From Our Caminoheads Puget Sound Bureau Chief 1/31/20

Our buddy Ryck.
(photo from R Thompson)

Good day from the Great Pacific North West.
Kobe Bryant/Camino de Santiago/Our second Act

I think it is very fitting to mention recent news in this blog post for Caminoheads. I recently posted about this on my Facebook. I posted;
“This has been such an emotional topic at work this whole week. Truth be told, I was not a big Kobe basketball fan, admired his skills, just more of a Michael Jordan guy. It is not about basketball though. It is what happened in his act #2 that hits the hardest. Many parallels with many of us fathers out here. Guy had a career, retired from it, decided act# 2 was towards focusing on his family, check. Wanted to be personal with people, check. Had a lot to offer to people that would so value the inspiration, check. Then, in an instant, life cut short. Over. So this is what has many guys like me so affected by this. Not basketball. It is very refreshing to see a guy be a good Dad. It is a very good example of how it is supposed to be. That’s the tragedy that has us reeling…The second act was cut off just as it was beginning. This has been a clear reminder to me of how short life is, and how important the small stuff means. Oh man…. Kobe joined the NBA the same year I joined the Navy and retired around the same time I did. I am on that second act.
This hit home to me hard. Very hard. Having said all of that, it is inspiring in its own right”.
There is a rare connection with Kobe Bryant and the Camino. The author of, “The Pilgrimage” written by author Paulo Coelho, about the Camino de Santiago, had made an arraignment with Kobe Bryant to write a children’s book together. I thought that was pretty amazing to find out. Unfortunately, the book never happened. I wish it did. I am sure many of you have read Paulo’s book or books.
What defines our second Act? I wonder. What will our legacy be when we are gone, I also wonder. It seems to me that when these tragedies happen, whether it be with someone we know personally or with someone we know of, it affects us all in different ways. What is for sure for me is how this keeps me wholly grounded even more to my own children and family and friends. It is a staunch reminder that life is too short. We are all on an undisclosed amount of time and it is how we walk through this life, how we affect others that mean so much more than anything else. I see this about Kobe Bryant as it was not as much about his personal accomplishments in his life through basketball that leave me feeling impressed, rather it was what he did for others that made this into an inspiring story. Through this tragedy, I take away an inspiration.
It seems very much to me that the first part of our life is spent defining ourselves, figuring out who we are, navigating through the waters of life. Us lucky ones, the ones that are lucky enough to have a second act, maybe we are not lucky at all. Maybe we are here for the second and third and fourth act for a reason. I think so. I really think we are here to help others. Have you helped someone, a stranger, and never mentioned that you helped them to anyone else? What a great feeling, huh? I never knew that there was a connection between Kobe Bryant, and the Camino de Santiago. I know I didn’t until this week. I know that I am inspired to double down even harder on being a good Dad. A good person in general.

(This is a guy that you really want on your team, this guy Ryck. Thanks Ryck for this great contribution to the blog. The Kobe incident is a giant reminder that we are all here on borrowed time. Thanks for your report. Felipé.)

The Trial, The Strike and A Dustbunny

Creation of the Day!
(photo P Kwok)

At the ranch this morning after my foray to Seattle and the Institute. By beautiful nurses were all off on strike and out-of-towners substituted. But my clinical trial marched on as intrepid as can be. My numbers were all normal and nothing was out of the ordinary. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So, despite the disruption of the strike things were normal as can be. Although I wish my nurses some satisfaction for all their trouble. I really didn’t know what to expect and had thoughts of trying to change my appointment to later but several folks talked me into coming.

While I am there on my rounds every three weeks I try to touch base with Patti Kwok the head of the Survivorship program there at Swedish. This is one of the many programs that a cancer center has to support patients. So we trade notes and encourage each other mostly.

One of the minor things that I saw there at the Institute was that the stairway had somehow missed it’s standard sweep up and it was noticeably dirty. I happen to take the stairway as much as possible to get some exercise in and it is never a glamorous space at it’s best. So, in one corner of the third floor landing a huge dustbunny had accumulated and some artist type with a good sense of humor, since humor was needed during the stress of the strike put some eyes on it for our enjoyment. I had Patti come and take a pic of it. So goofy and so fun and so unwarranted.

So, life goes on despite the turmoil and the wear and tear and occasionally humor bubbles up. Just had to report on that. Have a great day where you are.

dustbunny loves, Felipé.

Just A Tennis Match

Hey look there’s Felipé and Sture. This was drawn up by Rho’s Aunt Charlotte.

I am saying JUST a tennis match because it was something that I took in on the television last evening from the other side of the world in Australia. Really personally I had very little to do with it. It was outside my usual. My Rebecca commented, “I didn’t know you were so interested in tennis.” Well, maybe I’m not usually but something grabbed me last evening to stay up late with this.

This is the Australian Open and it was Roger Federer, the old time Tennis King vs a young game American ranked something like 100th named Tennys Sandgren (yes, Tennys). This is the last match before the semifinals. Or whoever wins this will go on to the semifinals. Anyway, it was a battle to end all battles with them both leaving absolutely nothing for afterward. Roger admitted that he was extremely lucky to have survived. His major problem was two fold being still not fully recovered from his last match and an injury that he incurred early on in this match. He played with a huge handicap.

So, Roger, had to pull out every possible arrow in his quiver and maybe some new ones that he fashoned on the spot. It was amazing to watch and to be inspired by. In a strange way it reminded me of or mirrored my own combat with my cancer. In my mind my endeavor takes everything that I know and every possible asset that creativity can bring about.

So happy for the occasion and opportunity of being able to view that contest. I think that I was supposed to see it, synchronistically speaking. So, I am happy and buoyed up.

Tomorrow I am off to the Institute to fulfill my duty to the clinical trial in spite of the massive nurse’s strike in progress. Should be interesting and educational. And good luck to all parties.

OK, time to get the day started.

using all my arrows loves, Felipé.

“Always Maintain It Up!”

Roses from Jessika.
(photo P. Volker)

Yes, we will try! This is a random addition to the blog from Alene Gaspair. Thank you Alene. Everyday I empty the spam that collects on this blog. There might be two or twenty messages that are somehow sent out to bloggers everywhere possibly worldwide by some enterprising folks for sales of their wares. These don’t make it into Caminoheads Comments but collect and I need to check through them before tossing. I guess possibly there could be something important there but it doesn’t seem like there ever is.

So folks like Alene who I am guessing are not English speakers try and create messages for English speakers and the results are interesting to hilarious when I take the time to actually look. We will give them an E for effort for creating these jumbles. It probably takes the better part of a morning to hammer one out. And dear Alene, where ever she is , ended her message today with the great line: “Always Maintain It Up!” I so like it, we are stealing it!

So, you see what fun we can have without major bucks or without really breaking a sweat. And even though we are soft in the melon, or some of us are, we can maintain high quality and serious quantity around these parts. Yep, some days it just all makes sense. Thanks again Alene.

I cannot go any further without asking for prayers for the Bryant family, of course. My psyche has a love-hate relationship with helicopters. And please remember folks in the service. We had an Airman killed in some incident in Antarctica in the last few days. And we had 30 Marines and a Sailor killed in a helo crash in Iraq yesterday. Just sayin.

We also have a big nurse’s strike going on and I have to get into the epicenter of that on Wednesday, my day to make an appearance at the Institute. I know how to schedule them! Good luck to my lovely nurses.

maintain it up loves always, Felipé.

Soft In The Melon

I know, they are not melons. (photo by Phil Volker)

I had a friend from eastern Washington that used to use that phrase. He meant that as he grew older he was loosing brain power or as he grew older he was doing things that used to make no sense to him. The stuff in his head was getting mushy. I can totally relate.

Have to admit that there is, for me anyway, a connection between this phenomenon and walking the Camino. In other words after that point some stuff from before seemed ill fitted to me. Found myself doing things that in the past would have seemed so so dumb. And not just once in a while but repeatedly as in over and over. Seemed I was getting soft in the melon.

This was brought into focus this morning first thing. At the ranch house here there is always the bug of the year that we try to get under control. Seems that they rotate. Over the forty years here we have ants, earwigs, house flies, moths, caterpillars and maybe stuff I don’t know the names of. But you swat them and mush them and whatever not in a mean way but just in a survival way. So, yea and we always seem to stop short of insecticides, that’s important. Lately we got a new one that I don’t know the name of but it just started showing up. But anyway first thing this morning I run into the bathroom to use the facility and what, there is one of these new little guys doing the breaststroke in the toilet water. So, I feel obligated to rescue his little ass and release him outside. Under any other circumstance it is open season. I can’t stand to see things drown anymore no matter who they are or what they look like. Way soft in the melon.

There are plenty of other things to to go out of your way for what maybe you never would have thought of before. New sensibilities for us as we grow older. New ways to not make sense or new ways to at least waste one’s time on things that don’t really matter. You know what I mean?

walking later loves, Felipé.

A Janurary Saturday

In the the South Pasture at Raven Ranch.
(photo Jim Meiklejohn)

Just back from Bible Guys where I was leading today. We are slightly into the formidable book of Revelation. Actually I did Chapter Four today which only has 11 verses but it took me the whole time to get through that. But there is nothing easy about this book so that makes sense. So, I did my duty and am free for a month or two now.

I like doing the lead but it takes time and effort to prepare but the benefits are great. That has to do with the phenomenon that you really learn the material when you have to teach it. Not that I view myself as a teacher so much as a guide. Especially in the unfamiliar landscape of Revelation, a guide is needed.

So, that is my morning, then off to scurrying around the ranch. Yesterday we made apple butter which was kind of an all day project but the point being that we totally messed up the whole kitchen doing it. Now to corral all that chaos and to put the product on the shelves of the pantry. That is big satisfaction.

One major byproduct of yesterday’s process was the smells that cooking down apples and all the cinnamon, allspice and cloves involved give off. What a heavenly aroma wafted around the place yesterday. Sort of like being at Grandma’s place, oh wait, it is Grandma’s place!

One more apple fact and that is that Jessika put up all the apple sauce this last summer and that is what we started with to make the butter. So thank you Jessika! And hopefully we will have a few quarts left to help feed you at the upcoming Veranda. Remember the Veranda?

OK, so much for a Saturday in January. Next weekend is Super Bowl weekend, time to start snack planning! Go Chiefs!

upcoming Veranda loves, Felipé.

Very Cool Ronaldo, Friday Blogpost 1/24/2020

Ron on the left with Stanislav.
(photo Ron Angert)

“The Camino Provides …”

We so often hear this phrase, and we are so often on the receiving end of the deal. We get what we need, and in some cases, what we want. It is great. But I just had a wonderful experience of supposedly being on the giving side and I’d like to share that with you for your consideration.

I got an email some days ago that there was a pilgrim walking the Camino with no funds and the sender asked if we would host him for his time in Astorga. It took no time to say yes, and he showed up a few days earlier than we expected. Stanislav is from the part of Ukraine taken by force by the Russian government and because his town was destroyed, he and his family are refugees here in Spain. He has lived in a Mediterranean coastal city for the last year and a half with his wife and daughter who is now 12. So his Camino is a long one. But why is he walking the Camino now, and with virtually no funds?

His wife and daughter went back to Ukraine to seek medical treatment for their daughter who has cancer, leaving him alone in Spain for some time. He was working doing some agricultural labor as I understand it, but he wanted to make this journey. In Ukraine he taught literature in university and also has skills as an icon painter. My wife Ann has taken an icon painting class here and it was great to have him offer some comments on her painting. Someone in Santiago has mentioned a possible job painting icons or teaching that, I’m not sure. Compare that with most pilgrims reasons for walking the Camino. So his 1200km journey began.

He was a pleasure to have in our home in Astorga for a couple of days. He is Catholic and together we went to tour the wonderful Cathedral here. Having no funds means that he was not taking time to tour inside such cathedrals along the Way, so this was his first. He was blown away and amazed at the beauty of the place. It was a real great experience for me to see, hear and feel his reaction to the museum contents and the cathedral itself. He knelt and prayed at dozens of places. He also went to confession and Mass and loved it.

This morning before daybreak we walked together in the rain to Santa Catalina de Somoza, a two hour walk. After second breakfast there he continued on to Rabanal del Camino and I returned home. It was a great time for both of us.

As I walked home alone I reflected upon the blessing that it is to be able and willing to joyfully share with others the resources we have been blessed to have in our hands and hearts. He was so grateful for each meal and a bed to sleep in for a couple of nights. We enjoyed hearing his story, most of which I can’t share in this short piece. We were blessed by his prayers, in Ukrainian, and almost planned more meals just to invite him to offer thanks. We understood not one word of these prayers, but felt the spirit strongly.

As we each continue our Camino, I urge you to find a way to be a provider for people you meet along the Way. I trust that you will find the rewards comforting and memorable. I invite you to pray for him, and healing for his daughter, peace for his wife. He will be back as he walks the Camino backwards to his Spanish home and we expect him to spend a day or two with us again.

In providing love,

Ronaldo – BC in Astorga.


Roses from Jessika. (photo P. Volker)

Remember back to the times when the Phil’s Camino documentary was still an idea in the Spring of 2014. We always say that the whole film/Camino venture resulted from a series of small miracles. Which is totally true. One of those miracles was a timely check for multi thousands of dollars to me from the State of New York. This basically gave me the freedom to make the journey.

The genesis of that money was my dearly departed mother Jean Volker always a frugal saver. As a child of the Depression she squirreled away extra funds whenever and wherever, never relying on just one bank. She was also a devout Roman Catholic and my original link to that world. She was also devoted to the family and to me her only living child. It is just so majorly fitting that she plays a major role in the Camino pilgrimage.

Anyway, back to “unclaimed”, I got word of my mother’s fund from cruising the website of the NYS Office of Unclaimed Funds. We managed to eventually get all the paperwork corralled and sent in and the check arrived with vital timing. Pretty darn amazing.

Yesterday somehow I got on a little project of checking on My Rebecca’s family in Tennessee and Indiana and low and behold found two significant entrees for my mother-in-law Mary. Needless to say I got major points for this. Of course someone has to do all the paperwork, not me.

So, I am just giving you a little hint about a modern day treasure hunt. Every state has one of these offices and millions of dollars go back to rightful folks each year. States are very proud of how much they give back. Check it out and report back.

Off to walk in a minute or maybe wade in spots. I think my neighbor Bob is coming to join me, hardy soul.

Hardy soul loves, Felipé.

There Are Little Sprouts Out There

Poking toward the sky!
(photo P Volker)

Yesterday, as I was setting up my ladder to get up on the roof to work on the chimney I saw some little sprouts poking up through the layer of leaves. This is in an area up by the house that catches some sun and heat and is out of the prevailing wind. It is where things tend to come up first, these advanced parties of spring growth. As the days get perceptibly longer these little green shoots add to the excitement.

The quince bush in the backyard is loaded with swelling buds. That is an early bloomer but that is a ways off yet. We have to get out of February first. I am still cleaning up from a snow storm we had last February. So, I am trying not to get too excited.

And in the meantime I need to keep working along through the chores that this time of year presents. Things still need to get done no matter. Things like vehicle maintenance and cutting of firewood and of course paperwork and taxes. Yea, I’m getting tired just talking about it.

Thinking about corn planting in May. Jim and Gloria are coming out from New York to help. Jim Meiklejohn, my photographer friend, has expressed interest in helping again. Great!

But really it’s one day at a time no matter when or where, right? If God sees it to give me another day to play with I will use it up the best way I know how. Thanks for following along.

alperfect as always loves, Felipé.