I don’t know yourselves, but I am still moved with the post Wiley wrote, describing how it was that sacred time for Phil (and Wiley). Rebecca said that this piece of Wiley and the eulogy that Tessia wrote and read are going to be part of the blog book… I don’t think Phil ever thought something like that would happen… that both of his children would end being part of his book, in this way… but this is just a guessing… we all know that Phil had a very witty mind and maybe he was already dreaming and designing this gift.
What I am truly deeply sure is that Phil has already celebrated this news -this gift- at a super large tapas table, surrounded by his new and old fellow pilgrims friends louder than the Italians (reloaded!!!) and with several bottles of spring water over the table that he turned into “vino de la casa” with his look over his glasses… A re-make of the Cana Wedding… this time with Phil’s first miracle (first “on the other side”… ).
A cool breeze runs through the General’s tent between hail storms. It brings a patch of sunlight, dappled by the great cherry tree overhead, like a vast umbrella. Resident Raven‘s wings above that. Heaven just above that.
I sit with Phil, my hand on his shoulder while Will calmly reads a lullaby from the Bible. We are playing a game of telepathic charades. Pulling blankets off, then on again, trying to bring tidbits of relief where we can. It’s tough. Communication is at a minimum. Consciousness is hardly here, spanning many distant planes at once. A moan, a groan. Sometimes a word, repeated if urgent.
Currently, the word is leg as he reaches down to his left one and is obviously trying to change something. I gather that he wants a stretch and help him bend it toward his chest, gently swaying back and forth. “Leg. Oh, leg. Ah. Leg, leg…” It’s not enough. Just trying to get some blood moving, I continue. Bending, rocking. “Other leg” he says, wincing. Will sets the good book down and uncovers his right leg.
“More. More. Ugh. Mas, mas” Felipe at the helm. “Move” he groans. Will and I catch eyes in a joint effort. We sense that he wants them moved closer to the edge of the bed and slowly, we oblige. As his right leg nears the edge, I chuckle and try to explain that we can’t move him any more without his leg falling off the bed. “Yeah” he says “fall off”. Ok.
I’m worried that what he wants is to get out of bed, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. As his knee bends over the edge and Will lifts and lowers his foot, he breathes a sigh of relief. I’m bending, he’s bending, but it’s still not quite right. He’s still groaning, knees creaking. We lift both legs so that they are in front of him and bending in sync, as if he’s pumping on a swing. Getting warmer.
Finally, in an Aha moment, I delay the rhythm by half a beat and we-as a team- fall into stride, literally. That unmistakable motion that most of us do every day… the one that saved his life. His face relaxes, maybe even tries to smile. With the tent flap open, breeze still gently rustling through the Hawthorne beyond the decaying garden, it’s a perfect vision of autumn in the northwest, a beautiful day for a walk.
Will and I lock teary eyes now. We can feel his muscles and tendons flexing beneath our grasp. Yes, we are helping him, but he’s walking and he knows it. One foot in front of the other- one in the spirit world, one in ours. Content to stroll, we carry on. To Burgos or Leon, I suppose, or maybe to the next albergue or bird feeder. Not sure, just happy to be on our way there. On the road to awe. This was a defining moment. One of those ones where time melts away, ceases to exist. Only love. Simple, boundless. Will and I loved him and we knew he loved us back.
It wasn’t a full lap. Perhaps only to the corn and back. But it was his last lap. And I was glad to be with him. I write this now on his 74th birthday and trust that he’s walking still, walking with God. Walking will never be a meaningless activity to me, I’m sure many of you feel the same way. Keep on walking.
Erratum: Written by Rebecca andWiley Volker, sent by Rebecca and posted by Cris
I got an email today from William, our trusty Canadian Bureau Chief… if you do not know William by now, let me tell you, he was born being an explorer, and adventurer, a pilgrim, a boy-scout, a nature lover and one of the people with more attention to the detail I know… Of course I do not know William since he was born, but I don’t think I am mistaken with this description… We will ask him to write about his story one of these days… his move from Scotland to the west of Canada when I think he was in his late teenager years, is pretty amazing… and his life story includes also not only having met our Phil, but also Prince Philip…
William’s email intended to call my attention to the fact that his place -Calgary- had the same temperatures as my place -Buenos Aires-, only that his place have it in negative numbers, and mine in positive numbers… which translated to temperature readings, his place is “below zero” and mine is “above zero”…
My contribution to this observation William made, is that we humans, seem to be ok living in environments within a range of temperatures at least 72 Celsius as today, once we adapt our lives to it; however, our internal organic being cannot cope once the temperature increases more than 3 Celsius… And then, we think we are the strongest being in the planet… but when compared to flowers, plants, trees, insects, animals… they are the real thrivers, the strong ones, they are the ones who can be under zero for months and bloom in the spring… I cannot help thinking in which sort of extremes we humans live in… but the delivery of a newborn sounds like an example… on one extreme, there is pain and effort, and on the other side, there is joy and wonderment and awe at the arrival of a newborn…
I wonder where is that we have to be able to expand our range, our comfort zone…
I hope everyone has had a nice Christmas Eve and Christmas celebration, and most importantly, a healthy one. Down here, things are getting pretty serious with the pandemic even in the middle of summertime with temperatures over 80F in the evening… I don’t know about you, but here, the Christmas’s spirit was totally absent, everyone has been trying to decide what to do, meet others or stay at home, get tested or assume a positive, if we stay at home then what do we eat, others decided to gather and let it be what needs to be. But whatever the circumstances, the Christmas’s spirit has left its place to uncertainty and fear.
I did not make plans, in fact, this year I had not even done groceries shopping. I have been off work since Monday 20th Dec, first with a sick leave that continued with the Christmas break, not counting that it was my birthday in between the two on the 23rd. Today was my first day back at work and I am now more than ready to sleep. I am on the mend, but today after lunch, I wondered how I would get to the end of the day without a nap…!!!!!! We get used to good life pretty quick, don’t we?????!!!!
Anyway, I just wanted to say hello and that I am slowly getting back to normal -which is a joke these days-. I will report more tomorrow.
Thank you to all of you who expressed your sympathy, compassion and PATIENCE (lots of it!!!) towards the “status” my life has these days. But, enough of whining (as Phil would have said!) and let me share with you a few other pieces of Thiago de Mello, this Amazonian poet I wrote about a few days ago. While I was looking for a translation of the prose I posted last week, I found another of his pieces, one that was translated, as it was consider his masterpiece. It is called “The Statutes of Man”.
This was written during his exile in Chile, in response to the dictatorship in Brazil. But as I was reading them, and then ruminating them these days since I found the English translation, I kept thinking how much these “statutes” become the implicit rules we live by during the Camino, even when probably before, during or after, we never knew about them… These Thiago de Mello wrote are 15. Here are the first 5…
It is decreed that now the truth counts,
that now life counts,
and hand in hand,
we will all work for a life that’s true.
It is decreed that every day of the week,
including the greyest Tuesdays,
has the right to become Sunday mornings.
It is decreed, from this moment on,
there will be sunflowers in every window,
that all sunflowers will have the right
to open in the shade;
and that windows should be open, all day long,
to the green where hope grows.
It is decreed that man
will never again
doubt his fellowman.
That man will trust in man
like the palm tree trusts the wind,
like the wind trusts the air,
like the air trusts the open blue sky.
Man will trust his fellowman
like a child trusts another child.
It is decreed that men
are free from the yoke of lies.
Never more to use
the breastplate of silence
nor armament of words.
Man will sit at the table
with a clean look
because truth will be served
Truth will be served before dessert Loves,
PS: Could you picture in your mind that sort of love,.. “Truth will be served before dessert loves”…? I just did and now I have butterflies in my stomach!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am so sorry for the fact that I couldn’t keep running this blog daily; I know that Phil wanted me to find “my own way”, but it was indeed my wish to keep it daily. However, life happens to be busy which is fine, life happens to be busy for most of us if not all no matter what, but when on top of busy, you don’t feel well, everything is uphill. Not the Pyrenees, but sort of like O Cebreiro… remember that?
I shared with you about my 1200 km trip to visit my aunt. The driving was quite something, but the emotional load was something that is difficult to measure in km or hours driving, but nonetheless, extremely high. When I returned, I got the flu (or was it the emotional load?) that really took me down… I had to take days off at work (and oddity on my end). And when I felt I was almost recovered, I had my appointment for the booster shot, and I suffered one of the very odd side effects, that needed some attention and rest.
Side Note: YET, to be fully clear, even an odd side effect is a very cheap price to pay considering the distress, sadness, loss, isolation, and I could go on and on and on, that this pandemic has brought. PLEASE GET THE VACCINE.
And I also had the main launch meeting for my projects in Asia/Pac countries, which meant staying late 2 nights, after having worked during the day. And these weeks have been pretty full of end of the year assessments of work colleagues, budgets preparation, end of the year on-line meeting… oh, we also had a big BIG change at work, as we became part of a larger group… and there was another huge HUGE topic going on, as the cherry of the pie.
This is all to say that when I was lucky enough to end my day, my smartwatch was screaming to me to be wise as my body battery could only cope with dressing my pajamas and slipping in the bed (and brushing my teeth, but only because I have an electric brush and didn’t need to move my arm!!!)
This morning started with a class I had participate in, a commitment done months ago, and while I thought to sleep in when the alarm went off, I am super glad I didn’t because it was truly worth it. And to continue the day, I got a call from a dear friend, she used to be my secretary when I was still practicing, sharing with me about her appointment to get the vaccine and some difficulties going on, so I exchange the nap for the round trip to get her from her home, the vaccine, and ice-cream, and get her back to her home. This was truly worth it too: she is safer now with the booster shot, I got to spend time and a great chat with her, and I cannot forget the ice-cream!!!
Right now, after writing this post, I am pretty much ready for bed… but believe me, writing this post has also been truly worth it!
Well, here is my life. Ready to be used. Life that neither guards nor shies away, scared. Life always at the service of life. To serve both what is worth and the price of love.
Even though the gesture hurts me, I don’t shrink my hand: I move forward carrying a branch of the Sun, even wrapped in dust, inside the coldest night the life that goes with me is fire: it is always lit.
The sweet and violent way of my life comes from the land of the ravines: its taste of transparent black water.
Life comes in my chest, but it is she who takes me: burning firebrand, veiling, sunflower in the dark.
I carry a scream that grows more and more in my throat, nailing its sad aftertaste in the truth of my singing.
Wet and muddy song of a boy from the Amazonia who saw life grow in the center of firm land. A boy who knows the coming of the rain from the shivering of the greens and knows how to read the messages that arrive on the wing of the wind. But it also knows the time of fever and the taste of hunger.
In the waters of my childhood I lost my fear among the squalls. That’s why I move forward singing.
I am in the center of the river, I’m in the middle of the square. I walk firmly on my floor, I know I am in my place, like the pot on the fire and the star in the dark.
“What happened doesn’t count?” will inquire the deprived mouths. It never ceases to be worth, what passed teaches us with his claw and his honey.
That is why I walk like this on my way now. Publicly walking. No, I don’t have a new path, what I have is a new way to walk. I learned (what the path taught me) to walk singing as it suits me and suit the people who go with me. Because I no longer go alone.
Here I have my life: made in the image of the boy who continues to roam the humble fields and share his song in the same way his grandfather distributed cocoa and turned the harvest into an island of good help.
Made in the image of the boy but in the likeness of the man: with all he has of springtime of brave hope and rebellion.
Life, enchanted house, where I live and you live in me, I want you so real, smelling of mango and jasmine. May you be dazzled by the tenderness of a girl rolling on the grass.
Life clean tablecloth, life laid on the table, life vigilant fire, life stone and foamy trapdoor of poppies, sun coming down in the sea, manure and rose of love: life.
You have to deserve it.
“A vida verdadeira” by Thiago de Mello (Cris’s very draft first attempt of translation from Portuguese into English)
Honoring Steve-O, honoring Phil, honoring us all, pilgrims, and honoring my Brazilian father (whose 78th birthday is today and is who more than 30 years ago introduced me to this poem of Thiago de Mello).
I am so so SO SOOOO grateful that Ron didn’t give us much time to forget about the spirit of this season of thanksgiving and this season of preparation for hope, either the hope that brings the birth celebrated on Christmas or even the hope that comes with the renewal that the new year brings.
And it has been pretty difficult for me to be focused on “things going well” this year, because this year challenged massively my patience, my perseverance, even my usual willingness to connect. Much of the year has been spent inwards, and hidden under a ton of work; two attitudes that have brought some rewards but in no way resolve the difficulties, in no way address the roots of them, and what is worse, these attitudes have taken me farther away from analyzing the possibility of resolutions.
And here is a key thing, one more time, the harsh reality of that statement that I was told in my first year at university: “the most difficult thing to do -for a health professional- is to do nothing”. Yes. Acceptance. And that statement exceeds the fact of being a health professional, it is about Life in general, Life with capital “L”. Life requires a lot of acceptance, acceptance that the things are just what they are, that a resolution does not always exist, that there is nothing in our hands that could change the situation we are in. I struggle so much with this that my oversight director at work, recommended for my end of the year assessment that I should work on analyzing more which are the battles I have to fight and ones I have to drop…!
But there is one category of acceptance that I find the most difficult: acceptance that when there is one or more real resolutions, none of them is the the one we want. It is a bit like going to vote in the elections, lately, at least in my country, we vote whatever is “less worse”.
To find the things we are grateful for in the myriad of things we struggle to accept sounds like a distractor factor, the candies that the ones arriving after the 3rd position always receive, even a phony thing; but in fact, it is not. It is the most rationale thing ever and comes from understanding that Life, with capital “L” is difficult, that the capital “L” is not for free. Thiago de Mello, a Brazilian poet from the Amazonias, wrote a poem called “A vida verdadeira”, not sure what a good translation would be, but would be something like “A truthful life”; this poem ends saying that ” we must deserve life”. My understanding of this poem (that I couldn’t find in English) and last line is that a committed life, a life that doesn’t hide when there are adversities, a life that despite hurting also holds us together, that type of Life, must be deserved.
Gratitude then, abounds when we live a “L”ife.
“Pois aqui está a minha vida. Pronta para ser usada*” Loves,
As the days get shorter and colder, our walking time is lessened and I miss that time listening to my inner teacher. The holiday season is a little different here in Spain, but we have so many connections around the world that we dwell in a mixed relationship environment and we can’t help wishing that travel was easier than it is.
What lessons would that inner teacher be focusing on at this time? How can we apply those lessons to make the world a better place? Big questions. What do you think Phil would say?
Each of us will surely respond differently and I suspect that sometimes we are so overwhelmed with life’s events that we haven’t yet found the time and energy to think about or apply the answers.
I have thought about some ‘common denominators’ of our life together as Caminoheads and want to share my thoughts and get your input of these ideas. I think of them as the foundations of my well-being.
The first that came to mind is Gratitude. I trust that you too have sensations in your life that fan the glowing coals of gratitude. I’d like to share with you a practice that helps me bring them to my awareness and realize how grateful I am for the people in my life. The practice is to simply write down three things which sparked gratitude in me that day. I could have used a journal, but I chose to create a new calendar on my PC called ‘Thankful For’ and add three things each evening.
The first day or two it was a little challenging, but soon it was hard to limit it to three things. On the calendar display I could easily see if I missed a day and soon I started entering events all day as they happened instead of just in the evening. Some days I had a dozen things on the list.
Writing these things down allowed me to focus on how good life is instead of what I was lacking. I could not help smiling and feeling good as I reviewed a day’s list. I found myself doing it on my mobile phone too. It was addictive!
I invite you to try it and would appreciate your comments on how it works for you. I might share a few things from my list later on in the comments, but don’t want to plant any seeds that might limit your experience.
Thank you for reading my thoughts today. I am grateful to be a part of the Caminoheads family and to have walked a lap or two with Phil and a few others.
I plan to share more of what I think of as common denominators in future blog entries.
I get now why Phil used to “self criticize” when he would write “he was whining”. I am a lot like that, as if it is not ok to whine, but there are days, weeks, months, seasons, even years or decades, that just invite us to whine, whine wholeheartedly, openly, whine like W H I N E!!!!!! I have a W H I N E!!!!!!!! momentum myself right now… you know the saying “the proof is in pudding”… well, here is one: my right shoulder is painful due to some lesion I have in the collarbone, and since Saturday, my left shoulder and arm are painful too as I had the booster covid shot… But this one is not even in the top of my list of things to whine about…
Maybe the whining (W H I N I N G) is just for a signal that it is time to “rest”, real rest.
Maybe this is the time?
is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving; an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bull’s eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.
This template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving that forms the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe, to walk as we were meant to walk, to live with the rhythm of a house and a home, giving and taking through cooking and cleaning. When we give and take in an easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given. … “