Monthly Archives: March 2011

“Pilgrim Blessing” by Macrina Wiederkehr

May flowers spring up where your feet touch the earth.

May the feet that walked before you bless your every step.

May the weather that’s important be the weather of your heart.

May all of your intentions find their way into the heart of the Divine.

May your prayers be like flowers strewn for other pilgrims.

May your heart find meaning in unexpected events.

May friends who are praying for you carry you along the way.

May friends who are praying for you be carried in your heart.

May the circle of life encircle you along the way.

May the broken world ride on your shoulders.

May you carry your joy and your grief in the backpack of your soul.

May you remember all the circles of prayer throughout the world.


It is another Camino miracle!

As I am preparing to walk the Via de la Plata this spring, the Camino is working its magic for me already. My friend and I walked the Camino Frances in spring of 2008, and one of our most memorable stays was at the 300 year old house associated with St. Francis of Assisi in Tosantos. Two very wonderful men, Taqui and Jose Luis, were our kind and giving hosts. During our brief stay, we just felt secure, loved, vulnerable, open, embraced, and comfortable in a way that is hard to define. What a gift was given to us! From the fresh flowers on the tables to the communal cooking, the walk to see the church of our Lady carved into the hillside, to the prayers for those who had gone before us, it was just perfect.

Up to that point I had not been praying that much. But leaving the prayer for my son, Justin, opened the flood gates. I had been carrying the weight of his illness for a long time. For several days Tannis and I would just look at each other and say with a smile, “Look at the atmosphere those 2 men created!”

You meet these incredible people on the Camino who change or touch your life.  You think, “How sad that I will never see them again and be able to tell them the profound impact that they made on my life.” The Hospitaleros (volunteer hosts) give so freely of themselves, never knowing if those pearls of kindness that they cast out ever take hold. As in our “real lives”, we all just keep on trying.

My journey in 2008 resulted in writing a book which incorporated the drawings that I did each day. I wanted to share that imagery with fellow Pilgrims, and perhaps inspire others, who might otherwise doubt themselves, to walk the Camino. Recently I got an email from a woman who had bought my book and was inquiring about purchasing the original drawing of the house at Tosantos. A flurry of emails later, it happened that not only does she know Taqui and Jose Luis very well, but Taqui was visiting her here in the Seattle area. They came to my home, and I got to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Can you imagine, I not only got to see him, but in my own living room half a world away. Who says miracles don’t happen here and now? I am so grateful to be able to tell Taqui that he made a difference in my life, and I am pretty sure the lives of many other Pilgrims. The work they do is so important, and it is strengthening the global community in such a hopeful and peaceful way. I look forward with great anticipation to the day I will be a Hospitalera myself, and in some small way contribute to the energy and spirit of the Camino.

Who is Scarlett O’Hara?

I think the best way to grow is by leaping into the unknown and finding out that you can do it! A sense of humor and adventure is key. Finding your passion one step at a time is essential.

I have had horrified looks when I have said that Scarlett O’Hara is one of my all time favorites and a role models. OK, she did some bad things. But I loved her spirit and conviction, and the fact that she never gave up. The things that people miss who do not approve of Scarlett are this: She worked with what she had in the society and times in which she lived. Who are we to judge her? Have we ever found ourselves in her situation? If not, how do we know what we are capable of doing? If she did not get what she wanted and needed, she found another way to get what she wanted and needed. (This is one of my favorite mantras.) She worked hard, was intelligent, confident, and could hold her own with anyone. She may have appeared selfish but she took everyone else along with her when they were starving, needed a place to live, and could not get it together for themselves. When their world fell apart, she was strong and everyone leaned on her to put it back together. She did not abandon them when it would have been easier to do so, so she was not entirely selfish. She was passionate about life. She was sure of herself and her pathway, even though it was not always right. At least she took action, and dealt with the consequences of her decisions later if they were bad.  “I won’t think about that now. I will think about it tomorrow” is a classic line.  Instead of being paralyzed by fear she found a way to survive.

She must have been a Scorpio…..I know how she feels. It is hard to be a passionate Scorpio sometimes. I often wonder if reading that book when I was about 15 influenced the way I looked at life, or if it touched me because it is the way I look at life. Who knows? Did I just say that? Did I just compare myself to Scarlett? Don’t tell Rhett! I usually know the  limit of how far I can push my luck. The worst thing that could happen to both of us if to hear, “Frankly, my Dear, I don’t give a damn.”

If you have not read the book and have only seen the movie, you really should read it. Scarlett was a far different character in the book.

Who put the hot water bottle in the front of my yoga pants?

I was diligently working out on the rowing machine. I thought, “Man, that  lady really needs to work out!” I had caught sight of myself in the mirror. As I started to laugh it jiggled and looked like a full hot water bottle had been stuffed in my pants. What kind of a sadistic person would put mirrors in a place like that? How rude!

Obviously I have let myself gain about 10 pounds this year. It does not take much to pack it on. You just need to go on a trip and eat restaurant food for 10 days, stop exercising for that period, and “VOILA!” It is like magic how quickly things appear. I complained to my Doctor about this and she told me that I was a survivor, and if the world came to an end because everyone else starved I would still be here because my body is so efficient in storing calories. I did not like answer, so I found a new Doctor……my new one told me that “Sturdy people do better as they age.” I don’t like that answer either! I do not want to be aging, sturdy, or the last person left on the planet.

Should I just give up and be fat? No, I will not quit because I want to be healthy and active. I want to be fit enough to enjoy skiing, riding, hiking and all of the other fun things we have at our doorstep here in the Pacific Northwest. I still have continents to explore and people to meet. I want to be able to live my dreams, but I also feel strongly that we have an obligation to those who love us to take care of ourselves. Our choices effect not only our own well being, but everyone around us as well. Never surrender!

How to Walk 550 miles and lose Three Stinking Pounds

The food and wine in Spain are wonderful. I am looking to indulging fully in the local cuisine and hedonistically enjoying each and every bite!

As we climbed mountains, forded rivers, slogged through mud, as traversed the open plains carrying 20 to 30 pounds in our backpacks, we burned bazillions of calories. We also ate like we have never been able to eat before. That level of exercise day after day uses up your body reserves of energy, and you can not get enough to eat. It was so awesome to know that you could devour everything in sight and not gain any weight.

Some days we had picnics under the open skies consisting of fresh bread, fruit, chocolate, salami, olives and cheese.

Other days we ate these huge Spanish Sandwiches called Bocadillas that consisted of a 3 egg omelette with ham and cheese, and an entire loaf of bread. Yes, they really are that big! Although you could not even get your mouth around them, somehow they seem to disappear on a regular basis.

We had Café con Leche (strong coffee with hot milk similar to a latte) and fresh hot donuts at every opportunity.

We feasted in wonderful restaurants in the cities, and ate huge communal Pilgrim dinners each night at 8:30. We often thought we would perish without food by the time they began to serve dinner at Ocho media, or 8:30.

And then there was dolce, or dessert….

At the end of the trip Tannis had lost 10% of her body weight and I lost 3 pounds. However, I had re-arranged the package, my muscles were a rock and my bottom looked fantastic!

Da- da- da-da-da-da: Charge!

Most women shop at Nordstroms or Macys: we shop at Recreational Equipment Inc. We needed to pick up a bunch of equipment for our trek, so we spent the day at the Seattle REI. Just look at all of those socks……so many choices. Your feet are the most important consideration on a long trek, as they will take hundreds of miles of abuse. I settled on coolmax moisture wicking liner socks, over which I will wear a padded hiking sock. Using a double sock method helps prevent blisters. I purchased 1 pair heavily padded, 2 pairs medium weight, and 1 pair lightweight socks made by Thorlo. This will give me the ability to make more room in my boots when my feet swell, and I know they will.

We have already chosen our boots and have been breaking them in for some time. Merrill lightweight Hiking boots for me, Keen’s for my friend. There are many great choices out there, but it is very important to pick the one that fits your particular foot, has a good stiff sole, is lightweight and waterproof. They will need an extra shot of waterproofing before we go.

We had fun getting into new sleeping bags to test out the fit. We chose down / fiber REI bags that weigh 2.2 pounds and will stuff into a small waterproof compression sack. If down gets wet, it does not insulate at all, so it is imperative to keep it dry. The waterproof bags work great and compress down to about 6” across by 12 or 14” long so that our bags will fit inside of the bottom of our packs. I also wanted a bag that could unzip all the way to the bottom so that it can be used like a quilt if we get too warm. These bags are great! Can you say snuggle time?

Then there was the trip to ExOfficio for the long sleeve shirt, t-shirts, pants, hats and accessories. We were so exhausted that we spent the next few hours at the Spa. Does this bode ill for our checkbooks or make a statement about our endurance?

A Revolting Discovery

I was just thinking of how comfy and broken in my hiking boots were. I turned them upside down to discover that the tread was worn down in several places nearly to the substructure. I guess I broke them in too well. This is terrible! The last thing you want to do is set out on a long trek with brand new boots. Your boots will take a lot of abuse and are the very foundation that you will be walking on.

This brings up the lesson that you should do a complete equipment check a month or 2 before departure. If some items are worn out, broken or missing you still have time to make wise decisions about what to purchase, and order it if necessary. Check to see if the mouthpiece and the water bladder are in good shape in your hydration system. Can you imagine starting a trek with a leaky hydration system that gets everything in your pack damp, wets your pants for you, and does not quench your thirst to boot? Think about any pack straps or buckles that rubbed you wrong and do something to correct the situation. Make sure your camera and phone batteries will take a charge, and if they will not buy new ones. Re waterproof your pack, boots and jacket. Well, you get the idea: I am talking about a very thorough equipment check.

When I realized the poor condition of my boots I immediately walked the 2 miles to REI and selected new ones. Of course the model I loved was no longer available, so I had to choose a different style and brand. I walked in those for a week and realized they were not quite right, so it was back to REI. I finally got a pair that I hope will be great. I have adequate time to field test them and break them in before I leave for Spain. Of course this means wearing them 24-7, and my husband does not like that very much in bed at night. It is my turn to disturb his sleeping for once!

The Camino de Santiago is about to be discovered in America

Although the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is well-known in many parts of the world, it is just coming to the attention of Americans. Only 2% of those who finish the Camino are from all the Americas, but I believe that is about to change as our awareness grows.

PBS is completing a documentary on the Camino de Santiago that should air within the year. The film beautifully captures the feeling of the landscape, the spirit of community, and the varied people walking this ancient Pilgrimage Route. For a preview of this documentary, you may view a trailer on the web at:

Additionally, “The Way” produced by Emilio Estevez, has been released in Europe to wonderful reviews. This film is scheduled to be released in theaters in America in the fall of 2011. Martin Sheen portrays an American father who travels to France to recover the body of his estranged son, who died while traveling the Route Napoleon in his first days on the Camino. The father is compelled to walk the Camino himself, carrying his son’s ashes, and finish the journey together.

The “American Pilgrims on the Camino” is a nationally based society of people who support the Camino. The very first regional chapter was authorized in March 2010, and it is right here in the Puget Sound area. There are approximately 65 local members, with a rapidly growing interest.

The Artist’s Journey is a fun, positive look at two American women experiencing the Camino day to day. It is a refreshingly honest book that will transport you every step of the way, and is a different view than offered by other books on this subject. Visually rich, it will be a great addition to your bookshelves! For a look at the drawings contained in the book, please visit

What Artist materials will I take with me?

I am in a quandary, as always, about what materials to take on the Via de la Plata. Why does there never seem to be a perfect answer? Last time I took a small set of self-contained,black,  pigment based ink  pens, 1 pencil and eraser, and a 9 X 12 Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook with heavy paper suitable for Mixed Media. Even this weighed over 2 pounds.

Before I left, I field-tested every brand of pen sold as art quality pens. I wrote on various papers, then held them under running water! Some bled, ran or changed color immediately. Then I left them exposed to direct sunlight for 2 weeks with ½ of each sample covered up. Many changed color and faded. Micron Pens by Sakura and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are both rock solid. They do not run, fade, or bleed and I highly recommend these 2 brands.

I thought I had the perfect compact art kit but, needless to say, I had never done pen and ink. I was unaware that it was such a detailed and time-consuming process. It took hours, even days, to complete each drawing once I returned home. However, I love that they are reminiscent of etchings that were the method of portraying imagery long before photographs existed. It creates a bridge between the past and present by creating contemporary imagery with an ancient technique. This time I will definitely still take my  pen and ink, but I want to try a fresher and more spontaneous approach. And I really missed my colors!  I have looked deep into my artist’s heart, and I have a premonition of a shopping trip in the near future.

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