The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Prompt #8 – I do not choose to

The suggested prompt is: All good things must come to an end. That one way too close to a death and finality for me today so I say, “I do not choose to write about that,” which brings me to a story I can tell you about I do not choose to.

August 25, 1996 The Clinton family stopped in Riverfront Park Ashland on a whistle stop tour on their way to Chicago to accept the party’s renomination for Bill.

“The president is here in Ashland, Kentucky, first stop of his campaign train trip to Chicago, where he’ll accept his party’s renomination of the Democratic convention. His mission, to explain to Democrats and to Americans all over the country why he should be reelected and why Bob Dole should not enter the White House.” from an interview with CNN.

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/news/9608/25/clinton.interview/interview.shtml

Ashland is a river front town where the railroad tracks parallel the river.  A flood wall built a block or so away from the river protects with gates that can be open and shut at the streets that cross it.

The town rose to the call of the event.  Clean up.  Paint.  Build a speakers platform and podium.  Chairs.  Bunting and banners.  Celebration.  For several weeks, secret service men, yes, in trench coats, wandered the streets obviously not “from here,”  but setting up observation posts.   Our town was honored, decorated and safe.

After much anticipation, the train pulled from West Virginia where Hillary had spoken that morning and stopped just past one of the street openings of the flood wall.  Maybe 14th Street??

My step-ex-mother-in-law (that is a whole other story!), a long time Democrat, got tickets in the VIP seats via our friend, head of the Democratic Party at the time.  Juanita was beyond excited to attend the event, however, her physical health was such that she couldn’t walk great distances.  I picked her up early so we could get a parking place close to the speakers platform and her seat.  We that happened!  We found our seats, talked and visited all morning with all those gathering.  We watched from the center the frenzy of a Presidential visit to our small town.

The only other time a President graced us was when Nixon came through Russell to receive an illegal campaign contribution from Ashland Oil.  We, then, lined the streets for a glimpse.  Nixon didn’t stop to speak, just breezed through with his hand out.

I digress.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/1974/12/31/archives/170000-in-illegal-gifts-admitted-by-ashland-oil-special-to-the-new.html

So, the chugging train arrives as the anticipation grows.  And the President of the United States of America on stage with our local heroes and politicians speaks.  A fabulous speaker, Bill Clinton.  He smiles.  He offers promise and hope.  He entertains in an eloquent political speech.

When the podium empties and the applause stops the crowd is directed to leave through a street a block down from where our car was parked.  The train would stay parked while while Clinton does an interview with Wolf Blitzer.  CNN was so brand new then.

Juanita and I stand, speak to people leaving, wait until the crowd thins a bit.  When we leave we are directed to walk past the open flood gate where our car sits just on the other side to down to the next street.  Like from 14th Street to 15th.

“But my car is parked right over there,” she points to just a half a block away.

“Ma’am, this gate is closed now,” replies the secret service man very kindly.  And he turns to walk away but stops when he hears her speak.

“Sir, we came early to  park close so I wouldn’t have to walk far to get to and from my car.”

The man comes closer to us.  “I understand that, Ma’am.  But this street is closed for as long as the President’s train is parked.  I am going to ask you to walk this way,” and he points towards the crowd that is flowing out of the next street.

“And I am telling you I don’t choose to.”

“Ma’am, this street is closed.”

“Well, look, at all the other people using this street.”  She points behind him.

“I see them and each of them are an authorized part of the team here to protect the President.  Now, would you just walk on to the next block and exit.”

“I don’t choose to,” she firmly states.   “My car is parked right over there and I am going to walk straight to there from here.”

I look behind her to see several local officials now aware of and watching this conversation.  The Ashland Chief-of-Police is standing with his arms crossed and I suspect he and the mayor and council men have just placed a bet on who wins this one.

“Perhaps then you need assistance, Ma’am.  I can get you a wheelchair or I can call for an ambulance?”

And I knew at that moment, no matter what kind of weapon was under that coat,  the secret service man had lost his cause.

“Sir,” she took a step forward, “I can assure you I do not need assistance.”  And she took my arm.  “Let me remind you, sir, you are in my town only for a brief passing and I am going to use the streets in my town to my benefit.  I am going to walk across here and go to my car and you may arrest me or assist me.  Now, come on Susan.”

I see the local authorities smiling and I put my hand on her hers and we start to walk.

The man in the trench coat shrugs his shoulders, turns and says to the locals, “This is one tough crowd.”  And he follows us across the railroad tracks to our vehicle.

The text of Bill Clinton’s speech is:

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=53232

 

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Prompt #7 – One great party

My surprise 40th birthday party. And I thought was old then!!

My second husband, Ian, and I had lived in Lexington for almost a year.  I was settling into a house bigger than I’d ever lived in before.  The spaciousness, no longer intimidating was filled up with “us.”  One daughter at UK and her best friend in the guest room for the semester.  My younger daughter in high school.  My stepson in high school.  And I was also in school at UK finishing my BA.  Lots of studying at our house.

Ian said we were having birthday dinner at a lovely spot,  Merrick Place.  My sister came for the weekend.  While we dressed up for a celebratory meal, the girls and Charlie chatted and giggled a bit more than usual.  “Let’s go,” Ian calls out. And to my surprise – a limo is parked at the front door!  Whoa!  I walk on air to take my seat.  Lots more excited giggling.  The crowd of us creates quite a stir as we exit in the thrill of the limo ride and present ourselves for the reserved table.  We happily laughed, talked and ate.  Ian had a remarkable way of entertaining and 3 teenage girls or Charlie never let the chatter lag.  And my sister has a way in injecting just the right comment to make us all laugh.  We ate dinner and did the whole candle thing for dessert.  People at other tables clapped.

Leaving the restaurant, many diners wished me a happy birthday.  One woman pulled me aside.  “It’s my birthday too, only I am older than 40.  Do you realize that September 30 is nine months to the day from New Year’s Eve?”

Well, fodder for thought!  “Then, I believe we were conceived in celebration and joy.”

Riding home the giggling didn’t stop in spite of the full bellies.  The driver drove down a street full of cars and was barely able to find a parking space. I walked up the sidewalk and into the house to find 20 or so familiar faces to greet me!  Surprise.   Peeps from our previous residence, Ashland, that I had been missing terrible traveled to help me celebrate.

The kitchen table was laden with food.  Beer in coolers.  Flowers smiled up the place!  My house transformed in a matter of hours into a party spot.

I quickly changed from dress up clothes to comfy so the weird Happy Birthday blinking necklace thing matched better.  And the celebration continued.

Long time friends in our new location.

Thank you all again!

 

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Prompt #6 The Perfect View

Certainly Paris from atop the Eiffel tower or from rock wall fortification in Montmarte.

Madrid’s night sky from the 23rd floor.

The Mediterranean from the hill road going into Monaco or from the sandy beach at Cannes.

The Atlantic from San Sebastian or Barritz.

The red roofs surrounding Caracassone.

The chickens outside my bedroom window at the Pension Eirexe.

From the cafe in O Pino the cows marching to be milked.

Or the eucalyptus trees from the room at the Headlands Center for the Arts where I could wander up the hill to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Or the real genius of Wendell Berry’s Window Poems, written from the inside the multipaned window in his studio.

As I look through all the pictures on my phone and am once again startled at the beauty and glory of nature and the creations of humankind, I believe the view I love best is from the futon on my back porch.  Looking into the yard I have, dug, raked, hoed, planted, harvested and maneuvered.  We have hauled dirt and compost to create six raised beds.  I’ve moved a rock walkway to create a 3-circuit labyrinth on  the left side of the yard and then hauled it to the right side so the grow beds and compost bin could be installed.  Now I’ve stacked them for a wall to line the walkway to the greenhouse.

Everchanging.

I have flowers along the garage with old metal window grates as trellising.  Red roses, pink white and purple zennias, orange Gerber daisys, purple phlox and a hearty tomato plant hovering over the thyme ground cover right next to the rain barrel.

It’s my little urban farm from and in which I love to work and play and plan.  And when the grass is cut and the weeding done, the raspberries trimmed back to manageable, the cucumber and squash contained, I sit and admire the plants that feed us food and joy.  And I nap and read and star,e surrounded by the quiet plot that holds the answer to many of my dreams.

Now for the aquaponics inside a bigger greenhouse….

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Prompt #5 Before and After

Sticking to the guidelines today. After all, the prompts are merely suggestions not rules. My issues of authority surfacing again!

Many items come to mind. I could go historical and do the automobile, refrigerator, dish washer, gas stove. I could describe my yard before and after the raised beds or the aquaponic system I am learning to operate.  I could describe the canner and go into my attempts to remove myself from the corporate food chain and chemicals in my own small way.  Yet I’ve written about these previously.

I am lead to the wood stove!  I love heating with wood.  I’m not totally sure it lowers the heating costs if we don’t manage to obtain free wood which we have had a lot of! We’ve cut, shopped and split several driveways full of wood.  Rest in peace downed ash, maple, oak, walnut and Osage.  We burned the Bradford Pear that didn’t survive the four tornado day a couple of years ago.  But the money to rent the splitter and gasoline and transportation…Am I saving resources?  The process of me or anyone getting the wood to the point of use and the smokey by-product wafting into the air has to factor in.  There is an environmental cost for everything.  I feel like the burning of the deceased trees is a part of speeded up recycling!

I feel strong when operating the splitter.  It’s fun!  And hard work.  I feel strong lifting and stacking wood.  I feel strong carrying wood even though I carry only 3-4 logs at a time.  Carrying wood forces me to get outside in the cold, damp, snow, fog, ice.  so I am still connected with the outside when the windows are shut and the daylight is in short supply.  And I am moving.  I am stretching and using my body.

I cook soups and veggies atop the stove.  Cast iron.  I dry our clothes on racks in front of the stove.  I sit and stare, my feet resting on the brick foundation and browse seed catalogues and read.

The whirr and hum of the furnace is replaced by wood crackling and popping as the fire dances life.  The heart light glowing from the center of my house.

 

 

 

 

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Writing Prompt #4. Who is driving?

Again, I diverge from the given topic! They say a quote from a movie. I am choosing a quote from Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, (HarperPerennial 1991). Maybe this book is my favorite of hers, but really everyone I read or reread is then my current favorite.

My friend Deborah and I did a writing prompt around this today.

Quote from pg 224 in a letter from Hallie to Codi: “What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you are on, and the fact that you know how to drive.”

The “I know how to drive” is what strikes me in this quote. So much of my life I have not felt like the driver but the passenger, not reacting primarily to my own thoughts, needs, desires or reactions but to someone else. Me, the peacekeeper, the one in service.  Let me fix this for you.  Let me do this for you.  Co-dependent.

Seeing the many roads and at this stage in my life, knowing and really believing at an independent level that I can make my own choices – I drive. Certainly with concern and compassion for any others involved but now including myself as equally relevant.

I drive sometimes with the top down and my hair blowing in the wind feeling the sun and the shade of the passing clouds.  Smelling the trees and skunks and road kill and cooking.

Sometimes I drive with the windows up and the music so loud I can’t hear my thoughts.

Sometimes I drive too fast, wanting everyone else to get out of my way, my mission being way more important than theirs.  Especially if I have caused myself time constraints.

Sometimes I go slower, wanting to look around (often at the bane of the me from the last paragraph in the cars behind me.)

Sometimes I leave the house without knowing directions to where I am going.  My second ex-husband claims Garamin was created for me.  I am now saved by Google maps and Siri and, conspiracitorally speaking, tracked by the same.  My new big brother, Google.

So I have been the driver, as well as a willing and unwilling passenger and I know absolutely the destination can certainly be colored by the journey.  Changing the “fine destination” to stressed, angry, happy or excited destination.  So how can I completely color or visualize the destination without leaving some areas for shading to accommodate the human emotions/experiences on the road to getting there?  Some fine destinations turn out to be so changed or rearranged by the time I get there!  Can I accurately color the future?  So what about intention?  Do I set them?  What about vision boards and dreams?  Do I even consider vision or envision?  How do I paint where I want to land, my destination?

The road I am on can be laced with, intersected by so many other interesting other roads.  Other options like curiosity and ADD and boredom can cause many a change in my direction.  And because I am directionally challenged I’m often turning left instead of right and vise versa.  Your side, my side works much better for me!  Lost is often its own unique journey.

I don’t read the last chapter of a book without reading the character’s journey through the middle.  Because here is lies the richness.  Here is where the ingredients, all mixed together, cook up into the serving/the destination as it is right now.  And then we are off to yet another …

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Prompt #3 – Paint a Word Picture

Today, I am to use all my senses to describe. Paint a word picture. I think I can stick to the instruction today!
Oh, the many things I could write about. Paris. The earth beneath my feet on the Camino. Closer to home, my flowers or my bee stings.

August is a ripe and sensory month. Humidity that drips from the air and is sucked up by the heat. Heat and harvest.

Then there are the trash men who deal with all of the senses all day. God bless those brave strong people who brave the smells and weights and shapes of what we throw away. The grinding truck rolls away and my cans are emptied, ready to refill.

I settle on the green and red fruits hanging from the tall vines, caged for strength, the power of their growth so focused the plant quickly outgrows its core capabilities. Tomatoes are over achievers! Roots suck nutrition and water from the composted soil, fed with worms and minerals with one mission – grow. And grow. And grow. Product fruit, their one specific mission. Until – the cold sets in and the seeds of the unused fruit fall on cold, hard ground, waiting out winter and the return of sun and heat.

The tomato is an ambitious plant. Started from a tiny seed, raising itself to a 6’ vine giant. Green, rich is the unmistakable smell of tomato goodness, even from a touch of the seedling, then the little white flower turns into a globe of red lusciousness, their smell permeates.

A green stem reaches outside the rim of a silver washtub where smooth, red, ripe goodness waits . Abundance, sustenance, summer time, like the magic of seed to fruit, like a pizza parlor, like the kitchens of gardeners in August. Fruit flies catch a whiff, follow the trail and indulge. I will blanche, core and freeze to add summer warmth to winter soups, stews and chili.

I suggest you carry the salt shaker to the garden and capture some of the sun’s warmth as you bite through the skin of this luscious goodness. Let the seeds run down your chin. Let that ummm escape from your throat, past lips reaching for another bite.

Salute to the Goddess of the tomato!

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Writing Prompt #2 –TV/Movie reaction

Not exactly following the suggestion – but I am pretty good at “bucking the system” by twisting the rules just a bit.  There is an entire blog post on that personal revelation!

I have adapted the prompt to : emotion associated with a movie or TV show

I don’t watch much TV.  Movies I love if they are funny, character driven and not too violent.  I walked out of the horse head scene in Godfather and again in Black Hawk Down.  I don’t know how they even talked me into that movie.  Many a movie or show I’ve tried gets too careless with death and gore for me.  Like No Country for Old Men.  Love the cast of actors.  But the opening scene in a desolate American West.  Two cars.  Only two cars and two men.  They stop and the guy in the tail car approaches and blows the other one off the map.  Bang you are dead.  In this wide open space, full of emptiness and possibility two men and boom.  Now, granted I did not stick around long enough to see the guy hit the ground so i don’t know the when, why or wherefore.  I just know that I had had enough in 3-4 minutes.

I cringe at the violence in the 30 second advertising slots for the detective shows especially when there are children involved.

I am not denying there are terrible things that happen to people.  Horrific, tragic situations.  Still I don’t want to see imagined, horrific, tragic situations play out in a 40 minute skit broken into commercial segments selling the viewers medicine for depression.  And the next week the main players are all fine and redo to go into another episode.  There is no reality of healing time, grief, anger, frustration.  No regrouping time.  Only scenes from next week.

Several years ago, I regularly watched a show I can’t remember the name of.  Maybe you all can add the name!  (I could do a blog post on instant recall if I could remember to.)   Heroes, I found it on the web, of course.  The players had super powers.  The main character was a cheerleader in high school.  The combat between good and evil was more of a mental battleground at first but then the story line got really brutal and gory.  I quit watching.

I believe the constant depictions violence hardens us, desensitizes us, creates an underlying sense of mistrust and does little to assist in dealing with these situations on a reality basis.  And then what is the reality?  Is Hollywood creating the reality of our society by telling us this is how our society is? Oh, maybe I should just watch the news.  Oh, dear, never mind that.

And then there are the violent video games.  Teaching how to kill with animation that looks like real people.  Training for…?

Call me idealistic, a Pollyanna.  Tell me I have my head in the sand.  Okay.  And still I’ll stick with watching Antiques Roadshow and the shows about personal talents.  Why are there no more Doc Martin episodes?  I do watch Madame Secretary which can occasionally get a bit bloody.  60 minutes and Sunday Morning.  Oh, and Grace and Frankie!  And documentaries.

 

 

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Writing Prompts Day #1 – Books

I am challenging myself to write with an email prompt for 31 days. To sharp my skills, to force myself to write. Writer’s write. So if I want to publish again, well… pen in hand, Susan Rea.

The first prompt is: Write about a beloved book and relive your memories of the time spent entranced by a wonderful story.
Being the Libra poster child, I can’t pick just one. So here is my response.

The first novel I read was Old Yeller by Fred Gibson. I cried so hard. That dog became as personal to me as Dusty! I learned then the power of the written word. I was hooked. Give me a good book and a quiet spot from my early teens.

From a family of storytellers , now wishing I had listened and could remember some of them better, I thank you Uncle John for the snippets in the bundle of letters we found in your desk. I am trying to take it from there, writing little personality bio’s for the faces I have represented in the archives I have assembled.

Another book I well remember is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Life changing. The book really changed my belief system. The Goddess connection spoke to me and drew me in – connected with me. From this reading, I experienced possibility and earth spirituality. This didn’t strike me as fantasy but a reality channeled through an open mind.

The Hobbit and trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, while much more action packed and violent than I usually read, held me spell bound. I propped these books in the window sill to read while I was washing dishes! Heroes, with every character flaw and self-doubt, faith and courageous curiosity. By the way I think Samwise is the hero of this story.

I love books where the historical characters come alive, are given personality. Historical fiction – I suspect many are channeled or directed in some part by divine syncronicity. The focus of the writer on a specific character can often be too intense to not connect with the energy of that character and time. I believe it’s possible.

When I read The Invention of Wings, which I read because Sue Monk Kidd wrote it and I loved The Secret Life of Bees and the strength of the female community, I was entranced, fascinated and so angry.

Thoroughly intrigued with the book and insulted that my history lessons had not taught me, not mentioned or considered important the Grinke sisters, Handful and her mother Charlotte important enough to include in it’s references. (See my previous blog post from July 2015.) Grossly unfair to our culture’s story in both areas of race and gender.

Maybe that’s why I tend to female writers. Louise Erdrich. Barbara Kingsolver. Isabelle Allende. And…Mary Oliver’s poems. Sena Jeter Naslund’s, Ahab’s Wife. Of course, Anita Diamant’s Red Tent.  My list does go on and on and on.

That being said, I have read many Tony Hillerman novels and love them all.

I am fascinated by books written on Mary Magdalene, her history and the theory that she was the most beloved disciple and wife of Jesus. Also, Anna, Jesus grandmother and the Essenes.

I also love stories about the English Queens, their strengths and limitations.

I enjoy young adult literature, but not the fantasy, so much.  It’s concise entertaining, blatantly real.  I did enjoy Harry Potter.  Even though – even his Owl got killed off.  Gezzzzz.

So, I am practicing with writing prompts to bring Hazel and Uncle Ira alive for those who will someday care to peruse what I have archived.

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The Camino – continued

AND… I may post several articles about the Camino!

And…I learned something about focus; about letting the extraneous distractions go.  I so often hear myself saying, “I am on an ADHD retirement program.”  Yes, I do have lots of interests and a great deal of curiosity.  I like being busy.  And I don’t sit still well.  Maybe my explorer lifetime was cut short or limited in some way.  I probably did something stupid or was ill prepared and got dead really early!

So, how do I juggle lots of interests and involvements without feeling driven and frustrated?  Maybe I drive myself because of my age and the ever-present knowledge I am on the downhill of this lifetime.  Or maybe I feel the physical limitations of aging slowly creeping up on me.

I do know that returning to my previous life from three weeks in Europe (1 week on the Camino following 10 days in France with my granddaughter’s school tour) has been impossible!  I have only a certain amount of energy to give daily and I am in a chair for an hour or so and in bed early!  Jet lag?  Walking a hundred or so miles in 3 weeks in the heat while schlepping luggage, sleeping in different beds and all the other travel factors definitely play their role in my fatigue.  The downtime has given me great insight into picking what is important for today and what I can leave until the next day… or leave altogether.

My choices are weighed.  Not all options are mandatory.  Yet, my love of moving, of doing is such a part of me…I have this journal that I make my ongoing list in.  Checking a completed task is ridiculously rewarding for me.  That part is not in any danger of being eliminated from my lifestyle!

So, I am thinking more naps and more awareness of the ramifications of my decisions and involvements.  Less multitasking.

On the France tour we went from one event to the next.  I followed the schedule.  I made few decisions.  On the Camino I put one foot in front of the other.

The measure of success is that deep breath on the pillow at the end of the day.  Am I satisfied?  Am I comfortable with what my day presented?  And if it’s a yes, I win!

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The Camino

I walked 5 days of the Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as the Camino.  It’s been a dream of mine for 10 ? –  12 years.   Since maybe my 10th Artist’s Way class when dreams are floating in the air to be recognized, when I want to are being identified.  I was having dinner with a neighbor from my teenage years who just returned from her second Camino walk,  this time with her granddaughter.

I was captivated.  I read books.  I watched, The Way. I included it in my wish list every subsequent time I hosted the Artist’s Way.

The Camino door opened a crack when I signed up to go with my granddaughter and daughter on the school trip to France.  I was so close to the Camino.  Already across the Atlantic.  The countries right next door.  I pushed that door open.  I figured it out.  I arranged plane transportation.   I got my cousins to sign on to walk with me.  I made it happen.

I walked my Camino. Five days. 50 miles.  Planes, trains, buses, taxis and feet! And a great deal of determination.

From the plane flying from Nice to Madrid, above the clouds the terrain looked like I could be anywhere.  Irregular forests, angular fields.  Roads.  Rivers.  Hills and prairies.  No language barriers.  Few differences.  From above all looks equal, similar and peaceful and I stare out the little window wonder why we humans can’t figure out how to get along with each other.  And I was so stressed about going to a foreign country alone (meeting my cousins later that day at a prearranged hotel for the night).  And I found them.  And I overcame all the waterfall of fears the scenery did not reflect!

I met my companions and we had dinner in old Madrid surrounded by a huge Gay Pride celebration.  Rainbow flags and clothing and fountains.  A solid initiation.

The next morning we took a taxi and a 5 hour bus and another taxi to Portomarin where we joined the peregrinos/pilgrims the next morning.

First Camino lesson I learned was that backpacking is way more advanced than walking.  I am a walker, an occasional hiker NOT a backpacker.

I learned that an experienced backpacker can carry extra items for the unprepared.  Brenda and Kevin helped carry my load.  I had worked and worked to get small in my baggage ans still, my backpack not one for a hiker was not doable.

We began our walk across a bridge and up a hill.  And the hills never stopped!  And neither did the scenery.  We walked an incredible path, often feeling I had been transported back centuries to a much simpler time when one was much closer to the earth.

Be in the present moment. Love the present moment. Carry your burdens courageously. Keep walking. Discard what you can. Be in the moment. Listen.

I learned to keep searching for what you want and if the hills get too tough – rest.  Include rest in the journey.
Several times the music called me in. The owls. the journey song. The bagpipes.
Bless the trees for providing shade,
the farmers for providing food,
the cooks for sumptuously preparing it,
the housekeepers for clean rooms,
the baristas for cafe con leche,
the centuries of peregrinos for paving the way.

For those who walked before me and those to follow, dedicated to the Spirit of the human condition.

I heard no news, no political discord, no my side or your side.  Only the focus of the walk.  Where are we right now?  Santiago the goal.

Buen Camino to those resting, to those pacing ahead, to those in service to peregrinos.  The kinship of the shared journey, breaking barriers of language, age, gender, race.  it’s all bout the journey.

We shared the wide path with those who were driven and fast paced.  We shared the wide path with those who were meandering; with those  who were limping and those peddling, cruising or pumping.

Each vista was new, waiting to be unfurled upon searching eyes.  Each hill presented and conquered.  Each downhill achieved.  The straight stretches – a gift.  Remembering to look out and up, not just down.  Finding a comfortable pace.  Passing and being passed.  One foot in front of the other.  Buen Camino to each pilgrim on their own walk.

Groups of every size and individuals.  Irish.  South African.  German.  French.  Asian.  Spanish.  Oh, the strong legs.  Each focused on the goal, Santiago.

Sticks and hats.  Back pack packs and water bottles. Clicking, pacing across path worn footsteps from centuries of seekers.

I witnessed a culture that is strongly attached to food.  Every homestead in the villages and hamlets and many in the cities grew gardens.  Not just flowers but food gardens.  Beautiful gardens.  All through the villages and hamlets were chickens, lots of chickens, cows – the smell so natural there was no offense.  There were goats and sheep.  Cats and dogs.  Seldom did we share a path with motorized vehicles.

Evidenced by the structures, people lived close to the land and used what nature provided.  Stone roofs.  Tree branches for fence posts.  What I loved were bed springs for trellising!  Laundry was dried outside in the sun in the country and in the cities.

No matter how rustic or empty of human habitation our basic needs were absolutely provided for.  Crystal clear spring water ran from  fountains all along the way.  Cold and refreshing and clearly delicious. Rooms were sparse and clean.  Cafes offered plentiful and fabulously fresh and full of life food and cafe con leche.  Ham and cheese.  Eggs and veggies.  Bread.

We saw stone houses with the barns attached.  Bridges made of huge rocks.  Roman bridges.  Crosses and religious symbolism  stood to mark “the way” like sentries, guides or guardians.  The little churches offering shade, beautiful art work and holy water in dabbed on my heart and head – yes, and on my knees!

Many of the columnar directional markers with the shell and arrow were adorned with rocks, pieces of memorabilia, worn out shoes, notes and encouraging graffiti.  One section bore the words, line by line, of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Through the rain, the sun, the exhaustion there was no place to quit.  No choice but to continue on.  Forward towards the goal.  And that goal was sometimes the next cafe!  Quit, however, not an option.

Yes, there were moments of WTF Camino? and not Buen Camino.  Is my lesson here that around each corner life brings another big hill, another difficult section to struggle across?  Pounding heart?  Tired legs?  Why did I want to do this?  Who am I fooling?  I’m definitely too old to do this.  I can’t.  Rest and look around and reassess.  Water from the fountain down my neck.

One foot ahead of the other.  Being the present moment.    I am in the present moment.  All I have is the present moment.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can.

And while I walked “only” 5 days/50 miles, I can not compare my journey with those walking 100 miles in 8 days, or walking 500 miles for the third time.  Or finishing the walk after doing sections every summer for the last 10 years.  My Camino is mine.  Just like theirs is theirs!

We taxied to the city limits of Santiago from Arua because we wanted to make the noon mass celebrated each day for all walkers.  I am not Catholic and it was awesome to share space and sing with a thousand other people from all over the world in an ancient structure with it’s ancient ritual.  Sacred in a community way, unlike the sacredness of the small, quiet places of worship and community we had passed through

Even the camaraderie of the Camino didn’t last far into Santiago, past the noon mass.  Few Buen Camino’s.

As we mingle with tourists and locals the focus is blurred, the goals now to varied except to share a common space, entranced by a common marvel of ancient engineering, worship and geography.  We are here and the so are the tour groups.  Some  dazed looking walkers still hefting backpacks, sticks and blisters.  Many tired pilgrims refreshed and bathed, now shopping and eating and celebrating. Resting in the city.    The bikers mingle with police who carry automatic weapons  The beggars and the souvenir sellers. The tourist and those who live by the tourist’s visit.  Movement but peaceful still, a hushed chatter not a still quiet, as sacred as in the forest but hushed sounds of sacred space interspersed with street musicians, laughter and traffic.  Delivery trucks.  Commuters.  Street cafe’s and relaxed eating, rest and proceed to the next stop.

Home? or onward to Finesterre?

I am home.  And grateful.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago

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