Saturday, January 6, 2018

Changing the guard

I have decided to shift this blog over to WordPress. The new address is, If you type this into your internet browser it should pull up my WordPress blog. This is all a bit of  a mystery but we shall sort it out as we go. For now we are off in the morning to Spain. Let's just see how this all works out in the next few weeks. I will tweak this site as time allows and will do much more once Robin and I return home in early February.

buen camino,

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Another winter's walk

Camino Ignaciano: Zumarraga to Arantzazu, Basque mountains
The Advent and Christmas seasons have come and gone and Robin and I have enjoyed them immensely. It is our favorite time of the year. During this period we have looked both inward and outward, and have decided it is now time to get underway once again. We have been home since this past February and are now more than ready to stretch our camino legs once again. We have settled on walking the first week of the Camino Ignaciano, Loiola to Logroño, and then continuing with the Camino Invierno, Ponferrada to Santiago. We will be leaving in early January. The Invierno is a new route for us, and we are anxious to set our feet upon it. But, in truth, the most important thing for us is just to be walking, and enjoying the solitude. We are never lonely during our off season walks. We actually are quite content to embrace the winter weather, the stillness and to marvel at the simple joys that each day provides. I must admit it is all a bit of a mystery. We simply go forward in faith armed with a belief that a journey has been set out before us and we just try to see it through as best we can.

We do share a sense of hope that regardless of what we encounter we will always be able to continue to move along the road to Santiago. It is that hope that brings us peace and joy as we lean into whatever challenges the road presents. God willing it all ends well, and it usually does.

Peace be with you during this wonderful season and may many blessings follow you into the new year.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nada te turbe

I seem to be on a spiritual roll here so I will offer this powerful prayer from St. Theresa of Avila. I was listening to this at the Chrism mass as it was being sung by the choir from St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland. I always find this beautiful prayer reassuring. The text follows.

Nada te turbe;
nada te espante.
Todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda.
La pacienca
todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.

Let nothing trouble you;
nothing afright you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
overcomes all things.
The one who has God
wants for nothing.
God alone is enough.

Below is the recording from the 2016 Chrism Mass at St. Mary's in Portland. Robin, front row second from right, is singing as well. Beautiful prayer. Beautiful arrangement. Beautiful voices.

And so it began

Robin and I have been walking pilgrim roads for nearly seven years now. As I look back I can see more than just the length and breadth of these experiences. It has been a period of discovery that has often been confounding as well as awakening. When the pilgrim road first called I felt I was responding to a call to find more about my spiritual life. The pilgrim road with its long solitary days seemed perfectly suited to exploring my inner journey towards God. Back then I honestly thought that my relationship with God was sort of like sharing a seat with someone on a bus or train. You are in the same place at the same time, perhaps conversing, perhaps not. When the urge wells up to reach out in response to some inner motivation, then we speak trying to tease out some interesting thread that might be at best instructive (gaining wisdom) or more likely just trying to be present and pleasant. So there the stage is set. It is a belief system that places God somewhere where through prayer you can reach out for comfort, solace, and mercy. You are somewhere in your life and God is out there somewhere waiting for your call.

Today I feel quite differently. Perhaps the many long hours shuffling along the paths, hills and valleys of Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy have created in me a new space where I now believe God simply is. What of this then? How did I arrive here? In my experience, we all set out in life with some goals in mind. I suppose mine were typical. A happy marriage, a good job, able to pay the bills, and perhaps, even then, a sense that a spiritual relationship needed nurturing. So off we go into life following our hearts and most likely our best self interests. We move along discovering that some roads are better for us then others. Let's say we give the good roads, the ones that affirm our beliefs and reinforce our goals, a bright yellow arrow. These are the paths always to be taken. At other moments we find ourselves on a diversion and quickly realize that we have made a mistake. We sense that we must turn around and recapture the way that we lost. These paths we will award a nice big black X. Do not go there, do not continue, turn back. So it was over the years that I unknowingly created a locus of experiences that shaped many aspects of my life, including my relationship with God. So to the point. It now strikes me that we do not coexist with God side by side, but that God is us. For most of my adult life, being raised Catholic, I had this tortuous belief system that put us as failed sinners in pursuit of a loving forgiving God who would heal us with his mercy. A kind of us and Him relationship. We are here begging for mercy and He is there wondering what we are up to. Over time this belief of an existing separation between God and us changed to a more profound belief in singularity. Meaning that God is us, not just within us like some pleasant passenger sharing a seat, but truly is us as we are Him.

Yes, all this faith stuff is by its very nature mystical. Some people can never get there. It is just too much of a leap, but whether we acknowledge it or not (I believe) God, is there, is us. It also makes sense that this mystical singularity then supports the outpouring of God's love that is there to lead us beyond all the physical distractions and challenges of daily life. He would never just leave us adrift. He doesn't have his hands on the wheel. We are still doing the driving and making decisions, but a map is there for us to follow, or not. We decide whether to choose the bright yellow arrow or continue beyond the danger mark of the black X. Just a bit more about God's love. Remember this excerpt from scripture, "my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts." How true it is that we are so different from God, and thus our understanding of His love is limited to the emotional or physical aspect That we as humans know it. But, God's love is something totally different. Words are difficult to find to explain it. Again this is us, as humans, trying to figure out the nature of God's unlimited love. I guess we have to allow ourselves some room for error here, but let's just imagine a love that has no limits that starts from a place absent of self interest or self gratification. It starts from an totally empty space, pure humbleness, that then fills to overflowing with a boundless goodness that is offered to us if we are patient, still, searching, and receptive. We were created in God's image and likeness as christian teaching tells us, and so therefore as He is, we are also. We just have to try and live a life that reflects His grace. Yes, admittedly that is the tricky bit. But, I believe it is our nature to try to be Christ like. Heady stuff. Keep in mind these are my thoughts on my journey and where it has led me to date in my understanding of my Catholic faith. Your journey may take you someplace totally different, and your peace might be found following some other path. All I know is what I have encountered and related in this post. So, the pilgrim road still beckons. The search for wisdom continues. Admittedly, my faith occasionally runs more on the cooler side than the warmer. But, I now sense a joy, previously unfelt, for this life journey, although difficult at times, is leading me to a place free of darkness, and for that I feel forever blessed.

In closing, I heard Robin practicing this song she will be singing at mass this evening, Two were Bound for Emmaus. This excerpt from that song always touches me as it speaks to the road we all travel, our weariness, and our humanness.

"When the road makes us weary, when our labor seems but loss, when the fire of faith weakens and too high seems the cost, let the Church turn to its risen Lord who for us bore the cross, and we'll find our hearts burning at the sound of His voice." The complete song is below. Enjoy.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Home again.

We left Padrón on Sunday morning at 7:40 and walked into the Pilgrim Office in Santiago at 1:15 pm. We had a great final day. We outpaced the weather until just at the very end when a few showers hosed us off. But, it was arrival day and nothing was going to stand in the way of the special joy a pilgrim feels on that day. As always there are reflections on this or that or some other thing regarding the Camino just walked. I'll leave those for another day. For now, our joy is palpable. Robin and I have experienced the gift of yet another Camino, two if you throw in our days on the Camino Vasco. Santiago continues to seem like another home to us. It isn't perfect, but for those on the pilgrim road there is no sweeter place to walk into. Now we just need to exhale and relax. Actually we are pretty good at that as well. Prayers and blessings to all from Santiago. We will be shapeshifting into our other selves as of this coming Thursday when we once again return to our home state of Washington in the magnificent Pacific Northwest. Thanks to all who in some way shared this journey. Peace be with you.

John and Robin

Leaving Padrón. 

Arrival Santiago.

Prayers offered at the chapel at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. 

View from our room.

Changeable weather earlier today.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Padrón, but no peppers

We awoke a bit early at Torre de Rio, and started in on the breakfast that had been set out the night before. We had told the lady in the dining room the previous night that we would like to get underway before their preferred breakfast service at 9:00. So she had everything laid out for us. As we were enjoying our meal the day staff arrived and immediately asked us if we wanted something else such as eggs, bacon, ham, etc. So we signed up for the full meal deal and felt more than adequately nourished for the day's walk ahead. A taxi took us back into Caldas de Reis and dropped us off at the church. Five minutes later we were crossing the Roman bridge out of town and heading off to Padrón our destination for tonight. We caught yet another break with the weather and set out under clear, cool conditions. As the sun climbed over a ridge whose shadow had kept us fairly cool it's radiant heat now forced a halt and our jackets were peeled away. We proceeded uphill (mostly) and then downhill (somewhat) following a mix of paved roads and forest trails. In all it was a very good day's walk. We arrived in Padrón at 1:30, had nice cold Estrella Galicia and headed off to our hotel, the Chef Rivera. After some lunch and a shower we walked over to the Church of Santiago. The sacristan invited us up to the alter where the stone pilar to which, according to legend, the boat that brought St. James' remains to Spain was moored, now resides. We enjoyed our visit to the church, that is until a Spanish tour group laid siege, after which we quietly retreated. We strolled around a bit just enjoying the evening air, and eventually called it a night. We are Santiago bound in the morning. It is always a time of mixed emotions when our time on the pilgrim road draws to its end and life back home beckons us to return. But, God willing, we will find another road to walk when, once again, we are ready. For now let's just get to Santiago. More on that tomorrow. 

The Roman bridge out of Caldas de Reis

Leaving Caldas

Looking pretty good.

The countryside.

Eat your greens.

In Padrón.

The pilar. 

The pilar is just behind and below the altar slightly to the right of center.

Pilgrim statue in Padrón. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Pontevedra and then onwards to Caldas de Reis

We had a fine and uneventful walk to Pontevedra. The weather started out chilly but quickly warmed up and layers of clothing were peeled off. There were some hills to climb, and more stream bed rocks to hop, but with abundant sunshine, the day just seemed brilliant. We were feeling strong and walked at a good pace all day. Once we walked into Pontevedra we stopped at the first bar we could see and ordered our usual two cañas. Once our thirst was quenched we caught a cab to the Parador where we would spend the night. The price was quite reasonable with breakfast included. No complaints, we had a great room and the hotel was just steps from the Camino. 

Friday brought a few morning rain showers along for the ride. So, as we stepped out of our hotel we reached for our umbrellas as we set out for the bridge that would takes us across the river and set us on our way to Caldas de Reis. I would say within 45 minutes the umbrellas were back cinched alongside our packs. There was a little uphill work to do to climb out of Pontevedra, but after a couple of hours things really flattened out. We were walking in a shallow valley from that point on to Caldas, and it was pretty much dead flat. I wasn't watching the clock that closely but it seemed we left the Parador at 9:00, and walked into the palm lined church plaza in the center of Caldas at 1:15. We had kept up a good steady pace but our tongues were not hanging out as walked into town. Again, much like yesterday Robin and I both felt healthy and strong and the kilometers slipped by accordingly. Two great days walking that we thoroughly enjoyed. An added treat for us was the lodging I booked just outside of Caldas, the Torre do Rio. Very nice indeed. Beautiful building set on gorgeous grounds. It's worth trying I can assure you. Two more days to Santiago. We are off to Padrón tomorrow and will arrive in Santiago, in the rain, on Sunday. That's all for today. Time to start relaxing in our new digs. 

View from our apartment in Redondela 

Redondela awakens

Chapel just outside Pontevedra 

Pilgrim church in  Pontevedra 

Basilica of Santa Maria in Pontevedra 

House on the road to Caldas do Reis

It wasn't all road walking today

Church plaza in Caldas do Reis

Our backyard at Torre de Rio

The pool fed by a stream

New hotel to the left, ruins of old mill to their right

Covered patio

Robin and new friend