weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

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Every Person Has A Story

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Sonder

“The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed…”

Sonder, is this a word? Well, it has some urban roots (meaning someone started it and lots of others started using it) and I liked it, when I read it, because I truly believe “every person has a story.”

One of the cool things that happens, when you walk the Camino, is you get to meet lots of other pilgrims doing the same thing. In short order, you become bonded together by your experience. Terri and I, met lots of great people from all over the world and they all had a story to tell, not just of their experience on the Camino, but of their lives. Over the time, we collected a “network of pilgrims”. What was really cool, was at the end of the walk, we ended up connecting back together again with many of the “pilgrim friends”. It was fascinating to learn of each other’s stories.

It is one of life’s lessons we all need to learn, every person has a story, and sometimes the stories are not pretty because live is complex.

“For life is difficult for everyone. Everyone is hurting. We don’t need to blame anyone. We are all beset with the same issues. Understanding and accepting this truth can help us forgive each other and then forgive ourselves.” (Fr Ron Rolheiser, Wrestling with God)

There is something powerful in this when we view the world this way.

I seen this in the last year, as I have spent considerable time with my friend, Rob, who is homeless. I thought I knew his story but I did not. It was only when I “walked with him in his pain” that I began to start to understand his story, and yes, the story was not as I thought. His story has affected my story and I have have learned powerfully, “every person has a story”. I now try my best to hold to suspend my judgment and tell myself, I wonder what this person’s story is?

I hope this inspires you as well to ask this question, when you encounter another “pilgrim” that is making their way through life.

Blessings to you all!

John

Photograph of the Week

Waiting For The Storm

“Good art is good precisely because it takes that complexity and shines a light on it in a way that doesn’t resolve the tension too easily.” (Fr Ron Rolheiser, Wrestling with God).

I liked this quote as it “hit a cord” with me. I always try with my photography to “tell a story”.

The image I selected for this week’s “Photograph of the Week”, is one I took back in 2009, and has been my best seller by far and is truly loved for the story it seems to tell.

The image is complex and it does not resolve the tension. You want to linger on the Adirondack chairs by the shore, but there is a huge rainstorm coming. You should leave quick but something about the color of the waters and the beauty of this coming storm makes you want to linger despite the approaching rainstorm. So you stay because

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”  Bob Marley

 

It is the people who make a house a home

20141001-Maza-Astor-41-2One of the important experiences of walking the Camino, is spending the evening/nights in the Alberques, along the way with your fellow pilgrims. The Albergues, are like hostels, as they are designed for community living.  You share bedrooms and bathrooms and common kitchens and dining areas. By staying in the Albergues, you can draw even closer to some of the folks you have met along the way. You end up getting to know each other better as you share your Camino experiences over dinner. One time we even went to a store and made a dinner together. Now that was really fun!

I was thinking about how powerful shared experiences are, when they are discussed over a nice meal together. You draw together as you talk about your day. It is the same as well, with our family homes.

We are planning to sell our family home next Spring, to move to a smaller one level home or condo. This is what got me thinking about what really makes a house a home. What gives a house its real value is NOT the building, however grand or beautiful it is, it is the people who occupy it, who make a house a home. It is all those memories we build up over time in this house that make it home. It is those family meals, where we share the best part of our day (a great new family tradition that our son-in-law brought to our meals). It is all the happy and sad times we have experienced together in the home.

I know that Terri and I will be sad for a time to leave this wonderful house that has been our home for these past 33 years.  I also know that the next house/condo will slowly begin again to be home as we share this our new house or condo with our family and friends.

I hope that this coming week, you have the chance to experience the wonderful joy of Thanksgiving dinner with family/friends in the house of one of your family or friends.

Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving!

John

P.S. Not to worry, Terri and I are not planning to move far, as we are hoping to stay right here in Edmonds, when we move next Spring.

Photograph of the Week

Morning Sun Rays

I love the early fall mornings when you have the combo of fog and sun because there can be a lot of great photographic opportunities. This image was captured during our long drive down the Suiattle River Road. I noticed the unique rays of morning sunlight and fog. We stopped the car and jumped out and walked around to find just the right spot to capture this image.

 

Change Often – Silence is Golden

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“In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” Blessed John Henry Newman

I have always liked this quote, I guess because it reminds me, of how important it is to be open to changes, especially changes within myself that make me a “better version of myself”.

Walking the Camino, I believe, certainly offers opportunities for a lot of reflection on one’s life and changes that you might want to work on when the walk is over. As it turned out, we walked the Camino just after I retired in March of 2014, which provided some “fertile ground” to reflect on life after “Boeing”.

During the silence of the walk, I was able to process better what I envisioned life might look like for me after retirement. I was renewed and excited to get started once we returned. Since returning I have become completely engaged with family (taking care of our grandchildren two days a week), hiking once a week (year round), extended travel to some beautiful parts of the world, as well engaging and volunteering with different Church ministries. I really do love the fact that I am able to say “yes” more often to new opportunities. It is truly one of the blessings of being retired.

We all have opportunities that come our way, that challenge us to come out of our “comfort zone”, and move us closer to being the “best version of ourselves”. I believe that, the times we are most likely to reflect on changes to our life or the direction we are going, is in silence. The Camino surely provided that for us.

So, I will end this blog today, with this quote I read the other day to help us all remember that “silence can indeed be golden” and wonderful fertile ground for changes.

“the more chaotic our life becomes, the more we need to balance it with silence.”  Saint Bruno (1030-1101)

Blessings to your all,

John

Photograph of the Week

Silence is Golden

I captured this image during a hike to the North Cascades Pass area, in early October, at the height of the fall Larch tree color change. My friend Brenda Reeves, is in the foreground and my other good friend, Bob Maier, is resting behind the big rock (not seen). A truly wonderful spot to soak in the beauty of the mountains and partake in some silent time together.

Turn To The Suffering Ones

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“When people turn toward the suffering ones in their midst, the entire community is transformed.”  Xavier Le Picho

There is no question, when you walk 500 miles there is some suffering that goes with walking that far. Terri was a real hero, as she was definitely suffering, with the stress fractures she developed during the walk. She was in pain for a good portion of the walk. She suffered and endured the pain and she was not alone. We saw so many pilgrims with injuries that just kept going and some sustained injuries, so bad, they were not able to continue and had to end their walk early.

It is amazing how close one draws to the other pilgrim walkers during this walk. I wonder, if it is the suffering that is shared that draws you closer. I guess that is why I liked the quote above, because it got me thinking about the suffering of those in our midst today.

I had a very intense experience this past summer of helping a friend that is very broken physically, emotionally and mentally and is also homeless. He suffers greatly. I did my very best to walk with him in his suffering. I tried my best not to put my expectations on him but simply “to turn to him in his suffering” and help him in the smallest ways I could. I can tell you I have been transformed in a very good way by this experience. I have a much deeper compassion and understanding for the poor and especially the homeless. My relationship with my friend has been changed and I can say we are now truly “brothers”.

We all have opportunities to turn to those around us who are suffering and to walk with them. It is not an easy walk but I can tell you it will transform you into a better place.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Rocky Mountain High

Rocky Mountain National Park is truly a treasure of a National Park. I captured this image during the drive from Estes Park to the 12,000 ft high point. I fell in love with the boulders and rocks of Rocky Mountain Park. I loved this formation in the foreground.

Little Acts of Kindness and Thoughtfulness

bunkbeds alburgue

When one walks the Camino, the traditional “Camino Way”, is to stay the night in the Albergues, that are located all across the way. An Alburgue is a hostel, which means you share in all the common spaces (kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms). A typical Alburgue has several rooms with multiple bunk beds in each room. Needless to say, you are in close quarters with all your fellow pilgrims. I remember our first night of the Camino we were in a very large hall, that had maybe 40 bunk beds in it!

When you are living this close to your fellow pilgrims, it is important regardless of how tired you are, to practice “little acts of kindness and thoughtfulness” with your fellow pilgrims. You see that is the grease needed to keep the gears from not grinding.

You build a community of fellow pilgrims, when you walk the Camino. You share the joys and the pains of the walk together and you experience a close fellowship with those you meet along the way. This, I found, helped me when I was tired and worn down, to be “the best version of myself” in those close quarters.

As is often the case, the lessons of the Camino apply to our everyday lives too. Take for example our families. You see, building and growing our family relationships, is hard work. All our families experience times when we are worn down, tired, stressed and we can not even sometimes be in the same room with each other. Yet just like the fellow Camino pilgrims, we have walked a long way together and we have shared the joys and sorrows and pain. What we must remember, though, we need to keep those gears from grinding with our little acts of thoughtfulness, encouragement, and praise, sown and watered with kindness. We also must repent (quickly) for thoughtless words, and forgive more quickly.

The fruit will become obvious in the ways your relationships open up and in the joy that begins to permeate the atmosphere of your home.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Aspen Walk

During a recent summer trip to Colorado, I had the chance to hike in through some Aspen tree groves. They are the largest living organisms in the world, as the trees are all interconnected together, just like us. We are also all connected together and it is important to remember to take care of each other.

Small Steps – Building Relationships

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When I first heard about the Camino De Santiago, I was amazed that people could walk a total of 500 miles. I have to admit I was intimidated by the total length of this walk and yet in the end, Terri and I completed it by the “small step” approach. This approach is called the “Kaizen small step approach”, and it works by disarming the brain’s fear response for large change or big overwhelming problems. Terri and I just focused on the small steps along the way rather than thinking about the magnitude of what we were facing, 500 miles of walking.

Terri and I recently faced another challenging and difficult task this past summer. A friend of ours who is homeless, and had recently lost his son to suicide, came to live with us for a few weeks as we tried to help him during this most tragic time in his life.

Neither Terri or I, fully realized what we were undertaking. It put a lot of stress on us but to make a long story short, we were successful in helping him through this tough time and helping him to find some temporary housing. There is still a long road ahead for him but we did it through the small step approach. We decided to not try and help him solve all his many problems and issues all at once but to simply take “small steps”. If we saw one small step we could help him with that is what we did for him. Maybe one day it was helping him get some new glasses, the next day it be simply sharing with him some clothing he needed. Through it all, we built up a stronger relationship as well. He has been so grateful for everything all the help we provided. As Mother Teresa said,

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

We are built for relationships, we foster and grow relationships by serving and helping each other and we can do it by taking one loving step at a time!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Orcas Island Byway

This image was created earlier this summer, during a trip to Orcas Island, to attend a wedding. We were cruising around the island and I noticed this cool small country road with trees overhanging. I turned the car around and captured the original image, with the idea in mind, I wanted to see what I might draw out of it in the post processing. I think it came out quite well, too!

 

 

Nature can heal

180718-Glacier Basin - Nikon-30-Edit-Edit“Nature can heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

When one walks the Camino de Santiago, it takes roughly 5 weeks to walk the 500 miles across Spain. You walk through mountains (the first day is a steep and long climb over the Pyrenees mountains), forests, pastures, vineyards, agricultural lands and deserts. It is a deep and long immersion into the nature.

As I have mentioned before, people walk the Camino for a variety of reasons. I suspect that those that walk it, find they have been healed, and cheered and given strength in their body and soul, as John Muir so perfected stated.

Last week I went hiking with a new hiking group that went to Glacier Basin on the Sunrise side of Mt Rainier. It was an absolutely perfect summer day for a hike! Mt Rainier was absolutely breathtaking. It was just the medicine I needed at this time. You see, Terri and I have had some stress on our life the last month as we have been caring for a friend who is homeless. He stayed at our house for a few weeks and now is on the streets again. It has put a lot of stress on both of us and stretched our hearts and resources to help him the best we can. That is  why last weeks Mt Rainier hike was so helpful to me. It was the perfect medicine.

We are now at the height of summer, when many of us have vacation time to spend with family and some time together in nature. My hope is you also find some healing and cheer and strengthening of your body and soul.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Source of White River – Emmons Glacier

The White River on the east side of Mt Rainier comes from the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the contiguous United States. This image captures the raw power and size of this great glacier.

Hiking Like A Two Year Old

20141008-Traicast-Sarria-172-EditWhen Terri and I were in the planning stage for walking the Camino de Santiago, we did an assessment on about how far we felt we could walk each day. We planned to go about 12 to 14 mile/day. We had a few days in there for some rest but we pretty much needed to stay on this pace of walking in order to get to the city of Santiago de Compostela and our airplane ride home on time. To maintain this pace of walking, we had to be headed out walking when the sun was coming up, then we tried to be settled in where we were going to spend the night by mid afternoon. The focus each day was really about getting your miles in and then getting refreshed in the afternoon/evening so we could begin again the next day.

I had a different kind of hiking experience recently. I call it “hiking like a two year old”. I was in Colorado for a conference and came in a day early so I could hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. I took off on this hike very early in the morning (similar to the Camino) but instead of focusing on getting the miles in, I channeled my “inner two year old”. Like a two year old, I hiked very slowly and my attention was totally immersed in the “inner beauty” of Rocky Mountain National Park. I ended up taking almost 8 hours to hike about 5 miles with many wonderful “off trail side trips” to a beautiful river that ran near the main trail. It was one of my favorite all time hikes.

Some of you might be familiar with the Bible story of the sisters, Martha and Mary, good friends of Jesus. When Mary is found sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha is busy working making preparations for his stay at their house, Martha complains to Jesus that her sister has left her to do all the work and she wants Jesus to tell her to help.

I saw a parallel to how one hikes a trail. If one is walking slowly taking in the “inner beauty” of nature then we are most like Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet listening intently to him. This is the type of hiking I find I love to do these days. I have spent a lot of years being a “Martha type hiker”, where it is all about getting in the miles and these day I am finding that my joy now is being the “Mary type hiker”! Hiking like a two year old!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Rocky Mountain National Park Inner Beauty

This image is two photographs merged together into one. I loved the wildflowers of the park and the wonderful boulder and rocks with their awesome textures and colors. For me, this is the inner beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Sharing A Meal Together

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There is something very special about sitting down with family and friends and enjoying a meal together. It connects us together in way like no other.

One of the wonderful aspects of walking the Camino is the bonding experience it creates among your fellow pilgrims. Just walking the Camino with so many other pilgrims one has many common experiences that we loved to share with each other. Whether it was talking about our the aches and pains or sharing a tip to help each other avoid the mistake we had made. Sitting down after a long day of walking and sharing a meal was a very important part of the Camino experience. It was bonding experience for us. Terri and I still cherish those special meal times together.

Eating a meal is so much more than simply the fueling of our body. With our lives so busy these days and with so many of us going our separate ways, it is not easy to find the time to sit and enjoy a meal together with our family and friends. The more we isolate ourselves and eat on the go and do not make it a priority to have a meal together the more isolated and disconnected we become.

Taking the time and effort to sit and eat a meal together with family and/or friends can not be substituted by anything else. I wonder if social media connections are being substituted too often for real face to face contact. I had a thought the other day, that social media is like fast food, it is ok when it is limited to a few times but is not a substitute for a real healthy meal of face to face conversations.

Let’s not forget the value of sitting down for a meal with family and/or friends. We build family and community one shared meal at a time.

Blessings,

John

Photograph of the Week

Pacific Starflower

This time of year is a wonderful time to explore the forests as they are filled with Spring flowers that grow in on the forest floor. This little star shaped flower is called the “Pacific Starflower”. I took this during a hike last week on the Suiattle River Trail.

Clearing Out Space In Our Minds

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“The thing about possessions is that they rent space in our minds. Everything we have requires mind space, and I probably don’t need to point out that mind space is limited, so the more you crowd it, the more confusing things become.” Matthew Kelly

One of the reasons some folks walk the Camino de Santiago is to sort out their life. They might be at a critical point and are not sure what direction they will be going, they may have suffered a loss of a spouse or loved one, the break up of a marriage or a loss of a job. They need clarity amid their confusion.

When one walks the Camino, you carry just the pair minimum with you, the amount of possessions one has is limited to what is on your back. That is why the quote at the top of this blog is so important. The possessions we have take up space in our mind. The more we have the more they fill up our mind. Walking the Camino forces one to carry limited possessions and so as a result it helps us clear up our minds.

I am such a nut about technology and yet it comes with a price. The more technology stuff I own the more it crowded and confused my mind becomes. I certainly have felt the effect of this over the years. I see now more clearly the cost of owning a lot of stuff.

Simplifying through the reduction of stuff is a good way for one to gain more clarity. Less is more.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Springtime in Eastern Washington

Spring in Eastern Washington is special as everything is green and the flowers are out everywhere. It is a great escape,as well, from the sometimes rainy side of the mountains in Spring.

This image I feel really expresses it well.