Bravo to We Who Are

“When you reach a stage when you can have a very
dark and difficult experience, without having to look
on the “bright side,” then you know that you have
made progress on your healing journey. Because one
significant measure of our emotional health, is our
capacity to tolerate all of our experiences without
jumping to reactive reframes. You reach a stage where
you can stretch to accommodate the truth of your lived
experience. You have enough light inside, to own the
shadow. And enough shadow inside, to own the light.”

Jeff Brown, Hearticulations: on friendship, love and healing, 2020

Taking a step sideways from my usual posting of a Friday poem, I found this quote scrolling on my Facebook feed this week, something I’m doing only occasionally these days (that might be a story for another time). Posted on a friend’s timeline, after reading the comments I was reminded that decades ago I had read something Shakti Gawain of creative visualization fame, wrote about positively thinking herself into a psychosis. At a time when a heavy theme within the new age thought movement was espousing “think positive and manifest thus,” her words left an indelible mark. In that same era, I read Ken Wilber in an issue of the New Age Journal calling out this same tendency, particularly with reference to blaming those suffering with life threatening illness, as his wife at the time was dying of cancer. (Wilber, having created the brilliantly deep and expansive Intergral Theory, is who Fr. Richard Rohr describes in a recent podcast with Brene Brown, “the wisest philosopher of religion on the American scene.”)

I received the gift of insight a few weeks ago, during an interview with a fellow doing a Masters degree in Tourism, studying the transformations experienced by we who walk “secular,” non-religious inspired caminos. In response to his final question, “What in 3 or 4 sentences would I describe as the main lessons learned from my camino?” and as I wrote here last week, after several moments of quiet consideration, searching for the most accurate words, I said that I am developing an embodied, visceral familiarity with what it means to live in Life’s messy, inchoate middle, engaging with, partnering with, Life living itself.

Bravo to we who are so fiercely tender and tenderly fierce in our refusal to only live on the bright side of life, ignoring its necessary, organic, abundant mess. Life needs us to be so.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet

Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of
pop.

Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.

Open the door, then close it behind you.

Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth
gathering essences of plants to clean.

Give it back with gratitude.

If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.

Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a
dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.

Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the
guardians who have known you before time, who will be there
after time. They sit before the fire that has been there
without time.

Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.

Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who
accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down
upon them.

Don’t worry.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises,
interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and
those who will despise you because they despise themselves.

The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a
hundred, a thousand or even more.

Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave
your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of
time.

Do not hold regrets.

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the
keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your
heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors
to make way for those who are heading in our direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many
forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases
of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.

Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in
pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to
be found after being lost for so long.

Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean
clothes.

Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and
supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.

Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through
the dark. 

– Joy Harjo –

For the new year…
May yours be filled with promise, good health, and joy with family and friends.
May you find your way through the dark, and help another to do the same.
Call upon and trust the ancients, ancestors and angels…those beings seen and unseen…and those more than human.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

The Coming of Light

THE COMING OF LIGHT

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

– Mark Strand –

This poem’s beautiful simplicity touched me as an elegant “gift” for these Holydays of darkness and coming light.

Dear friends – near and far, known on the page or felt in the winds – thank you for companioning me as I write what it’s in my heart and on my mind, and share my photography and some fine poetry – all the bits of a wabi sabi life.

May the season’s days and nights bring you time to pause and notice and savor what brings you joy. May you rest in the knowing you are loved. May you have more of each – joy and love – as the light comes again and the new year beckons.

With love and kindest regards.

Reroot, Rewild, Retell

Today I enter the third week of “Rewilding Mythology,” hosted and curated by contemporary writer, Sophie Strand, who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and ecology. Compelled by several inspirations including a night time dream; Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation actions; the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer and Richard Wagamese; and the valuing of the dark, decayed and dead in essays by Perdita Finn and Matt Licata, I enrolled in this 8 week online course, and only afterwards read its description:

“For most of human history, myth was a durable mode of knowledge transmission, kept alive and resilient by the breath-laced web of communal storytelling. Just as we plant a seed in soil, so were vital pieces of agricultural and ecological lore planted into stories that were built to survive environmental and social collapse.

Myth-telling, as primarily oral and embodied, was revitalized by the same ecological cycles that depend on a balance of decay and regrowth: breaking down dead wood to generate new soil. Our culture-creating cosmogonies rarely grew stale because they were refreshed and adapted to new conditions each time they were retold. Myths were the maps of communities intimately dialoguing with their environment. Most importantly, they were contextual.

But the rise of empire depended on the deracination of mythologies. Just as landscapes were stolen and terraformed so were whole pantheons uprooted from their social and ecological contexts, coopted by the very cultures that ensured the demise of their originating cultures. Galilean magicians were turned into militaristic figureheads. Serpentine divinities were transformed into gorgon-headed monsters. Uprooted from their context and from the renewing respiration of communal storytelling, these stories ossified into abstraction and reinforced the anthropocentric hyper-individuality and colonial capitalism of today.”  

Following intuition. Knowing little. Not knowing a lot. Catching wisps – from last week’s poet story-teller, and the depth psychologist featured in Friday’s bonus session – that are coalescing into some kind of vague, embodied comprehension. Yet already it’s been informing what I’m hearing and seeing and talking about. Already, it’s re-shaping my context.

Quoting the host from her invitation: “I can’t wait to see how I’ll be changed by it.” And I wonder, too, “How can we reroot, rewild, and retell?


I’m far from integration, synthesis, or even a coherent articulation about any of it, but from my notes, right now this excites me and grabs my curiosity:

“When you uproot a myth, dogma is the result.”

“Reading our alphabetic language makes it available for capture rather than response, while speaking we feel the energy vibrations in our body.”

“Is there a mode of writing that allows for space, breath and context?”

“Consider anthropomorphism as courtship to learn how to be in conversation and communion with the land and interior world, so that we can cultivate subjectivities that are less commodifying.”

“What if magic wasn’t supernatural but the most natural experience?”

“Magic is the logic of the world when the world is experienced from its own depths.”

“We’re used to listening in an habitual, usual way in the body. Let’s awaken the ancestral faculties of listening through the body to then become hollowed out for lightening to pass through…to be seized by a flow…”

“What stories are living us?”

Last week a friend invited me to his podcast conversation centering on wisdom, creativity, and living with uncertainty. As prompt, he referenced a meme he’d seen posted on my Facebook timeline:

“The ghosts of all the women you used to be
are proud of the woman you’ve become.”

@the global sisterhood

He asked what wisdom I’d have for those ghosts.

As is often the case with such a thoughtful question, in such beautifully contained conversation where we listen and are seen beyond habit, a conversation that is generative and holds the possibility for emergence, I found myself saying out loud things I’d never quite thought about before, let alone spoken. The stories living me. Asking to be spoken and shared.

After a lengthy pause, for his question deserved consideration, I responded that I’d ask about what excites them, grabs their curiosity, incites their wonder.

Theirs and mine. Then and now. To help us “reroot, rewild and retell.”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Inside the Season’s Cocoon

While a week late, and a post missed, I’ve kept my promise to myself to “stick to the knitting” and my writing practice here. During the interim, two rejections from the group where last year I’d been invited to read my submission to their ekphrastic poetry contest (beginner’s luck?) – I was sure I had a good one – and another written in the wee hours of Wednesday’s dawn to meet another contest deadline. Fingers crossed and regardless, I’ll get feedback from the judges. Always a boon.

Too, after a record-breaking long and warm and sunny August, September and October, wherein I was playing pickleball outside until Hallowe’en, winter – apparently fed up with waiting – suddenly, unequivocally barged in with November. Blowing and blustering throughout Alberta, it dropped nearly a foot of snow in a matter of days, wreaked highway havoc, and gave us the dubious distinction of being among the coldest spots on earth this week. Add Tuesday’s full moon lunar eclipse; peculiar and powerful planetary alignments wreaking their own astrological chaos; news from home that a high school chum has been seriously afflicted by dementia; another friend coping with pneumonia and two small children; a frozen vehicle; Annie down with a GI tract infection (she’s better now)…

Neither complaining nor making excuses, I’m simply noticing what now has the capacity to knock me sideways, crawl deeper into the covers, and, despite the sun and blue sky, colorfully renounce my gratitude for the seasons, especially this one. I refuse to call it a symptom of age…more the wisdom that comes with…a finer attunement to the nuanced…the paying with attention in my body, and not over-riding it with my thinking. Saturday’s Camino walk in the river valley with a reprieve in temperature, and later with Annie, restored my appreciation.

Last weekend I took the bus to Calgary to attend a Friday poetry evening and Saturday workshop with Pádraig Ó Tuama. Such a treat to physically sit in his presence and hear him do so brilliantly what I’d only ever heard him do through Zoom and podcast space…recite remarkable poetry and invite us into how to listen to its structure for its meanings. Thank God, I knew to book the bus when I’d made the arrangements during early September’s golden glory. (I have a kind of prescience when it comes to weather…that finer attunement thing.) Both of us walking alone as we approached the venue, I introduced myself, said a few words as we climbed the stairs to the entrance, and then made our separate ways. Pretty neat for this enthusiastic fan. Too, I was standing in line to purchase his “hot off the press” Poetry Unbound collection, only to recognize immediately behind me award-winning Calgary poet Rosemary Griebel. We have a virtual friendship initiated when she wrote me a lovely compliment on my blog. Knowing she’d be there, I’d brought my copy of YES, her most recent collection, for her signature. Again, pretty neat for this appreciative fan. And then at the Saturday workshop, of all the coincidences, by way of her friend, Peg, we discovered we share a birthday. How neat is that!?! A bit of kismet perhaps…especially as we talked about Camino walking and her interest in Portugal.

I had several takeaways from the weekend inspired by both Pádraig and Rosemary. With my own rejections fresh, I felt restored hearing Pádraig say how difficult it continues to be for him to find places and publishers for his poetry, still how many and often the rejections. Its antidote, he said, was finding a small, intimate group of writers with whom to share the work, so as to uplift each other in the efforts made, support each other through the process of editing, submitting, and receiving rejections and acceptances. In the acknowledgement of her book, Rosemary mentioned the friendship and support received from her regular local poetry writers’ group. Into my new vocation now for a couple of years, I know its solitary, often lonely nature. I returned home committed to putting a call out, both to the Universe (trusting my efforts are adding), and to some writers to ask if they’d meet me in the sandbox – virtual is fine – to support each other as we make our way with words.

And speaking of Camino, mid week I was invited to present “A Creative’s Way of Walking Her Camino” to the first, post covid, in person gathering of our local chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. Using a story I’d written for Portugal Green Walks and the upcoming issue of Sage-ing: The Journal of Creative Aging – a synthesis of my blogs – I shared my way of traveling in general, and in particular how I had walked the Portuguese Coastal Camino – using journal, painting, photography and poetry to grok within the experience’s impressions and memories. I was delighted not only with the feedback from attendees and planning committee, but more so to have been “seen” in this way of my vocation, to be, as one of the members said, the chapter’s “resident artist-poet.” Now this is very neat!

I am now inside the season’s cocoon, wintering. Despite the initial shock, I am surrendered to the inevitable, ready to savor having designed time for writing, studying Italian and “rewilding,” walking, cooking, hand work, seeing friends, sharing time with my “pack,” playing pickleball. Feeling life full in the midst of its fallow.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Sometimes

SOMETIMES

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

Sheenagh Pugh

Parker Palmer, wise elder, posted this a couple of days ago – his pithy response to the USA midterm elections. I’m sharing it today because I like how it echoes my first post back after my writing hiatus wherein I uplifted Hafiz’s notion that our efforts add to the universe – a message I personally need to remember and feel needs to uplifted and amplified continuously for us all.

OUR EFFORTS ADD TO THE UNIVERSE.
Mine. Yours. Ours.
Simple. Elegant. Complex. Messy.
The Universe does not judge. It simply needs our effort.
So let’s get at it!
One simple step…and let’s see where it takes us.


Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Adding to the Universe

In the past day’s reading of several favourite blogs, a few threads of thought shimmered and held my attention enough to ponder and weave together here…

In Transactions with Beauty, my friend Shawna Lemay shared as one of her “20 Things that Might Be Helpful,” the notion from Hafiz that our efforts are not insignificant…that through our humble efforts – none of which are irrelevant nor too important – finding the balance we add to the universe. I love this and gleaned the settling reassurance of being and doing “enough.” Thank you, Shawna, and our beloved Hafiz. Most definitely helpful.

This spun together with Robin Wall Kimmerer, her words imbued with beauty and the wisdom of her ancestors. Cited in another newsletter, she shared the teaching that by “paying” attention we give in return for the gifts we receive from Earth. As one who notices, a lot, this deeply resonated. I could take for granted such a simple gesture, but she reminds me it is an act profound precisely because our attention is fast becoming a limited resource, pulled in many directions and insidiously whittled away by myriad distractions. The question then is to what am I paying attention, and how or what does this attention serve and enliven?

My virtual friend Helen, over at Ageless Possibilities, shared her “October Reflections,” the year past and current. Closing with an invitation by way of questions – Do you do an annual reflection on changes in your life? Do you consider what has remained the same? And does that impact your life decisions? – I realized how in the last couple of weeks I’d been casually reflecting on my new vocation as writer-poet, and healthy pastime, my game of pickleball.

Despite a slow start to my game this summer, on the courts I saw how I’d developed in consistently serving well, handling the speed of a volley at the kitchen line, accurately placing more offensive shots, and in making more and better low and backhand shots. Yes, it’s still a fluke if I return a banger or a slam. The third shot drop still eludes me. And one day’s play can vary from the next. Despite saying at the outset of taking up the game several summers ago, that this would be the perfect practice for kindness – I falter, often, especially with myself. That’s why it’s called “practice,” I remind myself.

In the past year my writing efforts have borne fruits: poems published in two anthologies; writing the foreward and poetry for another; invitations to read at open mic events; my co-editing and featured writing “gig” at Sageing: The Journal of Creative Aging; and preparing a sixty poem manuscript for publication. It comes…word by word…line by line. And though reluctant to call myself “poet,” I know deep in my bones, poet is who and what I am, not just on the page, but in how I live my life.

“…attention generates wonder, which generates more attention … Paying attention to the more-than-human world doesn’t lead only to amazement; it leads also to acknowledgment of pain. Open and attentive, we see and feel equally the beauty and the wounds… Paying attention to suffering sharpens our ability to respond. To be responsible.” 

Robin Wall Kimmerer

While travelling earlier this month, I had a dream which gently guided me to registering for an eight week dive into “rewilding mythology.” In all honesty I have no idea what this is. But host, Sophie Strand, and several of the faculty intrigue and have piqued my sense of wonder, intuiting this will deepen my attention to the “more-than-human world,” and sharpen my ability to notice and respond. Next weekend I’ll travel to Calgary to sit in the presence of and learn from of a beloved poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, someone I’ve mentioned here for his Poetry Unbound podcast. And in December I’ll participate in a poetry intensive with Alberta poet Alice Major, to learn about aligning my poems into the arc of a collection.

If the “job of a human is to learn,” I’m at least part-time employed. Revisiting my slogan – “making prayer, poetry, and beauty is holy alchemy for social change” – I trust my efforts – neither irrelevant nor too important – are adding to the universe. I trust yours are adding, too.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Starkly Beautiful Truths

It’s early Sunday night and I’m sitting in my usual space for writing. Hot cup of tea to the side. My radio station playing low in the background. The space heater blowing warm, taking off the foreboding chill. Last week I read that here in Edmonton we were having the longest run of October +20 C degree days since 1944, and today tied the record for the latest first frost. But this weekend, winter made its arrival in other parts of the province and I know it’s simply a matter of time. The wheel turns…

It’s been nearly three months since my last post, one wherein I’d announced the need for a pause…to settle into my breath, body and bones after my month long Camino, to prepare for traveling to Italy with my husband, to re-centre to purpose. Since returning from Spain in early June, I’ve had the felt sense of standing yet again on a cusp. It was an atypical summer, late in coming, the hottest August on record giving us warm, sultry, bug free evenings, and one of illness: my lengthy recovery from Covid; then my husband developing a viral infection – non Covid but with a similar symptom pattern leaving him fatigued and coughing for weeks; and I succumbing to the same a few weeks later. Our Annie dog sustained sprains and pulled muscles. My elderly father’s ever robust and vital presence began to dim.

“I’ve lost my edge,” is how my husband put it, and for the first time I saw glimpses of a wavering frailty that comes with aging. While we’ve both recovered, and are feeling well having enjoyed our unstructured time sauntering in Rome, and then touring the exquisite landscapes of Puglia (albeit in overcast skies and rain), there’s the indelible realization we have entered a new life stage. Grief with facing the endings of ways of living and being, we are staring – starkly, undeniably -at our mortality and that of those we love and cherish.

In readying myself to write tonight and to return to it as my vocation, I spent a couple of hours today catching up on the myriad of e-newsletters in my inbox, a cursory glance telling me they held a pearl or several. Below are some of the more salient bits holding my attention:

“I have this belief that an internal monoculture of peace and clarity and smooth sailing is what normal people experience, so it’s what I should experience. And if I don’t feel peaceful and clear and focused, then there’s something that needs fixing inside me…
I want to reframe messiness as holy. I want to slide down and immerse myself in the murky waters of my messy heart.”

Barb Morris, “a messy mind is a healthy mind,” e-letter, September 29, 2022

“I’m curious to know if you have a line you repeat to yourself when you’re trying to sink into that necessary solitude that is at the heart of every human relationship: the relationship of yourself to yourself.”

Padraig O’Tuama, “the solitude at the heart of human relationship,” Poetry Unbound Newsletter, October 2, 2022

“We reach for hope as the antidote to despair,
but actually hope is the cause of despair.
The problem with hope is that it’s bipolar.  Every time we rely on hope, we always bring in fear. Buddhist wisdom teaches that hope and fear are two sides of the same dynamic.”

Margaret Wheatley, “We Have to Talk About Hope,” October 19, 2022

“The rhythms of the seasons play a significant role in my own discernment. Honoring the flowering of spring and the fruitfulness of summer, alongside the release of autumn and the stillness of winter, cultivates a way of being in the world that feels deeply reverential of my body and soul’s own natural cycles. We live in a culture that glorifies spring and summer energies, but autumn and winter are just as essential for rhythms of release, rest, and incubation. When we allow the soul’s slow ripening, we honor that we need to come into the fullness of our own sweetness before we pluck the fruit. This takes time and patience.”

Christine Valters Paintner, Love Notes, Abbey of the Arts newsletter, October 22, 2022

My synthesis, in poem…

the necessary solitude
that is my messy heart and mind
that I sink into as an antidote
to the bipolarity of hope and fear

seasons’ rhythms
a discernment where now autumn’s release
and soon winter’s stillness allow
my soul’s ripening

I took time and patience
the needed pause
to recover and reveal
life’s holy starkly beautiful truths

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends. It’s good to be back.

The Power in a Pause

In circle work, as taught by my teachers and elder “heart sisters,” Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea in The Circle Way, knowing when to call for a pause is a practice tenet. To regather one’s thoughts or focus, to recentre to purpose, taking a deep breath or several in silence supports the moving through and forward.

my sky at sunset

So it is that after a month of walking, and another two reflecting and writing about it here, I am pausing from writing my Monday posts. I may return to posting my Friday feature photo and poems, and in fact, have one lined up for Friday. But I’ll see how it rolls. Needing my attention this month are a few projects: writing the foreward and composing poetry for an anthology of women’s leadership in education, fine-tuning my poetry manuscript for the next round of submissions to publishers, and preparing the next issue of SAGE-ING for our September 21 online publication date.

In signing off for now, and “tucking in” my reflections on the Camino, here are beautiful words that affirm who I am and how I show up in the world, evident in my recent Camino photostories. Again, one of those timely Facebook finds:

“Are you happy?
In all honesty? No. But I am curious –
I am curious in my sadness and
I am curious in my joy. I am everseeking, everfeeling.
I am in awe of the beautiful moments life gives us,
and I am in awe of the difficult ones.
I am transfixed by grief, by growth. It is all so stunning, so rich,
and I will never convince myself that I cannot be somber,
cannot be hurt, cannot be overjoyed.
I want to feel it all – I don’t want to over it up or numb it.
So no, I am not happy.
I am open, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Bianca Sparacino, Seeds Planted in Concrete, 2015
Agrigento, Sicilia

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Go Alone

Portuguese Coastal Camino
Stage 15: Pontevedra to San Mauro (San Amaro)
Stage 16: San Mauro to Caldas de Reis

Caldas de Reis, Umia river

“If you ever get the chance, go alone.
Walk alone, travel alone, live alone, dance alone.
Just for a while. If you ever get the chance, learn who you are
when the world isn’t demanding you to be one way or another.
Most people only know how to stand on their own

if someone else will stand beside them.
Don’t let that be your story.
When you get the chance, know that the opportunity
to walk alone, even for a bit, is a rare gift, one that will hand you
insight that can change the course of your life.”

Brianna Wiest
walking alone across the Ponte de Burgo

I got that chance during the 15th stage when my companion chose to take a day off to recover from the previous day’s fall. Even though I’d been walking more or less on my own with my companion bringing up the rear, today I’d truly be walking alone. This would be a short stage where upon arrival in San Mauro, I’d need to contact the transfer service to take me back to Pontevedra. I was a bit anxious about how that would go, given some challenges the last time we called for a transfer taxi. With a forecast of sun and 30+C temperatures, I opted for an early start, giving me an early return to do laundry and more exploring in Pontevedra. From my journal: “Today’s stage, ‘alone together’ with other pilgrims was a rest… cold and fresh as I walked at dawn, through Pontevedra’s historic centre, down cobblestone streets embedded with blue twinkling lights marking the Way, crossing the wide expanse of the Ponte de Burgo.”

Past homes, parallel to train tracks, then on a busy road to more train tracks, finally in the sun dappled shade of the Reiris woods, to the stage’s destination at the Café a Posada do Peregrino, boasting one of the oldest credential stamps on the Portuguese Way. There, under the flower laden, pergola covered café, filled with pilgrims taking pause and refreshment, most of them continuing on to Caldas de Reis, I enjoyed another culinary delicacy: “sharing fresh Galatian octopus – boiled, sliced, sea salt, hot and smoky paprika and EVOO – with Denise from Ireland (first met in the hotel lobby in Baiona, then in Vigo and now here in Pontevedra) in gratitude for calling my transfer taxi.”

“I returned to the hotel around 11, just as the sun was coming around to my balcony, perfect for drying clothes and boot liners. Napped and showered, I did more exploring – the Basilica of Santa Maria, Alameda and gardens, the ruins of Santa Domingo. Ice cream and pharmacy stops…video call home…then another great Italian dinner steps away from the hotel…Buonasera bella!”

Friday, May 27, 2022 – Stage 16: San Mauro to Caldas de Reis – Another sunny, cloudless blue sky morning, that would bring even hotter temperatures sooner in the day. I woke feeling unwell. A headache, a sore throat. Dreamt of taking a rapid test so heeding its wisdom, I bit the bullet, googled what happens if I tested positive in Spain – nothing – and swabbed. Thankfully a fast and fifteen minutes later, unequivocal negative result. I’d felt my immune system wavering in Arcade after sitting there chilled for several hours following the preceding two days walking in relentless rain. Then, those few moments of feeling deep fear seeing my companion immobile proved enough to topple it. I’d walk the remaining four stages to Santiago under the weight of chest and sinus congestion, coughing, and growing fatigue.

Now that’s a cappuccino!

But for now, relieved I was covid free, we met our driver who delivered us the short distance to San Mauro to begin the four hour walk to Caldas de Reis. From my journal: “Transfer back to San Mauro went without a hitch. Joined the ensemble walking at 9:15 am. We stopped early and I ordered a cappuccino, the owner gesturing for me to wait outside. Little did I know what was being prepared for me! A spectacular whipped cream concoction, now on top of those 2 perfect glazed donuts at breakfast! This stage had at least 4 cafes. At another we sat in the sought after shade drinking radlers, probably not the best idea after whipped cream and the rising heat.”

A mid-afternoon arrival at our destination, again waylaid by misunderstanding the directions to our hotel and eventually guided there by a local woman to whom I gave one of my remaining gratitude gifts, we checked in, settled, and walked across the bridge to the Taberna O Muino. Its outdoor terrace, situated in the shade over the river, was a cool respite with temperatures now in the low 30s. From my journal: “Tapas at 2:30 – the owner kindly seated us despite saying it was full and we had no reservation, then when I asked, seeing people leave, he moved us to a better table. Another ‘coup’ as the terrace was filled with locals and the occasional peregrino ready for a leisurely Friday afternoon multicourse lunch. Had my first sangria – too sweet for my liking as an accompaniment to food – razor clams (not as good as those first ones in Castelo do Neiva), manchego cheese, white chorizo (uncured and unsmoked so like Italian sausage, it needed to be cooked), fried sardines which despite being “small” were not the finger length fried-to-a-crisp variety we’d savored at the tapas bar in Triana a few years earlier. A complementary EVOO cake for dessert that unfortunately got only a sampling, being full and hot.”

Caldas de Reis has been a thermal spa-town since Roman times, with medieval travelers documenting its similarity to the famous baths in Baden, Germany. Our “relais” Hotel Balneario Acuna (1812) featured a beautiful thermal pool and throughout the town there were numerous thermal fountains.

As I’d been feeling increasingly under the weather, and with the next day’s forecast for more clear, hot weather, we chose to forgo breakfast for a 7:00 am start, to walk the 20 kilometer stage to Padron before it became scorching. Hindsight would prove us right, and too, the truth of these words scribed into my journal on Thursday, May 26, walking alone to San Mauro:

“‘I do not go into the forest to be alone.’
She said, ‘I go to be with the ONES who speak
without human words.'”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

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