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.

Cleaning The Chimney

The Intrepid woodstove with dancing flames.
(photo P Volker)

This Caminoheads blog is going on it’s sixth year. And I don’t think that I ever wrote about the chore of cleaning the chimney. Am I scraping the bottom of the barrel or saving the best til last? You make the call.

Our wood stove has been constantly written about and photographed. Pictures of the dancing flames or of shoes drying out are peppered throughout. The reader gets what a focal point the stove is in our winter time operation.

And we got the new stove a few months ago and it precipitated all kinds of rearrangement. This is the third stove that we have had in forty years so it is a significant change because it is a different creature. It has different likes and dislikes and it requires a different dance to get it rekindled every morn. I am finding out that it requires more fuel than our previous stove. Not a lot more but maybe something like ten to fifteen percent. Fortunately our church has a firewood ministry to give out dry seasoned wood to people in need. Looks like we will be there before the normal spring arrives with warmer temps.

So, you can see that a lot of energy goes into this process not only the cutting, splitting and stacking of fuel. Ashes go out to the corn field to nourish and sweeten the soil. The gathering of sufficient kindling for a winter season is a hobby in itself. A certain amount of paper is needed and that is collected over the whole year in terms of shopping bags and newspaper. So even in high summer when the temps are warm these things are still paid attention to.

I will start to cut wood for next winter here in February. I have seven trees that I have been eyeballing for harvest. They are all alder which is the standard tree for fuel around here. Fir is plentiful but doesn’t burn as cleanly. But we have used fir, hemlock, cedar, pear, apple, holly, willow, cascara and various and sundry ornamentals. The all time cream of the crop firewood in this locale remains madrona or as they say in California madrone. It is extremely dense, packs a lot of btu’s and is semi plentiful. We so love it that we gave it as a middle name to our first born.

But back to chimney cleaning which I do twice a year, so once in mid winter which is now. It takes a couple of hours to disassemble what I can and scrape and wirebrush everything, vacuum, reassemble and clean up. It is a warm dry morning today, the morning I have been waiting for to accomplish this.

Well, perhaps that is way more than you really wanted to know but it is one of those important underlying processes around here, part of the rural Camino. Off I go to get it done.

all in the name of staying warm loves, Felipé.


Wintertime trails.
(photo W Hayes)

I was tapped on the shoulder or in other words asked if I would participate again at the next National Day of Prayer service here on the Island. It is the first Thursday in May I think, a long way away maybe but I have to gather my where-with-all which may take a while. Although inspiration usually hits like a lightning bolt, no muss, no fuss.

Just some slight background, NDP, has been around for a while and is where we take it upon ourselves to pray for our leadership on all levels to do an upright job. It would be fair to say that in our community it is not very popular no matter the flavor of our leadership. Somehow there is a smell of the right wing around this event and the local majority runs away from it like the plague.

But none the less I persist to support it. A couple, two good friends, are largely responsible for organizing it for a while now. They work hard to birth it year after year. It would be nice if it flourished but that seems far away. But it remains fortunately but in an under appreciated way.

But, so I will speak and try to bring some inspiration to the situation. Below is a poem that I wrote for the occasion and that I read there last year. It was a prayer for the sick and infirmed.


As our earthy clothing becomes torn and tattered
in the rough and tumble
so it goes with our bodies.
Why is this Lord we ask?

Some of us, we suffer.
Why us we ask?
Is this fair we ask?
Please Lord open our eyes and our ears.

Some die before others.
And whose turn is next?
Who sets this clock?
Please Lord open us to understanding,

Why are some of us chosen for this journey
of the “The Sick and Infirmed.”
What is our purpose now?
We wrestle to make sense of our suffering, of the uncertainty.
Give us a hint Lord.

We know that you are the Wellspring of Mercy.
This mercy is what ultimately will bring us to peace.
In the shelter of this peace we are hoping
some of the answers will appear.

May the tangles in our minds be loosened, our knots untied.
May the knowing of your bigger picture bridge over
our times of personal smallness.

We are grateful.
We are hopeful.
Give us strength.
Lead us through.

All in the name of our Savior. Amen.

Phil Volker 5/2/19 National Day of Prayer

OK, off to the morning walk, Felipé.

The Movie Theater

Roses from Jessika. (photo P. Volker)

My Rebecca, bless her, drug me off to Vashon town last evening to take in a movie. It was at our one and only little theater here on our one and only island where Phil’s Camino has shown. I could have just as easily spent the evening in some low keyed way without such entertainment but Rebecca said the two magic words, “Mister Rogers”.

This film comes so highly recommended by me right here at the moment that it is ridiculous. They really pulled this one off. I could actually go and see it again. Rebecca found out that on Wednesday evenings the theater shows the weekly film in the subtitled form which would be good for me since I miss half of the chitchat.

Without giving anything away two things happened for me while watching last evening. The protagonist is a writer who gets an assignment to cover Mr Rogers from the magazine that he works for. And he is so used to interviewing “normal” folk that he doesn’t know what to do with the idea that there is no difference between Mr Rodgers and Fred Rodgers. It all isn’t an act, that is at all times and places really him and the writer finds himself being “worked on” in a big Mr Rodgers way.

Then there comes to me the creeping awareness that Mr Roger’s Neighborhood isn’t a mythical pretend place at all but a way to look at the world or a Way. We know about Ways here at Caminoheads.

Well,yea, time to go. I am writing this from my truck with Wiley driving with my new computer capabilities. Hurray.

Walk later at 1530 loves, Felipé.

Mid January Walking Schedule 1/18/2020

We made it to Muxia and now we are walking back to Santiago. (photo W Hayes)

Rubber boot times here at Phil’s Camino these days. But we are walking and occasionally drinking wine with tapas. Hearty souls show up these days for laughs and conversation. Maybe see you.

Monday 0900-1000
Tuesday 1530-1630 (tapas after)
Thursday 0900-1000
Sunday 1530-1630 (tapas after)

Alperfect, Felipé.

From Buenos Aires, Part Two 1/18/2020

Cris with a bunch of us at Point Robinson Light House. Veranda, 2019.
(photo unknown)

(Somehow our Cris got carried away and wrote two posts instead of one. We appreciate being carried away here at Caminoheads, that’s the thing. So I thought that I would post them together so we would have some continuity. Felipé.)


This part 2 should have been part 1, as in my mind, these reflections were the ones I wanted to share… but somehow, part 1 hijacked my mind and being late to my task, I sent what my fingers typed. However, part 2, started to linger in my mind as I was doing the spell-check or part 1… go figure!

In a few opportunities last year, we commented in some lines of David Whyte’s poem “What to remember when waking”, and for a reason all Caminoheads would understand, the lines below made so much sense:

“What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.”

A few days ago, the poem came up again in the facebook and I shared it with The Boss (aka Phil or Felipe). And contemporarily, E, a friend of mine wrote a wonderful prose about his experience of enlightenment he had when he stopped to reflect about the secret future and unknown potential of an acorn, when he sat under an oak tree in a summer afternoon.

In his writing, my friend wrote about this fact that nobody sees the tree, its roots so strong that makes such a big thing to stand still and strong despite winds, the shadow it will provide, the fruits the tree will give… it is rare that we think on all of that when looking at an acorn, because our limited minds not always can think beyond what we see.

And David Whyte’s lines came and go, came and go, as I was reflecting on my E’s lines. I am sure that if the acorn would see itself as an acorn, would not be able to “plan” to become an oak tree. How such a small thing could host such a life?

And potentially, this is true for all of us and our lives, and potentially all these challenging events we have in life.

When the poem came during the Veranda -1 Day, while I was sitting with Phil in the kitchen table in the ranch, we had no clue what the Veranda would be… and I was also highlighting to Phil, that I am sure he never planned that the acorn of Cancer would host inside such an amazing tree of Community, Meaning, Belonging, Camino, Goodness, etc. to him. (I certainly haven’t planned that commenting on Phil’s blog 3 years ago would host this tree of friendship and belonging, just to name some of the branches).

So, maybe, that is what the theory of “life distracting us” holds at its core: the “lot of things that start to go wrong all at once” would be the acorn… we are only focused on seeing the acorn, and we cannot see beyond it, but if we “slow down” and provide attention to the acorn even if the acorn is an unhappy thing, a painful life situation that we would never choose to deal with, if we are patient but curious, and just TRUST, a tree will start growing, solid thick roots also will be growing underneath to sustain us in the event of future winds, we will learn to flow through the seasons, and even in the bareness of the winters (that we will know for sure will come), we will still have the solid roots and the branches… Maybe that is the “something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born- and that needs us to be distracted so it can be born as perfectly as possible.”

As if our future is the tree, but to appreciate the tree, life needs to take us away from our small plans with these painful distractions…

It comes to my mind the lines from Mary Oliver in the poem “The uses of sorrow”:
“Someone I love once gave me a box full of darkness, it took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

And maybe, these are all indeed one same theory, just each described with a different metaphor to accommodate to the understanding of the student.


Friday Post From Buenos Aires 1/17/2020

Felipé, Cris and Farmer John at Point Robinson, Vashon Island. (photo unknown)

“It turned out this man worked for the Dalai Lama. And he said gently-that they believe when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born-and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

I have not read this book and I don´t think I will read it either, but I found this quote from it that caught my attention as seems to tell a new theory, one I had not made up my mind with before, not from this point of view: life distracting us…

The first thing that came up in my mind when I read it was how many times did I ask myself “why” “this” “is happening” “right now” “to me”? I have questioned my self for not being able to keep the bike of life riding, I have questioned my mind looking for problems when things were going gently, I have questioned what I must have done in my past life for receiving in this one such a bunch of things to deal with (even when I don´t even believe in past lives!), and some others… in most of them, blaming… Blame is such an omnipresent unhappy thing…

I am not sure this mechanism of life distracting us is a possible thing to occur… when I was younger, I believed on the this theory that the “universe conspires to make our dreams come true”, but now, with life unraveling in ways I would have never expected, I have changed my mind: I believe that the challenges we get in life are what we need to grow, to overcome some features or our personalities and minds that are unhelpful for us and for others, to humble us, and very likely too, to find the meaning of our lives.

And somehow, the process seems to be: these are events that we do not choose (mostly), they are forced on us, they drawn us to our knees, and then, once we have spent some time lost, angry, frustrated, asking why and making promises we know we cannot comply with (wishing the event goes away!), we decided that we need to do something about it, and then the event becomes “Training wheels”. We need to start living life differently.

And somehow, we tend to start to discover that whatever we need (and at times, all we need is “to learn”) is already around us, and what we need is just to look at them. Here is where attention becomes essential as well as slowing down, stop running and start walking, or giving things the time they need to be, to rippen, to be ready. Maybe this is why some useful resources are going to the Camino, or to a retreat, and less fortunate, it is what a disease or losing a job create… a forced-slow down situation.

And with time and with a less hectic rhythm, it also comes the opportunity to look around, to appreciate the contrast, the beauty, what is lovely, the open hearts around us when others have closed. This is true for our lives and for everything in the universe we know and live in: without the cold days from the winter, we wouldn´t appreciate the warmth from the summer; without the wet autumm nourishing the seeds, we wouldn´t be able to harvest in the spring. However, certainly I do, complain about the cold days in the winter and the rains in the autumn…

… and there is something else, something that has come with modern life, and is the idea that we can “modify” whatever is right here for our comfort and convenience… we can turn on the air conditioner in the summer and live under 24°C (when not a fanatic living at 18°C), and we can turn on the boiler and walk barefoot and with a sleeve-less t-shirt inside the house as if it would be 30°C when it is freezing outside… and we complain in July (in the south hemisphere where I live) because tomatoes are super expensive and then we complain once more because they are tasteless (yet, we think we need to eat fresh tomatoes in the winter)…

Each day I am and try to deepen more my attention and awareness to the infinite examples that the universe gives me: from the four seasons reminding me the flow, how things change constantly, how everything can be so different from one moment to another, how my humor accompanies these seasons too, how there are things that can occur in a moment and not in other, how despite the boilers and heaters we cannot make winter be like summer and there is no other option than to wait for the seasons to pass, and how the boilers and heaters and the tomatoes in July only confuse us, giving the wrong idea that we can modify the nature of things, that we can make things happen as we wish, when we wish, and without spending the time in the in-between experiencing the cold and darker days and craving for juicy delicious tomatoes.

Nevertheless, this is the theory I live by… but I am a just started student.

Cris, Caminoheads South America Bureau Chief.

As The Snow Disappears

Rose hips in the winter landscape from William. (photo W Hayes)

Well, that wasn’t much of a snow event here, not the I am complaining. Port Angeles, a close by town got a reported two feet. Now that’s snow. And if this is all we get this winter I will be totally happy.

As the snow disappears I finish my book Heart’s Oratorio by Mary Oak. A true book and a half there. It is so delicate yet brave. It is so jarring yet soothing. It so personal yet universal. It is about finding meaning or maybe making meaning through a journey with illness. I will have to email her and tell her how I enjoyed it, a big atta girl!

Her story is similiar to mine or parallel maybe. Although she has different tools in her personal toolbox than I do. Maybe while I persist she envisions. Maybe while I beachcomb she picks blooms. Her approach and maneuvering are interesting to me veteran that I am, veteran of the Cancer Wars that is.

So we walk along and meet interesting people along the way that buoy us up and maybe we buoy them up. This interaction is crucial, more than I have realized in the past I think. None of this fully happens or happens fully without outside help.

OK, a walk in a minute. The sky is brightening, the snow has all but disappeared and the birds probably need more seed. Maybe someone will show up, maybe not. Thanks.

brightening loves, Felipé.

Good News

Along the trail at Phil’s Camino yesterday afternoon. (photo P Volker)

I had an inkling that something was stirring this morning, something important coming out of the blue. It has to do with our son Wiley. He lives next door to us with his wife Henna. He turned 31 years old in October. Most of you have probably met him. Oh right, and he is in both versions of Phil’s Camino.

He just found out that he has been promoted to Chief Instructor for our local teaching team of Hunter Education. Hunter Education is the course that young people take before they can get their first hunting license. It is taught by certified trained volunteer instructors watched over by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. I have been a instructor for something like 25 years as well as a past Chief and Wiley joined the team maybe five years ago. So, through a series of happenings and circumstances he was the most logical candidate to take over the lead position when the latest Chief stepped down.

I am so happy for him. It is a real feather in his cap, as they say. Our community really stresses giving back through volunteer service and this is one thing that he has chosen to do and he is a perfect fit. Hundreds of local youth will hold him in their memory as their mentor as years go by.

Just briefly Hunter Ed has been taught for over fifty years, all the States do it and it is responsible for saving lives through not only safety training but also through associated parts of the class on survival and map and compass training for instance. It also represents in my mind an important rite of passage for youngsters when those rights are largely missing in our age and place.

So, thanks for being with me through that. It means a lot to me. And now here I have my son as my boss which is an important right of passage for me. Time to turn over the reins.

As this is going on we here are still in the icy grip. The good news is that the snowfall has not amounted to much but the temps are still low. We will see what happens in the next few days as we transition to the next weather pattern.

The best to you loves, Felipé.

Close To The Hearth

Chickadees all over the feeders on Phil’s Camino. (photo P Volker)

Not much traveling going on here. Most of us are cozied up and watching the weather reports from inside. There is an inch of the white stuff out there presently and that pretty much does it these days for me. I am totally used to living without it, beautiful though it is.

Henriette was supposed to come today but she canceled out. She may have got way more than us up there north of Seattle. But despite the physical not getting around wifi and phone connection keep us plugged in. I had energy work with Janet last evening from LA. And I have a spiritual direction FaceTime with Jessika in Minnesota this morning. Distance doesn’t matter these days.

I did a really responsible thing yesterday, so proud of myself. I checked in with the local Vashon Health Clinic to get a primary care doctor. When you live on an island you need someone local to take care of certain complaints. And my old primary care doc retired and I never bothered to get another since I seemed to be getting plenty of poking and prodding at the Cancer Institute. But I realized that I needed someone to watch over me in a broad way now that I seem to be living longer. For instance I need someone to worry about my shot record and my cholesterol which doesn’t happen at Cancer Care.

And I still have this hurt on my right foot that I developed on the Camino years ago. I kept thinking it would heal up or that I really wasn’t going to last that much longer anyway so why bother. And it has been over five years with that kind of makeshift thinking, time to do something about it. So I need a primary doc to give me a referral.

It is interesting that a some point it started to dawn on me that I was
outside of the normal trajectory for someone with my particular cancer and that I needed to be careful in that position. We can’t over concentrate on the cancer to have something else blindside me in the meantime. I think that I explained that OK.

OK, I might work on my taxes since I am so housebound. That would be a good thing and so responsible. I guess a little cold weather is bringing out the German side in me. Hehe.

anyway loves, Felipé.