read the story of Pentecost and we sang songs and lit a candle for all of the continents and peoples.     I joined the main Mass where the Archbishop presided over Confirmation.   I was having my graduation ceremony.  I had completed my task.

I didn’t realize how much I was going to need those extra days in Santiago to process my experience.   I saw pilgrim friends I hadn’t seen in weeks and we hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done.   It was special to be at Pilgrim’s Mass with my fellow travelers, a shared experience to the end.    I saw everyone I had hoped to see again and exchanged contact information.

I went to dinner with my friends and we talked about our favorite and least favorite Albergues, tales of the food, injuries and blisters and things we learned.  One pilgrim was in tears because he finally forgave his father, others had come to terms with their past or had new hope for their future. We were all proud of our strong bodies and loose hiking pants.   I cherished every moment of the language of the pilgrim, I miss it so much.

The next day my friends arrived by car with clothes for me and to share my triumph.   It was hard to move out of the pilgrim world.   The first day I put on a new shirt.  The next day I put on different shoes but still wore my hiking pants.  I had to reenter the world gradually.   We went to Mass together and they were treated to the Botafumeiro, and I was glad to see it another time.   We went behind the altar to touch the statue of St. James and went below to the crypt where his bones are kept in a silver casket.

All of my pilgrim rituals where complete and it was time to go.   I left my worn out shoes and some clothes I couldn’t bear to wear again and a piece of my heart in Santiago.

Please listen to my interview about my adventure with Steven Frampton at http://psychicaccesstalkradio.com/showarchives.html   Go to the June 26 show– A Pilgrim’s Journey.

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Worn out shoes

Day 38 Santiago

We got a bit earlier than usual and headed out while it was still dark. The trail was muddy from the rain and there were storm clouds threatening. We walked about 3 km until we found a place open for breakfast.

We had our usual 20 km to walk but today was so different, it was our final day of walking.  The morning was the usual tree lined lanes and fields. Both of us felt a bit emotional about our final walk. We have loved it so much, we can’t believe it is over.

A plane flew low over me and scared me. I haven’t seen a plane in so long. It was strange to be reentering the modern world after five weeks in a totally different dimension as a pilgrim. Pilgrims live in a strange isolated world within rural Spain. The outside world rarely touched us.

After our final hill we enjoyed this large monument to pilgrims and St James. It is on Mount de Gozo, hill of joy, where pilgrims got their first glimpse of the cathedral.

Mount Gozo

The walk into Santiago was long as we followed a line of pilgrims headed to our final goal.   It was so exciting to finally see the cathedral. We both felt we had really triumphed.

Cathedral of Santiago

Cathedral of Santiago

We found the pilgrim office and got in line for our Compestela, the official certificate, and celebrated with our friends. It was a long wait with our packs still on so we were totally exhausted and hungry when we finished. We struggled  to find our hotel so we finally got a cab and we so glad to finally take off our packs.

Cathedral of Santiago

A hot shower and a rest helped us revive enough for a 7:30 pilgrim’s Mass. The priest reads a list of the starting points and the number of pilgrims from each country who started there. It was said very rapidly in Spanish but we heard our starting town of Roncesvalles, 750 km ago.

The Cathedral is beautiful with the most elaborate Retalbo I have see yet. Totally gold and silver with enormous angels holding the canopy over St James.

Golden Retalbo

Our big adventure is over. We made it safely to Santiago after 750 km and five weeks.   We are so grateful that we had no injuries or blisters and were able to enjoy every step.  Both of us have this strange feeling that it was easy but yet I know that we worked hard and sacrificed for this journey. We will miss the walking, friends, animals and the beauty of Spain. I loved being in nature everyday, all day for 5 weeks. We feel privileged that we were able to walk this ancient path. We are forever part of the Camino and the Camino is forever part of us.

Blessed are you pilgrim who knows the the real Camino starts when you arrive home.

I want to thank all who helped us on this journey.

My Dad who taught me to love walking. My mother  who gifted us airline tickets. Hamilton who has been so supportive of our dream. Laura and Leslie who healed my ankle. Jane my walking partner and dear friend. Bert who helped us get the perfect equipment.   Valarie who volunteered to pick me up in Santiago, and my lotus family where all epic adventures begin.

Camino Day 37

It was a very breezy, overcast morning and rain was in the forecast. We have really had incredible weather on this trip but in everyone’s life some rain must fall.  I didn’t take any pictures so I’ve sent some random ones from other days.

day37

The trail is now very busy with big groups of people and a long line of pilgrims in front and behind. The large Japanese group has a bus strategically following them in case someone can’t go any further.

day37b

Late morning it did finally start raining so we ducked into a worn out bar for some lunch of an omelette and tomato in a baguette and a coke. We suited up to head back out in the rain. The pilgrims had scattered and the trail, which was more like a stream, was ours again.  The whole day was mostly tree-lined lanes and a few bits along side the main road.  The last few miles our feet we soaked and we were ready to stop for the day.

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Our Albergue was brand new and large to accommodate the increasing flow of pilgrims. If IKEA built an Albergue it would look just like this, modern and efficient.  What it lacks in old Spain charm it made up for in lights, electric sockets and hot water.

Albergues

Dinner with friends and a bit of shopping, since we don’t have far to carry our treasures, finished off the night.  Back to our bunk beds for one final night of communal living.  Tomorrow we arrive in Santiago and have a hotel.  I think we had 25 nights in albergues so we definitely had the whole pilgrim experience. Albergues and pilgrim’s food are the two things we won’t miss but without them the Camino wouldn’t be the same or affordable.

We loved many of the albergues and had a wonderful sense of community there. Others were just a place to sleep and a few were grim and depressing. Some albergues have made for great stories and stand out in my memory and are tales to be retold.

camino

One more day to Santiago!

Camino Day 36

We started the day with a cuddle from this sweet little one.  She and her many siblings were in a yard next to the hotel. She kept following us around for more love. It was hard to leave her behind.

kitten

By mid-morning we were in Melide where we had a snack, got some tissues and more money. The local delicacy is octopus- “pulpo.”  They boil it in large vats in the restaurant window to entice you in. There is probably nothing in the world that could entice me to eat boiled octopus  so we headed on down the road for a tomato and cheese sandwich instead.

We walked through more lovely tree lined lanes and over this rock bridge. There are many eucalyptus forests that smell amazing.

foot bridge

day36b

The trail got much more crowded today as larger groups are now walking the last 100 km.  It has change the atmosphere some and makes beds harder to find but it is part of it. We were able to find a lovely Albergue and shared a room with six French women.  I was lucky enough to be first in line for the washing machine.

stone house

We found friends we hadn’t  seen in many day and ate dinner together, swapping trail stories and talked of our lives before the trail. We don’t have any idea how are lives will be after we finish, probably not obviously different but I know my appreciation of life and the simple things is forever changed. Everything on the trail is brought down to the simplest form; clothes, food, sleep, friendship all wrapped up in the beautiful package of the natural world.

stone bridge

Camino Day 35

The morning started with a light misty rain which soon lifted. We stopped for second breakfast then elevenses before finally having lunch with some American friends.  I treated all to Spanish hot chocolate which is the consistence and taste of hot pudding.  Thick and rich, a little went a long ways but was delicious .

The afternoon part of the walk was by this charming ancient church and this adorable hobbit house.

ancient church

hobbit house

The last few miles were on these beautiful tree lines lanes, next to wild flower meadows, with mountains in the distance.  Combine that with my sweet daughter just ahead and a soundtrack and I had a bit of bliss.

day35b

day35d

day35c

We had booked a hotel ahead and I was very glad of it. Turns out I have a bit of a cold so an afternoon nap was needed. My cough was worse so I was relieved I wouldn’t disturb a whole Albergue. The room had old stone walls with a niche and tiny  windows with green shutters and lace curtains, so charming.

Just three more days and 60 km for 36 total days of walking.   We hate for it to be over and yet at the same time are ready to reach Santiago. The good news is the Camino will be part of us for the rest of our lives.