weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Conversion to Solidarity

One aspect of walking the Camino de Santiago, that Terri and I experienced, was how it tended to draw us closer to our fellow pilgrims over weeks of walking. I suspect it is the day after day of walking with each other, experiencing the joys, sorrows, pain and blisters of this long walk. There is great solidarity in the shared pain and joy of walking the Camino. The old saying “you have to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasin’s” or in this case “hiking boots” seems to ring true for truly understanding what it is like to walk 500 miles together.

I have been thinking this week, about the importance of solidarity, as I was reflecting on the ongoing protests following the killing of George Floyd by the Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin. We are at a critical moment, a tremendous shift is taking place in America. People coming together and taking to the streets, not just for one day, two days, three days, but constantly. The great suffering and pain of racial injustice that society has systematically imposed on people of color has reached an inflection point. Many are saying that they’re not going to stop until we get the change that we need to turn this around in terms of what’s happening to Black people. We really do still live in a racially tilted, inequitable, unfair society.

So, taking a lesson from our Camino walk, I say we need to start to move and walk day after day in solidarity with people of color. Real change can begin when we develop friendships with people of different backgrounds and life experiences so we can share their joys and sorrows and begin to feel their pain and the way life is more difficult for them than it needs to be.

I can tell you this by the experience I have had walking with my friend, Rob, who has been homeless and has many physical and mental handicaps. Life has not been kind to him and he has become someone most everyone has given up on. I began walking in solidarity now for over two years with him. I can not tell you how it has changed us both forever. No matter how many books I would have read, or classes I took, they would never have taught me what I have learned about homelessness and poverty and mental illness from walking with my friend, Rob.

Part of the radical work of justice is that we have to imagine something that no one has ever taught us before. There is much we can learn when we walk in solidarity with those that have experienced the pain and suffering of racial inequality. I know I will be seeking out any opportunity I can find in the weeks and months ahead to be converted by a solidarity walk with people of color.

I realize that there is a lot more change needed in our society to make lasting change to the systems that are the root of the social injustice but I see this as one step forward I can take.

May we all walk together for justice and peace,

John

Photograph of the Week

Solidarity – The Forest and The Fern

This is an image I created recently from a silent walk alone on a hiking trail up near Darrington, Washington. I exited the trail when I saw the lighting, trees and sword fern and they looked so beautiful nested together. I created this very painterly effect from the photograph I captured.

Liminal Space – Between Two Worlds

20141007-O'Cebr-Triacast-12-EditLiminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next.”      Richard Rohr

Here is a quote to think about!

It seems to me that our world has entered a “Coronavirus Liminal Space“. We are “betwixt and between” two worlds. We are in a time of our lives like we have never experienced in our lifetimes. There is an opportunity now for us to think and act in new ways.

Our Camino experience was a “Liminal Space” for me as well. Walking the Camino just after I had retired from Boeing, I found myself  leaving behind one stage of my life and  entering my next stage of life. The Camino walk helped me to process, think and pray my way through as I headed into this new space, life after Boeing. It was a very special time in my life I will never forget.

I wrote a Camino blog post just after returning from the walk, called “Human Being vs Human Doing”. In this post, I was wondering how life would be different as I exited my “Camino liminal space”. I used the following quote:

“If we are not careful, it is all too easy to fall into becoming more of a human doing than a human being, and forget who is doing all the doing, and why.”

I think that the “Coronavirus Liminal Space” has helped me to focus again on the value of being vs doing. I am finding that it has slowed me down, much like our long Camino walk did.

In the slowing down, I have found myself much more aware and present in the moment. I am working on trying to be “happy in my own skin” without a lot of doing, just being. I am seeing that I am not defined by what I have accomplished, or what I have purchased or what great trip we have been on recently.

Thanks to my “Coronavirus liminal space” I am seeing life anew and trying to think and act in new ways.

My prayer is your all remain safe and healthy!

Blessings and all grace to you,

John

Photograph of the Week

Liminal Space

I thought this image kind of fit the idea of this blog “A liminal space” since it evokes a sense of timelessness. The image of this old gnarly tree was taken during a trip to Colorado in 2012. I revisited it recently and added the cool night sky using a “sky replacement” feature in the Luminar 4 editing software tool.

 

 

 

Groundhog Day

well-its-groundhog-day-again-gigapixel-studioOne of the things that happens to you when you walk, day after day, continuously for over a month, is everyday begins to feel the same. Each day had a similar routine and rhythm to it. You wake up, get out as quick as you can before dawn and start walking, follow the yellow arrows all day till you find a place to stay the night, shower, do your wash, eat dinner and journal and fall asleep to do it all over again the next day.

Terri and I have been feeling like we are re-living our Camino days again as we are now about month into social isolation lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I complain that I do not even know what day of the week it is anymore. They all seem the same.

This made got me thinking recently of the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day”, starring Bill Murray as Phil Collins, a TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event, is caught up in a time loop, repeatedly reliving the same day. Day after day, Phil Collins wakes up in the same location at the same time on Groundhog day.

He is confused, disoriented and questions why is this happening to him.

Does that sound familiar to any of you? I know I am experiencing some of these same emotions these days.

Watching “Groundhog Day” again this past week I reflected on this movie and I started to see some deeper meaning and truths that were helpful to me and maybe will be for you as well. You see…

Bill Murray plays this very shallow and self-centered guy. He feels that the whole world revolves around him but now he was face to face with a new reality. Everyday was the same as the day before. He becomes more and more frustrated, confused and disoriented.

This poor guy was praying for a change in his circumstances. Yet…

“The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.”

I know that, for me, I have been feeling a bit like poor Phil Collins a lot lately. I want long to have return back to all the wonderful connections with family and friends we enjoyed. It seems like every day there is something we had planned that is now cancelled. In fact, looking down the road it seems there will be more ahead.

So, what to do about this? Maybe we need to take our lead from Bill Murray’s character, Phil Collins. He figured out how to get out of his “personal hell” he was experiencing. He decided to change how he was living. He found happiness not by feeling sorry for himself and but by deciding to be a better version of himself.  To acquire new skills and looking out of himself to others.

We all are suffering losses, can we use this pain and loss to transform us? It is time to look inside ourselves and see what needs changing. How can I be more generous and thoughtful? Can I develop a new skill that will bring joy to myself and others?

When will these “groundhog days” end? There many things outside our control these days, yet there is one area we can control. Making the decision to change ourselves.

Blessings to all and stay safe and well!

John

Photograph of the Month

Unnamed Falls – Mt Rainier

I sure can’t wait to get back to hiking again!

Here is an image I took of a unnamed falls somewhere on the trail leading up to Mystic Lake on the North side of Mt Rainier. I took the image back in August of 2006.

 

Just Keep Walking

20140917-Just keep walkingOne of the ways that Terri and I dealt with the enormous challenge of walking 500 miles was to not focus on how far away we were from the end of our walk. This was really helpful especially in the first week or two of walking. We never really focused on how many more miles of the walk we had left to go till we got within the last 100 miles or so. This little trick really helped. We only allowed ourselves to focus on the day ahead. We just kept our head down and kept walking.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently as we endure week after week of staying in our homes and not venturing out except for essential activity. It is truly unprecedented times we are living through right now. We are on a very long walk together in social isolation. The end of it seems so far away it is hard to imagine we might have to go to early summer till we get relief.

So, my advice to you all is to “just keep walking” and do not think about how far we have to go yet. Focus on the now. Just what we have this day in front of you. The Camino slowed us down quite a bit and we just focused on the beauty all around us each day.

I pray your and your family are safe and well and let us all keep focused on our day ahead and look for the beauty all around us.

Blessings and Beauty to you all,

John

Photograph of the Week

See The Inner Beauty

To see the beauty around us we must slow down and really look at all of creation and the inner beauty of those around us. A humble heart is also a great place to start as well.

This creative image is a composite of two images I took one from this year during our stay in near Santa Cruz, California and the other during a hike to Fremont Lookout in Mt Rainier National Park.

 

Patient Endurance

141006-Camino Photos-5-1-EditI was reflecting this morning the virtue of patience. I recognized that it took a lot patience to walk all the way across Spain! This long walk requires one to endure a lot of physical pain and discomfort and to overcome and endure that emotional ups and downs that are seemly inevitable. It takes a lot of “patient endurance” to get all the way to Santiago de Compostela!

In my reflection this morning, I was also thinking of how love is tied directly to being patient. For indeed, it seems to me the heart of patience is love. For as the Bible says, “Love bears all things”. It such an essential virtue to have if we want to really love others.

In our caring for our two grandchildren two days a week, we certainly have been reminded of our calling to remain patient when our patience has “worn thin” and we are about to “lose it”. It takes a lot of grace to remain patient and calm and to instruct and guide them in their development. We know from research on early child development, that these first five years are critical and I would dare say that patience is a key virtue for all care givers of the young.

In our lives we have a choice each day on how we live our lives out. Do we want to be a more loving all our relationships? What does it take? I think a good place to start is to work on building the virtue “patient endurance”.

Blessings and grace to you,

John

Photograph of the Week

Wings Like Eagles

Speaking of patience, I know that great wildlife photographers have to have a lot of patience. They are also very knowledgeable of the ways and behaviors of the animals they are hoping to photograph. They put themselves into position and wait and sometimes they wait a long time and never get the shot they want.

I have never really been that great at wildlife photography but sometimes you do get lucky and I sure did when I captured this shot of an eagle up in the Skagit a couple a weeks ago. This eagle I think got tired of me talking his picture so much and then just took off. I snapped the shutter at just the right moment. Viola!

Wonder and Awe

20140909-22-Pano-35x10-Final-Small-studioOne of the great benefits of walking the Camino de Santiago is that you spend most of your waking hours outside walking and enjoying the scenery and landscapes, the sunrises and sunsets. Our very first day of the walk, walked in the dark by the light of a moon till we got into the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and experience a gorgeous sunrise over the valley below (see photo at top of this blog entry). We were in awe of the beauty of nature. We were filled with wonder and expectations of what was to come.

Rabbi Abraham Herschel has written in his book, “God, In Search of Man“, that awe is not an emotion; it is a way of understanding. He says:

“Awe is itself an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves.”

Many times during our walk, we experienced awe, sometimes it was in the beauty of nature, or at a breathtaking Cathedral. We also experienced awe at the wonderful hospitality and welcome from those we met along the way. Both Terri and I were very open to whatever came along our path and tried to keep ourselves ready to be “awed”. This is a good way to live our lives. We should keep our eyes looking for the wonder and the awe in life. Rabbi Herschel is right when he said:

” I prayed for wonder instead of happiness and you gave them to me.”

When we got back home, one of my promises to myself was to spend more time outdoors now that I was retired. I have largely held to this promise and I can say I have experienced many times with “wonder and awe”.

Let’s keep working on finding the “awe” that is all around us!

Blessings and all grace be with you!

John

Photograph of the Week

Perry Creek Waterfall

I captured this image during  a hike a few years ago up Perry Creek. It was definitely and “awe moment”!

Wilderness Time

20140930-Leon-Maza-22-studio

The time walking the Camino was “Wilderness Time”.  Since the total time to walk the Camino takes about 5 weeks there was lots of what I call “Wilderness Time”. Time to “listen to your life”.

Solitude changes your perspective on time.

One of the gifts of walking the Camino is it gets you out of your normal experience of time, which is synchronous, moment to moment, “the commute to work/do the dishes” sense of time.

Wilderness time is slower, richer, deeper. We have time for our soul to catch up with our crazy busy mind. Time to go to the “school of silence” so we can “listen to our life.”

“In the wilderness, life is stripped of distractions. It is quiet… Solitude in the wilderness makes irrelevant all the people-pleasing habits that have become interwoven into our personality…When you get down to the core of yourself, you find a different, more primeval country, and in it a deep yearning to care and connect. It is where your heart and soul reside.” (The Second Mountain by David Brooks)

I learned a lot about myself during this long walk besides the fact that I was able to walk that far. I learned that the first part of my life was complete. I had achieved a lot at Boeing and it was a great place to work. I really enjoyed my time there and the caring and connections with all those I worked with over the years. Yet, I could sense a “second mountain” was ahead (reference to the great book I am reading). There was more “caring and connections” I wanted to make. I realized I was just getting started on establishing some new connections and making new commitments.  My heart and soul were in alignment.

Looking back now over 5 years later. I do see how this long walk was a pivot point in my life. It was the bridge from my first mountain to my second mountain. I will be forever grateful for my Camino “wilderness time”.

Blessings and grace to you,

John

Photograph of the Week

Ferns Abandoned

Took this image during a hike to Sugarloaf Mountain up near Anacortes.

 

Our Choices

140921-Camino Photos-4-final” It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowlings

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices come from a deep sense of who you are.” Fred Rogers

Choices, choices, choices. We all face them each day, big and small.

I like these quotes. They provided me some insights into why some choices, I make I look back on, I feel good about and but other choices, not so much.

One of the great benefits of walking the Camino was the long portions of each day where you are alone with your thoughts. Lots of time to contemplate and think more deeply about things.

I remember pondering what my life might look like after Boeing. What would I do when when got back home and I began my life as a retired Boeing employee. I had time to really think about my choices. I had time to consider what I wanted to do next. What were my special gifts and talents and how could I align them to my beliefs and values? In being able to retire full time, I had been given the gift of time. What would I do with it?

When I returned home from the walk, I could not wait to get started with my life after Boeing. To begin making choices.

Looking back now over five year later, I see how I did make some good choices that were in alignment with my beliefs and values. I can see my choice to be active in hiking year round, has brought new friendships into my life that I now treasure. I love being in the forests and mountains with my friends who are also so in love with nature and all its beauty.

I love the choice that Terri and I made to be primary caregivers two days a week for our grandchildren who are now ages 3 and 5. This has brought us joy unending! This might have been my favorite choice of all as it has far exceeded any expectation I had for it.

It is good for us to reflect back on our choices. It is good for us to ponder our beliefs and values too. When we make choices that aligned with beliefs and values, I have found we live a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Blessings and grace be with you,

John

Photograph of the Week

Glacier Patterns

I am a lover of patterns in nature. I love capturing them and then exploring how they can be transformed and enhanced and brought out in fullness in the digital darkroom.

Photograph was from Glacier Bay NP of a seawater glacier. Patterns in glacier were so interesting and pleasing to eye.

Patient Waiting

20141009-Sarria-Protom-195-studioOne important characteristic needed to walk the Camino de Santiago is patience. It is a long, long walk and there is nothing quick or easy about it. You undergo a test of you patience throughout the walk. It is one step after another in an what seems at times to be too much to take. Yet, I find it so interesting that it is in my patient waiting and endurance I learn so much about myself.

I am not someone that likes this patient waiting as I often like to just skip ahead and skim over things to get to the end. That is why I love thinking and meditating on this most profound quote I read from Teilhard de Chardin. It causes me to pause and re-think about the value and purpose of patient waiting.

“We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let the grow, let the shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.”

The Camino was an important part of my life as it provided such an excellent time to work on this area of my life. Yet, as my blog states “We are all pilgrims” and everyday I find more and more opportunities to be patient and to let things mature and grow gradually without my impatient demanding ways trying to force things.

It is ok, to be on the way, waiting patiently to see what will unfold. I pray that we all learn to accept within ourselves

“The anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” (Teilhard de Chardin)

Blessings and grace be with you,
John

Photograph of the Month

Three on a Tree

I love symmetry in nature. I saw the three crows in the top of the tree and figured it might be something cool to work with later in the creative post processing stage.

Keep The People You Love Close

141015-Camino Photos-10-studio“It always helps to have people we love beside us when we have to do difficult things in life.” Fred Rogers

This is a quote from a book I am reading on the life and work of Fred Rogers, the genius creator and star of the public television show, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. It is an inspiring story of a true humble and authentic man with a true love of children. He is someone I have come to really admire and want to emulate.

Fred Roger’s quote is so true. We all face difficult things in life and Terri and I sure faced many during our long walk across Spain. Physical and emotional pain were something we faced almost daily in our Camino walk.

What a blessing it was indeed to have each other to lean on during our walk! Each difficulty we faced together and we worked our way through them one at a time. After a couple weeks of walking, we became very weary and tired of the walking. This long walk can take a toll on your body. Yet we learned quickly that the key to making this long walk together, was to lean on each other. To love and care for each other.

What a great lesson for us all today to learn and live out each day. Life is a long journey that is filled with difficult things that we must face. Oh, how much easier it is to have those we love beside us in these times. Facing it all alone makes our journey so much harder. We need each other. Let’s hold each other fast as we faced life’s difficulties.

Blessings and grace to you all,

John

Photograph of the Week

Liberty Bell Grandeur

This is one of my favorite photographs I have taken this year and I wanted to share it with you as well. This image was captured from the Washington Pass Overlook in early October this year. The mountain is called Liberty Bell and it is at the top of the North Cascades pass.

The yellow trees at the base of the mountain are Larch trees. They are interesting in that they are pine trees that drop their pine needles each fall,  just like the deciduous trees that turn color and drop their leaves.