Sunday, December 12, 2010

Too Much to Say

It's been a week and a lifetime. Another Sunday. . . Streets filled with color = from the bright blue of the Sikhs' headwraps, to the glittery gold and bright red wear of the women in attendance at the Hindu wedding... the burgundy and gold of the Tibetan monks, the colors on everyone, everywhere..... no NYC hip black here. 
The third generation Tibetans and younger Indians, especially the males, wear more muted colors. . . those distressed jeans are making their way here, as are some pretty stylin' male haircuts.
But that's all about superficiality today.... partly because I've been in conversation again with the young Tibetan man whose only child, three and a half year old Tenzin, is very sick. But her story and his story are a whole other blog.... and that has to wait for a different time.

And so does the tale of our meeting with Jetsumma Tenzin Palmo... highest placed western female Buddhist anywhere. Stunning. I actually understand some things now. So much more later. I have to go back and eavesdrop on an interesting conversation.

And I have to wonder how and why so many  used Playboy sweatshirts take the route to India.  Love

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wherever you go, there you are

Sunday...a decidedly different day in Dharmasala. Saturday is a school day, so Sunday things are wide open. All of a sudden, those pre-adolescent boys are on the street, walking the way all gaggles of young people walk...Also noticed, for the first time, young Indian males walking the 'wrong' (not sure that is the right word) way around the Korah with Bollywood music coming from their phones.. A variation on chanting, I suppose.
The Untouchables, or at least those with noticeable disease, maiming, or partial hands or feet,  begging are pretty gentle and non= aggressive at all. Just profoundly needy but seemed cared for, in some primitive way, by members of the community.
But I had myself a totally me, American moment this morning after my early walk, peacefully spinning the prayer wheels along the path. I love spinning them after some robust strong person has started the spin. Somehow the whirl makes me feel my prayers are really entering and joining the prayer messages within the wheels. I always feel connected after that process. Nice, so nice.
Sat in the sun at a nice cafe and ordered a honey-ginger-lemon tea. What could be nicer?  Well... not the tall, thin American woman with two dogs who was sitting next to me. Maybe it was the fact that she was eating ten mo-mos and still had a Barbie-like waist that set me off....Maybe it was her loud voice on the phone to her friend...Maybe it was her loud voice on the phone telling her friend that her friend's dog was being 'so very good' even though she is in heat. Does being good in the dog world mean running in circles attracting every male dog in the vicinity to her body? I don't know.
For some reason, Ms. Dog Owner and Friend's Dog Sitter joins a couple behind her. He is Indian-American and she is Australian. Do they know they are about to learn all about Enlightenment from Ms. Manhattan (couldn't you feel it coming) who has been living here for three years? Oh, she does have to fly back to NYC for a wedding in a couple of weeks, but she will be back Goes to Dharma classes every morning. Has learned about 50 Tibetan words...Is full of 'As His Holiness' says...... It's Buddhism 101, and makes me realize just how very much all our students know about Buddhsim and Tibet in India. They could be giving this lecture/conversation.
She goes on...I am getting irritated, very irritated. her voice drives me crazy. I know just as much as she does. How very Enlightened of me.
She talks, the dogs whirl, now they are whirling around me, two males trying to get on the female. They get closer, knocking my coat off the chair. She continues talking about the long path, never-ending, to Enlightenment. The dogs brush against me and knock over the light fixture, bringing the young waiter over to try and fix it. He suggests I move and apologizes for the broken light fixture. She talks...doesn't miss a beat on her revelations about Enlightenment as her two dogs, esp. the one in heat, cause utter chaos. She is relaxed, ready to move on. I am beside myself. Wherever I go, there I am. Do you think there is any hope?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Know Thyself Once Again

Yesterday I surrendered once again, to my need for some creature comforts and we moved back to the Chonor House,
a comfortable guest house whose profits support the Norbulinka Institute. Neat and clean. Supplies toilet paper in the clean bathroom, That has an enclosed shower. Sure it takes thirty minutes for the water to heat up and it runs all hot then all cold and again. Love the hot. Sure beats the open shower with leaking toilet at last place. felt guilty for a while because the amazing DU students take it all in moaning, no whining. But add another 45-50 yeArs to their lives and maybe they will be a tad less resilient. I am in awe of those young women washing their long hair in cold water, pinning it up, throwing on their coats and heading out the door in the early morn to do their service. I was once like that.
Plagued today by the 'unexamined life is not worth living' concept. This examined life raises far more questions than I ever imagined.
Have to head Down the unpaved gentle hill before the sun goes down. Stunning mountain views in the sunshine. Immense power and spirituality walking the Korar, path around the temple. Xo

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pilgrims and Purpose

From Dharmasala, India to Mexico City, Mexico pilgrims make their way for various reasons.
I've been thinking of our Winter Pilgrim, Ann Sieben, hoping she is well and healthy on her pilgrimage. And looking at the various Russians walking with pilgrim badges around their necks, one can't help but reflect on how the Tibetan Buddhism survived in Russia, with the Siberian experience sandwiched in-between. But people around the world have such spirit, such tenacity....such willingness to go on. The Dalai Lama's teachings ended officially last night, and I was fortunate enough to sit in a wireless cafe having dinner by myself last night surrounded by animated conversations in Russian. Monks and non-monks alike so engaged, laughing at one moment, then loud debate, and equally loud silences. I understood none of it, but ate my noodle soup and Indian bread slowly, sipped the honey-ginger-lemon tea as if I might never have another drink in my life. Sounds of conversation of people who have spent four full days and nights listening to the teaching of the most revered man in the world - a man speaking to their hearts and souls about compassion. Did it matter that I understood one world of what was being said? I think not. I was just part of a communal energy that made my heart sing....
I found myself only capable of deleting e-mails (mostly unread misc.) from my new and fabulous IPad, but couldn't divert my energy enough to actually rad an e-mail and respond. Just too caught up in the energy of the other. More later...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Intense . . .

It's been so long since I've been on this blog I hardly remember who I am. But we are in Dharmasala with lots going on. Over 900 Russians came into the village for teachings by the Dalai lama this week. We had great seats at yesterday morning's teachings, but have not gone back since. We listen to the translator through a transistor radio and it's just not easy getting the message. The Dalai Lama has this wonderful voice, full of intonations, and it is so much more interesting to listen to the sound of his voice - even though there is no way to get meaning in that way. He also chuckles and laughs a lot when he talks and the translators do not do so. It was an amazing event, with people secring their spots 2 days ahead of time with slots of cardboard taped to the concrete floor, or with an old blanket thrown down. Everything stayed in place, or so it seemed, with noone arguing or complaining about pieces being moved. Hard to imagine such a thing could happen, Must be that it was the Buddhist Temple setting that encouraged people to be so respectful.
Somehow monks managed to disperse butter tea and Tibetan bread among the whole crowd during the teaching, and at lunch time big pails of soups and foods were available to everyone. Most people had brought little plastic cups for the foods....ages across the spectrum and national and ethnic groups galore.
But my time is running out on the computer. It is with great amusement that I sit here clicking away, right next to a monk furiously clicking away on his Facebook page. Love the global world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Peace Train

This time tomorrow I'll be in the air, heading to Delhi. I'm in the midst of the usual packing frenzy....and all the attending mini-, real and unreal crises of today will be left behind. Just one day, in the beginning, in Delhi and then we hop on the peace train to Dharmasala.
Here's how this day began: Putting a little sesame oil (no, not the cooking kind) on my body and my hand rubs up against a big bump above the crease in my leg this morning. Never noticed it before. Now what? Keep packing or write my will?  Google bump above groin area and all sorts of cancers pop up. Long story and day short, it's a cyst, maybe. Or something else. "Just get it removed when you get back in town," said the Doc. I'm sticking with that.Definitely nothing to worry about.
Actually, the bigger drama occurred when the nurse trainee attempted to register my vital signs. Couldn't get an acceptable oxygen read, no matter how much I breathed. Was about to insist I had to have oxygen (wasn't going to happen, trust me) until her nurse supervisor suggested she try another finger. Voila. I was breathing. Great breathing. Super for Colorado. Was it the finger change or perhaps the fact that the little register thing wasn't aligned on my finger? Ditto experience for blood pressure. Finally got that to say what it was supposed to. And I just bet one of those two nurses had her foot on the scale when I weighed in. What else could have caused that number?
So, all the high drama of my untimely demise is over. I won't be hurled into the Ganges after all.

In between the scenarios I produced about my bizarre bump, I had time to fret over the usual on packing day.
Must I bring all these extensions, adapters, techie products that may or may not find their ways into usage up in north in India. Do I really need a flashlight? Yes.
And all those products --- skin cream, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, make-up. Chances for using a hair dryer? So-so.  Chances to use band-aids, topical cream, and anti-diarrhea medicine? Ah, pretty good.
Will my bones disintegrate without the calcium and vitamin D? Four calcium pills a day for 25 days? 100 pills, and that's just for openers. Throw them in.  Leave the fish oil  and glucosamine in Denver. Leave the styling products (facial, hair, or whatever) at home. I won't even mention the clothes that have been transferred from 'must go' to 'maybe' to 'absolutely not' and back again. That shuffle will probably continue until ten minutes before leaving the house.
With that said, the modem or rooter or router or whatever it actually is, crashed today, so wireless is gone from this house. And the security system has decided to spit out random chirps and beeps today. Went to call the security folks, stared at last year's invoice, and noticed the wrong phone no. for our house had been put in. Good thing nothing happened here, because the help would have gone somewhere else. Glad I paid for that all year.
And the clothes....what to wear while sleeping in a small cabin on a train with three strangers? What to wear sitting on the cold ground for six hours  pretending to understand the Dalai Lama speaking in Tibetan? What to wear to bed in the guest house without heat? Not a stylin' kind of experience.
BUT...who needs style when Enlightenment might just be around the corner? Styles go out of fashion, but Enlightenment is forever. Would you bet on my chances for Enlightenment? Most of the time in India we will be in the areas where the Tibetan refugees live, so we will be surrounded by a loving, compassionate community of Buddhists. Hoping some of it gets deep inside my skin.
So, with much ado about everything, I am signing off for a while. While visiting Sarika and Lochoe and the Thangde Gatsal Art School, I'll be on line for sure. And if all those monks aren't crowding the internet cafes in Dhzarmasala, you'll hear from me then. Whenever I can, I'll be in touch.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reading and Writing

Last night, after reflecting on my post on giving and generosity, I thought about a conversation I had with a young mother earlier in the day. Her parents came from Mexico when she way young, so she has spent most of her life in the Denver area. She now has a young son and is expecting another baby. It's a rough pregnancy, as she has been nauseous almost all day every day. She's an aesthetician and spends her working days around nail polish, remover, and all those chemicals and fragrant herbal products assaulting her fragile senses. Her husband's work has been cut back and she had recently lost hours, and gone from having health insurance through her place of work.
"Fortunately, I'm almost four and a half months, and feel a little better. Good thing, because I couldn't afford to quit or take a leave. So I'm here."  We moved on, talking about the holidays and how many people in her family gather for celebration. "We don't really give gifts. We all have enough, we think. We just eat a lot, talk and enjoy being with one another."
With that conversation in mind, I went to the closet where I keep little gifts or books I've purchased for gifts...OK, some potential re-gifts in there too. Success! I still had one. Pulled out The Great Tamales War, written by beautiful Dr. Lawyer Nora Jacquez of Denver. Great stories and tales, written in both English and Spanish. Nora gives all the proceeds from the sales to a hospital in Mexico and and Immigration Center in Denver.
This morning, I dropped the book off at the woman's place of work before she arrived, and I've just been smiling all day. Not smiling in a 'well, aren't I just so smart..reading that and then going out and being generous. I am definitely on the path."  No, it's a smile of  "She will like this so much and will share it with others. The book was meant for her." 
In truth, most people I know are always giving of themselves in one way or another. But it's not often we remember to reflect and enjoy the ability to be able to share what we have with others.

Speaking of books, I happened to see that someone I knew long ago recently had his book published. He's teaching writing at a prestigious institution and has published in various journals. I knew him when he was in high school as he and my son were friends. I was teaching college writing at the time, and he used to tell me how he despised writing the required rough draft before writing a paper for classes. At times, he'd laugh and say, "Ah, finished the paper. Have to write the rough draft on the bus tomorrow morning."  He was one of those bright AP high school students who could get it right the first time.I'm sure he's done quite a few drafts and revisions on his path to becoming a professor and author, but I hope he remembers how sly he was in high school, how he loved to cut corners. I wonder if he requires rough drafts or not. Either way, it's nice to see he's sharing his gift of writing with others.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gifts and Re-Gifts

It's a long story, but while I'm in India I've arranged to have an audience with Tenzin Palmo at the Dongyu Gatsal Ling nunnery. Actually, in 2008 the title Jetsunma (Venerable Master) was given to her, so I should probably accress her by title.
A longer story perhaps, is the story of  Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo's desire to reach Enlightenment in the form of a Woman.  Trust me, I have spent quite a few years not thinking about the fact that no-one, no Buddha, has reached Enlightenment in the body of a woman. Alas, my journey as a feminist was spent trying to slip through those glass heavens much closer to the earth.
Jetsunma Tensin Palmo started her journey in England and led her to undertake a solo twelve-year retreat in a cave, among other internal and external journeys. I'm trying to understand why. See for more info about her and about the nunnery.
The book Cave in the Snow helps explain her retreat, but I'm still left a bit bewildered.

So I'm reading her book Reflections on a Mountain Lake, a collection of various teachings she has given. Today's heady messages (at least for me) are about developing the Six Perfections or paramitas which are needed for making progress towards enlightenment.  Giving (generosity), ethics (moral conduct),  patience (tolerance);  enthusiastic effort; meditation; and wisdom are the six perfections....and they come in exactly that order.
Interesting insights for a woman who spent 12 years isolated, but she focuses on the importance of having a social context in order to develop the perfections of giving, ethics and patience... 

Just a few words about Giving, seeing we are in the season of Giving... Allegedly....
She explains that Giving is first because it opens the heart. How true. And how true that we all have something to give, all have ways to be generous to and with others. The trick for many is to give with no strings attached - especially no knotty psychological or emotional strings that can turn a gift into a burden.  (Great book by Lewis Hyde, The Gift).
Tenzin Palmo talks about someone who always receives gifts graciously, while simultaneously thinking of someone who might need or like the gift he is receiving. It's a whole new twist on re-gifting, isn't it?
If truth be told, a lot of us sure don't need everything that comes our way. Our hearts and souls need to know that someone cares about us, someone wants to share and honor us. In this context, it's quite beautiful to think about passing something on.
I know - there's a whole other side of re-gifting....cheesy, cheap, petty, not my style but I'll pass it on....And when something is given with that cheesy, cheap attitude, I suspect the path of enlightenment isn't going to open up.  But I like the idea of having gratitude for a gift, and being able to think of someone else for whom the gift would bring great joy.  Don't know if this is enlightenment or a cop-out. And I'm grateful that giving\generosity is number one. That third one - Patience - is a huge stumbling block on the path for me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Knowing What You Don't Know

I'm calling for a statute of limitations on two of Socrates' sayings:  "The Wise person knows what he(she) doesn't know" and "The Unexamined Life is not worth living." 

I get it...get both of them. But how often and for how long do we have to be reminded of what we don't know?
Socrates wasn't cursed by instant knowledge, theories, lies, truth, hypotheses, hypocrisies and other utterances flying in his face via technology. No heady or misguided translations coming his way.
Just when I think I have a handle on what I don't know, and can almost live with it, I learn there is even more that I don't know. 
I know the upcoming trip to India is causing these rumblings. Most of the time, I think I know what I don't know and even understand that there are things I don't know that I don't know. Most of the time I can live with that. Whenever I travel I become aware of the huge gaps in what I know and what I think I know. . .  or even worse, I am forced to remember knowing something once, probably even passing a test on a given subject, but realize it's gone.  Reminds me of Billy Collins' wonderful poem about forgetfulness (a not necessarily wonderful thing):


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
 - Billy Collins
So there it is....I still know what I don't know and what I don't know I don't know.

As for the Unexamined Life.  What can I say? The world appears to be littered with people whose self-examinations barely touch their skin.  Is it worth living? Lots of people seem to think so, or at least they appear to be having a good time as they host their radio, TV, internet shows, sell their wares and evangelicize.
The Examined Life may be the only way to fact, I believe that's true. It's just not an easy way to live. 
I doubt we will ever get a break from these Socratic notions, and, after all is said and done, I probably don't want to put a limit on those pieces of wisdom. But I'd take a short reprieve once in a while.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Girl Effect

I just have to get a wrap on this new interest in old rockers. Yesterday, Keith Richards. Today, Jim Morrison. Oh, yes, loved him also, and clocked quite a few walking hours in Paris to the cemetery, right by Balzac and Hugo, to visit Jim Morrison's gravesite. At least Keith is still upright and breathing in his resurrection as a management guru. But there's good news for Jim, and he's not around to know about it. Quote from the NYT:
On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida said he will officially submit (Jim) Morrison’s name to his state’s clemency board as a candidate to be pardoned for two convictions the iconoclastic rock star received following some outrageous behavior at a 1969 concert in Miami.
A pardon for Morrison would still have to be approved by Florida’s Board of Executive Clemency, whose whose four-member roster includes Mr. Crist. Its final meeting before Mr. Crist’s term expires is scheduled for Dec. 9, the day after what would have been Morrison’s 67th birthday.  Well, just light my fire on that one. These lame duck politicians know how to find a cause, don't they?
All on the same day The Beatles will finally be for sale on I-Tunes.  But enough about music and fun. On to some more serious stuff. . . stuff that matters . . . stuff that needs some world focus.

Before 10:30 this morning, The Girl Effect was in my my life. Within minutes of reviewing a syllabus that had a section on The Girl Effect, I went to my e-mail and saw 'Blogging The Girl Effect' from the Wise Living Blog. So, I'm sharing a youtube version with you.

Of course, if you go to You Tube you'll also find The Boy Effect and even a clever (to those of us with juvenile minds) The Idiot Effect. So many clever people

But the poverty issue, which is the focus of The Girl Effect, is haunting. Over the weekend I was talking with a colleague who does research on early childhood and had another conversation with a friend who teaches reading in a third grade program. What's to be done about intellectual and educational poverty? No-one I know has the answer.
It's not just a girl effect; it's an everyone effect. What are the chances of a child living in poverty catching up and catching on in education? We can all point to the one or two cases of 'my son's friend came from Vietnam not knowing a word of English and ended up at West Point' (true story) or 'this little girl was abandoned by her mother, but a nun took her in and taught her how to read.'  I'll grant you the exceptions.
But the reality is, catching up is hard to do. Close to impossible. What's the answer? I have no answer. And it's not just those kids at poverty level; walk in any classroom anywhere and chances are pretty good that some middle- or upper class student is living a totally disconnected life...Psychologically abandoned.
This is a pretty bifurcated posting I realize -- silliness abounds in the first half; sadness in the second. But maybe just a bit of silliness in the world gives us the ability to face up to the hard issues, the ability to get out there and search for answers. Maybe a little upbeat dancing and singing helps us slog through those downbeat times. Have to hope so.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can't Get No Satisfaction

  Just looked up the weather in Dharmasala, India.  Dreary. That's the word describing the weather. Dreary. Makes me think some baby Brit, left behind when the Empire began falling apart in 1947, is reporting the weather. Before the End of Rule, the wives and children of the British rulers in Delhi would summer in Dharamsala. That was then.  Dreary and Partial Sun are weather descriptors that show up in England, so I trust there is some relationship here.

But what can one expect in a world where Sarah Palin has a Reality Show on The Learning Channel and The Economist has an article attributed to Keith Richards and Michael Eisner, 'Advice on Managing Partnerships.' Yes. page 80. The Economist, Nov. 13-19th. What can one expect? Can't get no satisfaction, nowhere.

I don't think one has to get an MBA at The B School to figure out what keeps the Richards/Jagger partnership going. Neither one is a fool. We might be, but they aren't. But using the relationship as a model, with a little Disney thrown in, and selling it to the desperate seems a bit disingenuous to me. Don't get me wrong - I've been crazy about both of them for a long time. Two of the few people who can actually motivate me to move on a treadmill. Saw them in Foxboro and in Hartford and would see them again if they came my way.
But here we are today, with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who were sure Keith would be dead by 40 now looking to him for partnership lessons. Ah, yes, maybe a little Jaggar-Richards modeling would help in bringing those nasty politicians together to solve the budget crises. Sure. Send them away with some high-quality Merck drugs and see what we get.

As for Ms. Palin. . . Silly me. I thought The Learning Channel was another one of those 'good nature and adventure learning shows for children' channels. Should have figured it out when I went to the National Geographic Channel to watch Migration and learned I couldn't watch without paying for the channel. Guess if learning is free, you get who is available. Grizzly.
Must be the dreary weather that has turned me into such a mean-spirited, scowling person today.  Maybe not.

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Whom . . .

 Are You Talking? Or as we say in everyday language, Who are you talking to? Really. I just wonder.
This week has been all about connections and disconnections... and I'm all for being connected to family, friends, possible new friends, even a few people who aren't crazy about me.  I consider myself pretty well connected, even without an IPad.

Two observations, all before 10:00 this morning have left me feeling not so prime timish.
Everyone driving is on the phone. Everyone....but me. No-one wants to talk to me at 7:45 in the morning, but all these other people in their cars are yakking to someone about something. This isn't the first time I've noticed this, but it's the hour of the morning that surprises me. Some people must be calling in sick as they head to the mountains to ski; others might be calling in prescriptions; still others calling to tell someone to get out of bed. But, it's stop and go traffic, so I have the opportunity to see that most of these drivers are in real conversations. Who is on the other end of this conversation? Is it real or are you just pretending?

 I suddenly feel as if I'm missing something. Should I have something important to say this morning? Should I be complaining about tax breaks for the wealthy, discussing foreign policy, or letting someone know shrimp is on sale at Whole Foods? Should I be reminding people that this is the time of year to rub sesame oil (not the cooking kind) into your skin?
Where are my friends and why aren't they calling me to discuss the diabetes epidemic or tell me a joke? What's my world come to that I am almost the only one on the road who is talking to herself?

Two hours later: Stretched and om'd and all set with a positive attitude. I am in the bathroom of a store, blowing my nose. Suddenly, from one of the locked toilet doors I hear a voice saying "They've been sneezing and coughing at me for years. All of them. Sneezing, coughing, blowing their nose...all spreading germs on me. On purpose. What can I do? How can I live this way?"
I want to say, "But your door is closed. I'm using a kleenex. I can't even see you. I am not spreading germs intentionally."  I keep my mouth shut and hope this woman is speaking on her phone and not to the air. I throw that kleenex into the trash, and run out before the germ police arrest me for terrorism. I decide I don't really need anything at the store. I still have not connected with anyone on the phone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Connected to Winter Pilgrim

Oh, when technology is working it makes life so beautiful. Our Winter Pilgrim finally posted on her blog, and what an adventure she has been on since we last heard from her.  Not to anyone's surprise, she crossed the border into Mexico with no problems, and found herself a place to sleep in a convent of retired nuns in Juarez.
But she had one grueling trip getting to that point. I hate to think of her poor tortured feet and the state they must be in. I'm going to post excerpts from her last entries here, as there is no way I can replicate her experience with my word hoard. She's happy to have me share from her website, so feel free to pass it on.  Or replicate her steps. Or not.  I think not. I love this living vicariously!

The desert is big; the rest stops distant. Two days back to back, 37 miles of desert walking. THIRTY-seven. Thirty-SEVEN. That's 60 kilometers each of those two days... no interim rest stops... high desert... and just my luck (ugh!) unseasonably high temperatures! No clouds, no trees, no shade whatsoever. Deep gullies, canyons, gulches, dusty dry creekbeds. Hard going. The missionaries avoided this western side of the Rio Grande for the more desirable 'Jornado del Muerto', 96 flat, waterless miles a distance from the eastern bank. In modern times, though, much of the Jornado del Muerto is privately owned and fenced off, so I walked along a deserted old paved ribbon across the desert south of Socorro.

Exactly midway between Socorro and Truth or Consequences  is the Santa Fe Diner and Truckstop. How fortunate for a pilgrim on foot. The gracious sheriff of Socorro County had helped me find accommodation in Socorro and worked with me on the possibilities of walking south. (Lacking a stamp for my credenziale, he glued in an embroidered sheriff's badge!) He called ahead to make sure I could stay the night at this sole oasis and everything was blissfully arranged. How could I possibly walk 37 miles in one day???? Necessity breeds action. I left a good hour before the break of dawn - Orion right there where he should be in the moonless sky above and slightly to my right.. . .
. Eventually, first Venus and then Cassiopeia took their rightful places in the sky ahead and slightly to the left and soon enough, the bold Milky Way dropped to the horizon directly in front of me marking my destination. Once fully dark, the light from the merest crescent of a moon was overpowered by the number of stars.
Over my right shoulder, the enormous Big Dipper sat directly on the silhouette of a distant western mesa, like a pot on a stovetop. Thankfully, not long afterward, in the distance I saw the lights of the diner and truckstop and nearly ran the last two miles. (The old paved road is equipped with milemarkers for error-free calculating.)
This oasis is full of character. Several vintage 1930 railcars are lashed together in the desert to make a fine cafe with a menu much more diverse than a standard truckstop - who ever heard of fresh made hummus on a truckstop menu? - pool hall and giftshop/general store. There are a few adobe huts at one end kitted out as fully equipped guest rooms. They were expecting me. My feet ached constantly, but once I took off my boots, the pain was excruciating for a good half hour, but the warmth of the conversation with Salem the owner and Julie the waitress and a few other diners was a terrific balm. The interstate highway parallels the old desert road and intersects at this diner, so on foot I was isolated, but at this oasis, I was hardly alone.

Another day of the same - with an old hermit named Rex homesteading midway to Truth or Consequences who happily refilled my waterbottles from his deep well, and I was out of the difficult part of the New Mexican segment of the Chihuahuan Desert.  - -

That's a long segment from Ann's posting, but her description of the sky is so worth reading. And those aching feet. My feet hurt just thinking about her feet.  And this pilgrimage and her tale are such welcome relief from the nastiness and 'does not play well with others' politicians who are headliners. These are all chapters on the beauty of the human heart, the good that can come when one trusts and is open, it's just all good...
She's probably in more terrifying circumstances than any of us ever know, and she is the least fearful person I know. There's a lesson for me. For you. For all of us.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Still connected. . . and that feels good. The technology connection is always good, but also had a chance to connect with a couple of colleagues/friends from the recent past. I worked with Katie Symons and Frank Coyne for a good while at the University of Denver, and they were responsible for getting civic engagement and service learning up and running at the University. Need a community partner? E-mail or call Katie or Frank. Need to connect some students to faculty research in the field? Call or e-mail Katie or Frank. I swear they invented social networking.
Now they've both taken their smarts and skills to other places. Katie took on Project Homeless Connect for the city and now consults on all matters pertaining to the homeless. Frank is now a lead partner at Denver's Green School. Today was Frank's day to show us his school, and what a grand tour it was. Saw the new garden, the space for an urban farm, watched students figure out ways to use parallelograms, and noticed the yellow stickies identifying right angles on various spaces of the buildings. Second graders had been out scouting those angles in the building. The energy is palpable in the's good energy, of course. Green energy.  Teaching and learning energy. Team Energy. Community energy. The energy of innovation.
Within minutes Katie and Frank were brainstorming connections:" here's a group that could help with this; another group might connect with parents. Don't know about the composting, however." Rapid-fire connections and possibilities.  Laughter.
It was such a potent reminder to me of how people change, move on, take on new roles but remain true to themselves and their core beliefs. I don't know where Katie or Frank will be in five, ten, or twenty years, but I doubt they'll be sitting on some island eating hummus and counting their money. They might be eating hummus, but they'll still be focused on making the world a better place.


Time changes, weather changes and a big disconnect. That was Monday. Still fixing the clocks and timers while watching rain turn to sleet and sleet transforming into snow.
With all those changes going on outside, guess my computer decided it would disconnect and head for mini-hibernation. All the usual tricks of turning it off, unplugging and starting up again failed. Have to admit I enjoyed some of the imposed break from access to all things all the time. But I must confess I found myself more agitated than I thought I would be.
I think the frustration was more about my lack of control than about the lack of connection. I think most of us assume that a click of a button will get all things working just the way we expect. When they don't, and when we can't control the 'on' and 'off' then the trouble begins.
In the end, it was probably a nudge, a reminder of how random access will be once we get to India. The internet offices are often crowded with monks, and this year, with the Dalai Lama holding teachings in Dharmasala, I suspect those maroon and saffron robes will be draped over every chair available at the small internet stands.
We'll see if I'm still connected for this afternoon's post.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time Changes

Why isn't all my 'stuff' as smart as my computer and phone? No need to twist dials, tap at minutes or seconds, scroll past a.m. to p.m. and then to a.m. again. I'm not the only one whose clocks and timers need personal attention.Love those magic machines that provide the answers.
Fairmount Cemetery, seated at a busy traffic intersection nearby, has a large sign with time and temperature visible to passers-by. Someone will have to make a manual change to the time today.  Obviously, no-one buried within the gates of the cemetery cares about time or temperature, and no-one in there is talking about whether it's an hour lost or gained, no 'well, it depends on how you look at life if you think getting an extra hour of sleep is a gain.' None of that. Impervious to time as well as temp.
But not the rest of us...We'd like it all synchronized and telling the truth.

Speaking of time and truth, have you noticed how one's perspective changes over time, changes regardless or perhaps in spite of us?  I don't know if you had/have family secrets, stories that you were sure would cost you friends, reputation, and shame if they were revealed. I come from Irish grandmothers whose motto was "Don't hang out your dirty laundry."  As a child I never quite understood what that meant, but knew it meant to keep my mouth shut about almost everything.  All that dirty laundry accumulated over the years; the piles got bigger as we all added our little specialties. None of the good stuff ever got thrown out in confession. I always figured the priests had some see-through peephole, so while I might have confessed that I hated my parents, brothers whomever on any given Saturday morning, I never revealed why I was so filled with anger or rage.

But time, therapy, more time, a little humble pie, time squared and perspective changes. For example, for many years I was ashamed that my mother worked full-time. No-one's mother worked full-time back then. Didn't matter if it was the city neighborhood of two family houses or the suburban circle of Cape Cods and ranches, no-one's mother worked full time. And certainly none of the mothers up the hill and over the mountain worked full-time.  When asked why my mother worked, I'd just say "Oh, you know my mom is just real smart. Even in college she got bored. So she gets sort of bored being at home with four kids, so she goes to work."  Sounded a lot better than "She works to pay the bills" or "She works so I can have clothes like yours."
Years later, my mother's working became a source of pride to me. Today, I stand in awe of her perseverance, her commitment to a better life, her willingness to work first shift so we could climb that shaky ladder of mobility. From horror to honor. Took a few decades, but what else do we have but time?
Things that horrified me once, sent me into adolescent angst and tempestuous fits now amuse me. No, more than amuse me. They are now endearing, cherished memories. Twists of fate. Edited by time.

Last night I had the good fortune to meet one of my friend's sisters for the first time. Stories rolled off their tongues, and depending on the narrator, there was no way to tell what the real story was. We heard the story (once appalling to some, now hands down best tale at the table) of Andrea's boyfriend who chewed on glass and whose flexed muscles made spinach-swilling Popeye's biceps insignificant. All brawn, all Marine. One of the few. One of the Proud. Semper Fidelis.... Semper Fidelis until the Christmas that Andrea went to the meat market and got herself some brains to complement that brawn. All wrapped, with a bow on top. Sister stories.
"Why did you make that fake coffin and put all those candles around it in the living room that year?" asked not-so-innocent Lee.  "Because we wanted to kill you, you were such a pain," laughed Andrea. "The coffin was supposed to scare you."  I know. It would be so un-PC today. The therapists would have had all six kids and the parents in treatment for years.  Now we can filter the episode through time and just see all the creativity and humor rambling through that household. Not horror stories, but stories to honor.
Changes in seasons, changes in time, changes in stories.
All too often, to quote T.S. Eliot: We had the experience, but missed the meaning.
Good thing for us that Time provides the opportunity to find the meaning.

Friday, November 5, 2010


First Friday in November and it feels like an early fall day.  On the roads, people have their windows down and music blasting...classic rock, hard rock, rap and soul move the red lights to green and send us all speeding ahead.  I'm all over the CT governor's race. The sun is working hard today to remind us of its power. Once we change our clocks, we'll have to create a whole new pattern to catch those rays.
Right now, the sun comes late in the afternoon to my home office, and today it's shining on all those silly yellow stickies. I'm hanging on to the 'surviving a partial eclipse of the soul' and 'not with a bang, but a gong' until I get to their sources.
Seems like a good day for an upbeat, positive posting, so here's one from one of my favorite places: Tara Sophia Mohr's blog:     Check it out.
I love the word 'enoughness.' On this day 'enoughness' is in abundance.
Not trying to be greedy today; I'm fine with paying attention to all my enoughness.

Posted: 03 Nov 2010 10:22 AM PDT
Don’t be greedy with the universe, she said to me.

But she didn’t say it in the mean way.
She didn’t say don’t dream big, don’t want things, don’t think you deserve.

She meant: look at your life and trust it.
Notice how you have forever been given what you need.

Notice how, while you’ve been railing and ranting and wanting,
enoughness has gathered around you like stones around a fire,

How, while you’ve been making lists of what should be
wishing the set and costumes were different,
there was a whole other play happening on another stage.

The real life.

Witnessed when you hand a dollar to the woman behind the register
in the color of the orange
in the magic laugh

Never calling, just crackling, speaking in tones —
the real life

Cup your hands and ask for it.
Start looking.
Sweetness. Honey in a bowl. Nectar.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Having just spent the long bewitching hallowed weekend in CT, I guess my mind still lingers in the autumn leaves and autumn politics. Here's the scene:
Two Irishmen walked into the CT governor's office. . . and (you fill in the blanks). Me? I hear Joseph Campbell chuckling "Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?" one of his favorite Irish sayings. Public and private, I suspect.
Yesterday I posted an AP article on Facebook with headlines that Democratic candidate Malloy had been declared governor of CT. Then, in a rare move, sometime when I wasn't looking, the Republican opponent, Mr. Foley, declared he was the winner. AP withdrew its statement. As of 4:00 EST today, both men were still declaring victory. The questions seem to be about votes in Bridgeport, CT. If you know Bridgeport, there's nothing else to say. There are always voting questions in Bridgeport.
The 'official' announcement was to be at noon, then 2:00 then, and then...Still waiting. Hoping AP and I were right.  Of note in CT right now is the sentencing of a man found guilty of a triple murder. Gruesome, ugly, tortuous event. Nothing redeeming to be said about the man found guilty. Death Penalty or Life Sentence?
One potential governor, Mr. Malloy, is against the death penalty; the other supports it. One way or another, the governor-elect will be confronted with this case.
On another, happier CT note, while reading on-line about Kye Allums, the first openly transgender male student-athlete who is playing Division One Women's basketball at George Washington U, I read some supportive comments from GW's Senior Vice President Bob Chernak. Back in the day, way back, I sat on several committees with Bob Chernak, as he engineered the University of Hartford's move in athletics to Division One.
I personally think it's a great day at GW, a great day for the NCAA, and a positive statement for anyone struggling with sexual or gender identity. It's a touching reminder of real courage and conviction, and of the power of Kye Allums and all those people willing to stand tall in the presence of themselves.
And it's all a reminder of the evolving nature of things. The truth is it never crossed most of our minds, in the struggle for Title IX, Gender Equity, Gay and Civil Rights, that the time would come to understand the differences between gender and sex. At least I didn't understand that what you see is not necessarily what you get.  True, anyone passing through Women's Studies read Anne Fausto-Sterling's Myths of Gender, but it all seemed so theoretical at the time. I suspect we were a bit sanctimonious, all comfortable in our advocacy for Gay Rights, proud of our gay friends or selves, having marched on through the Civil Rights Movement, still carrying our flags of righteousness. Transgender identity was still invisible in my world.
I know, I'm showing far too many decades of not paying attention to some pretty important stuff. But we're here now, at present, in time and space, evolving.
And hoping that everyone else is evolving also.  A nice Connecticut connection.
Going to put CT away once we know there is just one guy walking into the governor's office.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Skipped the Tea Party

Turned out to be a good enough day in Denver for those who weren't eager to attend the Tea Party.
Our 'positive campaign only' mayor will soon be sitting in the governor's seat and Michael Bennett is giving his Senate victory speech as I write this. CNN still claimed Colorado Senate too close to call as I began this, but I trust Bennett's not just blowing in the wind on the north side of the Nature and Science Building.
Apparently I was one of the few people who voted for setting up a committee for extraterrestrials and their vehicles. It wasn't going to be government funded, so I figured it would be fun to see who would be coming up with health and parking regulations for the extra-T's. If it was simply a reading test, I'm not sure if I passed or failed.
No school in CT yesterday because of Election Day.  The last few times I voted, I chose mail-in voting, and can't imagine returning to the standing in line days of voting.  But maybe the schools know what they are doing. Pretty clever trick getting those kids in school on Monday in their Halloween haze and glaze, then sending them off home for Election Day to devour the sacks of sugar. By Wednesday the sugar high should be gone, and some placid kids off to school again.
Hope all those news politicos take a nice long sabbatical before gearing up for 2012.
So what am I thinking, doing about the upcoming journey to India? Well, making sure I have whatever shots and pills I'm supposed to have. Sounds simple enough, but got tricky when I realized that my medical records don't include the info from the Travel Clinic. Guess I'm supposed to hang on to all of that. Still not sure if I've had the right Hep A and B shots and the right number. Guessing that too much might be better than too little, so I'm going for them again.
Follow-up to yesterday's blog, I've thought a thought or two and realize I have no idea what a deviant video game is. I know a woman who broke up with someone because he played Grand Theft Auto all wasn't about the violence or anything else, simply the 'every day, all day' nature of his playing. Didn't matter if it was sacred or profane playing. Not sure how this one made it to the Court, and wonder if it matters whether or not any of the Supremes  have ever played a video game. But the Constitution matters.
And on a sideway, wrap-up for the day note, still thinking about the fact that a Nepali communication company has set up a 3G network on the summit of Mt. Everest.  At times, the world is definitely too much with us . . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

U.S. Constitutional Blues

Thought I'd be in a position today to be 'all India, all the time' as I gathered books, writings, my own writings, maps, and plans for a trip three weeks from today. But...
It's mid-term elections, and the whackiest mid-term election campaign I think I've ever witnessed. The political world was working its way towards crazy for a while, but January 21st of this year we opened the doors for really risky business in politics.
It was that day that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a case examining the legality of a documentary film released in 2008 about Hillary Clinton's candidacy for President. In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down laws banning independent electoral and issue advocacy sponsored by nonprofit and for-profit corporations. The decision makes it legal for the first time in decades for corporations, including nonprofits, trade associations and for-profit corporations, to use their treasury funds to pay for advertising that explicitly encourages the audience to vote for, or against, a particular candidate.
Welcome to the legal world where people from South Dakota can put money into your Idaho election...or anonymous groups can spread their wealth across states to make or break a candidate.
I have my hopes, but not expectations, for an upbeat night. I stayed away from lots of campaigning and just about all broadcast political reporting. I like my shouting matches personal, not political. That hasn't made me any less queasy about the goings-on, but it has allowed me a bit more personal peace. Tonight's another story. Sad to say, I'll be looking at results in my two favorite states, CO and CT, and lots of others.
Hard to focus on India, China and Tibetan refugees right now. Too interested in finding out who the US political refugees will be tomorrow.
Today the Supreme Court, with Elena Kagan replacing John Paul Stevens, is debating whether it's legal to ban violent video games for minors. (How's that for a diversion from what they've wrought in elections?).
  In a lively and sometimes testy Supreme Court argument on Tuesday over a law banning the sale of violent video games to minors, the justices struggled to define how the First Amendment should apply to a new medium.
They tried analogies — to books, films, cartoons, comic books, fairy tales and rap lyrics. They argued about what the drafters of the Bill of Rights would have made of an extremely violent game like Postal 2.
They worried about whether it made sense to extend, for the first time, principles allowing the government to regulate depictions of sex to depictions of violence. They considered conflicting studies on the effects of violent video games on young people.
And they expressed doubt about whether the law at issue, from California, drew sensible distinctions among the games it covered.
The law would impose $1,000 fines on stores that sell violent video games to people under 18. It defined violent games as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way that is “patently offensive,” appeals to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests” and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
“What’s a deviant violent video game?” asked Justice Antonin Scalia, who was the law’s most vocal opponent on Tuesday. “As opposed to what? A normal violent video game?” 
 “Some of the Grimm’s fairy tales are quite grim,” he added. “Are you going to ban them, too?” 

Justice Stephen G. Breyer took the other side. He said common sense should allow the government to help parents protect their children from games that include depictions of “gratuitous, painful, excruciating, torturing violence upon small children and women.” (NYT)

Today I'll worry about the expensive elections, tomorrow I'll worry about defining a deviant video game. Or not.  What diversions do you have in mind?


Monday, November 1, 2010

Travel time

Could have gone from Denver to London in the time it took to get from Hartford, CT to Denver today.
Kept my spirits up by hearing tales from a woman going from DC to Oakland CA. She had grabbed her crutches and electric wheelchair and gone to DC for the Jon Stewart Sanity Weekend. Saw all her photos, heard about her 'kneeing' people because it was so crowded. Still laughing, and she had only completed half her excruciating long, overdue, delayed, mechanical plane troubles day. So shut my mouth and be happy to be home.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ego Eradicator

Every time I twist one way or another, take a shallow breath, or feel my head getting too big for my hat I learn something new.

A Yoga Trick to Eradicate that Swollen Ego:

Stand tall and comfortable, root yourself, and feel yourself connected to the earth.
Stretch your arms out wide, shoulder height, fingers stretched, with thumbs pointing upwards.
Take those thumbs (symbol of the ego), fold them into the palm, and wrap your fingers around them (fingers of consciousness).
Breath in and out rapidly...pump your stomach (diaphragm) as you breathe in and out (you'll see it moving in and out unless you have the body we all dream of having).
Feel the warmth from your breathing. Feel that swollen ego dissolving.
Bring your hands down to your sides, carefully and gently unwrap those fingers of consciousness.
Trust that your ego will no longer need to be at the center of your universe, trying to manipulate things.

Try it. What do you have to lose?  Well, maybe a tad of self-importance. Don't worry, at least for me, that self-importance finds its way back home all too quickly.

Nature is a Haunted House


"Nature is a Haunted House - but Art - a House that tries to be haunted." —Emily Dickinson


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Journey to the Unknown

Many journeys on my mind today. I keep thinking about Ann, our beloved pilgrim, walking so many miles every day and am in awe. And I've got other upcoming journeys on my mind.
Heading to CT for Halloween. I've always loved the rituals associated with Halloween, and the more I've learned about Celtic Christianity, the more sacred I find even the silly rites of the night. So here's a bit of history. Be warned. There's more coming this week, as we know Ann will be celebrating the Day of the Dead and we'll be celebrating All Hallow's Eve.
Here's what I know (from the Library of Congress and other sources)
Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead.
The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread.
According to the American Folklife Center,
Samhain became the Halloween we are familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them evil devil worshippers.
A rose by any other name...
As a result of their efforts to wipe out "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.
Pope Gregory re-branded Samhain and many other religious holidays in a way that kept everyone somewhat happy. No slouch he, in a world where the terms marketing and branding weren't glimmers in anyone's mind. 
The old beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of the traveling dead was too strong, and perhaps too basic to the human psyche, to be satisfied with the new, more abstract Catholic feast honoring saints. Recognizing that something that would subsume the original energy of Samhain was necessary, the church tried again to supplant it with a Christian feast day in the 9th century. This time it established November 2nd as All Souls Day--a day when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. But, once again, the practice of retaining traditional customs while attempting to redefine them had a sustaining effect: the traditional beliefs and customs lived on, in new guises.
All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural.  (excerpt from Jack Santino, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress).
Pretty clever transition, All Souls Day, All Saints Day....all sorts of days rooted in the ancient rituals and traditions of the past.  I suspect that the concept of the dead walking among the living, the living being able to cross over to the 'other' world will never lose its place in the human psyche. We're all looking for a glimpse, hoping to find what the Celts call the Thin Place.  More on thin places tomorrow.
Keep the spirits dancing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pilgrimage to Chimayo

Winter Pilgrim Ann Sieben has made it to Chimayo!  That's 375 miles, give or take a few for wandering, from Denver. Pretty amazing, and even more amazing, is that she just escaped the mountain snow in CO.

That completes the  first leg of the pilgrimage, but a big one (bit strange talking about 'leg' as a destination here instead of talking about the leg muscles that conquered those 375 miles). For those of you who haven't been there, Chimayo is a pretty sacred place. Whether one believes - or not - that miracles occurred there doesn't matter. Over the years, pilgrims and other holy people bowed their heads and prayed in the Sanctuario de Chimayo that it feels sacred. I'm not looking for a miracle, but still have my little box of dirt from Chimayo tucked away.  
Many believers in the Santo Niño de Atocha also come to Chimayó. In the beginning of World War II many New Mexico soldiers were stationed in the Phillipines because of their fluency in Spanish. During the long siege of Corregidor and the subsequent Bataan Death March many of our soldiers prayed to the Santo Niño de Atocha and many believed that they survived as a result of his intercession. After the war these soldiers began the annual Easter tradition of walking to el Santuario de Chimayó in honor of the Santo Niño de Atocha and in memory of the Bataan Death March. The tradition flourished, and in the days leading up to Easter the roads and paths in north-central New Mexico are filled with people young and old making the journey on foot. This particular piece of info, lifted from the web this very day, is particularly meaningful to me. My Uncle Dan, a tall, black-haired, rocking Irish man, survived the Battle of Corregidor and long years as a prisoner of war after the Bataan Death March.  While he was a prisoner, my grandmother made her own little pilgrimage around the windows of her living room, reciting the rosary ten times a day. She believed her rosaries helped (and the fact that Danny ate his porridge every morning as a little boy).  Now I have this sweet connection to Chimayo locked in my heart.
But....enough about me. I have taken excerpts from our winter pilgrim's blog and am going to paste them here. You'll be able to start at the present (Chimayo) and work backwards to the beginning. Hope my cut and paste sufficed to shorten Ann's three posts, but didn't edit out anything significant.  Hope you feel as attached to this pilgrimage as I do! Enjoy.

I've arrived in Chimayo, America's most-visited pilgrim destination. New Mexico has proven to be pretty roller-coaster-y through Carson National Forest, and in the rain and low clouds, I wasn't able to see the snow on the upper peaks very often. Beautiful land... yet odd to link cactus and rain. This marks the successful completion of the first leg of my pilgrimage. I know I've pushed a bit hard through the mountains - even with the extra weight of the snowshoes, I managed over 26 miles per day... daily mountain marathons, literally, no wonder my feet are so achy - nonetheless, I hope other pilgrims follow, at their own pace. I've found that churches are as helpful here as anywhere in Europe for assisting pilgrims with accommodation and doling out the all-important stamp for the credenziale. There are pilgrim-friendly people everywhere.

Walking through history again  Thursday, October 21, 2010

One of the finest parts of the pilgrim path is the connection with history. After going down down down to Canon City (and by the way, there's a tilda missing from above the first n in that town's name), I climbed up up up along the Oak Creek Grade - aptly named because of the number of scrub oaks along the gulches and brooks in every color of flame. Although I was vying for a 30-mile day, the steepness of the graded dirt road did me in... over 2,000 feet of elevation gain in just a few miles followed by rolling ups and downs that seemed positively endless. Angels, where are you??? Right there, at the Oak Creek Grade General Store. I made it as far as that and was offered some refreshment and the use of their computer for the last blog. Audrey, the proprietress matter-of-factly told me that I'd stay the night there in the cottage. It shocked me in a way because my mind was set for another 4 hours of walking, though it was already 4 in the afternoon; however, my feet and my lungs begged to accept the offer. Done. Husband Jack, an old cowboy - really and truly - was full of interesting history that makes a pilgrimage all the more worthwhile.

Oak Creek Grade was not only the path used by the early American explorer Zebulon Pike, but also a Ute footpath between their summer and winter grounds. History, right there under my feet. No towns exist along the 30-mile stretch yet people live there happily, off the grid. These off-gridders are a wholesome bunch. I've learned about 'barn churches' in rural America - working barns that are repurposed on Sundays for a makeshift multi-denominational church services. Although towns are few and yearnfully far between, the people I've met have been warm and inviting, always fulfilling my request to fill my water bottle. Without people, a pilgrimage simply couldn't work.

With some help from several off-gridders, I've made it down into the San Luis Valley. The town of San Luis itself is noteworthy for its grassroots shrine of the Stations of the Cross - bronze statues made by a local artist on a path built by the community on a hillside above the town. Atop the hill is a beautiful domed chapel in a European style. I've got some watercolors and will upload them when I get the opportunity. The important thing is that this is a beautiful pilgrim destination in its own right... hear this Denver pilgrims, 10 days of walking makes a nice pilgrimage in a spectacular and varied landscape.

Mountain Marathons!  Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm a pilgrim again! and loving every minute of it =)
Admittedly, my feet are killing me, but I don't care. I'm glad I packed on a few extra pounds before leaving... the high mountains require far far more calories than I can possibly eat in a day, even if I were interested in carrying food along with me. Up and down the mountains, dancing around 10,000 feet... a day of rain, a day of heat, another day of rain, two more of heat... I sleep well.
Right from the get go, I can earnestly cry out to all American pilgrims - do your next pilgrimage here!! The send off was spectacular - hundreds at the morning Mass last Sunday stayed after the overwhelming pilgrim blessing in the forecourt of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Denver to hug me and wish me well. It was wonderful, and very personal in a way I never experienced as a visitor in Europe. And then, after walking along the South Platte River bike path to Littleton, some fellas outside a pub shouted their greetings and insisted I let them buy me a beer and hear about my journeyPeople are kind, they really are.
As for accommodation - always the most difficult part of a pilgrimage off the beaten pilgrim paths - I've managed something every night, of course, but in such a uniquely American way: in three of the six nights on the road so far, a hotel has comped me a room in exchange for a mention on this blogsite.
I entered Monument on the new Santa Fe Trail footpath that they're in the process of extending between Denver and Santa Fe, and when they do, no pilgrim from Denver will have any excuse not to walk to Chimayo via this route. It's a greater distance than going through the mountains, but better accommodation opportunities and shorter daily distances are the benefits.
Up in Cripple Creek - a boy is that an UP! - I entered the village at the point of exhaustion and stopped in the first place I saw - no other opportunity to even sit in a chair since leaving Woodland Park 28 miles back and several thousand feet of elevation between - a Ruby Tuesdays, where Don and the rest of the staff took very gentle care of my refreshment and revitalization
Now I'm in the thick of the difficult part of Colorado - today, 30 miles to a small town where there's no resident priest, then 32 miles to no where, then another 30 miles over the last mountain range I'll need to cross in Colorado. I'd dream of the ease of the San Luis Valley, but I'm way too tired these days.
Now I'm in the thick of the difficult part of Colorado - today, 30 miles to a small town where there's no resident priest, then 32 miles to no where, then another 30 miles over the last mountain range I'll need to cross in Colorado. I'd dream of the ease of the San Luis Valley, but I'm way too tired these days.

I like the walking even through the difficulties not present in European walks - I fill my water bottle from the streams and plunk a chloride tablet in and wait before drinking... I struggle to find a place to sit on the ground not already occupied by some type of cactus or otherwise prickly growth... but the beauty of the Colorado Rockies this time of year is not to be missed.

Ciao until the next time I find an internet point!

Monday, October 25, 2010

For Grapes' Sake

Ripping winds, pulling leaves off trees, and a rainbow.....all at 7:45 this Monday morning in Denver.
By 8:30 winds died down and leaves gone to gather in comfortable piles. Rainbow disappeared and light drizzle in the air.  A wonderful way to kick off the week -- a robust reminder of how chaotic and beautiful the world is.
 And as a reminder of the synchronicity of things, here's the poem I tucked away yesterday, when the morn was mild, for today's posting. 

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Give it all for the grapes' sake.  Moving into Celtic time this week. 

Friday, October 22, 2010


Just minding my own business, joking about my own sense of authenticity,  I was jolted into worrying about the Other.  Not just the ordinary Other -- that person who looks, acts, dresses differently than I do. No, this is the real Other. For a joke and a jolt, try voting.
The joke was the number of oddballs running for office. The jolt was in the amendments and questions. I'm giving you the final Ballot Question straight up.  It requires a Yes or No answer:

Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an Initiated Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts and donations?  (italics mine)

Authentic. Word for word.  Well, you bet. Yes. Count me in. I want some cultural awareness in case I bump into one of those beings or their vehicles. Will they have vehicle insurance? And who's going to pay their medical claims? And who's to say 'they' won't have as many unintelligent beings as we do? They'll all come. Set up that commission, right now.
Talk about an out-of-body and mind experience. Do you know how many times I read that last entry on the ballot? Even tried the Spanish translation.  Go figure. Even checked Roscoe's form, just to make sure some trickster hadn't sent me a fake ballot. Nope. Roscoe, too, will have the opportunity to vote on an extraterrestrial affairs commission.
Count me in on Health and Safety issues also. Those ET's better bring their Purel with them and any other products necessary to join in the community.
That's the news for the weekend. You couldn't make it up.