All posts by Phil Volker

Joe And The Herd of Veal Cutlets

A sign on the Camino to offer encouragement.
(source unknown)

In a land far away and long ago Joe and I really didn’t know the importance of what we were up to. It was play but it really had character and it was capable of communicating in that way without words. It was life in the dorm at Syracuse U in the mid 60’s.

We were on the third floor of Watson West. Mel my friend from our hometown was my roommate. We basically studied trees as he and I were forestry students. Concerning things that grow Mel’s father had come from western Iowa and brought with him Corn, a C in our lives. This is really the first C for us, for me and would play an important role later on Vashon Island.

Yes and Joe, Joe Biden, was one of two Floor Councilors assigned to our floor. We were all dorky freshmen and sophomores and Joe was a grad student with the right clothing, haircut and look. But Joe was involved with us, us the rabble.

We all borrowed things from each other and played on flag football teams that Joe organized and were happy campers. Remember flag football was part of the legacy of the Kennedy boys up in Massachusetts. Joe was plugged into all that, we weren’t.

And that is all background to my story. We had a cafeteria downstairs which sounds pretty innocent on the surface but proved otherwise. Later me and two hundred others were hospitalized with food poisoning. OK, so one evening we marched off to dinner to be confronted with the dreaded breaded veal cutlet meal. They were largely left on the plate and not eaten. So the poor artist that I was I collected twenty or thirty of them and carted them back to our lair on the third floor. So, when I should have been studying trees I spent the evening to craft a mobile from these breaded things and a metal coat hangers.

It was hung in all it’s funk and glory above head level in the central area of the floor. Ah, the art of it! No one had achieved such a height as I had that day. Was it climbing a mountain, no. Was it swimming the English Channel, no. Was it finishing the great novel, no. But it was an amazing cultural artifact for all to see, to learn from. And who would gaze upon it and ponder the greater questions of the Universe but the later leader of the Free World, Joe Biden. Ah, we trained him and trained him in many ways and I added in my own way.

Felipé, as always.

Just Now

A poem by Catherine and drawn up by Jen and a gift for our anniversary. Complete with Camino shells and Longhorn cattle. It has three longhorns, seven moons, two buttons and fourteen shells. The poem is by Catherine and talks about my lucky shirt, tailgating and woodworking. And then finally when the shirt is threads and worn out a new one would be fashioned from the remains that would be luckier than the first! So awesome.

Our Forty Third Wedding Anniversary Party

This was My Rebecca and I’s affair. We went up to the Vashon Country Club Restaurant the Sandpiper. Gosh, did we dazzle those golfers.
I’m glad to report that we were “louder than the Italians” which is a goal of every good party goer and something that we picked up on the Camino. We had four other couples, three of which were at the General’s Tent several nights ago and described by Catherine and Dana in last post.
I was totally dazzled by this group. Not only were we “louder than the Italians” we made it to “Midnight in Paris”. No joke!

I realize that we were drinking wine and other liquids, but subtract that we still had so much talent at that table. It was oozing all over! Most magnificent anniversary party. Yes, oozing.! We were making up poetry, reciting poetry, reading poetry. The sun was going down over the purple mountains. And then we were the last table.

Forty three years we have been married. How did we get there? Geez, a long time. But now things are especially golden for us. That is hard to describe but take my word for it. Thanks to all who contributed to the ferocity of the party to celebrate this.


From Annie

Oldies’ pic from Austin TX. Annie, My Rebecca and Felipé.
(photo unknown)

Mending Fences

I had the great good fortune of spending a couple of days with Phil and one of our conversations seemed not only a good subject for a blog post, but it just seemed oh so Felipe, as well! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Phil explained to me that when you BUILD a fence, you take great care in making sure everything is just perfect, making sure the lines are straight, the size is always the same, and that the measurements are exact. It creates not just a strong fence, but a beautiful one.

Over time, a fence breaks down a bit, and then it is time to REPAIR the fence. In a repair, you do your best to line everything up as carefully as before, but you know that time and sun and wind and weather has taken its toll and you probably won’t ever get those perfectly straight lines again, but you do the best you can.

After some more time goes by, there is more decline, and you probably have to address it again. This is the time that you MEND the fence. You have probably given up on the idea that it will look halfway decent, and that there will be any real beauty to your repair. You just want to get it to hang on a little longer, no matter what it looks like, or how cockeyed it may be. There is an acceptance that time is marching on, that forces greater than ourselves are at work, and that we are merely doing our best even though we know that the sun and wind and weather – Mother Nature herself – will have the final word. It doesn’t have to mean defeat, just an acknowledgement of our place in this universe. The part we have played, the beautiful fence we created, has been enough whether it stands straight or not. We have been in the game. We have played our part. We recognize that this too shall pass but our work has not been in vain.

Perhaps the reason I keep thinking about this is that it takes the rage out of things. If we accept where we are, what phase of fence-building or of life we are in, we can find the beauty. Phil is always finding the beauty. I hope we can too, my pilgrim friends. That is one of our specialties as pilgrims, isn’t it? We can find the beauty even when our feet hurt. We can find the beauty even when we have lost our way. We can find the beauty even when others may have walked on. Find the beauty in every step.

You were all much on my heart as I visited Felipe this week. I hope you felt that you had been brought along as we walked and talked.

Sending find-the-beauty loves.

A Thursday

We had a massive amount of pilgrims on our walk today. Annie was here and Kelly. Then Tim and Cathy came. Jen was here. As well as Gus an old friend.

Now they have all gone on their ways. I am resting up. Archery lesson soon. Time to go.

pilgrim weather loves, Felipé.


(photo P Volker)

Today I am off to the Institute to see Nugget. And I will be in the company of Catherine who is driving and Annie my interpreter. Then we will have a chance to spend a few minutes with Danger Zone before departing Seattle.

So, I have a few minutes and I thought maybe I could squeeze a blog post in here before all that starts. So, a full day.

What occurs to me at the moment is that vision of that flower growing and blooming in the crack in the pavement. Or the flowers we tried to grow in the debris along I-5. That flower is what I am feeling like at the moment. To be that long shot. To be the idea of resilience. And I still have this my little flower to communicate for me.

Off we go!

little flower loves, Felipé.

Making It To The Oasis

Smelling the roses.
(photo K Burke)

I’m planning on making the Oasis even if I have to drag myself by my fingernails. And the closer I get the more realistic this seems. I feel the trajectory of getting weaker. But I’m making it to the Oasis.

It’s a shortie today. Annie is about to walk through the door.

oasis loves, Felipé.

Following Cris

Cris, CSABC.
(photo from C Milher)

Thanks Cris for filling in yesterday with the nice blogpost. And I thought that I would kind of answer it because the topic is close to my heart. But before that I want to say that our normal schedules have been totally disrupted by this heat wave. We are at a friend’s now that has a heat pump and the air conditioning included.

I am trying to write this on the road here, very Camino really! Back on the Camino I tried to blog each day which was difficult because of the random WiFi, the new places and just the rough and tumble of it all. Do you remember the rough and the tumble and that is what Cris is pointing to. It was a rock tumbler for sure.

Early on in blog reporting we realized the Camino was a “International Spiritual Bootcamp”. And this is a part of the rough and tumble. It is a process that works. People will have revelations, changes of mind and more as they grind against each other. And there is this strange counter balancing because they all have a common goal. So, they go on learning to live with each other and get closer to Santiago.

On my own particular Camino I quickly saw how people forgave each other. Daily I am visited by random pilgrims. Most times this is fine and pleasurable. But occasionally people bug you. People can start to bug me with the slightest of irregularities. But I say to myself those are only some of the folks here. But as time goes on just about everyone has bothered you. Huh. But I’m personally perfect right, who could I bother? But I have to come to the realization though that I have bothered everyone at one point or another. But generally we forgive and move on but it could easily start conversation.

Time for me to go. Thanks for being here.

counter balancing loves, Felipé.

Choosing A Rock

Two pieces at the yard.
(photo W Volker)
In our truck.
(photo W Volker)
Felipé, Al and Rebecca.
(photo W Volker)

Well, actually it was two rocks that we carted out of there in the end, couldn’t stop at one. We were off, myself My Rebecca, Wiley and our old friend Al to visit the local rock source and pick out some raw material for a headstone for me. Al went to the same high school as My Rebecca a few years ago in Memphis TN and wound up here on the same island. So, we are old friends and we were off on an adventure yesterday.

And we looked at rocks, big rocks and small, gray and brown, fat and skinny, humorous and somber, singing and silent. Al spotted it first and saw the vision as only an artist can. There is was singing away and near it another. Then I caught the fever and then Wiley and Rebecca. We all saw and heard it.

There is this type of rock in the West called basalt and it is of volcanic origin. It is familiar to us in in it’s appearance as columns. They are tall and in number form cliffs and bluffs. Maybe it would be easier to say that if you looked closely at a cliff or edge of a bluff you would see that it is made of these columns. Yea and when a column is broken the end surface is concave. These ends are like little dishes.

We all saw that those little dishes were going to hold rain that we are known for. That vision of interplay sold us. That was the song it was singing and that Al heard first. So working with the parameters the cemetery gave us it looked like there was room for two so…

Al has the knowhow to do the grinding, polishing and sandblasting that are required. Plus he has the equipment and personality to physically deal with moving them around. So, our team is on it’s own, we can take it from here. And the other good new’s is that Wiley gets to help and hang out with Uncle Al to lend a hand.

Well, that was Friday and heat was a factor. And today it continues a few degrees warmer. I am trying to do next to nothing and have been pretty successful so far today. I think we have this through Monday or Tuesday.

anyway loves, Felipé.

Ryck In From The East Coast

President Grant, General Grant on the ponch writing his memoir.
(photo from R Thompson)

July 23, 1885 was the day President/General Ulysses Grant died at Mount McGregor in Upstate New York. Before he died, his family was heavily in debt due mainly to a “Ponzi” scheme and poor investments. In order to clear the debt and to give his family financial freedom, he decided to write his memoirs. Mark Twain offered to be his publisher and together his memoirs would sell like crazy and in the end his family would be taken care of.
I took my kids to see Mount McGregor a few years back. I needed to see the place that Grant stayed while he wrote his memoirs. It is atop a little mountain and overlooks the expansive valley below near Saratoga Springs in NY. They chose to go to Mt. McGregor to escape the summer heat in NYC/NJ in 1885. The air was cooler up there, easier to breathe…less people there as well. There is an old photograph of Grant sitting in a wicker-styled chair with his back against the wall outside on the porch area. He is wearing a knitted cap, blanket over his lap and he has a pencil in his hand and the booklet he is writing in. I have viewed and reviewed this picture a thousand times. For whatever reason, I had to go there in person. I had to see the chair he sat in. I had to see the house he was in. I had to feel the atmosphere, the sounds, and digest the views. So, one day a few years back I did just that. My kids and I drove up the 3 hours from Binghamton, NY to “Grant’s cottage” in Wilton, NY. I saw his actual chair, sat in a replica with my own back up against the same porch wall he was against. I imagined the view that he saw, the cool air that he breathed. I imagined how much he had to overcome to write this memoir, but he did what needed to be done. It turned out to be magnificent in every regard.
We are all writing our own memoirs, I believe. Every post we write for Phil’s blog, every Facebook post we put out, every letter we write, it is our memoir. I remember asking Phil one day, “Well, Phil are you going to write a book?”. “The blog is my book”, he said. It made perfect sense to me.
I posted on Facebook not long after that as I continued to read horrible political banter…vitriol…that if people knew that everything they posted one day would be made into a book and that book made of posts would represent our lives, would they continue posting some of the things they posted?
In the Navy, the daily routine is written in what is called, “The Plan of the Day”, or P.O.D. Currently, my P.O.D. is Phil’s daily blog posts. Although I don’t respond to each post, like you all I am sure, I read everyone. In fact, I feel my day is not complete without reading what Phil is putting out for us to understand. I get an alert on my iPhone whenever Phil puts out his post. It is consistently the best part of my day. I am feeling like crap, “PING!” a post, I am feeling great, “PING!” a post, I am stressed with life, happy with life, tired, travelling, in a meeting….”PING!” It’s another post from Phil and you know what, I am better now……


Weather Wealthy

Corn creeping up to knee high.
(photo J Meiklejohn)

Just counting weather we are loaded around here. Blue sky, heat.
Although Sunday and Monday could be over a 100 F which is unheard of around here. So will be pumping water on the corn and me keeping in the shade.

Jen has the whole Three Sisters plot all planted. There are beans and squash added to the basic corn plants. So, that takes up one corner of the corn, 5×5 hills. I gave her the OK for this experiment. We will see what happens? We are always trying new approaches.

A good friend of ours volunteered to produce a headstone for me. This is so cool. We are going tomorrow to pick out a rock to use, Wiley included. Wiley is going to help on the project with grinding and polishing.

I am going to go. Anon.

polishing loves, Felipé.