Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well, to those in the US... just want to take five seconds to say Happy Thanksgiving!!  For the rest of the world... I'm just thankful to know you! Even if it is only electronically!!  SO thankful for this Thursday, and time off!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Prayers on Pilgrimage

I've thought so much, and so long, about going on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.  The reasons why are as numerous as the people traveling the Milky Way, as it's sometimes known.  Some have questions, some are penitents.  Some do it for others or to pray for health. Some trying to decipher the way forward in their lives.

I guess in some ways I'd always thought mine would be possibly a little of each.  I hadn't really thought of it as a pilgrimage of rejoicing.  I think now this maybe a part of it.  My youngest son and daughter-in-law popped over to the house today, and by the grace of God, I wasn't at work!  They brought the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen, and her name they tell me is Anna Karina.  I blown away by the clarity of todays ultrasounds, and truly feel like I've been able to visit with her already.

I gave her parents a tiny dress I bought thirty odd years ago.  Stranger still, I just remembered, that it was bought on a pilgrimage.  A pilgrimage to St. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, made in 1981.

I'd gone there hugely pregnant with my second child.  Hoping, as we had a boy, that maybe I'd have a girl.  More importantly, praying that this one would be in perfect health.  Our first son Peter, was born with a cleft palate, requiring major facial surgery at five months old.  I was all of 23.  So at the shrine, I prayed simply for the health and well being of my baby.  And a few moments perhaps...wishing for a little girl!  Five weeks later I gave birth to a strapping beautiful healthy screaming ... boy!  Thomas was and is (although I'm sure he'd squirm to hear this) a wonder.  Healthy and hungry for life.  Two years later, Patrick arrived.  Three healthy, sturdy boys. Somedays it was more like having a litter of puppies!  I can not imagine anything other.  They were wonderful. one to wear the tiny pink and white dress with rosebuds on it.

So prayers on pilgrimage do get answered, just not always in the way, or the time frame, we expect.  Oddly enough, Patrick and Adrianne went to Quebec on their honey moon a year ago.  Paris was a little to pricey for them at the time. They stopped at St. Anne de Beaupre, never knowing I'd been there 29 years earlier.

So a tiny hand knit dress, folded in tissue and tucked in a drawer all this time, went home tonight.

St. Anne in Quebec

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feet first!

Feet first should be the golden rule for any Pilgrimage.  At some point you simply have to do it.  Enough planning, enough plotting, talking and discussing.  Just do it!  Put one in front of the other. Repeat. Over and Over!!

Well, I'm not quite there but the second definition of feet first: you have to think of your feet first...and the rest will fall into place.  If the feet ain't happy and well tended too, not much else is going to matter.

Last time I struggled with foot issues, especially my right foot.  The Dr. thought it was perhaps a Mortons the other Dr. in the same office says no, its Metetarsalgia..swelling or inflammation of the metatarsal heads running at the base of the toes, right where you roll across with each step.  When it really flares, it stops me dead in my tracks.  It hurts that much.  Now I'm not a wimp when it comes to pain.  I've had surgeries, fairly major, and never needed any pain killers once at home.  Ditched 'em all.  So that gives a little perspective to how bad this can be.  But I love to walk, hike or just plain get around on foot, so I will find a way.

Right now they've got me on a course of anti-inflammatory drugs.  I'm also working my way thru different hiking shoes, different socks, different methods of making sure I don't get (or minimizing) blisters on my pedes!

These pics were taken on our Camino Portuguese.  I'd slipped into muddy water up to mid shin, and damn near lost my right shoe in it!  So I really did need to find a way to keep the feet not only warm but dry.  As it was raining more that day, my Keen sandals weren't an option.  So a little ingenuity, complete lack of fashion sense and no pride to speak of, I was the Queen of Plastic Bags!!
Drain the shoe!!  Wipe the  mud off the foot!
Ahhh warm dry clean socks!!
Bag 'em! Keep the tootsies fresh on the road!
Become the ultimate Fashion Faux Pas!!

All I can say in my defense the end of that feet were warm and blister free!  I just can't show my face on that part of the Camino for a few years!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Perfect Fall Day!

Funny how often we tend to think of winter as dark and dreary (ok so technically speaking it is still fall!).  Spend a little time outside and you discover that it's not.  So many of my former coworkers in cubicle hell, used to whine and complain about this time of year, when we have that lovely little change of the clocks.  There's this general groan about losing the light and not seeing it again for ages etc.  Well, for me the cure is get OUTSIDE!

Today we headed out for nearly the last section of the Batona Trail.  We still need to add the first leg, but as I've already hiked that several times, it's old territory.  Today's vistas are new, foreign ground, freshly trodden.  This leg began at the Ranger station of Bass River State Park and ended at Evans Bridge.
Pine Barrens...maybe not so barren...

Bridge near the start of the Batona Trail
Deer boot toe in the lower left.

Tracking hikers!

Some where out in the Pines....

What the kids used to call iced tea water.

Kiva trying hard to tell us thru is faster than around!
Mid November picnic!
More cedar water.

Fairy path!

 Final distance for Sunday was around 9.5 miles.  As always longer than we anticipated, but for the views this time..worth every footstep.

There was one picture that failed to come out at all, and that was from the very early part of the morning.  There is apparently a lake down in the vicinity called of all things Pilgrim Lake.  Ironically, another blogging friend had a similar experience this past week end, half a world away.   She went out to walk and stumbled to Pelegrini (aka Pilgrim) Road, some place near that called Spanish Steps, all the while listening to her radio, with a DJ named, Michael Pilgrim!  Wow!

Do you sometimes get that feeling the universe is trying to tell you something?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who knew!

Well I'll be!  Just the shortest of entries here, but an absolute revelation!  Ok so it's not earth shattering and perhaps others have know this for a long time.  Did you know that spider's eyes shine and glitter in the night?  They look for all the world like tiny sequins.

Went for a quick night hike on Tuesday evening.  We started at Ong's hat and worked our way to the rangers office at Brendan Byrne State Forest.  Meet up time was 6pm, and as it turned out it was only Joe and myself,  so off we went.

About a mile down the trail Joe came to an abrupt halt and says "Do you see them?"  Of course I didn't immediately but when he used his trekking pole, there they were...two tiny little sparkles, moving across a leaf.  I knew that larger animals eyes give off a shine and glow when hit with light at night.  But to see it on such a minute scale was just so amazing.

My head lamp wasn't the brightest, so it wasn't as easy to see some of the other things Joe pointed out.  This would include the low and close sets of eyes off to the right.  Too close together to be a deer.  Too low to the ground for the same.  And in a grouping of three...probably coyotes!  They paralleled us briefly and quietly disappeared.  Later a deer crashed thru the woods to the left.  There were even tiny moths that at moments would be in my face, possibly attracted to the lights.

The woods were wonderfully alive at night, and fortunately so was Mayo's Halfway House!  Chicken Corn Chowder was hot and delicious at 9 when we wandered in.  Who knew a 6 mile hike in the dark would be a terrific way to end a work day.  Who knew!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude, plain and simple

Yes I do Facebook!  I consider it something of a cocktail party online.  Light fluff, don't take it too seriously and don't get too caught up spending time on it.  That said, sometimes there are moments of real connection and value.  A friend put out a challenge to post once a day, something you are grateful for,  with the provision that weather can be used only once!  Since Thanksgiving is the big day in November, here in the US, this seemed nice to change the focus from stuffing the bird and stuffing my face.  Game on Gina!

Ok, I've played my weather card (it was a spectacular day, worthy of being noted!)  So I as I'm racking my brain, wanting to really feel what I was saying when I remembered an elderly priest friend, Fr. Max Mandel.  Fr. Max would always, and I mean always answer "God willing" when I said see you later, or see you tomorrow.  He never took for granted that tomorrow was a day he would be there to see.

Sometimes I would walk with him, strolling the local streets, him in his OFM habit and sandals, me in jeans and tshirt.  In bad weather the walks would be inside the church, slowly going around the stations, up and down the aisles.  Sometimes we'd go to the end of the street.  The end of the street was the church cematary.  We'd visit people we'd known, from the fourth grader we'd lost to meningitis to those who'd struggled for years with emphysema.   We'd even visit where Fr. Max himself would be buried, in the small cul de sac with a small stone marker.

So thinking of my lovely, sweet, stern, gentle and firm Fr. Max, I posted early this morning on my Facebook page to be grateful for today, for simply being here and having the gift of this one lovely single day.  Appreciate it, tomorrow may not happen for some of us.

Around noon today, I decided to check the blogging world I enjoy so much to see who out there was writing or chatting today.  I came to Rebekah's beautful and wonderful blog, Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo, which I always jump on, the moment a post appears.  And I read.  And I cried.   A lovely young woman, from this tiny pueblo in the north of Spain, didn't get to finish the journey this day.  She was only 32 and her travels, her pilgrimage here is over.  She could have been my daughter, she's exactly the right age.  So, as I sit here and cry again, for the loss of someone so young & for her family and her mother.  If anyone reads this post, think again, how lucky you are to be alive, today.

And say a prayer for Juli, and for Rebekah and the pueblo of Morotinos.

One step at a time

Ok so it wasn't such a small step.  And then again it really was.  So small.  Finally, it was easy.  I quit.

I've been desperately unhappy at my job for at least a year, generally unhappy for about the 2 years or so prior.  Last week, the straw was finally placed in the basket, the grain sand fell, from the top of the hour glass, and it was over.  And I am totally at peace about it.

Having put it in prayer for a long time, and simply thrown it out to the universe at large, I got my answer.  I've already started another job.  But finally there are options, and some time to think about things and plan.  Time to be able to think about travel, school, other options in life besides sitting in a small padded cubicle surrounded by some seriously unkind, cruel people.

So, yesterday morning began with a 2 hour meeting at the new digs, and then off from high fashion to wearing my hideous hiking pants, and a totally hodgepodge ensemble to slog thru the forest!  Yet that contrast felt smoother and more seamless and connected than the way I've been living for sometime now.    The great irony is where I worked there were nearly 150 folks at times, not a one of which hiked or biked or did a single one of the things near and dear to my heart.  Yesterday, at the end of the meeting a new coworker asked where I was rushing off to, and when I told her, she lit up and said "Oh I've done that trail, it's so pretty this time of year!"  Already I feel more like I belong.  For the first time in ages.


Spent the rest of yesterday out on the trails again doing another leg of the Batona Trail.  We did 10 miles this time. This leg was from Evans Bridge to Batsto Village.   It's been a delight and a joy to watch the progression of fall in the Pine Barrens over the last few weeks.  Sadly, I forgot my camera so I've no pics to share, unless my dear friend Richard will give me one!  The reds of the last few weeks have shifted to deep rusty browns on the oaks, with tinges of yellow here and there.  Always the green of the pines and the laurels.  It's really beautiful out there.

Most interesting was the actual variety of woods within the Barrens.  We hit a large stand of oaks, and not the scrub variety.  Huge tall stately oaks all soldiered together. Then came another of those swampy areas, with an eerie mist hanging over it in the late afternoon light.  Onward into a huge area of laurels (can't wait to do this in the spring when they bloom!).  Funny but it's hard to call 'em mountain laurel when they're only 110 ft above sea level!  The variety of this area never ceases to amaze me.  All those years I simply drove thru, as fast as my lead foot would allow, and never really knew what lay in those hundreds and thousands of acres to my right and to my left.

On the way home from the hike, courtesy of the time change, it was really dark.  Deer were everywhere.  We had no less than five different groups bound across the road on the way back.  Definitely kept you on your toes while driving.  Everyone I know who's had the misfortune to hit one has ended up with a new car.  Not something I want to have to deal with right now.