On Inspiration, the Camino Francés and now on to the Camino Costa Rica

Lately what inspired me and really lit my soul with an afterglow, that weeks later continues to burn brightly is having recently completed my first Camino Francés.

Inspire means to excite, to encourage, or to breathe life into. Inspire comes from a Latin word that also means to inflame or to blow in to; so when we inspire something, it is almost as if we are blowing air over an open flame making it grow.

Those words above on a fence written I know not when or by who, inspired me. They stopped me dead on my tracks while walking the Camino.

Once the picture was taken I contemplated for a long time the very words, and yet several miles away I still opened the picture to have another good look at the written words.

“We are all broken that’s how the light gets in.”

I have often thought of what inspires others is it pictures, scenery, a future or a past event.

I like being a quote user. Those words at that very moment in time struck me hard. Perhaps because I too felt somewhat broken that morning. Now on “my way” in search of some higher meaning.

I remember that Camino walking day well as I do almost every walking day on the Camino. I walked alone that day not knowing if I was ahead or behind any part of what I could refer to as my Camiño family.

And then I could sense another Peregrino fast approaching from behind. Not wanting to just turn around I pulled my iPhone out, using it as one does a rear view mirror in their car.

I snapped a picture of this lovely happily married French pelegrina who also fluently speaks Spanish. She is now two days behind her Camiño family.

Days earlier I complimented her on a beautiful hat she wore on the Camino that she bought in Paris twelve years ago. Now she tells me she was devastated as she thinks it was either lost or stolen.

Later on I refer her to others as the Mother Teresa of the Camino in a loving way. We both choose to not walk together as our Camino rhythm and pace are not compatible for long stretches.

At first I knew that this Camino would work on my body. Next I also knew when the Camino was working on my mind; periodic insights magically appeared to me, as in understanding the very inner nature of things or of being able to see intuitively.

Towards the very end of my Camino I knew that my very soul underwent a healing process. One not yet fully completed.

Inspiration is subjective, as different people will find different things to be inspiring. However, I dare most anyone to step into any cathedral along “the way” and see for yourself.

And now I leave you with three quotes one of which I hope will also inspire you.

“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.”

– John C. Maxwell

 “If you can’t fly, then run, If you can’t run, then walk, If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” –

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race or religion or nationality or sexual orientation or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us.

– Lady Gaga

And yes in a week I leave for Costa Rica to begin a walk from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. My mind, body and soul are now asking for a new challenge. The planning is ongoing. Other than adding a guide, some mosquito repellent, shorts and jungle garb, tougher rain gear and more water and a sleeping bag all my camino gear remains the same.

Once I arrive in Costa Rica I will share more details hopefully inspiring others to also look at following me on the Costa Rica camino. More to follow.

Rafa on the Camino Costa Rica

Pura Vida baby.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Mother’s Day Story

Yes, I know you are not my mother but, she passed away last year and I wanted to write someone a little story and you today are the chosen one.

I at times affectionately refer to you as “mama”, and you call me what the grandkids do, papa; you are my best friend, my lover, and most of the times even a great companion. I never met you in your youth, yet you honor me by telling me, I brought the youth out in you.

I agree, on many occasions we are totally complete opposites of each other, yet that’s possibly part of our charm together. We know when to give the other the space needed.

For us, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is your day so,

– Happy Mother’s Day Patti.

Heinlein says that “as humans we should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly”.

Recently while I was away on my pilgrimage in Spain, a country you always wanted to visit – you not only found the time to rescue an injured dog, but, to remodel our kitchen, program your garage door so you can open it with your iPhone, care for two grand babies = one day a week, help a friend in need, take your therapy trained dog to cheer up children and seniors, swap out a French door for a new window, upgrade the homes security system, totally remake the sun room, hire a new gardener, remake the yard, plant flowers, entertain your visiting mom, care for a friends home plants while she was in the hospital, accompany seniors on a morning walk, send birthday cards and presents, stay in touch with family, cook, bake, go to Pilates three times a week, and still continue running a household.

Maybe you are not doing too bad on the “Heinlein” scale.

Or, maybe I should leave more often……

And if recently I dropped off that edge of the medieval known world while in Finisterre, Spain, while on “the camino way” I will know that there is but, one person back home that will take notice and even mount an expedition.

My children will not have done like Martin Sheen on “The Way ” scattering my ashes yet I know that you would have; Yes you alone are my contact with my world as I know it.

“Dream, struggle, create, prevail.

Be daring.

Be brave.

Be loving.

Be compassionate.

Be strong.

Be brilliant.

Be beautiful.”

– – Caterina Fake

Happy Mother’s Day

Papa

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Finishing My First Camino – Emptiness Camiño Feeling

There is one thing John Muir, the American Naturalist said that has stuck with me always since finishing my first Camino de Santiago.

Muir is quoted as saying that if you take a walk in the woods for something like a few days or even a week or so you are but, enjoying what can only be described as the dessert part of the meal.

To be truly immersed not only in nature but, in your self being, as a human being you need to get out and be gone for at least twenty one (21) days.

Now why is the number twenty-one (21) the magic number?

I looked it up and among a few answers found that twenty one also represents selflessness; concern for others more than for oneself.

To come back whole again from a Camino, a certain number of days need to pass just as the correct number of days passed that healed our mind, bodies and soul on the Camino.

This is obviously not a one size fits all answer but, it’s my best answer after my first day home again after forty-four days gone. Time simply has to pass.

In our busy daily lives we often neglect walking, an evolved function of the human race. When we jump start our training for the Camino we start walking again. This process begins to make us whole again.

Next we add the planning and the buying and testing for what will one day in the future work for us.

This backpack that we wear on the Camino is a way for us to begin to uncomplicate our lives. Everything we believe we can live with is in that pack we carry. For many unfortunately their lives are much too complicated and so they start the Camino with a heavy pack load. Time teaches many and those that learn the valuable lessons are rewarded with lighter packs.

Finally add the unknowns like the great wholesome food, and social aspects of possibly sharing the experience with a Camino family of pelegrinos. Top off your pack with a Camino flag, patch, shell or anything else on our backpack that truly distinguishes us from a mere backpacker – you are now a pelegrino!

I now ask myself – safe and secure in my lovely home with no one else around. What do I now feel? Is it emptiness? Feeling lost, overwhelmed, or joy, a sense of great accomplishment or what?

I know there is something but, I don’t quite have a firm handle on it yet.

Recalling the exact moment I stopped being a pilgrim (a pelegrino) was a real shocker. Right after receiving my Compostela in Santiago.

But, then something magical happened the following day.

Rather than remain in Santiago for a second day I downloaded the route extension to Fisterra (Finisterre) on my Buen Camino app and then I cancelled my booking.com hotel room and just like that I was totally back – and as a pilgrim, this time on my way to Finisterre.

Being retired sort of has the same effect. I do however, feel for those that don’t have the ability to go beyond that magical number of twenty one (21) days for their Camiño. My magic number. For you it may be different.

Just know that if that emptiness feeling post Camino finds its way to you- restart that planning process sooner rather than later for that new adventure and that emptiness should soon start to fade away.

And that my friends is my day one home reflections.

Ralph

The ability of a photo to communicate with the viewer I am told represents a great photograph

And now a few random pictures to share.

Prior to taking this picture a great downpour.

Yes, the Camino road was just as rough as it looks in both pictures.

The guy in the first photo is Stewart from the UK. He always wore a light blue Panama hat, every day adorned with a fresh flower he picked fresh from the camino.

And why not. Rarely does one back home slow down enough these days with the crowds all around to really enjoy a good cup of cafe con leche.

The fact that carrying a camino sized pack for the past 15 miles possibly tended to make the drink and the memories that much more memorable.

Special thanks to the photographer for this great picture of me.

Buen Camino always,

Ralph

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Paris and my Camino

Yes my darling sorry for not continuing to keep you abreast of my activities since completing the Camino Francés.

Since I now have just two more recuperating days left before my journey back to Los Angeles here is a down and quick tour of what I can share in the interim of what interests me – war and adventure. First the adventure part.There are four main camino routes in France. Here they call it the Chemin St. Jacques Way.Back when most of the pelegrinos were French – which possibly explains why the camino I walked on is called the French way.

The Paris Camino route I found today.

It is also a designated monument for the liberation of Paris. How appropriate. As best as I could make out this is also the start point for this Camino.

Quite impressive and to also think that Hitler had ordered Paris defended to the last man, and demanded that the city not fall into Allied hands except as “a field of ruins.”

German General Choltitz dutifully began laying explosives under Paris’ bridges and many of its landmarks, but disobeyed an order to commence the destruction.

He did not want to go down in history as the man who had destroyed the “City of Light”–Europe’s most celebrated city.

On August 22, Eisenhower agreed to proceed with the liberation of Paris. The next day, the 2nd Armored Division advanced on the city from the north and the 4th Infantry Division from the south.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the forces of German General Dietrich von Choltitz were fighting the Resistance and completing their defenses around the city.

The French 2nd Armored Division was formed in London in late 1943 with the express purpose of leading the liberation of Paris during the Allied invasion of France.

In August 1944, the division arrived at Normandy under the command of General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc and was attached to General George S. Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army.

By August 18, Allied forces were near Paris, and workers in the city went on strike as Resistance fighters emerged from hiding and began attacking German forces.

The 2nd Armored Division ran into heavy German artillery, taking heavy casualties, but on August 24 managed to cross the Seine and reach the Paris suburbs. There, they were greeted by enthusiastic civilians who besieged them with flowers, kisses, and wine.

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1899 as part of a worlds fair. exhibition and later scheduled for demolition. If Hitler had not relented it would’ve been destroyed during WWII.

But, since the tower served as a useful German communications antenna relaying point it was spared destruction – a second time.

Still as popular as ever.

And the rest as they say is Paris history.

Buen Paris

Rafa

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Such is Life

A French pilot I assume is now safely flying the Air Francés plane delivering me in less than two hours, from Madrid to Paris.

I remember many years ago lying on a bed, on a hot August night; a miserably muggy Miami, Florida night. Not a bit of air stirred. No, we did not own air conditioning then. Perhaps it wasn’t even invented.

Sleep would not come and tomorrow another school week day. Suddenly I soon found myself tossing a ball from one side to the other – if only in my head.

Sometimes I would even miss catching the ball. No problem, it only bounced freely around the insides of my now empty head. This little game entertained a young boy back then. Sleep finally arrived or perhaps the morning breeze stirred for just a little.

Sweat at times provided the necessary coolness for sleep to finally arrive. On a bed with not even a white sheet to cover me. Wearing white boys underwear, probably washed by my dear mother in clorox bleach and dried on a clothesline.

The definition for boredom is …..

I guess I’ve never really known the word.

Could having too much time on your hands be such a bad thing.

– Why try to fill every waking hour?

On the Camino de Santiago guys and gals like me tend to do extremely well. Perhaps it’s an early bird catching the worm sort of thing.

And yet this morning in a Madrid hotel I woke up thinking; yesterday I took a walking tour of Madrid and ate some great tapas.

And then I walked right past a sign offering a Thai massage on the way to my hotel room. The massage helped some to stretched my tired arms, legs, feet and shoulders but, how could I entertain myself for four more days in Madrid, Spain, and by myself.

This morning the decision to stay in Madrid for another five nights waiting for a flight home was made for me by the hotel. You see, they tend to double the room rates for Friday through Sunday.

And so friends and family this is how I now find myself flying to Paris to entertain that same brain that years ago needed a little diversion before being able to finally fall asleep.

The journey continues.

Rafa in Paris

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Rosary

How can one condense a month, five hundred miles walked with all worldly possessions now strapped to ones back; mere words sister cannot begin to explain how proud I felt carrying the rosary you gave me on my backpack. And to think it arrived just a mere two days before my departure to Madrid,Spain.

Thank you for this beautiful gift however, know that now that the rosary has walked the entire Camino de Santiago, and even to Finisterre, the rosary is now ready to be returned to you with all the magical energy and spirits of the Camino.

I now write these words with continued loving tears flowing from within me. These emotions flow from deep within me like the very country of our long ago distant past relatives.

“How one deals with the death of a loved one is a highly personalized affair.

Some people weep for days; others take a hike in the woods or count rosary beads.”

– D Brinkley

Me, I chose to take a little walk across Spain.

Rafael

Your oldest brother.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finisterre, the equation, a beautiful Camino is finished

For the past month or so everyone I know on the camino journey has had something to do and something to look forward to every single day. Sometimes I wake up and the first thing I say to yours truly is; “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” You can choose to do anything you want with your life. All that is needed is that first step.

Feeling hurt, sad, dejected, in dire straits, like the world has finally come down on you with a vengeance; and you are now on the receiving end.

Say those words above every morning to your self like you really mean them; I guarantee if you ignite a passion in you the fire will not easily go out.

Ever since I was young boy an old voyager soul chose to guide my life towards the sea. At one point I became obsessed totally with everything about the sea, the ocean and the boating life. In medieval days I would’ve been working my way up to a Ships Captain and possibly with the desire to explore and conquer new lands – for the good of the crown, of course.

ImSuch was the obsession that this old mariner soul told me I needed to sail around the world.

Why, still I know not why. So, when the sailing around the world life long dreams did not materialize I felt like a part of me was still left incomplete.

Today, after reaching the end of the world by foot and seeing the ocean for the first time after so many days of walking; I am once again complete.

There is no desire left to cross oceans. I find that my path for years to come is firmly on land.

Two of the three.

1. Something to do

2. Something to look forward to.

The third part of the equation is someone to love. Waiting for me back home.

Simply said – our Peregrino life evolved around walking the Camino to Santiago. Some of the more unfortunate Peregrinos either ran out of time or their body simply said enough. Stop. You are killing me. Time to go home to heal.

And now that the Camino is over and the ones with Compostela in hand; what do we do now?

For some not wanting the journey to be over there is Finisterre, the obvious answer. For others?

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

And so what is the answer when the something to do and the something to look forward to days are done?

That my friends means that it is time to begin planning for a new adventure.

Buen Camino

Rafa

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The 100 km mark and the Camino

Today it got as real as real can get on account that my Camino journey may soon intercept its destination – Santiago. Meaning the end may soon be near. Only around 690 km to go.

Now you may have heard in the past sayings such as; the journey is the destination but, what does it all really mean?

My mind unlike possibly a great deal of the population tends to try to out think the future. And so, in order to shift my focus from the goal at hand – Santiago de Compostela.

My goal is simply the journey.

By tackling smaller bite sized daily goals – sort of a carrot and a stick approach to me.

Small wins daily = equals large successes in the end.

For those still paying your dues in blisters, sweat, and tears to get here – this is the landmark that awaits you at the 100 km mark.

“The journey is the destination.”

From the very start of my Camino I knew that my journey was never really about finishing.

– I simply knew I always could, from the very start.

“What I wanted out of this journey most of all was to experience those life changing moments and experiences where connecting with your fellow being in a forgiving environment is the norm.”

Those words written something like 600 kilometers back when I was a younger and less wiser Peregrino- or was I?

My camino has now ended- why I even traveled as far as the Finisterre, the ends of the known world in medieval days.

Sometimes it seems we can easily turn a simple journey into something more complicated than it needs to be.

We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be.

We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.

The same way as life itself.

Buen Camino, always.

Rafa


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Many Steps and the Camino de Santiago

Recently, a bunch of bored pelegrinos from several different nationalities with the commonality of the spoken English language gathered round. I’m now ever so grateful to my country for winning the big war. The WWII one you probably read about in history books or watched on the Hitler channel.

The topic of conversation began with how many steps are yet left to reach Santiago.

I quickly contributed having read a book by a guy titled two million steps. The guy actually claimed to have counted each step and came up with two million steps.

I then quickly realized that through the miracles of modern technology I am now also able to record my daily steps simply by wearing my Apple Watch.

That is of course that I’m wearing it, have it charged, did not forget to resume it once I stopped for a coffee break, or help a maiden in distress or even a farmer to plow his fields.

No, I haven’t added the steps over the last twenty nine days of my Camino and you know what? I don’t believe I will. If you wanna know read the book or hike your own Camino.

When we were young once there was this candy pop called a tootsie pop. A dentists best friend.

Well it so happened that a group of engineers from Purdue University invented a licking machine, modeled after a human tongue. They claim that it took an average of 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

Some of the skeptics in the group did not believe it so they conducted their own real life experiments by doing a licking challenge. They came up with 252 licks to get to the center.

And so I say to you walk your own Camino. Your experience will be what you want it to be. No mas no meno. No more no less.

For me I’ll continue to accept daily the magic that my guardian angel continues to throw at me. And yes, the good guy continues evolving.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Patti, Memories and the Camino

“On a given day, on a given circumstance, you

think you have a limit. And you then go for this

limit and you touch this limit, and you think,

‘Okay, this is the limit’.

And so you touch this limit, something happens

and then you suddenly can go a little bit

further.

With your mind power, your determination,

your instinct, and the experience as well, you

can fly very high.”

― Ayrton Senna

That quote from some time ago I shared on Facebook – today they turned up as a memory on Facebook.

“My most memorable ride. Thanks to all the hiking I did that carried me through.”

http://www.trailjournals.com/Trawlercat

Jun 28, 2011 – All was once again well in the thru-hike Trawlercat hiking world. Another Sunday, a different marina and I find myself rowing a Walker bay ………………..

This event ended my thru hike as I now recall. I remember sitting on Kimball’s walker bay boat rowing (you) Patti an Australian shepherd named Jessie and a recent new energetic chocolate lab pup I named Lucy.

Somehow as pups always do, they get into mischief. This one managed to wrap the anchor, mooring lines all around her and soon was a bawling pup.

I should’ve just chucked her overboard.

The younger less tempered Ralph would’ve without giving it a second thought except for the high price of the dog.

The new Ralph that you’ve worked hard at times to open up this heart of mine – twisted around without a problem at your request- unwrapping the pup and delivering her to you.

I still remember your grateful smile. And then the next day I could not even get out of bed.

Like I like to say and still do – no good deed goes unpunished.

We still have one of those two dogs with us.

Those memories and others are safely tucked into my inner soul – for You and me – We got a late start so, we ran faster than most couples to catch up.

Here’s to the kid in all of us!

Rafa

April 24, 2019

That was then and this is me writing to you now. Look at the pictures below and tell me if I did not bring that little girl out in you, and yes at times,

many times in fact; totally scared the living crap out of you.

And how you kept coming back for more.

You often tried but, never could quite keep up with me.

I recall a time, long ago now, on a bicycle, on one of my long training runs.

How the horse shit on the trail kept getting caught in your rims as you tried avoiding the ruts and rocks; how that beautiful fresh horseshit kept splattering up your legs, body and arms.

How we returned to our little hovel of a place, how I picked you up clothes and all and tossed you and I into the spa – horseshit, clothes and all. How we laughed in each other’s arms. Those are the memories and more that ai now treasure. Me, a romantic, I think not.

Now why would anyone in their right mind find this a romantic thing? Yet I somehow do.

If my timing turns out right we should have a decade or possibly two of good living ahead of us. And if not, we’ll then you can get a refund on my return flight and bury me on the Camino.

Here is to our continued history together. May the years continue to flow along with many more memories- together. And may god bless us all until St Peters gate welcomes.

Your loving husband.

Ralph/Rafa/Rafael/Papa or the good guy

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment