Friday, October 9, 2015

Camino de Santiago

September 3rd, 2015

Tonight we sleep on the floor in a large gym in Zubiri, Spain. The travails of finding lodging in St. Jean Pied de Port, our starting destination in France, were exhausting. There we ended the day at dark, standing in front of the Pilgrim Office with its patient translators taking two pilgrims at a time and explaining what to expect on the Camino, handing out pilgrim passports and lists of lodging along the way. By the time all were attended to, we had the impression that it was another record-breaking year on the Camino de Santiago.
St. Jean Pied de Port

Shipping containers fixed up for sleeping quarters at Roncevalles

About fifty of us slept that first night on the floor of a martial arts dojo, head to foot. It was a good thing to get up and out of there, and on the trail for the first day's adventures. Over the Pyrenees, a 1500 meter climb, and down again to the castle at Roncevalles, Spain. Waiting in a long line to get checked in, I lost a little bit of my individuality, understanding that now I was just another pilgrim in a very big castle. As thrilling as it seemed to be sleeping on castle grounds, our sleeping digs that night were in a shipping box made into a bedroom with 4 bunkbeds.

Today on the trail there were many older women, young people, retirees, bikers. When we arrived at the albuergue I had a strong deja vu, or dream memory of seeing that place with the outdoor hallway hanging with washing linens, people all around, sitting, talking and hanging out.

September 6
We are in Estella. After feeling pretty invincible for the first week - no blisters, no pain - I am suffering with a red rash on my legs, very tender, and lots of body pain. We are in a youth hostel with four Bulgarian bicyclists.

A stop along the way where they were making pizza in a double wood fired oven.
Navarre has so many houses with red geraniums gracing the windows and doorways.

Last night we stayed in Obanos in a stone-walled hostel, very old, off the town square. The room was again very crowded with pilgrims, but my bed looked out on an outdoor patio, helping my feeling of claustrophobia. Changing clothes into my skirt and tank top, I felt positively renewed, and appreciated Im's comment that it was also renewing for her to see me looking so differently.

Before dinner we went to mass with the locals. The sermon was not understandable, I verified with a native speaker afterwards, because of the amplification and acoustics. The dinner at the bar was super-fun. Inviting Doni from Ireland, Flo from Germany, Clemintina and three other French people to sit with us, we sang, Lisa and I harmonizing on any tunes we could think of. Aaah, this is pilgrim life, I began to understand.

September 7
Lisa had a great idea to stay in Huerte, just east of Pamplona, avoiding the crowds in the albuerges in town. In fact, we were the only people staying in the large school building, renovated for masses of pilgrims. Taking the bus into Pamplona, we went to the Navarre Museum, seeing Roman mosaics from the first century, many ancient sculptures and paintings up to present day artists. Walking the streets, vendors were selling crafts and demonstrating skills like blacksmithing, basket weaving, jewelry making.

Pamplona is the most famous city for the running of the bulls, but it goes on all over Spain.

Musical bands dressed in era costumes, jester painted faces, another in black leather clothing and kilts (must have been Galicia) roamed the streets, each band from a different region - Galicia, Navarre or Leon, and playing the ancient music of their region. My goodness, I thought I was in heaven with this spontaneous explosion of art and culture, walking densely packed narrow streets, and seeing a new style of life in the city. We had a most amazing dinner at the Cafe Iruna, wonderful wine, pork cheeks, and flan.

The next morning we walked out of town through the university, then up the hill towards the wind turbines on the skyline. The metal sculptures at the peak of the hill were reminiscent of Don Quixote and Sancho, along with pilgrim figures.

Top of the grade, leaving Pamplona.
September 9
I was sitting in the little church in Monjardin, and the priest's assistant, probably a spry 85 years old or so, came to maintain the church. He kept making a pounding motion and pointing to me, and I finally got it - he wanted to stamp my pilgrim passport, a way of recording the places one has visited along the camino. I went to get it back at the albuergue and returned. He turned on the illuminating light and showed me the silver crucifix, about 18 inches in length, and then said I could follow him into the back room to see additional icons. There were several beautiful statues of various sizes, including one of San Isidro holding a shaft of real wheat. He kissed me on both cheeks and asked God to bless my camino.

We had a family style, lively dinner at Monjardin, where the albergue is run by a Dutch organization, and it was there that we met Ginette, Clare and Michel from Quebec.  Ginette expressed her concern about having to sleep in a top bunk, with the added potential of falling, since she had a concussion a couple of years ago. I was happy to trade my lower bunk for her upper, and she offered to buy me a beer for my favor to her. Ginette has many, many travel stories and told me about being a cook for a group of geologists in Alaska.

The next morning we started out early. It was the chilliest morning yet, and I had on my jacket and hat. As we walked over some cracked pavement, I put my attention on some small obelisk-like stones, and suddenly I had fallen on my face. Lisa and a German fellow scraped me off the ground, and I was bleeding from my forehead and knees, but not seriously. I felt lucky not to have gotten a concussion, echoing Ginette's worry of the night before....After a few minutes of recovery we started onwards. The fall left a big scab trailing down my forehead, and I learned to keep my eyes on the road when it is irregular.

At 10 1/2 kilometers from Monjardin we stopped at Los Arcos to pick up some items for lunch, our typical routine. I picked up an apple from the display outside of the store and brought it inside for purchase. Little did I realize I had committed sin number one - Never Touch The Fruit In The Grocery Stores. As soon as I entered the store I saw the many signs, but it was too late, I was chastized. I explained that I saw no sign outside, but she must have repeated herself at least 3 times. Perhaps I mentioned that it was not the custom in my country and I did not know, but as I left the store, I was shaking my head from left to right, and happened to meet the eye of a pilgrim entering the store. She followed me out of the store then, and said You NEVER do that! That I was a bad person, and I agreed with her, and wished her a good day and life.

As I recovered, still daring to eat the apple of sin in front of the church, I thought I'd make an attempt to go to the post office to mail back to Madrid the extra items that I really didn't need with me on the trip, and that were weighing down my pack by a couple of extra pounds. A senora offered to show me the way to the post office, and I asked her if she knew the lady of the fruit store, and if so, to please give her my apologies. She said something to effect of, I don't talk to her because she charges more than anyone else in town. Aha! An explanation! But I noticed the tears forming at my eyes and the halt in my voice as I told the story to her. It had hurt. And...the post office closed before we could get there.

Back in front of the church with Lisa - she said "you've got to go in the church". Stepping in, I was awestruck with the gothic construction, ornamentation, murals on the ceiling, and gilded surfaces. A major restoration effort was going on in this town of 1300.
The church at Los Arcos.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Life at Meadowsong Ecovillage - posted November 2011

The commute from the dorm (my first residence) to the kitchen
Cob visitor kiosk at Lost Valley Education Center
Well...... given that my life has taken a totally new turn, I thought you all might be interested in hearing what it's like to live in an Ecovillage.

I had a few reasons for moving here...

For one, I was having a constant nagging feeling of guilt about my level of consumption given what is going on in the world. I finally decided to pay attention to it. I knew I could live a simpler life, and I felt like I was willing to do so also.

I know that I drive my car - okay, I'll say it, though I know it's only relative - a lot - to shop, to socialize, to attend events - and that it wasn't really necessary. But I did not want to stay home by myself, or with just a few people around. Since I want to live in a rural environment with food production as a primary focus, moving to an ecovillage made a lot of sense to me.

And I guess I'd also say that after my relationship with Mark ended, I just needed to get away from the environment where we had shared so much for so long.....I am not sure if this is the right approach to recovering, but I did it anyways.

So what is it like in this ecovillage, you wonder? You can come and visit at any time - there is plenty of space. Very rustic, and much like summer camp, since it used to be a summer camp, and lovely, and interesting and easy in many ways. There is a large lodge where we eat, and the food is very simple and healthy. Most of the vegetables are grown here. There are permaculture guilds and swales for water retention all over, and there are cob buildings, rustic cabins, a few yurts, a sauna, and large gardens to explore. There are chickens and ducks, but those are the only domestic animals. Boots and Bella (2 goat friends) helped us out with blackberry removal for a few months, but ended up going to a farm with better pasture.

I promise not to bite your head off

And will I stay here? I've signed on for 3 months of volunteer work - first at part time (17 hours per week), then to full time (32 hours per week). I have no idea at present if I will stay beyond the three months required before one can make a decision to stay long term. The housing is very rustic and mostly uninsulated. It needs work and dedication, investment and love. There are a lot of travelers that stay for a few months and then go, which is interesting, but also a bit uncomfortable. There is also a strong community feeling, and lots of good structure upon which to build. Time will tell and as I report on this new life, I will be using this time again to re-vision my life and where it will go next.

Update - May 2012:  I wrote this posting in November, so apparently it's sticking. I have a half-time job at a goat dairy (Fern's Edge Goat Dairy, and am half-time in the kitchen at Lost Valley, buying the food, cooking, organizing, and of course, cleaning.....

Thanks to all of you who helped me and shared with me while I was in Bellingham. I am extremely appreciative of all the love and friendship I've received.

Occasional hangout scene in the lodge

Weird new friends

It's all squeezed into 160 sq. ft. now

Boots and Bella help with a forestry project

Fern's Edge Goat Dairy, my other workplace

My front porch - I live in a forest!

25th Anniversary - A Memorial for Ben Linder

Mirna and Garrett
 Donald got us all together again 25 years after this world changing event in our lives! It was amazing to see you all, I am so grateful to all of you for your dedication, so impressed with your gorgeous children, and so happy that we had a few hours together again. It was a tremendous surprise to see Susan Cookson and Rachel.

We reminisced on how Ben had affected our lives, saw the movie American Sandinista by Jason Blalock, had dinner at La Pena, and were amazed at how old we look - well, except for Des.

Also thanks to Shari and Fred at Fern's Edge Goat Dairy for letting me out of work for the      day!

Hope to see you all again soon, and if you think of any way to stay in touch, let me know.....I'm hoping for other short trips to the Bay Area now that I'm only half as far away. I guess it's time to
Roger and Maura
start adding to my blog again, life is getting interesting.

Forgive me for forgetting kids' names, send me additions and corrections if you're inspired. Many last names have escaped me at this point, probably not so important for this blog, but in general it would be good to get everyone's contact info. I'm sending a link to this to everyone whose email I have, please feel free to send on to other friends, and catch up with my soap opera life since last year.....and visit me at Meadowsong Ecovillage ( anytime you're inspired or in Eugene. It's worth a visit, and I'd love to see you.

Donald, Jenny and Rachel

Me, Rachel and Mirna

Jenny, moi, Rachel, Mirna and Susan

Loreal and Angel
Me and Barbara

Shelly and Des with daughters. Thanks for the amazing brunch, Des. I miss you already.
Tom, just back from Ecuador

The historic group photo

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

3 Goat Farms and a Family Visit Later....

Bend took me close to Juniper Grove Farm in Redmond, and I was happy to visit Pierre and learn a bit more about what it would be like to work with such a high quality, small-scale operation like the one he runs. Unfortunately, no photos, but I will remember our conversation and the great cheese he makes. It would be great to work at a location that produces such wonderful cheese.

After driving for a few hours I stayed at Juanita Lake campground in California, and it was clear by the vegetation change that I was no longer in Oregon. What an incredible mixed forest and lush vegetation, and a path around the lake as well. The next day I pulled into Harbin Hot Springs for a dose of extreme northern California cultcha - THIS PLACE DOES NOT COMPARE IN ANY WAY TO BREITENBUSH HOT SPRINGS. It's different, and I felt different, like a hoe-downy country bumpkin from wilds of Washington State. I did my best to join in the fun, doing a yoga class, a color aura healing, and increased my area of sun exposure. I left my hat on, and tried to piece together my memory of being there over 15 years ago. Didn't seem the same for some reason.

The next day I rallied for the drive down the canyon to Redwood Hill Creamery. Scott Bice, the farm manager, showed me their family farm, and gave me a good idea of what it would be like to work at a larger scale goat dairy. They have a gorgeous mix of several breeds, and specialize in breeding excellent lineages. It would be extremely fun and interesting to work with their herd and milking facility.

Friendly Nubian from Redwood Creamery.

Some of Redwood Hill's award winning bucks.

The highlight of the last few days was working with Patty Karlin at Bodega Artisan Cheese. She had me help make cheese one day, and milk the next. She has done amazing work to retrofit her farm with permaculture plantings, swales and solar energy. Her cheese is great, and she was super kind to me. Thank you, Patty. What a wonderful herd of Alpines you have, and what a sweet, sweet farm. 
Patty with her excellent Charolais
Patty's farm is for sale - 7 south facing acres with several living spaces, nearby the wonderful town of Bodega - a great community. She's flexible with financing, and there's a goat dairy with an established reputation to run, or to work with her to learn the business. I'm interested, are you?

After all this meeting of people, seeing family, and all that it brings up, I am on my way back to Bellingham, to Laurel, specifically, and hope to see you soon. There will be new chapters of Goat Farm Will Travel, but for now it's back to driving home, and hope to see you while I'm in Bellingham. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leaving Bend and Oregon for California

Hi there,
Bend is a lot like a dry and dusty Juniper-scented version of Bellingham on steroids. So I guess it's not much like Bellingham at all, except that it has massive opportunities for outdoor recreation and the restaurant culture is booming.

After 9 days of commiseration on why relationships fall apart, playing with Lucie and Nancy, and rest from the road, I met Caryl and Aundrea at Breitenbush for a night. What a beautiful place to be, so comforting to see  the forest plants again. Caryl and I took an amazing walk along the Pacific Crest Trail, and after toying with moving to Sandy because of it's excellent bookstore, where I picked up a copy of Jared Diamond's Collapse (don't worry, I also got some lighter subject matter - Toujours Provence) and a tearful goodbye, I came back to Bend to follow up on contacts at local and other goat farms in California. I'll let you know how it goes, and please send good vibes to the little red Honda.

Here's a few photos:
 How often do you get to pet a camel? This is in Waitsburg at a car show where I said goodbye and thanks to Mary, who along with Cathy, helped me so much.
 This is Mary with her dog, the friendliest looking Pom in the world.
 Nancy, Luci and I in Bend. Yes, Lucie, you are a rad princess girrrrl....
 Caryl and me at the end of our trip.
 Some super beautiful hike in camping along the Clackamas River after saying goodbye to Caryl.
I must have balanced that camera on the rock and ran in front of it 6 times to get this photo!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On the way to Bend

I'm on the way to visit Nancy in Bend, Oregon, and find that both state parks near the Columbia River gorge are here I am in a McDonald's of all places drinking coffee, getting ready for the drive. There's a fellow here who has been travelling for 18 years, a social scientist, trying to make sense out of the US by writing about his travels. He is on his way to Colorado to join a writer's workshop in Ft. Lewis College, Durango, Colorado.

I had the good fortune, thanks to Cathy and Mary, of staying in a house in Waitsburg for the last 3 nights, empty though it was - a rental house in between tenants. It gave me time to get organized, cook, send some boxes back to Bellingham, and get ready for the next phase of the journey. Nancy is going through a similar relationship change, and has a daughter. I can't help but wonder what is it about us humans that causes us to change how we treat each other over time? I would write about this, but blogging is new to me, and it might be best to limit any personal information until I get more experience.

 If you have any ideas, though, or think you might have some insight, I could certainly hear it. What I will say is that life is too short to spend it in a way that causes one to be unhappy for long periods. As long as we have the choice to explore new possibilities, we might be best off to re-evaluate our commitments. I never thought I would say this, as I see myself as the type who learns through loyalty and responsibility. But it's good to try a change on the outside, and stay open to new resources.

I am always scanning my new acquaintances along the road for their awareness of peak oil, climate change, and what they are doing in response.Walla Walla area is more like Never Never land at present. People generally seem to think something is coming, given the climate events of this spring, but still are able to put off any direct preparation while the party goes on. Having postponed my own preparations, opting to throw my fate to the wind ( which happens only by the grace of my own little fossil fuel equivalent of 204 slaves - my car), I am merely keeping my eyes open for signs of change and awareness at present.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time, Perspective and a Few Adventures Later....

I left the computer and several boxes with a very kind person I met at the internet cafe at the Weinhard Hotel in Dayton. I finally made it back to the area after 9 days of car-camping adventures, and this same lovely person, Cathy, put me in touch with a friend of hers who has a house that is unoccupied for the month of August. Though I will take only a few days to repack, clean and organize before heading on to Bend, I am so grateful for this time and opportunity to get out of the ^%$#@%^ car, especially as the temperatures have sometimes topped 100 F!

I went back to the Monteillet's and apologized - that's all I could do. We all wished things could have gone differently. Joan and Pierre-Louis are lovely people, and have a great dairy, and a fantastic line of tasty cheeses. I have started a trajectory of healing and searching, and it may take a few more weeks to lessen some of the grief - - that will help me to feel more functional. I also revised my comments on the blog, so you early adopters got to see it all - my foibles and missteps, and I thank you all for listening!

Here's a bit of photo imagery from my time on the road and from the Outstanding in the Field dinner:
The table before guests

The table during the amazing five course farm dinner

Moonrise from the Airstream

Pomeroy, Washington - It ain't no ghostown

Wheatgerm separators from the Petaha Flour Mill, now defunct

Pomeroy grain storage view from the grocery store

Alex, riding her bike across the country, near the start of her journey - Hell's Gate State Park

View from Pittsburgh Landing, Hell's Canyon - it's called that because it's hot, you know!

Petroglyphs - Hell's Canyon

Along the Nez Perce trail. Worth reading, if you can see the words - It says" "The only good Indian is a dead indian." - Gen. William Custer. On [date of Little Bighorn battle] General Custer became a good white man." I was pointed to this gravestone by a Nez Perce I talked to along the trail route.

A nod to my friends in Fourth Corner Exchange

Wendy, Chief Operating Officer of Sally B farms. She makes lovely goat milk soap near Joseph, Oregon.

Two of her progeny. The King-Kirkvliets will recognize the Nubian Alpine mix  ears!

Waitsburg, a good place to rest, with lots of new businesses and  excess charm. The library was closed but the door was unlocked! I was invited to a city council meeting, look out....

White Bird notch, the place where the US Calvary and Nez Perce met, shots were unintentionally fired, and the skirmish ended with 34 fatalities to the US calvary, 0 to the Nez Perce. It started the beginning of the battle, though, and the Nez Perce, after 11 or 12 years of fleeing and relocation, were finally confined to a reservation 1/10 the size of their original treaty. The county and area is dedicated to acknowledging (at least) the amazing struggle and injustice that occurred through the change in treaty rights.