I Wrote a Book

 

I wrote a book!  Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide was launched on May 18 and is now available on Amazon. Over the last 5 years I’ve written about my adventures traveling in the world and at home in my everyday life. This is a guide book to help you find your own pilgrimage in the world and the path to your heart.

The first part is a guide for the physical journey, either around the world or close to home. I answer the questions of why take a pilgrimage and what is a sacred site. Then I created a step by step guide to help you take a pilgrimage from the first whisperings of a Call, preparing, the journey and integration of your experience into your life.

The second half of the book is 40 days of reflections to help find meaning in your journey and discovering your authentic self. Each day is written to take you into your heart and then unfold your new experiences and knowledge to bring you to a new understanding of yourself and the world.

This small book is an accessible and practical guide to make your journey a discovery of our beautiful world and yourself.

You can find my book here:  www.amazon.com

And here:  http://www.audreypress.com

I would love for you to write an Amazon review to help others find my book.

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photo by C. Savage

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Cairns

cairn 1

Rocks are an integral part of spiritual life. They represent the solid, eternal part of our world as ancient bearers of knowledge and time and the very ground we walk on. Scientists use rocks to date and study earth’s history. Industry uses microscopic pieces of silicone-rock to run the technology of the modern world. Egyptians and Sumerians wrote in stone so we still have their wisdom. The Druids used stone circles as ceremonial sites and observatories. The Incas built magnificent stone cities that have withstood the ravishes of invasions and earthquakes. We worship in stone cathedrals and walk up stone mountains. The combination of rock and water give us magnificent waterfalls. We wear precious stones. We skip them for pleasure and throw them in anger. We use them to mark our path.

Through out history people have been using rocks to show the way, to mark the next turn and to memorialize our world. Cairn is a Gaelic word for pile of stones. These man-made piles of rock have been traditionally used as waymarkers. In the desert, a stack of rocks are used to mark a trail. Cairns have also have been used as memorials such as on graves. When I was walking the Camino, one of the highlights for the journey was the Cruz de Ferro, a giant cross surrounded by an enormous cairn made out of rocks brought by pilgrims to memorialize the burdens they carry and then release. I, too, brought rocks from home for this deeply personal moment.

cairn 2

But let’s get even more personal. What can a cairn bring to your life? What can they mark or memorialize? We all need to take the time to see where we have been and where we want to go. During this traditionally reflective time of year take a moment to remember of the sad parts of your life so you can move on. A cairn can also be a beacon before you showing you the next step on your journey. This isn’t a big road map with everything set out but a small reminder that you are going in the right direction.

A friend of mine went to the woods on December 31 as a deeply personal experience to lay to rest a very sad year. During the walk she took time to build three cairns. Lovingly and carefully balancing rocks became a meditation and a physical manifestation of renewed balance in her life in the year to come. These personal cairns symbolize the precarious and ephemeral nature of life on earth because they are so easily knocked over but in this precarious balance is the strength and eternalness of stone.

As physical beings in a physical world, the act of building a cairn reflects the transient but yet eternal nature of our soul’s journey. Mountains, boulders, rocks, stones, pebbles, sand……

Rocks and water are words of God, and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love.—-John Muir

cairn 3

All photos by D Beals  www.davidbealsphotography.com

Lagom

my closet

It has been almost a year since I headed down the long path of the Camino with one change of clothes for five weeks. There was something very liberating about just that one extra pair of pants and one shirt, no choices to be made, always appropriate for the occasion. My life was simple, just what I needed to walk to the next town, not too much in my pack. Lagom.

Lagom is a Swedish word that means enough, just the right amount, not too much, not too little, moderation. We don’t have an English word that covers that concept so completely. My father used a Latin phrase that was similar “nihil nimus” or nothing too much.

Since then I have chosen a much more pared down life. Although I still live in the land of “way too much”, within that context I keep things lagom. I have more than one change of clothes but definitely less than I use to. Just what I need, not too much.

This week I was reading a book called Over Dressed The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion. I had it on my list for a couple of years and finally found a used copy. In this book Elizabeth Cline tells us the story of where and how and why our clothing got so cheap and what that is doing to our environment, our society and our lives. Clothing is now so inexpensive that people buy new clothes constantly, always looking for the next new trend. There is nothing lagom about most people’s closets or teenager’s bedroom floors. Caroline calls it her “floorobe”, just pick up something semi-clean off the floor and your ready to go.

The path up the spiritual mountain is sometimes smooth, sometime rocky and often steep. If you try to carry everything physical, mental or emotional you won’t make it very far. Walking a spiritual path requires that we lay things down that we don’t need or don’t serve. So this spring see what physical burdens you can leave behind so that you can walk more lightly on the Earth. Remember if you accumulate more physical stuff than you will have to carry that with you. Embrace the new word lagom as part of your vocabulary and life and see if that doesn’t put more spring in your step.

***Hamilton says that lagom doesn’t apply to books and that you can never have enough.

Other books to help lighten your load:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy by James A. Roberts

Living in the Land of Enough by Courtney Carver

New Slow City: Living Simply in the World’s Fastest City by William Powers

End of Summer

pool2

My old neighborhood pool

Caroline has my car and Alexandra has my house.   Let me elaborate on that.  Caroline’s car won’t be repaired until Tuesday so she has my van.  Alexandra is having a retreat with 18 fellow students in my house to write the show she is producing this October at her college.    So where does that leave me?   In the apartment over the shop, which is full of books ready for sorting in the bookcase, with the big red pick-up for transportation and lots of time to read.

Three months ago today I left for Spain to walk the Camino.   I miss it terribly.   I’ve spent the weekend reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed.   It is her account of walking the Pacific Crest Trail, a much, much harder version of the Camino but so many of the emotions and experiences are the same.   Although you don’t carry many material goods on these types of expeditions, your heart accumulates a lot and I’ve barely begun unpacking.    Cheryl had been back 18 years before her book was published.

Since I’ve been back I’ve spent 10 days in Florida and 12 days Minnesota at my Mother’s 80th birthday celebration.  I was able to find a new strength somewhere deep to stand-up for myself in a way I had never done before.  I gave a lecture and a power-point presentation, never did that before either.  After only one change of clothes for weeks Alexandra and I have been happy with far fewer clothes and we each lived out of a small suitcase the rest of the summer.

I’ve sorted out rooms and rooms of my mother-on-law’s possessions, splitting them with my sister-in-law and finding new homes for the leftovers.  It has been a monumental task, as my mother-in-law lived to accumulate after the great deprivations of childhood.  But now I have finally found my basement and garage.

Most importantly I’ve sat at the pool.   For the last 15 years I’ve belonged to a little neighborhood pool.  It was built in the 1970’s and is old and tired but I don’t have to clean it and many days I have it to myself.  If it was fancier or in an exotic locale I wouldn’t be happier, my happiness quotient is filled by this spot on earth.  I spent many delightful summers with my girls swimming and eating pizza by this pool.   Now I go by myself and read, drink iced coffee and float.   That pool has received so many of my emotions the last few years and this year it has accepted many new ones.   Thursday was one of the saddest days of the year for me, the last day I could go to the pool for the season.

As I head in to autumn, the most magical months in East Tennessee I hope to leave the summer busyness behind.  I asked the Camino to open doors and it has, and will continue and I am ready. In the mean time I hope to do one of my other favorite things besides float in a pool—watch leaves fall.   The summer of 2014 will be in my heart forever.

books

Many books to sort

 

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

 

photo81

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.

photo 5

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.

day37c

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!