Archive for August, 2011

I’ve just finished yet another memoir about the Camino: “I’m Off Then,” by Hape Kerkeling.  I think I’ve read one too many books about people’s Camino experiences, and will take a break for awhile.  Though Hape had a few interesting nuggets for me in his book.

They are:

1. Begin your pilgrimage anew every day.  I can apply that to my life now.  Each day presents a unique opportunity, one that I could easily miss if I stay stuck in the past or worried about the future.

2. Just be yourself.  No more, no less.   Nothing more to say about that one!

3. When I need something, I simply order it from the Universe.   Hape shared all kinds of stories (his and others) where people showed up when he needed help.    So I’m getting my order form ready and will stand alert for “coincidences.”

4.  Everything that has happened in your life seems to resurface on the Camino.  Lordy, I sure hope not!  But just in case, I’m working through my stuff now so that if anything resurfaces, it will be easy to deal with.

And my favorite:

5. The creator tosses us into the air and then, to our happy amazement, catches us again at just the right moment.  It is like the spirited game parents play with their children.  The message is:  Have faith in the one who’s tossing you, because he loves you and will quite unexpectedly be the one to catch you too. 

And when I think back on all that has happened along the way, I realize that God kept tossing me into the air and catching me again.  We encountered each other every single day.

I love that visual. So when life seems a bit out of control, I’m going to visualize myself being up in the air, mid-toss, and order a safe landing from the universe!




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Back when I worked in public relations for my university, I was a member of an organization called CASE, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. CASE has another nickname amongst it members, however: Copy and Steal Everything.

I remember that nickname often, especially when I have to draft letters for my job, basically rewriting what was written to me. And I thought of it the other night when I read Joyce Rupp’s book on her Camino, “Walk in a Relaxed Manner.” She and her walking partner, Tom, created a pilgrim prayer that they said while they were in training for the walk, as well as every day they were on the actual trail.

What a great idea! So of course I am in my best CASE mode, and have decided that S and I are going to create our own pilgrim prayer. I’ve jotted down a few notes about what I want it to include, though the prayer definitely needs S’s input so as to reflect both of our intentions.

Some ideas: transformation of body, mind and spirit; knowing that the trail (and the Universe) will provide everything I need in my journey (and life); connection to nature/others/God; going with the flow; walking at our own pace; health, safety, and acceptance of what is.

Joyce Rupp also talked a lot about the deplorable state of bathrooms in the alburgues. So S. has suggested our prayer include access to clean bathrooms! I heartily agree!!!

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July was hot.  H-O-T hot.  As in, by the time I finished walking my dogs at 7 a.m., I was through with being outside for the day.   And cheap old me, who never used to turn on the AC, kept it running non-stop.   I told others it was for my elderly dogs, who were too old to be without cold air.  But between you and me: it was as much for me as for them.

The heat finally broke in early August, just in time for me to visit my dear mother in double-broiler Louisiana.   Average temperatures while I was there: 107 degrees!

But I’m back where I belong now, with temps in the high 80s, low 90s.  Humidity bearable.   Last night, I strolled around the homestead and noticed that things are simply out of control.   The cover crop I planted has now died, which on the one hand, is okay since it needs to be dug into the soil anyways.  However, that cover crop was meant to keep out weeds, which haven’t died.  In fact, they have done quite the opposite.  My poor garden beds are over-run!

So if a hurricane doesn’t hit this weekend, it’s back to the yard work.  Time to clear the “cold weather” beds and plant the fall crop, which should include kale, collards, turnips, some Japanese green whose name I never remember, lettuce, arugula, spinach, and broccoli raab.   If there’s time, I’ll pull up some of the dying summer crops and replace with winter cover crop.

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In May 2013, if all goes as planned, my friend S and I will walk an ancient pilgrimage trail called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. We’ll take the most popular route, the Camino Frances, starting in France, and hiking over the Pyrenees, then across Spain to Santiago. The trail is 500 miles, and we plan to walk all of it, with the possible exception of one 10-mile stretch on a busy highway. Our plan is to have fun, not risk our lives!

When I tell people I’m planning to do this, there are usually two reactions. One is, “Are you crazy?” The other is, “Why?”

The answer to the first could be debated. I’ll leave that to another day.

The answer to the second could be summed up in: “Because I can.” Though the reason is a bit more nuanced than that. I’m not sure I can fully articulate why I am going other than, “I am called to do this.”  That being said, here are a few reasons:

1. I experience God in nature. I love being outdoors. And my most favorite vacations have been those when I am “cut off” from the world: rafting down the Snake River in Idaho, camping along the Oregon coast, walking around SW Ireland, touring ancient ruins in Peru, and participating in an off-the beaten-track tour of Alaska. The Camino Frances has a rich history of pilgrims walking it to atone for sins and/or clear karma. It is said to be positioned on powerful ley lines. Combine the ley lines with the energy of all those pilgrims and their prayers, and you’ve got a pretty powerful place.

2. For many people, the Camino is about transitions – leaving something behind, letting something go, welcoming the new. I am approaching middle age and in a transitional phase in my life, and the Camino is calling me to use its energy to move forward physically and spiritually. I can also add my own energy and blessings to the trail, thus  assisting the pilgrims who come after me.

3. Looking at my life from a material perspective only, there’s a lot of things I don’t have. My job, while it pays the bills and I’m thankful for it, is not exactly fulfilling. I am not married or in a serious long-term relationship. I do not have children. So, as I approach middle age, I’ve decided to really focus on the good in my situation: a job that, depending on the time of year, allows me to be absent for a month or so; as well as the ability to plan a vacation without worrying about spousal approval or childcare. What better way to celebrate my fortune than to walk 500 miles?

4. The Camino is safe. People along the way are supportive. It’s also relatively cheap. On the Camino, all you need, you’ll carry on your back. It will be a lesson in paring down!

5. The Camino will also be a lesson in trust and going with the flow. Will there be places to stay when we arrive in towns? Will I feel I have to keep up with others or will I feel comfortable walking my own pace? Being a vegetarian, will I have access to the food I need to nourish my body? And the fear of all fears: will I have enough water?

6. It’s a great excuse to get in shape. Middle age has brought that dreaded middle-age spread. While I’ve never been thin, I’ve always been able to lose 10 pounds or so fairly easily. Somehow this year has been different. Those extra pounds I gained over the winter have found a permanent home. So training for a 500-mile walk can only help trim the waistline! At the least, it will be more time outdoors and less time in front of the fridge!

So that’s it, in a nutshell.  In some ways, I wish I were on the trail today.  Though I have lots of preparation to do, physically and spiritually, so these next two years will fly by.  Plus, I read somewhere that once you get the itch to walk the trail, you begin your pilgrimage. So here I go… I’m on my way!

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I have this bad habit of resisting change.

I like to tell myself that sometimes it’s for a good reason, such as being thrifty or budget-conscious. Thanks to “Your Money or Your Life,” I often think about purchases in terms of how many hours I’d have to work in order to pay for them. It helps me figure out if something is worth the cost to me.

I resisted Netflix for a long time. My reasoning was not that it was too expensive, but that I wouldn’t have the time to watch the movies, and hence the money would be wasted. But once I got a free trial and signed up, I was hooked. I find the time to watch at least one DVD (whether movie or TV show) at least every two weeks, so it more than pays for itself. Plus now I have created a ritual of movie night on Fridays. Sometimes I watch with friends, sometimes not. But it’s a relaxing way to end the week, and a cheap way to see all kinds of independent and foreign movies that I wouldn’t have watched otherwise.

I resisted purchasing an I-Pod, mainly because they were pricey when they first came out, and I had other commitments for my expendable income. I am still resisting the I-Pad, telling people that I spend $800 a year on my garden instead. (More than that, actually, but we won’t go there now!)

I’ve been resisting smart phones for a while. For one, my old phone still worked, and why upgrade if the phone did everything I asked of it? Another reason not to upgrade was that my phone bill would go up. And, lastly, I had been warned that once I had a phone with all these new toys attached, that I would surely use them and want more (hence an even higher phone bill).

Well, resistance became futile. My phone died. And my friends advised me that smart phones are the wave of the future, so I might as well get on that train now. So I broke down and purchased an I-Phone. Of course it has an I-Pod, so I’ve been having fun uploading music and using the I-Pod at the gym or on long solo walks. I can access the internet even though I don’t have wi-fi at home. I can push a button and see what the weather is. I can talk to someone and use “face time,” though I probably won’t ever use that feature!

So, while I can be mindful of my pennies, I can also be a bit more open to new things that will enhance my life.

Gotta go and check the weather!

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I tried to be creative and come up with a really cute title to sum up what I’d be writing about – my gardening, my cooking/canning, my dogs, my training for my upcoming 500-mile pilgrimage walk, and my love of Duke athletics.    Add in my eclectic spiritual side and what do you get?  A hot mess.  Not that I’d call gumbo a hot mess.  More like delicious goodness that takes lots of ingredients and time, but is well with the wait.

My grandmother used to make gumbo twice a year, after Thanksgiving and Christmas, using the left-over holiday  turkey and adding shrimp and who knows what else.   But since I became a vegetarian more than 20 years ago, most gumbo has been off limits.    That is, until I found Crescent Dragonwagon’s recipe for Gumbo Zeb.    Heaven in a bowl, that is what it is.  The base reminds me of my grandmother’s, so I’m especially attached.

So, like gumbo, this blog will have a little of this and a little of that, and hopefully blended together will end up with something interesting.  Enjoy!

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