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Archive for the ‘Personal/Spiritual’ Category

courtesy Microsoft clip art

courtesy Microsoft clip art

I’ve been feeling a bit unmotivated lately.  Nothing’s “wrong.”  Life is good, in fact.   Well, except for the preponderance of weeds in the garden, but that’s for another post.

What’s been missing is having a goal. To be more specific, a travel goal.   Planning and training for my 2013 Camino consumed the better part of two years.  Rehabbing my foot and applying what I learned on my Camino took me through summer of 2014.   It’s now the end of summer 2015,  and I’m healthy and ready for a new adventure.

So where to go?  A few worthy suggestions have come across my Facebook feed over the past few months.  They include:

  • Norway.  A pilgrimage in Norway — in summer — sounds delicious!  And not because I’m a huge “Frozen” fan,  I promise!   I confess to having had little interest in, or knowledge about, this country until a hiking friend posted the information about pilgrimages.  Now I wanna go!  Beauty everywhere!  This is definitely on my bucket list.
  • Southern Colorado and the Camino de Crestone.  A Camino in the US?  Apparently so!  This 8-day journey features short walks  in an area of the country where I haven’t yet visited.  From the linked website: ” Amid some of Colorado’s greatest beauty, the little mountain town of Crestone is a magnet of spiritual presences.  Within walking distance of this small international village are stupas and zendos, ashrams, a Carmelite monastery,  Buddhist retreats and centers for sacred dance and voice, not to mention medicine wheels, sweat lodges and the labyrinth of Chartres in its exact dimensions.”    Bliss!  Here’s hoping this enterprise continues for years to come so that I can take advantage.
  • The European Peace Walk.  A long-distance walk through six countries:  Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy.    Be still my heart!   The website says this takes 24 days, with stages around 25Km per day.   This is definitely one of my “one day, maybe” trips.  Right now, however, I am currently reluctant to leave my dog for that long a time. She did not enjoy sleep-away camp while I was gone visiting family this summer.

In addition to the ones listed above, several other places have caught my fancy:  Scotland!  Montana!  Perhaps another Camino in Spain or Portugal!

All sound tempting, but for right now, I have settled on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales.   I will only be walking part of the path, from St. David’s to St. Dogmaels, with a side trip to the Preseli Hills and the stones.  Departure date: mid-May 2016.  Time away from Meghan the dog, who will have her own personal pet sitter in her own house with her own crate and her own back yard and all her favorite toys: two weeks max.

So Wales, it is!  Now it’s time to dust off the hiking poles, buy a new pair of boots and get moving.

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photo courtesy of Microsoft

photo courtesy of Microsoft

When I was a little girl, I lived in a small town in New Jersey, in a big old house with a wrap-around porch.  I had two cats named Alice and Pickles, fought regularly with my two older brothers, and became friends with a girl named Cathy S.  I don’t remember much about my friendship with Cathy, except that she was supposed to be my best friend for life.

How do I remember that?  Because she told me she would be, right after she asked if I would give her some of my jelly beans.  “Pretty please?  I’ll be your best friend forever,” Cathy promised.

For awhile, we were indeed best friends.  Then, her family moved to Illinois and my family moved to Connecticut.  We didn’t have cell phones or the internet back then, so Cathy and I soon lost touch.  All I have left of our never-ending best-friendship is a photo:

Cathy and me

Cathy and me

I’m sure Cathy thought we would be friends forever, just like she promised.  It couldn’t have been just about the jelly beans, right?

Regardless of Cathy’s intentions at the time, she was doing something I’ve done too many times to count: I’ll make a promise with the best of intentions but, in all likelihood, won’t keep.   Like the promises I made in college:  “Dear God, if you help me pass this test even though I didn’t study enough, I swear I’ll never procrastinate again!”

Or the times I let the car get just a little too low on gasoline: “Please, car, get to the gas station and I’ll never let you go below a quarter tank again!”

I’m particularly bad about making promises during sporting events.  “Please, in the name of all that is right and good, let us win this game!  I’ll never ask again!”   Until the next game, that is.

I’m also bad about promising to be grateful for things I take for granted.  Like health.  Or walking free of pain.  Or electricity.

Two weeks ago, we had an ice storm.  It wasn’t the worst storm we’ve had this year – there had been more snow, and the roads had been covered with lots more ice.   But somehow this was the storm to bring down trees and power lines.    At 4:45 a.m. on a Friday morning, my power went out.

my back yard

my back yard

I woke up about half an hour later, confused.  Was it bad everywhere, or just my neighborhood?  Were the roads clear?  Did my work have a delay?   I checked my smart phone, but wasn’t able to determine much.  Turns out the majority of this area was fine; I just happened to live in an area that got the most damage.  The big cities of Raleigh and Durham were fine. Hence, no news.

So I got up, thinking I would make some coffee.   Oh… wait.   Can’t make coffee.  I’ll just make my morning smoothie.  Oh … wait.  No smoothie.   How about oatmeal.  Mm… nope, unless I want to eat it raw.

Good thing I had taken a shower the evening before!

Power crews worked tirelessly through the weekend to help us.  But there was so much damage that it took until 2:45 a.m. on Monday before my electricity was restored.    I know, because I heard the heating unit click on and the refrigerator start to make its familiar hum.  I was so excited, I got out of bed right then  and did two loads of wash!

During my time without power, I swore I would never take electricity for granted again.  But really, who was I kidding?  I was — and still am — grateful for all the creature comforts that electricity provides. But, just a mere two weeks later, when I walk into a room, I flip the light switch and automatically expect the lights to come on.  I get up in the morning and expect hot water to come out of the shower tap.  I am certainly grateful for these things, but I definitely take them for granted.

How about you?  Anything you take for granted in your life?  Any promises you make that are hard to keep?

 

 

 

 

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rocky road

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Happy Birthday, me!

I’m actually not that “in” to my birthday these days, though I sure loved it when I was a kid.  You see, I had something to look forward to after all the excitement and celebration of the Christmas season was over.  And yes, there was a bit of materialism in there, too.  I was going to get more presents!

As the years have passed, I’ve moved away from family and I’m not as motivated by presents. I also realized that birthdays around the holidays are a bit of a pain to everyone except the people who are having said birthdays.   Case in point:  one place where I worked would host monthly birthday parties for its employees.  But the January birthday folks?  Usually forgotten, or asked if they really wanted the celebratory cake, since everyone had already eaten too much over the holidays.   I should have loudly said, “YES!”  but instead I acquiesced and  just slowly quit talking about my birthday.  Now, most of my current friends don’t even know when it is.

But I digress… back to the subject of birthdays… Last year was a big one.  I turned 50 and was going to make major changes in my life.  I also challenged myself to read 50 books, eat at 50 new restaurants/cook 50 new recipes, and try 50 new experiences.

As I turn the page on my 50th year, I decided to look back and see how I did.  At first glance, not so good. I read less than 30 books. I realized that I don’t want to eat out all the time and that, while I enjoy an occasional new activity, I am pretty stuck in routine.  I also didn’t have time to devote to 50 new adventures, what with training for my 500-mile walk on the Camino de Santiago.

But, the good news is that while walking on the Camino, I definitely ate at 50 different places, and had numerous new adventures.  Problem was (or so I thought) that some of those adventures weren’t ones I particularly wanted.

First adventure I didn’t want:  getting injured.  I never, ever thought or prepared for the possibility that I would get seriously (for me) injured.

People have asked why I didn’t plan for that.  All I can say is that it just wasn’t in my consciousness.  I’m basically healthy, and I had done lots of training. I also wasn’t trying to walk at record speeds.  I was going to be fine!   How was I to know that a massage therapist was going to hammer my heels with something so hard and unforgiving that I received a stress fracture?

My injury certainly changed the tenor of the trip, and caused great stress for both myself and my walking partner.  We had agreed from the start to go our separate ways and meet up at night, and that neither would change their trip for the other.  I also knew, deep down, that my friend wasn’t supposed to help me.  So that was okay.  But there were some interactions  along the way that did not feel particularly pleasant or supportive.  I say this admitting that I’m not the easiest person to be around,  and knowing that even though I tried not to impact my friend, my compromised emotional and physical state did have an adverse affect on her.

The second adventure had to do with some of what I just mentioned:  being around someone for a long period of time, thus leading to some disagreements, and having different views on how things should be done.  Where I fault myself is that I was too afraid to strike out on my own when the opportunity presented itself.  I couldn’t speak the language, I had huge communication issues with my phone, and I’m not an experienced traveler.  So I stuck to my friend’s schedule like glue, even when it would have been better for both of us if I had chosen otherwise.

The third adventure had to do with coming back to the States and looking for employment.  I had hoped to get clarity on my life’s direction on the Camino, and I did get some of that.  Problem is I didn’t get concrete, next steps to take.  So I came home,  injured and worn out emotionally, and decided that moving to some undetermined spot to start a business wasn’t in my best interest.

I’ve since been working temporary jobs and have had to deplete some retirement savings in order to pay bills.   When a job I thought was certain to be mine did not materialize, I fell into a tailspin of doubt and depression.

I spent the fall months of 2103 berating myself.  After all, I had a job that wasn’t particularly satisfying, but I could pay my bills.  Everyone had told me not to leave the job, but I felt I had to make a clean break.  I was going to move, after all.  Except… I didn’t move.  And I wasn’t finding employment that would be a good fit for both me and the employer.  Looks like I screwed up my life!

I hit rock bottom.

Then, slowly, from that place of sadness and desperation came several realizations.  One is that I made the best choices I could for myself at the time.   Another is that I can trust that I am always being divinely guided.   And a third realization is that fear really, really, really isn’t my friend.   Thanks to my experiences before, during and after the Camino, I’ve been able to integrate these ideas and am now moving forward in a more positive manner.

So, as I close out my 50th year on this planet, I have come to realize that the Camino truly did indeed give me a wonderful gift.  I am ready to  let go of fear and live a life of trust.   Thank you, beautiful old pathway! It took me awhile to realize it, but you have given me the direction I’ve been wanting.

I might not know the particulars, but I trust that signposts will appear to lead me to my destination.  All I have to do is look for the yellow arrows.

5-4 to estella 16 sign

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image courtesy of Microsoft

image courtesy of Microsoft

Yes, it’s that time again … time to make resolutions.  Lose weight.  Exercise more.  Learn a new language.  Schedule date nights once a week.  Blog more.  (Insert your resolution here.)

I tend to make resolutions on my birthday, which is in a few weeks. But, to get in the spirit of things, I will go ahead and resolve to get back on track in several areas of my life.  One of those areas is blogging, hence this post.

Since I’ve been back from the Camino, I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to do next with my life.  I’ve gone through some really dark emotions, which I never expected.  You see, walking the Camino was supposed to heal all those hurts and disappointments and leave me all shiny new and ready for the second half of my life.  I also thought I’d come back with a concrete plan.   That didn’t exactly happen.

I also came back injured, and am still feeling the repercussions of my injury.

So, with the injury and with the disappointment of not being further along my path, I just didn’t blog.

But, it’s now a new year and the perfect time to re-commit to, and write about, the things that bring me joy:  gardening, hiking/walking, cooking, and spending time with my new dog.

So here’s to a new year full of peace, joy, creativity, and fun for us all!

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image courtesy of Destination America

image courtesy of Destination America

About 15 years ago, I visited Alaska and fell in love with the landscape. The trees! The mountains! The water! The bears!

Oh wait … the bears. While I like the “idea” of bears, I’m a tad bit scared of them.  And let’s face it, I would not be able to function during those long winters with little sunshine. So maybe Alaska isn’t the ideal place for me to move full time.

But a gal can still daydream, can’t she?  And that dreaming just got a little easier, thanks to “Buying Alaska,” a television series on Destination America.

I discovered this show quite by accident, since the channel is way up the dial, near the pay-per-view channels, and I don’t subscribe to those.  But once I learned of this show, I quickly added it to my DVR.  Now I won’t miss the opportunity to watch people way more adventurous than me shop for cabins and homes in the great outdoors.

The series is in its second season.  What I saw of the first season featured mostly weekend/vacation cabins.   The current season features mostly full-time homes.  Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:   Many of the homes highlighted on this show have no indoor plumbing.  While I might not mind living without running water in a vacation home, I am a bit spoiled and could not imagine living without running water all the time.  Who knows what’s lurking around the outhouse in the middle of the night?  Did I mention my fear of bears?

Obviously, the allure of these houses is that they are located in remote areas, often only accessible by planes or snowshoes (in the winter).  One of the houses in a recent episode was an hour’s drive to the nearest grocery store.  That particular situation reminded me of a guest house where I stayed on my Alaska trip.  The proprietor, who also lived an hour away from civilization, would go to Costco and load her Suburban with all she’d need for the next month. I’m currently not that organized, so if I were to live in such an area, I’d have to change my ways or else I’d spend lots of time (and gasoline) going back and forth to purchase supplies. Did I mention I hate driving?

Some of the houses are quite fancy, while others are bare bones.  I could see the allure of a small, compact area, especially when trying to heat said area in the cold winters.   Some houses have hangars for the planes that owners use to access the property.  Others have greenhouses so owners can grow their own food.  I would definitely want a property with a greenhouse.

Of course all the houses featured have beautiful views of the mountains, and/or nearby lakes or streams.  I can only imagine the joy of waking up each morning to see those majestic mountains out my window!

If I ever win the lottery, I might consider buying a vacation home in Alaska, where I could visit in the summers.  I’d take some strong friends to help haul water, and some loud friends to make noise and keep the bears away.    Until then, I’ll just enjoy the views on “Buying Alaska.”

How about you?  Where do you daydream about moving?

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5-1o to pamplona 12

Conch shells and yellow arrows marked the way for pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago

I recently walked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail in northern Spain.  While there, I took more than 800 photos with my sweet little point-and-shoot camera, plus another 150 or so on my iPhone.

Some people have very strong opinions about taking photos on vacation.   I have heard more times than I can count, in very condescending tones, that taking photos removes one from the experience.  I have a different opinion.  Taking photos actually makes me more aware of my surroundings.  I notice the colors, the smells, the sounds, the sights.   In Spain, I really noticed the clouds.  I would walk along the flat parts of the meseta just staring at the sky!

I love taking pictures of landscapes and animals and flowers.  I also try to capture things that I find funny.   One of my favorite photos from a trip years ago was a sign in a petting zoo that said, “Bunnies can get grumpy, and grumpy bunnies bite.”

Now that I have a digital camera, I go hogwild with taking photos, as one might have already guessed with the large number listed above.   But for a long journey like the Camino, I just wouldn’t remember everything without my photos.

For instance, I would have forgotten about the inspirational signs I saw.   Those familiar with the Camino know that the trail has conch shells and yellow arrows showing pilgrims the way.   But there are also graffiti signs encouraging a weary pilgrim:

4-29 to roncesvalles 2 sign

I saw this sign after a particularly hilly stretch.

4-30 to zubiri 7 sign

At this point, I might have walked 20 miles, with about 480 more to go. Yep, gotta keep on moving!

4-30 to zubiri 25 sign

When showing a friend my photos, he asked why the stop sign was in English instead of Spanish? I don’t know.

5-30 to trabadelo 7 sign

This sign was further along, at the start of a long day of climbing.

5-31 to linares 1 sign

This sign was on the way to O Cebreiro and a beautiful church.

Besides the inspirational messages, there was also plenty of political graffiti, but I chose not to take pictures of that.

I also noticed signs that were amusing to me, for one reason or another. A few examples:

5-3 to puenta la reina 41

I’m assuming this was to warn people about dogs, but it must have been siesta time when I walked by, because not a pup was in sight!

5-5 to los arcos 28

The friend mentioned above said he wanted to go through this portal. I agree!

5-7 to navarette 15

In one area, I kept seeing these signs on businesses. Again, why the English? Still, they made me smile.

5-9 to santo domingo de la calzada 8

This man’s sons painted his shoes for him. Buen Camino!

I spent about six weeks walking, with four or five rest days here and there.  I loved my time in Spain, but was ever so glad to see the final marker in Finisterre:

6

I had originally planned to walk to to Finisterre and Muxia, but I was injured and needed to stop walking in Santiago.  So I took the bus.  Even though I didn’t walk those last miles to the sea, I still got tears seeing the marker above.   After two years of planning, countless hours of training, and six weeks of walking, I had achieved my goal of walking the Camino.

I don’t know whether I will have the opportunity to walk another Camino.   But if I don’t,  I will certainly have 900-plus photos, including those of few silly signs, to remind me of the journey of a lifetime.

 

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crutches.jpg (369x800) (295x640)

It’s been about a month since I returned from walking the Camino de Santiago, and out of necessity, life has been slow going.

Turns out that when I hurt myself near Leon, I actually did have a stress fracture. The doctor couldn’t believe I had walked about 200 miles (and then some) with that injury.  And, looking back, I can’t believe I did, either.

If I had known it was a stress fracture, I would have come home, but I chose to believe everyone who said, “it’s just tendonitis.”  Then I wondered why everyone else with tendonitis was getting better and I wasn’t.

Of course, I could have gone to a doctor, but that’s a whole nother story.   Suffice it to say I thought I could finish, and I pretty much knew that if I left when I did, I might never have the opportunity to come back and complete the walk.

So I limped my way into Santiago, rested a lot, and finally went to the doctor when I got back home.  I haven’t seen the x-rays personally, but the doctor said the bone is displaced.  Sort of makes me a little sick to think of that, actually!   I’ve got a boot, and I’m supposed to stay off my right foot altogether.  Though, between you and me, I am not following directions.  Sometimes I have to put a little weight on my foot, like when I feed my animals or go up and down the deck stairs.  But I do realize I have to stay off my foot as much as possible or it will never get better.

Life on crutches has made things a bit more challenging.  Thank goodness for doggie day camp! Meghan the wonderdog gets to romp and play with dogs twice a week, and comes back exhausted. I feel less guilty about not being able to walk her.

Speaking of Meghan, I am not shy about soliciting playmates for her.  She really needs to run and wrestle with another active dog.  The picture below is of Meghan and Jake, a neighbor’s dog with similar energy.

248 (640x478)

Another, more personal challenge is that of integrating my experience on the Camino into my daily life.  In some ways, the insights I received and the experiences I had have greatly changed me.  What of my “old” life do I bring back?  Do I attempt a side business or just focus on my long-term goals of operating a mini-farm/b&b?  Will I be able to  move closer to family?  Can I live more fully in the moment, trusting that angels surround me here just like they did on the Camino?  Can I show the same open-heartedness and support to others that I was shown on the Camino?

Right now, I’m being tested on what I’ve learned.  I’m on the job market, and working hard to trust that the right job, with the right income, will present itself.  Funny how we view things — I never questioned my ability to walk 500 miles (and I might do it again someday!), but I often question whether I can support myself doing a job I like.

Anyway, part of the “old” life was my 50-in-50 challenge.  Some of my challenges for myself (such as the restaurants and new experiences) I’d already given up on.  I’m still reading (I’ve got several books to add to the tally), and I guess I’ll still write about the new recipes.  Funny that I still love to cook and to eat, but I haven’t found the energy to link to the new recipes. Maybe once I’m off crutches, I’ll get back in the swing of things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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