weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

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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.

Metanoia – Mindset Change

20141008-Traicast-Sarria-172-EditWalking the Camino de Santiago is such a huge challenge. It is a significant physical, emotional and spiritual challenge that, I believe, requires one to set their “mind to it”. It takes a transformation of the mind, the Greek word for this is Metanoia. I like to use the word, mindset. You have to “set your mind” to this huge challenge. You see a mindset change puts your mind in charge to the task regardless of the feelings are flooding you throughout the walk to stop or to quit.

My wife, Terri, had a very strong “Camino mindset” during this long walk. She completed the Camino despite what turned out to be a stress fracture in her ankle. This meant she was walking in pain for a great majority of the time yet she did not let her feelings overwhelm her mind. She had “set her mind” to completion of the walk. She completed the walk despite the stress fractures in her ankle. It truly is amazing what we can do when we “set our minds” to a task.

I recently came across a quote that has resulted in a renewal of my mind. I am experiencing a mindset change as a result of this quote and my meditation on it and what it means to me. The quote is from French philosopher, named Gabriel Marcel and goes something like this:

“You cannot look for both the good news and the bad news in others simultaneously. If you are looking for the bad news, it eclipses the good news. However, if you are looking for the good news, it puts the bad news into a larger and more positive perspective. Unfortunately, “looking for the bad news” is our default drive”” Gabriel Marcel

This short quote has so much wisdom in it and it has helped me to examine my life more closely. The last sentence of this quote in particular is sticking with me. Am I defaulting to the “bad news” when I think or speak or interact with others?

Can I change my mindset to be looking for the “good news” first? There are so many examples to apply this “mindset”. How easy it is to see only the bad news and then letting my feelings of anger or fear drive my attitude and behavior toward others.

I have also been considering more closely at how I “consume information” about others. Am I consuming information that is focusing me only on the “bad news” of others and that is manipulating my feelings about others. This hard stuff and a real challenge I am finding.

Yet I really want to “set my mind” to doing this from now on. It seems to me something we all can benefit from doing. I hope you also might consider trying this “mindset” change as well.

 

Blessings and grace to you all,

John

Photograph of the Month

Getting Away From It All

This is a composite photo. I took two images and merged them together. These two images were taken while traveling through Enunclaw on the way to a hike in Mt Rainier National Park.

I chose this image because I thought it worked well with this blog. To have a mindset change we need to sometimes get away from it all to get a new perspective, a change of mind.

 

The Beauty of Change

20140922-Belo-VillaF-25-studioWe are fast approaching the change of season from Summer to Fall now. I love this time of year and it has always been a favorite time for Terri and I to travel. In fact, it has been 5 years now since we walked the Camino de Santiago! It is hard to believe I have been writing this blog that long, I surely never planned for that to happen. I hope you all continue to enjoy these little reflections on life as I love posting them every few weeks.

“The beauty of change is as thrilling to me now as new terrain was thrilling to me then. I’m post-turn around time, and have turned homeward to walk among previously unnoted mysteries.” David Guterson

I read this quote from an article in the Seattle Times recently and it stuck with me. It is a wonderful article about a local author and poet who was an extremely active mountaineer of the Pacific Northwest mountains who is now finding deeper beauty, meaning and urgency in the familiar mountains of his youth. I truly identified with this fellow Northwest native hiker’s view as he has aged. He recognized that he is past his prime and he is seeking the familiar again with fresh eyes looking for the “previously unnoted mysteries” of life.

As I have aged I definitely have become more open than I was in my youth to see the “beauty of change” around me. I love returning over and over to the same hikes in all the different seasons so I can look for the small changes to the landscapes. I have developed a better eye to see the beauty in the “small landscapes” of nature, especially attentive to new patterns of nature I might find. There is great beauty all around us if we have the “eyes to see it”.

We see the beauty of change all around us if we just slow down and really pay attention. We have sure witnessed the beauty of the changes that have happened in our grandchildren as we cared for them twice a week. Talk about the “beauty of change”! It has been an absolute joy to witness their inspiring growth from their births to this moment in their lives as they head off to kindergarten and pre-school this past week.

Let’s all keep our eyes open to see the “beauty of change” that is going on all around us each day.

Blessings and grace to you,

John

Photograph of the Week

The Flotsam and Jetsam

As I mentioned, I love capturing the small details of nature. I recently have enjoyed capturing some of the small vignettes of nature that present themselves on the ocean beaches. During a our trip to Monterey, California this summer I found the flotsam and jetsam of their beach particularly beautiful. I also love using my “digital paintbrush” to expand and explore deeper the images I capture.

 

Islands of Kindness

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“There is perhaps no surer road to peace than the one that starts from little islands and oases of genuine kindness, island and oases constantly growing in number and being continually joined together until eventually they ring the world.” – Dominique Pire, OP

The long, hot and very tiring aspect of walking the Camino puts a lot of stress on you emotionally and physically. At the end of a long day of walking, you arrive at your alburgue pretty much “hot and bothered”, so to speak.

You are mostly focused on getting your own immediate needs met and not really focused much on your fellow pilgrims. Being kind to each in these moments is hard as we are so focused on our own needs. Yet we are all called to be kind regardless of our circumstances.

I read a story recently about a mother who sought to chastise her quarreling children. She admonished them to be “kind” to one another. When her little girl inquired what “kind” meant, the mother carefully explained the term.

Shockingly, the child then asked: “Mom, do we know anyone like that?”

The world needs kindness. By being kind, we have the power of making the world a happier place in which to live, or at least greatly diminish the amount of unhappiness in it so as to make it a quite different world.

I guess that is why I liked the quote I started the blog with today. It all begins with each of us becoming an “island of kindness”. To become a “island of kindness” does require us to have a desire for it in your life. It also means we have to work at it as well. To focus on it and make it apart of your daily life.

Here are three little don’ts and three little dos for us all to work on each day (I took these from a book I have been reading called “The Hidden Power of Kindness”.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t speak unkindly of anyone.
  2. Don’t speak unkindly to anyone.
  3. Don’t act unkindly toward anyone.

Dos:

  1. Do speak kindly of someone at least once a day.
  2. Do think kindly about someone at least once a day.
  3. Do act kindly toward someone at least once a day.

The world is unkind only for the lack of kindness in the individuals who live in it. Let’s all work on spreading out kindness to ring the world.

Blessing and grace,

John

Photograph of the Week

Island Time

This image was created from a photograph of gulls on a sand bar at the mouth of the Pajaro River. The Pajaro river empties into Monterey Bay in Northern California. It is a great birding area.

Where The Wild Things Are

190717-Denali-52-1-smallI titled this blog today from the well loved children’s book, “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. I did this because the title of this book came to my mind as I was reflecting about Alaska. You see, we have just returned from a two week vacation to the “wildest place” I have visited in the United States, Alaska. I feel like I have been to sacred ground. Alaska is truly “holy ground” in my humble opinion.

In the book, Where The Wild Things Are”, the young child, Max, goes on a imaginary journey across the seas, to the a special place where the “Wild Things” live. He meets huge and mysterious creatures in this land. This is how I felt when I visited Glacier Bay, Kenai Fjords and Denali National Parks. These lands are so pure, untouched and unspoiled. They are filled with wildlife that had been left to flourish and roam. Frankly, I was awestruck, speechless and almost in tears several times during our visit to these parks.

As I think back on our Camino walk across the breath of Spain, I now wonder what the lands were like when those first pilgrims, that did the walk so many, many years ago. How pure and unspoiled were these lands? During much of our walk, we were not really in the “wild land” but mostly land “conquered” by man. So many of the great forests and wild animals of Europe were “harvested” till they no longer existed. I guess this is what hit me so hard from our trip to Alaska. There are still some places we can go to immerse ourselves in the “pure and wild”. Oh, how thankful I am for this!

We owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to those before us that fought so hard to preserve these lands as National Parks, Wilderness Areas and National Monuments. I was particularly grateful for how Denali National Park has been managed with its restrictions on how visitors experience the park. Sometimes it seems we are our own worst enemies, when we love something so much we cannot seem to get enough. We smother it and in the process we destroy its “wild and pure” nature.

May we never lose our special wild places and wildlife untouched and pure! May we “take off our shoes” when we visit these special places and travel through them as if it is “holy land” to be treasured and respected and with the pledge to “leave no trace”. We do this so these special places remain untouched for our future generations to experience and be changed by their visits.

Blessings and grace to you all,

John

P.S. The image at the top of this blog is obviously not from our Camino walk as I usually do but from our trip into Denali National Park. This grizzly bear was roaming through across the land like he owned the place, and he does!

Photograph of the Month

The Inner Beauty of Alaska

This image was captured during our Alaska trip in Fairbanks. I picked it today to go with this blog because I struggled to capture the vastness and “wild-ness” of Alaska. It is easier for me to capture the small and little landscapes sometimes with my macro photography. I found this leaf just like this and did not set it up this way (but I have definitely been known to do that!).

The Unexamined Life

20141013-Arzua-Santiago-291-1-EditThe famous dictum of Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, keeps coming into my mind recently. I really do not know much of the background on this quote, in the life of Socrates, but it seems to me he is making the claim that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value. I do think there is some real wisdom here for us all.

During our long walk across Spain, as I mentioned, there is considerable time to reflect on one’s life and direction. The silence and quiet was a good time for me to consider my life direction.

What will I do after retirement? What will be my first things I want to start new when I return home? What it be like to be in the daily life of our new granddaughter?

Lots of questions were coming up in my mind. Asking questions is good. The questions we ask as we examine our life directions are particularly good but maybe it’s the questions that we don’t ask also.

“What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask.”—Sam Keen

I whole-heartedly agree with this quote. Asking hard questions regarding my own personal behavior may be the questions I “refuse to ask or never think to ask”. Here is a sample of the types of questions I have been thinking about, when I reflect on my own behavior:

  • Am I passing judgment on others that they are self-centered, selfish and unsympathetic or arrogant, unfair or untrustworthy, by only my reflex judgment alone?
  • Am I brooding over a slight someone made and starting to make “a mountain out of molehill”?
  • Am I boasting about all my accomplishments so much I can not hear what anyone else has to say?
  • Do I need to “check some of my own self-centeredness at the door”?
  • Am I prone to accuse others when I should be looking at myself first?

I have recently started the practice of reviewing my day before going to bed. I look back over the day and ask myself some hard questions about my behavior during the day. I am “examining my life”, if you will, daily looking for areas of where I wish I would have done or said things differently. I have discovered this to be an excellent practice. I feel it is leading me to discover areas of my life I could use some change. When I discover an area I feel I could use some change, I make every effort to find a way to change my behavior in the future.

I do believe we are indeed shaped by the questions we ask ourselves. Let’s not be afraid to ask the hard questions that lead us to become a better person to our family, co-workers, friends and strangers.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Ipomopsis gilia

This wildflower is one of my favorites. I captured an image of this beauty up at Tronson Ridge, near Blewett Pass a few weeks ago.

The “Ipomopsis” (Ipoo + opsis) genus name comes from Greek for “striking appearance”. I find that so appropriate as it is a very bold and striking flower. It goes my several common names as well, Scarlet Gilia, Scarlet Skyrocket, Scarlet Trumpet and Skunk Flower

Intervals of Silence

20141010-Portom-Palas-13 - finalTerri and I both really have loved silence, especially in the morning hours. It is our sacred time together. This one of our favorite memories of our long Camino walk. Not that we did not talk during out day of walking, it just worked out that many parts of our day we walked in silence.

“Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life.” (The Power of Silence, by Robert Cardinal Sarah)

I thought this quote, from a book I am reading on silence, was profound. It speaks to why silence in our lives is so important, I believe. We need it so we can go deeper into ourselves and to reflect upon our life. When we do this interior rest and harmony can flow from us.

Yet the reality for us today is silence is a rare commodity. We live in a fever of movement and activity. We become accustomed to permanent background noise, which sickens us yet assures us. We become addicted to it strangely. But why? I suspect as the quote above suggests, because it keeps from confronting ourselves. It keeps us from staying quiet long enough that we might explore deeper into lives and our relationship with others.

“The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday” Unknown

Maybe this quote is the secret to why we need “intervals of silence” in our lives. We need it so we can become “better versions of ourselves”. It seems to me, it is critical too living with others. I find when I am silent, I am able to hear, to listen and to welcome better. I look at things I said or did and recognize the need to change. I may see how I could be more charitable and giving to someone that comes to my mind. It seems to me that most beautiful things in my life take place in silence.

“All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.” Blaise Pascal

So, what shall we do? How do I find time for some “intervals of silence” in my life? It seems first we need to break out of the habit of having constant noise around us. Recognize how important silence is for you. One of the best ways is to simply go for a walk. Another idea is to get up early before your day “roars to life”. There are times in all our lives for silence but we need to look for them, to carve them out of our day.

“What will become of our world if it does not look for intervals of silence?” (The Power of Silence, by Robert Cardinal Sarah)

May grace and blessings of silence abound in your lives,

John

Photograph of the Week

Manzanita Evening Glow

This image was created from a photograph I took at Manzanita Beach, Oregon.

“Blue Skies Photography” is moving to creating more of these kinds of images. Photographs transformed into “Photographic Art” in my digital darkroom. I hope to get back to sharing more of my Photographic Art that I will be printing on canvas at some Holiday Markets later this year.

 

We Are All Travelers

Camino Meal Together

” Our eating together with family, community, colleagues, or strangers can also be less than perfect. But I wonder if the real proof of our Christian life is simply whom we would be willing to sit with at table. For whenever we receive others, however different they are from us, they become our traveling companions, and in this world below we are all travelers.

Less than perfect. That is truly all of us. We are all in need of a little “work” to make us a better version of ourselves.

At the end of a long day of walking on the Camino, often Terri and I after cleaning up, would sit down for a meal together with our fellow pilgrims. It was fun to talk to folks you had not met before or ones you were walking with for some time. They would be from all over the world as well. All of us sitting together at table, less than perfect, and yet traveling pilgrims with one focus, getting to Santiago de Compostela, our destination city.

I liked the quote because it spoke to my core belief. That we are all less than perfect, and on a walk to our “telos” (Greek for “end”, or “purpose”), which I believe is becoming the “best version of ourselves”. Why should we not sit together at table? We are all on a journey and we are all travelers and traveling companions. I guess that is why I liked the name of my blog, “We Are All Pilgrims”. For, I do believe, we are all pilgrims.

Easter Blessings to you all,

John

Photograph of the Week

Tulip Visions

This image was taken a few weeks ago on a cold and wet day up in the Skagit. I used my creative vision in the “digital darkroom” to make this final image.

 

Context

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“I love context. The reason I love context is because context shows us the true value of things. And out of that tends to spring our priorities.” Matthew Kelley

One of the gifts we received, when we walked the Camino, was the ability to see our lives in context. There is nothing like getting out of your daily routines and busy pace of life to get better context on your life. It seems that in our busyness and fast pace of our lives, we can struggle to find time to get context in our life. We can not “see the forest for the trees”.

One of the other ways we find context in our lives is when we are hit with a sudden change, a tragedy, someone we love, gets sick or dies. This also tends to help us get context. Context shows us the true value of things. I used to have a boss at Boeing that used the term, “re-framing your reality”.

It seems to me that one of the beautiful and freeing things about context, is the clarity that comes to you. You see things anew and fresh, maybe for the first time. For me, the Camino walk, re-framed my reality, I was able to see with clarity what life after Boeing might look like and what things were important to focus on after our walk. When we finished the walk, I was ready to begin anew with my priorities re-arranged.

Context is a beautiful thing! We are constantly re-discovering it and that is a good thing.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Turbulence

This image was entered into the Edmonds Art Festival Juried Art competition, in 2017 and was one of the ones chosen to be displayed. It was taken during a winter beach walk in Manzanita Beach, Oregon.

 

The Useless Thing

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I read a book called “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller during our Camino Walk. I can not imagine a better book to have read during this long walk to Santiago. The book was filled with some great wisdom for living life, mostly about the importance of rest.

I am in need of taking in some of its sage advice again, it seems. You see, we in the midst of a very, very busy point in our lives as we moving out of our home of 34 years. Our home will go on the market in late April or early May and we are now packing to move into a condo we hope to rent for a year until we purchase again. As anyone that has gone through this experience knows, it is filled with anxiety and lists upon lists of things that need to get done.

The reason the long Camino walk and that book were so key to my life after Boeing, is it really helped me see the value of “useless things”. What do I mean by “useless things”? Here is a quote from the book that will help:

“To walk without purpose, to no place in particular, where we are astonished by the textured bark of an oak. To notice the color red showing itself for the first time in the maple in fall. To see animals in shapes of clouds, to walk in clover. To fall into an unexpected conversation with a stranger… To taste the orange we eat, the juice on the chin, the pulp between the teeth. To take a deep sigh, exhale, followed by a listening silence… to give thanks for a single step on earth. To give thanks for any blessing, previously unnoticed.”

These are the “useless things”. They are thoroughly without measurable value. Nothing is getting checked off the list. Nothing of significance is being accomplished. Oh, what a beautiful thing it is, these “useless things”. It means we need to break off our pattern of living where we measure out day by how many things we checked off our list.

The Camino walk taught me how to do this, along with the sage advice of this book. We cannot wait till we are finished, because we are never finished. We can not wait till things slow down. We need to take rest and stop and take in the “useless things” in life.

I think I am writing this blog to myself right now. To recall back to this most important lessons that the Camino taught me.

Blessings and grace to you!

John

Photograph of the Week

Since today is St Patrick’s Day, I figured I should include a photograph from Ireland for the Photograph of the Week.

Dingle

This is an image taken during our stay on the Dingle Peninsula.