Monday, November 9, 2015

The Unencumbered Life

We are back in Rota, enjoying some down time before we begin our homeward journey. We are staying in an apartment on the beach near Cadiz. We have stayed here before and appreciate the seclusion and its proximity to the sea. We have the entire upper floor of the building which houses a three bedroom apartment. Our balcony is huge and overlooks the sea. There is a little market up the street and we are able to get a few provisions to sustain us. There is no wi-fi except for the occasional moment when we stand on the lower terrace with our hands and devices in the air looking for a signal. It is but a fleeting moment if we are able to find it at all. We have no car nor is there anyplace we wish to go. The weather, which is usually exceptional and warm, has been inundated with the most beautiful lightening and thunder storms I have ever seen out on an ocean. The winds so fierce we could not leave our house even if we wanted too. We are secluded in this haven. We want for nothing. The blinds are up and the storm windows closed. Our companions are the sounds of the wind, rain, thunder, and the crashing of the waves as they pound on the sand and rocks below us. We have each other and we have solitude.

I have found there is beauty in solitude. It is one of the elements of my life that I have not cultivated or enjoyed nearly enough. In these moments I reflect upon the last few months and contemplate what God would have for me. I found myself thinking time and again of a seed pod I had seen in both Portugal and Spain. It had held my interest because of the way the pod was encased and held to the plant. The thing that encumbers it, while having the appearance of a stronghold, actually is very fragile and with the slightest movement or change it could be free. It just doesn't know it.

I have had many miles to contemplate this and began to wonder what it is in my own life that encumbers me. Could it be the expectations and limitations I have set up for myself? Am I fearful of what I do not know and do I fret over what I can not change? Am I capable of freedom from these things with just a mere shift in my direction and thoughts? I like to think that I can embrace the freedom of change without discomfort but there are times that I have not.

Over four hundred miles to walk and pray about this. Each day I have had the opportunity to put into practice the foundations for living a truly unencumbered life. I am reminded of my life on the trail. When I awake I do not need to be in full control or know all the details or the outcome of my day. If I seek Him I know I will be exactly where I am supposed to be. I know I will rise, and in this case, head in a northerly direction. I do not need to fret about what might be ahead or the things I can not change. I know that I will be okay no matter where my path may lead or what unforeseen storms come my way. Sometimes the road before me will be hard. I will still be okay. Peace and kindness surround me and I will find what I need if I am willing to seek Him in these matters. When I am attuned to His Spirit I see the many ways He cares for me. These gifts are intentional on His part and designed to bring joy into my life. I do better if my load is light and I do not carry a heavy burden.  Each day the sun will rise and set without any intervention on my part. I just have to be free to enjoy it.

So I think of the seed pod. Encumbered by chains that hold it captive, surrounded by freedom a breath away. I am really no different unless I choose otherwise. I long for the unencumbered life and so my journey continues.

We are heading home via Washington DC, Tacoma Washington, and then on to Travis. We are excited to be home. A warm fire, a pot of soup, and time with you as we share life and look forward to all that is yet to be. You are loved...Buen Camino.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Zero Kilometer

Once we entered into Spain the trail markers along the way begin to tell us the kilometers remaining before our arrival to Santiago. I have to admit this is very encouraging as you watch the kilometers whittle away and know you are making progress towards your goal.

It was a very different walk for us this year in many ways. We were different, our reasons for walking were different, and I think what God would have for us was very different. I was not sure what to expect when we walked into Santiago.

When we crossed the border from Portugal to Spain I wept. I have to admit I was proud of this accomplishment. If I had not walked any further I would have been content. But, we did walk further and when we walked into Santiago I felt the same rush of emotion. It is like graduating from college. For what seems like the longest time you do all these little bits of work and finally it all comes together. You've finished and for just a moment you get to acknowledge the completion of something you have worked so hard to attain. We entered the city from the Southwest this time which is a route less travelled by most of the pilgrims. We were the only ones walking in this way and we just held each others hand as we did so. There was something beautiful in the solitude and I think it held greater significance to me than if we had walked in with others. When you attend the pilgrims mass one of the things they say to you is it is a good thing you have done. Those words are the most meaningful to me. Tom and I said it to each other as we entered the cathedral plaza and spoke words of gratitude and kindness to each other before we walked on down to the zero kilometer mark.

While those words are the most meaningful to me the most meaningful celebration is the lighting and swinging of the botafumeria. In the past when pilgrims left their homelands they may have walked for several months or years before they completed their pilgrimage. They may have slept in stables or outdoors and may not have had the luxury to bathe every night. The botafumeria contained both incense and disinfectant for those who attended. Now it is a glimpse into a bygone era and for whatever reasons it moves my heart in a way I can not explain. It is stunning to watch as the monks, in their dark red robes, work in unison to get the huge incense burner up in the air and swing it across the entire lenght of the cathedral. It is a well orchestrated event and must be done to perfection. When it is over I feel as if this part of my journey is complete.

We will wait a day or to see if the weather clears before we decide to walk on. For now we will relish this moment. No decisions need to be made nor do we have to be anyplace. We will just enjoy these moments of celebrations. We are a few days away from Tom's 74th birthday. I can think of no better place to celebrate.

We are thinking of you...Buen Camino.

Padron, Spain

For those who follow the stages in our guidebook, Padron is designated as the last stop before Santiago. We have decided to alter this section by dividing it into two stages for a variety of reasons. There have been torrential rains for the last several days and we have had to alter our pace as we climb up and down the hills. We had heard about a lovely town at the midway point with a beautiful casa de rural. These happen to be one of our favorite places to stay and with the cold weather and rain a nice warm farmhouse sounded perfect for the day. It also meant we would arrive into Santiago earlier the next day. We could enjoy some of the afternoon before joining our friends for an early birthday dinner for Tom.

 Padron is a town with a lot of history and we wanted to investigate some of those sites. Legend has it that this was the area in which Saint James the apostle preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. The old Roman bridge still stands where he reputedly stood speaking to the crowds. It is also the place where the boat with his remains was moored before being taken to Santiago for his burial. The mooring rock still remains in the small church here.

It is also the home of two noble peace award recipients. Roslia de Castro and Camilo Jose Cela. Roslia was one of the first women writers to be recognized by Spain for her soulful writings of love and longing. A lot of flamenco music is adapted from her works. Camilo Cela won the Pulitzer peace prize in literature in the 20th century for his writing about the history and life in Spain. He also lived and died in Padron. The people in Padron are very proud of their history.

There is also a monastery just out of town which was established in the 17th century by monks from South America. They reportedly brought with them the seeds for the legendary Padron peppers. This is still the only place in all of Spain that produces these wonderfully delicious peppers from those heirloom seeds.

We are excited and slightly surprised that we are at this point in our journey. It has gone by so fast. There were moments when we longed to be in this place but I think we will miss the walking even more than we did after our last pilgrimage. We are still considering a walk along the coast but we will wait and see how the weather looks when we get there.

Until then, we are thinking of you. Longing for the time when we are together again and sharing life. Buen Camino.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I have to admit, there were many hours along the way in which I longed for Spain. Galicia always holds a tender spot in my heart. The rich earth, the Celtic appearance, the food, and walking through the many villages and watching life on the rural farms  always warms my heart. I find I have daydreamed about this area many times.

We have walked through many towns these last few days. Each of them so very different from the one before. We stayed in the family run Hotel Azul in Porrino where we given a basket of pretzels and ice cold beer when we arrived. It was such a treat! The family lives in the hotel and each of the sisters took turns taking care of us. 

In Redondela we stayed in a private albergue. Our room was red and had a balcony that overlooked the small cobblestone main street. It looked like downtown New Orleans. 

We ended up staying in a four star hotel in Ponterverda because it was at the right place at the right time. All the locals came to the bar downstairs to watch the soccer match. It was fantastic. We meandered through the old city and sat out in the plaza in the evening and watched the families spending time together. Needless to say, this reminded us of you and we missed you very much. 

The rain began as we entered Caldas de Reis and has been with us ever since. We get in and change to something dry and then find a bar/cafe and enjoy our time with the locals and fellow travellers. From Lisbon to Porto we only saw eight other pilgrims walking. Now we see eight each day.

We are enjoying these days. Even the rain brings us some delight. I have come to enjoy the speed (and location, as in bus stops) in which Tom can change into his rain gear. It is quite a sight to behold. We will be in Santiago shortly. The time and miles are flying by.

This has been a very different journey for us. I can hardly wait until I see you and tell what it has been like. I'll put on a pot of soup and we can sit by the fire. Looking forward to that time. Until then, you are loved... Buen Camino.

Friday, October 23, 2015

From Portugal to Spain

This morning we crossed the border from Portugal into Spain. We decided to spend the night in the castle in Valenca, Portugal and walk over in the morning when we were well rested. I have to tell you it was very exciting to me. I don't say this very often but I was proud of Tom and I. It was really quite an accomplishment for us. As you know Tom had surgery this past summer and there were many days when I thought we would not make this trip at all. One step at a time and we have walked from one country into another.

The international bridge is a stunning piece of architecture. It is both simple and classy. It was an exciting moment as we crossed over. We are are a little over 100 km from Santiago, Spain. Depending on the weather, we may walk over to the coast and enjoy the coastline for a while. We are still contemplating this as we walk.

We think of you in these beautiful moments. These are the times I miss you the most. Longing to share these special moments and places with you. But for now, we carry you in our hearts.

 Love you so very much...Buen Camino

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes

It was the perfect day to walk as we left Ponte de Lima for Rubiaes. We had such a lovely time I have to admit it was a little hard to leave. We got up early and stopped for coffee at the local coffee shop. By 7:30 the room was full of locals drinking coffee and port wine and the the cafe was abuzz with laughter and loud, playful conversations. We wished we were a little more fluent in Portuguese so we could contribute. It was the happening place this morning.

Our walk was only to be about 15 miles and we had a very steep hill to ascend. Once we set out there were no places to stop so we packed our lunch. It was hard climb but so very beautiful.

We were warm and sweaty when we came into town. We chose our albergue because it was a private home that had been converted to a pilgrim shelter. For us, they feel a bit like home and we always enjoy visiting with the people who live in these beautiful country villages. I will never forget as we walked up the last little hill. Maria, our hostess, stood in the road with her apron on and welcomed us in. She poured us a glass of her homemade vinho verde (red winewhich she scooped out of a barrel for us. She then picked up some chestnuts and quickly roasted them for us while we sat and rested our bones. We talked for the longest time and she told us what life was like for her as a widow with four daughters. Times had been very hard for several years but she was doing much better now.

After an hour or so she brought us a plate of freshly made arroz con leche and served us like we were high school football players after the football game. Needless to say, we did not need dinner that night. I think one of the things I appreciated the most was her generosity. Often times, after hard seasons in life we hesitate or hold back out of fear. She did not. She was very kind and generous and gave freely.

The countryside becomes much more beautiful as we head northward. We will be in Spain soon to a more familiar Camino. While that is very exciting to me I will miss these moments. The times when we are sitting and chatting with someone we have just met. Drinking wine from a barrel and eating freshly roasted chestnuts on the terrace. These moments only occur because I am here in this moment. It was a beautiful exchange of experiences by two women who had never met nor would probably ever see each other again. I will carry this moment with me and in the years to come I will always remember it with great joy.

She invited us to stay at the castle in Valenca which is just south of the Spanish border. We will consider this as we walk. We are excited to know that we are close to Spain and yet a little sad to leave Portugal. This walk has had its' fair share of hard moments but the beautiful encounters with the Portuguese people have by far exceeded any hardship we may have experienced. It has been exactly what we needed.

We are thinking of you each and everyday and are hold your heart next to ours. Looking forward to our return when we can be together again. You are loved...Buen Camino.

Monday, October 19, 2015

We May Never Pass This Way Again

We may never pass this way again...I know that sounds the like the words to an old Seals and Crofts song but today those words hold great significance to me. The course of events were phenomenal and I know I have not yet unwrapped all layers of the gifts that were given to us.

It started rather ordinary. According to the weather forecast it was to be clear in the morning with no rain expected until about one in the afternoon. We had heard about a beautiful Quinta about 15 km away and thought we would have a short day of walking and enjoy most of the day and evening in the beautiful old farmhouse. With the expectation of rain in the afternoon this seemed like the perfect plan. We got ready and headed out the door and within three minutes it started to rain. Not just a light misty rain but a downpour. Apparently the weather had not heard about the forecast prediction. Our walk today would take us through the forests with one major hill to climb. When the clay gets wet it is very slippery and hard to maneuver. We had five miles before we would find a village and cover of any sort.

Our devotional for today reminded us to trust God and go gently through this day, keeping our eyes on Him. I will open the the way before you as you take steps along your path. I'd like to say I knew everything would go according to His plan but I felt a bit anxious as we started. As the rain fell harder I began coming up with numerous back up plans. And then, God opened the way.

We had stopped for a moment in the middle of the road and a running team came along. Once you are north of Porto everyone recognizes you are on pilgrimage and heading to Santiago. They want to stop and assure you are heading the right way and wish you a Buen Camino. Today was no different except we had decided we would not go any further with the rain so heavy and the roads so slippery. As it turned out there was a race today. Teams were running from a distance of about 20 miles away and ending in Ponte de Lima as a part of a large marathon event. Our team was a part of this event. When they heard of our plan they stopped and offered their assistance. They walked back into town with us and carried our bags.They got us a cup of coffee and called someone to drive us into Ponte de Lima. Once we were settled they ran off in the rain to continue their race. We were so touched by their genuine concern and kindness towards us.

That in itself was incredibly beautiful but as we sat in our nice warm room overlooking the river we saw our team come in. Bravo we shouted from our balcony window and they came to us to make sure we were warm and settled.

We will stay a day or two in Ponte do Lima. It is considered the oldest town in Portugal and it is very beautiful. We have a beautiful little pensao overlooking the river. There is an Italian restaurant below us with a fire oven and the most delicious smells wafting up to our room. And, we may never pass this way again so Carpe Diem. We will seize the day and just enjoy the beauty that is here.

I am learning so much...Trusting in Gods perfect plans. Being reminded that He doesn't need me to have a back up plan in case His doesn't work. The exquisite beauty in the way in which He shows us He cares for us. There is so much more for me to learn. I think of you and hope you know that you are loved...Buen Camino.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pedra Furada

We left Porto and headed to Pedra Furada with only the plan to head north. We are getting really good at abandoning our agendas on what to do and how to do it for the truly unencumbered life. We know we are out for a walk and the destination or distance no longer concerns us. We just stop when we are ready.

It was the perfect morning to walk. We had coffee and toast and then headed out. The weather was cool and there was a nice breeze. Rain was expected by three in the afternoon. We were set, northward we would go. We stopped for a moment in Barcellos (we have dear friends with the same last name) and then meandered through the countryside. We stopped for light lunch along the way and enjoyed a moment of life in rural Portugal. We looked across the street at a small church and saw the most beautiful baby pig. I wish I had captured his photo but I was so enthralled with him I did not even take my camera out of its pouch. He had the biggest ears I have ever seen on a pig. He looked like dumbo the elephant with a pigs snout. When he ran his ears flopped and it looked like he large dark eyes imprinted on the inside of his large ears. We watched him enjoy his freedom for awhile. He ran through neighboring gardens snorting along the way. We left shortly afterward and two men in a blue Mercedes were driving up and down a dirt road. We suspected they were looking for the pig. We called them over and tried to explain where we had seen the pig last. We laughed when we thought about how they were going to catch this little pig and drive him home in their beautiful Mercedes Benz.

The rain and blustery winds kicked up a little earlier than we had expected. We had about 2.8km left (uphill) when the deluge hit. A young man pulled over and offered us a ride and we accepted it. We are warm and dry and enjoying the respite.

Thinking of you. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Porto is lovely. The port city is beautifully situated on the 'River of Gold' or, as known in Portugal, Rio Douro. It is a city full of vitality and a rich history. Famous navigators of the 14th century were born here and by the 15th century the city played a leading role in the maritime discoveries of the New World.

We loved our time here. We quickly slipped into the tourist mode and took a river boat cruise on the Douro River. We were able to see the Port wine caves along the embankments and see the renowned hillside settlements which have also been around since the 15th century. Our trip took us to the place where the river meets the sea. To say it was lovely would be an understatement.

The history and architecture is rich and beautiful. We meandered among the cathedrals and museums and then took a city tour. We also went to a couple of the port wine lodges and sampled some wonderful port and learned of it's history. We tried the local specialities, franceshina being of our favorites. It's like a calzoni but made with thick Portuguese bread and their famous sausages. It is smothered with cheese and toasted. A wonderful tomato sauce is poured over it and then served with homemade potato chips and a cold beer. It was so satisfying.

We had so much fun. We stayed up late and woke up even later. We have decided to alter our route for a while and head north along the coastline. The weather looks good for a few days and so we shall walk along the coast. Our traveling family has moved on ahead and we are walking alone again. We are certainly in good company. We are also getting better at the surrender. Letting go of the self imposed expectations and schedules. This really is a daily issue for me and I must work on it constantly.

We arrived in Vila do Conde today after a 19 mile walk along the coast. It was one of our best walks. We think of you in all this beauty. Thankful for you in our lives. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Perspective and Perseverance

These are not easy words for me to write. Today was hard and I had moments of doubt about what we were doing. We started out early because there were many miles to cover and heavy rains were predicted for the entire day. I could live with the weather because of my rain gear but the terrain was also difficult. It was a combination of undulating rocky hills and busy freeways. A hard combination when rains are present. When it was over I would have to say it was probably one of my best days. Not because it was easy or beautiful but because it was a day that provoked my thoughts and gave me a different perspective.

By California standards we started out in a heavy rain. Since we haven't seen rain in California for quite some time it was a lovely storm. This would not deter us and we eagerly set out.

Our walk started along the N110. The trails and infrastructure in Portugal are not as developed as the ones in France. On occasion (usually after a natural disaster) they reroute us along the national highway. It was cold and I was wet and the cars and trucks whizzed by at incredible speeds. Why am I doing this? I thought. This is ridiculously hard.  Then I was reminded that there are some who would give anything for this to be their hard. I could think of nothing else to complain about from that moment on.

I find one of the most beautiful aspects of our walk is our time without distractions. Amidst these beautiful places and exquisite experiences the thing I appreciate the most are these moments of closeness to God. There are many ways in which this happens but for me each step I take is a prayer. In those moments of prayer, my perspective can change. I am a work in progress and I have so much to be thankful for. I thought of those who would give anything to say that this was the hardest thing they had going. What had once seemed overwhelming to me had now became very beautiful as I thought about this. 

At some point during the day it did stop raining. We often stop to look around us and get a different perspective of where we are and where we have been. The rainy day had become so beautiful to me. A little change in the my external environment or perhaps, the change was me, but everything seemed different. Still walking north to Spain and having persevered the storm we continue onward. Not always sure of what is ahead but know we will be alright. Buen Camino...You are loved.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


We were pleasantly surprised when we entered Coimbra. Sometimes after days on the trail and then staying in the smaller villages where we know everyone it can be difficult to adjust to the busyness of a big city. This was not the case when we walked into Coimbra. It was spectacular as we entered and our way was well marked. Our friend Bernard who is always ahead of us found the most delightful place for us to stay. We had a lovely roon in a historical pension with a stunning view of the city. We walked out our door and we were in the heart of the city. It was delightful.

Coimbra was the capital of Portugal from 1145-1255. However, it is best known for it's university which was founded in 1290. The original site still remains with some of the original structures and with some gorgeous new buildings. It is one of the best schools for mathematics and engineering in the country.

We have decided to eat at a traditional Portuguese restaurant that the locals favor. It's specialty is fish and I have to say it was one of the best seafood meals I have ever eaten.  I had the giant prawn and grilled calamari. The owner was very generous to us and shared some of his wonderful port. Afterward, we went with a young couple from Canada to watch Fado. It was lovely.

We think of you as the days so by. Each day and a another adventure that we would love to share with you. You are very much. Buen Camino.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Onward We Go

The countryside was exquisite today as we left Alaviazere for Rabacal. The villages here are small and quaint and we have enjoyed watching the men and women harvesting their olives. It is tedious work as they do it all by hand. The men usually hit the branches with a large stick and the women usually gather up the olives. Sometimes a whole branch comes down and the olives are hand picked off the branches. I know that this is just the beginning of their work.

It rained intermittently throughout the day but we were very comfortable. We are getting used to our packs and we are the happiest when we are out on the trail. It has taken a while to find our pace and relinquish our expectations for ourselves. We remember that we are really just out for a walk we begin to fully relish being in the moment. We have met a few other pilgrims and are beginning to enjoy their companionship as well.

The people we meet along the way will often approach us and engage in conversations. It is not often they have visitors walking through their village. Although the Portuguese route is not as popular as the Camino Frances the people in the small villages are aware that they live on this historical way. They want to hear about what we are doing, where we have come from, and then tell us their own stories. We are loving this part of our journey.

I appreciate this time as we acclimate to our new routines and rhythms. Periodically we take a moment to stop and look at where we have been. Sometimes the overall goal feels overwhelming but when we take a moment we see we are exactly where we are supposed to me. We are inspired and encouraged to continue on.

You cross our hearts everyday...we carry you with us. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


After a lovely visit in Tomar we are off to Alaviazere. We have decided to take the bus for a few kilometers in a difficult to navigate area. We are having a glorious thunder and lightening storm and we will stay put for a while to enjoy it. The weather should clear later in the afternoon and we will walk into Alaviazere.

The small towns are starting to change in their appearance and today's villages actually look like some of the farmhouses in Italy. It is easy on our heart and refreshing for our souls so we enjoy this day of diminished walking and beautiful thunder and lightening storms.

The change in scenery reminds us of the many places we have been and even being wet does not deter our joy as we reminisce about those places. We talk for hours about the beautiful life and adventures we have had.

We are staying at an albergue in Alaviazere. The owner has turned part of his home into rooms for pilgrims. He is so happy and proud that he is taking care of us travelers. He gives us some of his best port wine and puts a gold stamp in our credential. We chat for awhile and then go into town with three other pilgrims. We have been enjoying the company of Bernard Plaisant from France for the last few evenings. Tonight, another couple from Pacific Grove join us for dinner at the only restaurant in town. As he is the only one working in the restaurant he is only cooking one thing tonight for all of us. We are happy to eat pork, potatoes, salad, bread and wine. We heartily accept it and enjoy each others company.

We are starting to get into our new routine. We have cut back on the miles we are walking each day and are trying to remember the things we learn each day of walking. Breathe, the place we are is the exact place we are supposed to be, you have nothing to prove, be joyful and enjoy this gift of each other and our time together.

We think of you as the hours go by. We know you would like some of these places too. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


It did rain today and we did make it to Tomar. We had looked forward to the walk today as it would take us through some beautiful forests. It was crazy and beautiful at the same time. There had been a fire in the last year or so and the trail over the mountains was no longer present. Our guide book gave instructions but needless to say we got to a point where we could no longer follow the instruction it gave. I am married to a wonderful navigator who was trained by the Navy in celestial navigation. I knew I was in good hands. We found our way out and then walked along the N110 which is the national highway. And, it was raining like crazy.

We found a restaurant on the side of the highway and went inside. It was Sunday afternoon and everyone was dressed in their Sunday best. Despite our wet and disheveled appearance we were welcome in. We ate a lovely meal of fish, potatoes and green salad. Everyone was kind and helpful to us and we had a lovely time. We were exactly where we were supposed to be. We got a ride into town which was about 6km and checked into our lovely hostal to dry off.

We have decided to spend a little more time here and explore the area. It is home to the Templar Castle and the area is enchanting. We are doing well. We are learning so very much about ourselves and hoping to know more about what God would have for us. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Santarem to Golega

Our host Mario woke up early to see us off in the morning and I have to admit that a few tears were shed. He wished us well, packed a small lunch for us, and gave us his phone number in case we needed anything. He also gave us the name of a place to stay in Golega and said that his friend Lenore would take good care of us when we arrived. We accepted his offer and he was right. It was a great place and Lenore did take good care of us.

Golega is famous in Portugal for fine Arabian horses. The annual horse show occurs in November and people from all over the country participate. It is a lovely town and we are pleased to be here.

We also met a few other pilgrims tonight and enjoyed lively conversations and wonderful stories. The two men we shared the evening with were near seventy and avid walkers. Bernard was from France and Neil from Finland. Both are 'given' a month each year away from their families to walk so they get in as much walking as possible. They covered 30-40 miles a day so I knew our time together would be short. As we listened to their many walking stories I came to appreciate that they did this for the pure joy of it. They were not bragging about their speed or their accomplishments. They were just excited to talk about the walks they had taken. When we mentioned that twenty miles a day was our limit they offered some wonderful words of wisdom. They reminded us that in this season of life we have nothing to prove to any one. It is not the accumulation of miles or the completion of any given stage that makes our walks of any value. It is the joy that being together and walking gives us that makes this journey beautiful. I am reminded that these words hold true even when we are not walking.

We are off towards Tomar tomorrow. There is a chance of rain for the next few days. We are out for a walk and will see where we end up. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Santarem is the place where the Caminho Fatima and the Camino de Santiago divide and head their separate ways. It is also the place where Tom's cold took a turn for the worse. We have decided to stop here and rest for a few days. It is a lovely village and we are staying at the Hostal Santarem where we have a little terrace apartment. Mario is our host and he plays some of the most beautiful music for us. He must have at least 1,000 vinyl records and his collection is to be envied.

We did take a walk through town where we visited the Portas do Sol which is known here as the gateway to the sun. It has a stunning view of the vistas below and occupies the site of the original Roman forum and the Moorish citadel.

After a visit to the local pharmacy I realized I would be out of a job if pharmacies in the United States were like these. You present your symptoms to the pharmacist and he or she prescribes for you based on your symptoms. I contributed my thoughts and she readily agreed and handed over our request. Needless to say, he is feeling better.

We will resume our walk again tomorrow. The rest has been good for us in a most unexpected way. While each place has brought us a special delight our time here has given us time to reflect on what is really important to us. We are in the season of life in which we do not need to rush. We can stop and enjoy the moment we are in even if it means we alter our plans to just stay still.

The local taberna fixes us homemade soup each day and our host prepares soothing drinks for us and we feel well cared for. We realize we are in no hurry nor do we have a final destination. We are just on a walk and enjoying everyplace we happen to be. After all, we are only doing this for the sheer fun of it. Excited to see what lies ahead. You are loved and missed...Buen Camino

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Porte de Muge

Porte de Muge
Today we have chosen to walk less than the twenty plus miles that our guide book recommends. We are using the Brierley's guide for pilgrims who walk the Camino. He prefaces this guidebook by saying the route through Portugal is for the experienced pilgrim. We are beginning to see why he would make that statement. The distances, though not necessarily hard, are long. Often times there are no  places to stop or stay along the way. We must plan ahead with some provision for those days. We must also be able to navigate without a lot of way-markings. Today we have the option so we have decided to stop in Porte de Muge.

We are feeling refreshed after a good nights sleep and are eager to get back onto the country paths. We have packed some fresh fruit, nuts, and raisins to eat along the way. We have decided to stay in a Quinta which is a traditional farmhouse. The Quintas here are relatively large. They have a large main house and then a variety of apartment style buildings with a large kitchen and dining area for the farm workers. This is a rich agricultural area with a variety of crops but it most notably known for its production of tomatoes. We stop along the way and pick up a few fresh ripe tomatoes to refresh us. They are delicious.

We are pleasantly surprised when we reach the Quinta da Marchanta. There is a note to welcome us pilgrims. Our gracious host Graca is away for the moment but Ernesto, her overseer welcomes us. He gives us a lovely apartment where we feel right at home. After we freshen up and get our laundry on the line we take the bicycles into town where they are expecting us for dinner. We are pleasantly surprised by a light rain and excited to wear our jackets for a moment. We have two choices for dinner and we have decided to have the steak, eggs, and potatoes. This also includes bread, olives, salad, fruit, and drinks. All this for a mere 10E. All the locals are here and we are excited to be with them. Mama has done the cooking, daughter Ana serves us and we are happy in this moment with people we have just met.

We are blessed and we know it. Today we are really appreciative of those blessings. You are also a blessing to us. You are very much. Buen Camino.

Alverca to Azambuja

Alverca to Azambuja
We get up early today to get a good start on our eighteen mile trek. This has been an arduous day. Not because of the distance or its degree of difficulty but because much of today's walk parallels the busy N-10 and we must traverse through many industrial areas. In 2012 there was significant flooding in this area and so the walkway along the estuary has been altered. At this time this is the recommended route so we follow it northward.

We must maintain our vigilance as we meander through this area and pray not to miss what God would have for us in this unexpected detour. We meet another young man who stops to talk to us. He offers us a cool drink and then encourages us on our pilgrimage. He speaks words to us and we are left amazed that he would know the exact words we needed to hear at that moment. It is as if he knew things about us that we had not even spoken of. We are thankful for this moment in an otherwise hard day. We know we are cared for and not alone.

Tonight we stayed at the Ouro Hotel. We had read it was nice and it was the first place we found as we entered the small town of Azambuja. We washed our laundry and rested a bit before we headed for dinner. We can tell we are out of the city. I ordered a $2.00 glass of wine and got the whole bottle! We ate a delightful meal and were the only ones in the restaurant. People began to enter as we began to leave. We haven't quite got the knack (or the energy right now) for the late night life yet.

We know we care cared for each day. God makes Himself known to us in ways that we know only come from Him. Sometimes things are not as we expect but we know that they are no surprise to our God. We are open to all that He has for us. We think of you.You are loved... Buen Camino.

Inward Journey

As we begin this pilgrimage I have begun to understand the words of John Muir. His quote, "I only went out for a walk...and finally concluded to stay out to sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in" is becoming clearer to me as we walk many hours each day through Portugal.

This pilgrimage is very different for us in many ways. We are different. The course of events over this past year have caused us to look inward as we redefine our lives by His desires for us. Things are not as we expected but exactly as they are supposed to be. What needed change was not necessarily our situations but our perspective about them. So, as we begin our walk we have many hours to contemplate this inward journey.

The miles are long as we leave Lisbon. It certainly isn't as beautiful as crossing the Pyrenees were but in it's own way very moving to our hearts and souls. We are not distracted but what surrounds us but are able to concentrate on what is within us. Each day God gives us the most beautiful encounter and there is no doubt that He has placed that moment to remind us He is with us and we are well cared for. I think He has that message for us everyday but in these moments, alone for miles on end, we just seem to hear it better.

We also have been burdened by the desire to pray for those of you we love. Our hearts our full in doing this. It is beautiful to take the time to do this and we feel very connected to each of you. Our hearts are next to your hearts in these moments.

We continue northward. The way-markings are modestly placed and we have to work hard at navigating the trail but we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

You are loved... Buen Camino.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lisboa to Alverca

Lisboa to Alverca
We began our trek today with the goal of walking nearly nineteen miles from the capital city of Portugal to the small town of Alverca. While traversing a large city usually presents a challenge, leaving Lisbon is relatively easy as we head down to the mighty estuary of the Rio Tejo. We follow this large river until it meets the more modest Rio Trancao which will lead us inland. We leave one world and are about to enter another.

Once we leave the busyness of Lisbon and are on the quiet pathways we do not see another soul for hours. We are alone on this trail and have not met any one else who is walking this Camino. We are lead to a delightful cafe where we are refreshed with a light lunch and a cool drink by a delightful young man and his grandfather. Their kindness to us in the most unexpected moment will be appreciated more than they will ever know.  It is our reminder that we are cared for and we are not alone on this journey.

We stay at the home of Maria Luz Lourdes Leal who invites us in when she hears we are walking to Fatima/Santiago. She is eighty years old and speaks a combination of Spanish/Italian/Portuguese. Surprisingly enough, we are able to understand each other. As she helps me hand wash our laundry for the day she asks me to pray for her along the way. In Portugal, the Caminho de Fatima is a sacred journey and many people walk it for healing (it coincides with the Camino de Santiago so we are actually walking both routes for a while). She can not walk it at her age and so I tell her we will pray for her as we walk. She wakes up early in the morning to see us off and hugs and kisses us before we go.

We are thinking of you as the hours go by. You come across our hearts and prayers many times during the day. You are loved... Buen Camino.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


 Lisboa (as the locals call it) is a delightful city. It is a lovely combination of old and new interwoven together to make a delightful destination. We are staying in the Alfama district which is known as the historical section. Our room is on the fourth floor of a lovely old building and the Palace of Sao Jorge is right across the road. Below us are sidewalk cafes and a delightful Gelateria where we have become hooked on the lemon-basil gelato.

This beautiful port city is the destination of many travelers and today is no exception. We have decided to join the crowds and enjoy all that Lisboa has to offer.

The many sidewalk cafes present the local specialities. Fresh fish is very popular and we are enjoying the many variations they have to have offer. The octopus is wonderful and prepared very differently than in Spain. I have come to love bufata cheese which is similar to mozzarella but much creamier. It is served with a beefsteak tomato and grilled zucchini squash. I have it with every meal.

The nightlife is incredible. The city comes to life after night falls. We went to watch a Fado which is the Portuguese version of Flamenco. Men and women sing mournful songs of yearning, sorrow, and love in a way to connect all those who have had those life experiences. They are accompanied by two twelve string guitars and it is the perfect combination. It is very stirring.

We toured around the city and got a glimpse of the different neighborhoods. It is said that Portugal is built on seven hills and each of those hills house a very different type of neighborhood. One area is the cultural neighborhood which boasts the many cultures in Portugal. Another, the university area, is very modern and the activities in that area take into consideration the preferences of the college crowd. It is a very exciting place to be.

We have registered ourselves as pilgrims and will begin our walk tomorrow. We will leave Lisboa and walk north as we begin our trek to Spain. We are excited for what is ahead. We will think of you and will hold you in our hearts and prayers. You are loved...Buen Camino

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Respite in Rota

I am not sure if it is the beauty of the white sand and blue waters, the ease of life here as we meander through this small coastal town in the south of Spain or just its familiarity to us that makes Rota such a place of respite for us. Whatever it is, we have begun the process of letting go and entering the realm of just being.
We take care of business in the mornings and then spend the afternoons walking or riding our bikes into the small town along the shoreline. We met a couple of nuclear physicists on our flight over and so we spend some time with them chatting and enjoying some of the local customs. The seafood is abundant and we are enjoying the many varieties. We are still finding things we have never tried before!
I knew I had begun the transitioning process into sabbatical mode when I noticed a woman walking along the shore. She was nicely dressed and wearing white dress shoes and a sweater. In her hand she had a fishing pole and a white plastic bag. It was beautiful to me and so I asked if I might take her picture. She was joyous at this prospect and quickly combed her hair, took off her sweater and pulled the fish out of the bag. I am reminded in this moment that there is beauty all around me and joy in just living. I don't want to miss any of it.
We have our tickets for Lisbon. We will catch the bus from Rota to Sevilla where we will spend a few hours roaming this beautiful city. In the afternoon we will catch another bus and travel along the coastline of Portugal to Lisbon. We have a pension (a room in a boarding house) in the Alfama district which is also known as the historical district. We will begin our journey from the Cathedral Se which is just down the street from where we will stay.

In every beautiful place and in every beautiful moment we think of you and wish you were here with us. You are loved... 
Buen Camino.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Journey Unfurls

 I was writing an email the other morning to family and friends as we prepare to leave for our 2015 sabbatical when I found myself explaining we were about to embark on another journey. I went through the details of leaving, hoping to get a Space A flight out of Travis AFB, heading to the east coast, and then to Portugal where we would begin another 600 mile trek through the Portuguese countryside and ending on the west coast of Spain. Suddenly, I began to feel very excited about our trip. This has been and interesting year and this journey was exactly what was needed.
I began to realize that this was not really another journey but a part of my life journey. Everyplace I have been leads me to everyplace I am going. These sabbaticals are really a part of my life in which I take the time to be reminded that without the hard, ease would not be appreciated, without the mundane the beauty would not be as exquisite, and without leaving the returning would not be as heartwarming.
It has been a memorable year. There were times when I was not so sure we would make this trip. I am glad that we are moving forward. I remember the words  of a favorite quote of mine. Regret for things done can be tempered with time. Regret for the things not done is inconsolable.
So we move forward as this part of our journey unfurls. We will have no regrets as to how this will play out and we leave nothing behind. We are all in. We are at Travis AFB waiting to board a C-5 to McGuire AFB, New Jersey. Our backpacks are on board and we are ready for whatever lies ahead. We are not quite sure about what is next but know that we are excited for this part of our journey and all that God would have for us.
Buen are loved.