Given A Gold Mine

A Padre pic.

In yesterday’s blogpost I was telling you about meeting the guy in the waiting room that was the owner of the gold mine in Alaska. I have been thinking about this meeting. Maybe there is more to relate to you.

In the first place I saw this man and he was “well dressed”. I try to be well dressed myself. Maybe not highly dressed but having gone through some thought and care. But the point is he was alone and I didn’t know if he was the patient or there with someone who was the patient. Sometimes people don’t know that I am the patient. This is a good sign. We are not channeling our problem.

During our conversation he revealed how he came to have the mine in the first place. He had an older friend that was in poor health and he would help this friend by driving him to his appointments and such. And it happened that the old man died and he left the mine to his young friend and not his son. I guess his son wasn’t interested. So, it was a thank you of sorts.

And it didn’t sound like it was a grand gift in the sense that the mine probably was run down and needed renovation and reorganizing to get it modernized. But that happened and this new owner ran it for thirty five years and sold it.

Well, being the Felipé this got me thinking. As strange as this may sound fate handed me a gold mine of sorts with my cancer diagnosis. Of course that is not in physical terms. And it was a ramshackle mess to start with but somehow there was a thread or a flicker of insight that got things started.

I know that might sound strange but there is something there nonetheless. We, you and I, over the years have woven something together here. It has value, maybe even enduring value.

Off I go, walking in minutes. Beautiful morning although chilly here at Phil’s Camino. Catch you later loves, Felipé.

Moving Rock

Moving rock at Phil’s Camino.

We move rock here on Phil’s Camino when folks put ones that they find on the trail on the pile with their intentions on them. It was a good thing that got started a long time ago by My Rebecca back when we started all this walking and praying stuff. It is in the alperfect category.

So, yesterday I caught up to one of my old hunting buddies that I haven’t talked to in ages. We were standing in the sun outside the market telling our lies. I had heard that he had a cancer hobby going also and I asked him about it. When you start asking questions you never know what you are going to come up with and in this case I was richly rewarded. It seems that the major part of his treatment was 7 weeks of radiation at five days per week. Now my friend is a very robust fellow and his response to this ordeal was equally robust. Since he had to catch the ferry each time he came up with the idea of driving his dump truck over and hauling a load of gravel back each day since that commodity is so much cheaper on the mainland. Yea, when most of us would figure out how to catch the bus just to be easy on ourselves. Love it!

Then today I was at the hospital waiting to see my Doc when I struck up a conversation with a well dressed man sitting near me. He asked how I was doing and I responded with the ever appropriate, “So far so good!” He got a kick out of that and we started conversing about guy stuff. Turns out he had owned a gold mine in Alaska for thirty five years. We went on for half a hour on that. And hardly a word about our problems, mostly about moving rock. This is what I like to see.

So what are you getting at Felipé? Well, it is that it is really easy sometimes for people to have their conversation all about their problems. Some more than others of course. We talked about this recently when we were noting that it is possible for someone to actually channel their cancer. It is delightful when that is not the case. And beyond that I am seeing that it is possible to guide a conversation somewhat and keep it on the upbeat side. That is interesting to discover.

Yes, back to the ranch from the hospital for me now. I got another two week chemo vacation in preparation for a possible change in treatment. My scan from a few days ago was the last straw for the chemical that I have been on for almost a year. It hasn’t done a great job and we are looking for the next good option to pursue. And my weight is up again to 174.4 lbs and that it extremely heartening. That is ten pounds heavier than a year ago.

Enough for now. Rockin loves, Felipé.

From A Friend

Archery at Raven Ranch.

Elizabeth is the Mom of one of my young archery students. We have been working together for a least a year. And somewhere in recent history Elizabeth had an article published in the Beachcomber our local weekly paper. Of course it got lost before I could read it and just yesterday she emailed the link to me. I am so taken by this that I am delivering it to you with her OK of course. This is priceless and Oh So Camino.

This Year, “More Leaning Against Black”

Something strange happened to me a few weeks ago — a winter gift — that I’ve been pondering ever since.

It was early in the morning, and already I was failing. I’d failed to meditate — my heart just wasn’t in it. I’d failed to get to my early morning exercise class on time. There were no spaces left when I got there, so I turned around and drove back home.

As I stepped out of my car on that black, starlit morning, nothing felt quite right. I didn’t want to go back into my house. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t know what I wanted, or what could make me feel better. So, for lack of a better idea, I decided to just lean against my car and look up.

And right as I looked up, the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen sailed right over my house.

Was that star a special gift meant just for me on that winter morning? Was it a custom-ordered shooting star for a lady who really needed to see some brightness?

I can’t say for sure, but I doubt it. Having grown up in a Christian church, I remember the words from scripture about the even-handedness of natural occurrences: “God makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” I don’t think that star was custom ordered just for me.

But it wasn’t just for anybody. It wasn’t for somebody who’d slept in. It wasn’t even for somebody who’d been extra virtuous and gotten to her 6 a.m. exercise class on time. It was for somebody who found herself in a place between things — between being active and being still, between dark and light, between the car and the house. Somebody who didn’t know what to do or where to go, and who, in that moment, just stood there with open eyes.

It can be a hard thing, not knowing what to do; not knowing what’s going to happen next; being in an in-between place. We’ve all got a lot of not knowing in our lives. It’s like dark matter, the stuff we just can’t predict or figure out; the stuff that, somewhat disconcertingly, scientists tell us, makes up the vast majority of the universe.

We need to see not only darkness, but light. Not only failure and confusion, but also brightness and clarity. We need a field of vision wide enough to take all of that in. And we also need to leave room for all of the in-between things; all the dark matter; the things we just can’t pin down or understand.

I read a folk tale recently about a man who asks a beautiful woman to marry him. The woman says yes, but on one condition: The man must never look into a magical pail she possesses.

The man agrees, and he and the woman are married. But of course, the temptation is too great, and one day the man ends up looking into the pail. He thinks what he’s done is no big deal, because when he looks into the pail, he finds it empty.

But his wife says, “You fool — you’ve ruined everything”. And she disappears before his very eyes.

What was in that pail? Nobody knows. Maybe not even the woman knew. But without that bit of mystery, the woman wasn’t who she really was. By trying to figure out everything about his wife — by not allowing her to possess her own mystery — her husband lost her.

We lose a lot when we try to banish mystery from our lives; when we try to figure everything and everybody out; when we have an agenda for every situation. And maybe, most especially, when we try to comprehensively figure out, analyze and categorize ourselves.

This year I’m going to try to do less of that. I’m going to be less quick to call something a failure or a success. And I’m going to be more quick to admit there are things I just don’t understand, like a strangely-timed shooting star on a cold winter morning.

A favorite childhood poem of mine by Mary O’Neill ends: “Think of what starlight and lamplight would lack; diamonds and fireflies, if they couldn’t lean against black.”

I’m going to do more leaning against black this year. I don’t want to miss those mysterious gifts that only not knowing can give.

— Elizabeth Fitterer is an islander and a member of the Puget Sound Zen Center.

Elizabeth’s Article

OhSoCamino loves, Felipé.

We Are Doing Fantastic!

Here’s William CBC and he’s doing fantastic!

Just thought that I would let you know that on this Monday morning. Whatever you are up to, you are doing fantastic! I am here staring out the window thinking I might see snowflakes falling. Maybe not. We have all here have been traumatized by the recent storms and you are probably tired of me talking about it but the feelings remain. We all think we might be seeing snowflakes.

Yes, Monday morning a time when we hopefully are all ready for the week to come at us. I am off here later this morning for a scan. It is that magic time again to take some pix of the situation and see what’s happening with my tenacious little guys. “Okay, I know, you are little but you are mighty.” Right now I am seeing them as Alvin and the Chipmunks. Hehe, hehe.

Ah, maybe I have been at this too long. Maybe I could take a little break and trade maladies with someone for a month, kind of a busman’s holiday. Sorry, just crazy thoughts from Felipé.

On a different note we had some frozen sweet corn for dinner last night and it brightened me up with thoughts of August and September coming up with endless corn and blackberries. That’s 180 degrees from where we are on the calendar but I can imagine it easily.

Well, enough of this for now. Time to boot up for the Monday morning walk. It is pretty out but frosty.

You are really doing fantastic loves, Felipé.

A Sunday In February

Painting of St John Vianney the namesake of our parish here on Vashon.

Well, actually it is the last Sunday is this here snowy month. March as got to be a notch warmer. And Lent coming up. Wow, Felipé, what are you giving up or adding this time? Well, have to give that some thought.

And Easter toward the end of April, the 22nd I think. This will be my sixth anniversary for me in the Catholic Church. Wow, time is flying. I must be feeling like an old timer by now. Love my little Island parish, small but mighty.

They want me to build another cabinet for them. Yes, that will be great. The reason they need one is they are expanding a program and they need more secure storage space for the ingredients. A small group of parishioners run this program called Backpack Pantry. Each week come rain or shine they pack forty eight parcels of food and drop them off at the various schools. The idea is that a student in need will get a backpack full of food to get them over the weekend if things are lean.

Then at the other end of things we have our dear friend Jessika who I talk about often who is studying Canon Law or Church Law. And in addition she is working to become a member of the Order of Malta, the folks that took me and Padre Tomas to Lourdes last year. All this very scholarly and knightly.

I guess I am trying to say that I feel at home there from one end to the other. Just wish I had my dear Mother to take to Mass with me. She would enjoy that. But she sees me now and that makes me happy.

Well, have the Sunday afternoon walk here in a few minutes. The snow is melting a little bit more each day and we are getting things more cleaned up. Soon it will be pretty normal.
Please come when you get a chance.

Only the best to you, late winter loves, Felipé.

Finishing Up

by Todd Billings

I am down to the last few pages of this amazing book that I have been reading. It is a bit of a slog. But seeing that it is on a major topic and seeing that it is a library book due on the 26th has spurred me on.

I am an intuitive Christian I suppose. There are a lot of things that I grasp without text and verbiage. I am a mystic basically as I understand it. My favorite way to learn is through experience. And that is why the reading of this book is somewhat of a slog for me.

The author is covering some great ground and for my sake doesn’t need to back every single point of the conversation with the appropriate Bible verse. It is all very scholarly is what I am trying to say. Never the less it is very thought provoking and important ground to cover.

It is primarily about how to accept suffering long term in one’s life. How to live with a problem that isn’t going away.
How to do that in a way that is consistent with one’s beliefs. All suffering can be seen as meaningful I suppose although that seems a large statement for me to be saying. It is paradoxical to have a loving God and to know that suffering still exists generally and above and beyond that to personally taste that.
To know it in a personal way deep down inside.

It took the author a whole book to get around to any kind of a conclusion but I may not get too much further than this today. Some of his threads and topics we have been playing with for years here at Caminoheads in a mystical fashion. But it is good for me to see it presented in such a scholarly fashion.

Bless you on your personal walk. You are doing the hard work each and every day. Know that you are not alone although it may seem that way sometimes.

Thanks for being here, love, Felipé.

Good Morning!

What is left of the snow is trying to leave.

The start of a new day here at Raven Ranch. It is cloudy and calm and the snow is still in the process of disappearing. I’ve been cleaning up piles of debris from the storm. Lots of damage to the trees from the extreme weight of the snow. And we are all glad that is is the past.

Had some visitors yesterday. Jeannie and Tony came to be with us for the afternoon. Hope that they make it out again in dryer weather to enjoy a walk. Also Esther Jantzen made a stop to see us. (I mention folks by there whole name if they are authors and such, if their names are already public.) It has been a while since we have seen her and always good.

Such a joy to have folks stop by leave me with a few thoughts to work on. People doing interesting things come by. People on their way here or there come through to leave something with me. Alperfect. It keeps me fresh and the blog fresh.

PFJ, Pilgrim Farmer John, our Heartland Bureau Chief and his wife Cathy are off on an adventure. It is the time of year when they attempt their cross country bike ride. I think they start in California and pedal eastward. They have a blog and I need to find the link for you.

It seems like things are filling up on our March calendar. Californians are getting an early start on visiting the ranch. I have a feeling it will be a busy summer for folks coming and going. Last summer was busy and this summer will be the same plus we have the Big Shindig in August. Let me mention those dates again August 23-26. Please help to spread the word on that.

Time to go., Up, up and away loves, Felipé.

I Want To Start Worrying Cancer

The full moon setting over Phil’s Camino this morning at dawn.

I am seeing a time when we can start turning the tables on this problem. Yes, that does seem unlikely when we think about it with our normal perspective. But hey what the heck is normal about this blog and this neighborhood so far. Early on I coined a phrase that discribed my situation as “beyond normal”. I think that or something similar needs to be dusted off and used here.

Yes, beyond normal or in a place where we can see more of the path ahead of us, maybe is the same. I think it is time to start with this project of worrying cancer. It is high time.

This is strictly a guerrilla operation. We have little backing but we do have a lot of heart. We have knowledge and a network and sharp pointed sticks. And most of all, I for one, have little to lose.

This is Cancer Commando stuff. A revival of the old spirit. Only this time we are fighting the enemy that is not just cancer but Cancer, We are going to start worrying Cancer or in other words cancer as a whole, the whole damn shebang. It’s about time I’d say.

I know that sounds like a tall order but taking the first step needs to be done so that we can all see it and know what it means. Have to go and walk this AM on Phil’s Camino and I think that we have said it for today.

Spring is coming loves, Felipé.

In A Word

From William, from Hawaii. Thanks CBC you.

I don’t know exactly when it happened but it was at some point several years ago when my Camino experience coalesced into a single word. Sometimes that sounds weird to me, like it is a process that has to be forced. But given enough time and it happens maybe. And my word for the Camino de Santiago was “hospitality”. Maybe that should have a capital H on it.
It is that word in a great big sense.

And yesterday we had tapas after an hour long work party to get going on cleaning up the part of the trail in the woods. Charlie, Jen and Jim made it to help out. It is is open now, thanks guys. But at tapas Jim and I were talking about having cancer since his Mom has been dealing with it and he travels to see her often to help out. But I was relating something that I had been thinking about lately. And that is I have noticed that without denying that I have this disease the less attention that I pay to it the better. In other words it wants and thrives on my attention. And much more than that it wants ultimately to control everything about me as a person. It would like to control all my attention, to overwhelm all my systems.

So that word “Control” was jumping out at me. Yes, cancer wants to be the Big Controller. I see that clearly now. It is in focus for me. And this will help. The clearer I see it the better. And thank you Jim, we uncovered something valuable there at tapas.

Catherine and Dana are off to Mexico and William CBC is back from Hawaii. Friends coming and going. And we have old friend Esther coming on Thursday. We’ll be here at the ranch holding the fort for you.

Off I go for now, late winter loves, Felipé.