Consider the Birds

There was a certain serendipity when my sister-in-law gave Rich and me a membership to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology this Christmas. In fact, all the gifts from sister Nancy were bird-themed this year, and what a wonderful coincidence because my interest in birding has recently been re-ignited.

We’ve had a bird feeder for years (a present to Tristan when he was a curious pre-schooler), but I have generally been the only one interested in it. For quite a while it had been sitting empty because I got tired of making the squirrels and pigeons fat while not seeing many of the song birds that I was aiming to feed.

A few years back I documented the baby birds that hatched in our mail basket. My daughter Genevieve and I got quite a kick out of watching that momma birdie lay her eggs and then feed her young. This holiday season when I went to a local craft sale my friend Merry was selling her hand-decorated mosaic bird houses so I snatched up my favorite. Isn’t it cute? I love the little ceramic birdie on top. And now Rich doesn’t have to be upset about the mailbox being a bird nest.

For Rent

The vacancy sign is up and hopefully soon we’ll have some visitors. The hole in the bird house should be just about right for the little Carolina Chickadees.

I am also keeping the bird feeder full again and have put out an additional suet feeder that I hope the Blue Jays, pigeons, grackles and squirrels can’t get. We’ve had visits from many locals including the Cardinals (my favorite – even if not rare), Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Pine Siskin(?) and of course Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Pigeons and Grackles. One day a flock of Cedar Waxwings came by and ate every berry off the Possumhaw Holly, along with pooping all over the driveway.

Cedar Waxwings

This week I’m off to Australia to spend a few weeks with Rich in Melbourne where he is currently spending some of his sabbatical. I hope to see some fascinating things there. Maybe some new birds from down under? I should have some interesting things to post soon!

Epiphany – Season of Listening

Christmas Peace

Yes, I know, Christmas is long over and it’s the new year, 2018. Some folks may already be giving up on their well-intentioned resolutions while I have yet to make any!

I very much enjoyed this holiday season with the kids home and all of the traditions, comforts and fellowship that make our time together special. I am reluctant to move on, I think, so I am once again being very slow and intentional in thinking about goals for 2018.

Last year was kind of a monumental year in many ways:

  • I went back to work full-time.
  • Both kids are now in college.
  • We walked the Camino.
  • My husband Rich started his sabbatical.
  • We paid off the mortgage!

I really wanted to reflect on the year so I completed a personal year-end reflection workbook from a favorite blogger personal year-end review which I think is really worth sharing. Looking back at the goals I set for myself in 2017, I accomplished some of them, but others turned out to not be very meaningful.

A sermon at church on a recent Sunday struck a chord with me when our priest mentioned Epiphany is a season for listening… listening for God, or for understanding, or to hear one another.  It is exactly how I am feeling right now.

I know this year will seemingly speed by in with an onslaught of news streams, deadlines and todo lists, but I hope to take time to really listen to discover where God is speaking to me and what I am meant to be doing. So my one and only goal for 2018 is to listen.

First post-Camino post

Sharing the long road

Home Again

It’s been a month now since we got home from Spain and I am still processing what the experience meant to me.

I wasn’t able to ease back into my regular life. Instead I went straight back to work. Then the kids both came home for a visit the following week and I was caught up with their activities. We couldn’t even really unpack because of the threat of bringing bedbugs into the house (we rotated batches of our gear into the freezer for 3-day stints to kill any possible tag-a-longs). So, it took a while for life to seem to settle.

Still, as I start to process the experience I find myself thinking about the Camino and missing aspects of it.

  • I really appreciate how simple and yet unique each day was. I am envious of the uncomplicated days. Our concerns and chores were so few: wake up, pack, walk, find a bed, eat, shower, wash our clothes and read up in the guide book for the next day. This could have been monotonous, but, of course it wasn’t because each day brought new sights, diverse geography, different towns and new people.
  • I find myself resenting that I can’t walk more in my daily life. I miss the feeling of accomplishment and strength that came from walking all those miles everyday. I miss being able to eat whatever I want because I know I’ve burned enough calories!
  • I am restless because I don’t know what my next goal is. The goals on the Camino were so immediate – make it to the next town…finish the stage…reach Santiago. What am I working towards every day?
  • Strangely, I miss carrying my life in a pack. I miss the minimalist life of having the totality of my belongings on my back — the only things I needed to keep track of and take care of were in my 46 liter Osprey back pack.
  • I feel like I don’t have enough time. After a day with my thoughts on work, I feel like I don’t have time or energy for contemplation. Walking the Camino provides lots of time for processing whatever is going on in your head.
  • I’m too connected to the news and other distractions. It was healthier to be somewhat disconnected from politics and the internet.

Would I walk the Camino again?
Definitely! I would do it, especially the first third of it. Rich says he feels no need to do it again. I feel like I would be able to be more mindful of my surroundings and feelings if I did it again because I would know what to expect and know the routine. I hope I would be more prepared for a spiritual journey, knowing what the physical journey would be like. And I would love to share the adventure again with someone.

Contemplating the Camino brings me back to thinking about the reason I started this blog in the first place – that desire for a simpler existence. Work takes up too much of our life. Our belongings and commitments constantly need our time and money. Relationships are perhaps too self-serving. I feel like briefly, as a Pilgrim, I was leading a life that was a step in the right direction.

End-of-the-Earth and End of the Camino

Finisterre, Muxia and the Costa de la Muerte (Coast of Death)

Tuesday we took an excursion to the Galician coast to reach the final pilgrim towns that we didn’t have time to walk to. It takes an extra 3 or 4 days to walk to Muxia (where legend says the Virgen of the Boat appeared to Santiago and convinced him to stay in Galicia) and Finisterre, the “edge of the world”. The picturesque and rocky coast with its history of deadly and catastrophic wrecks gives rise to the Costa de la Muerte title.

At the Camino 0.0 km marker on the Finisterre peninsula.


The rocks at Finisterre, considered the “real” end to many a camino. Pilgrims traditionally burned their clothes, now not permitted, but some pilgrim has left their shoes. Others pray or contemplate.


The fishing town of Finisterre.


A hugely welcome surprise. We found our Polish friend Yarik while we were lunching in Finisterre. He had gone days ahead of us walking and we had not hoped to ever see him again. It was a gift to be able to say goodbye.

Back Home Again

And so, after 6 weeks away we are home again. Bella, our dog, was ecstatic to see us yesterday evening. The cat Mickey is quite angry with me.

We didn’t tell Bella we went on a 500 mile walkie without her.

The Camino was an amazing experience, but it is wonderful to be back. While we were gone life kept moving and now it’s time to re-integrate. There have been changes — my job was eliminated, a colleague is very ill, a friend unexpectedly moved out of state, and an extended family member has experienced the death of someone close to them.

…But the echo of “Buen Camino” and the friends we made will always be with us.

A Day of Reunions and Goodbyes

Today we are treating ourselves to a stay in the grand Parador Hotel – Hostal Reis Catolicos, built in the 15th century as a pilgrim shelter. It has 4 cloisters, beautiful vaulted ceilings, tapestries (and bathtubs).

We attended the Pilgrim Mass at noon, a very special event for all pilgrims. I wish I could have understood the mass, but it was entirely in Spanish (maybe some Latin thrown in). Still it was not to be missed. They even used the giant incense censer Botafumeiro, which is swung from giant cables anchored to the ceiling. I do not have great photos from inside the church as we were not permitted to use a flash and we were seated pretty far away, despite coming an hour early.

After the mass we encountered many of our most treasured pilgrim friends and congratulations and goodbyes were shared.

Tomorrow we leave for a day trip by minibus to Finisterre ( the end of the world) which many pilgrims walk on to after Santiago. We didn’t plan enough extra days to make the extra trek so we’ll have to cheat, but as Rich says we may never get back here again.

Pilgrim Mass


The most precious young ladies from South Korea who we first met so many days ago in Carrion.


Jose Luis from Burgos, Spain, our companion since the very first pilgrim dinner in Roncesvalles.


Sigi from Italy, who we got to know during a pre-dawn walk into Burgos.



42 Kilometers!

We made it all the way to Santiago yesterday instead of stopping in O Predrouzo after the designated 22 km stage. We arrived in Pedrouzo around 11:30, had some lunch, and decided we were just so close to the end of the Camino that we didn’t want to spend a day twiddling our thumbs and waiting to go on.

So we walked 42 kilometers (26 miles) and arrived at the Cathedral at 6:19pm.

At the pilgrim office waiting in line to get our Compostela certificate for completing the Camino Frances pilgrimage.


September 7th, at the first step of the Camino in St. Jean, France.


Last way marker in front of the cathedral in Santiago on October 8th.


The Cathedral last night.

Creekside Pilgrims

A Bucolic Setting

We have now walked around 730km with approximately 40 to go. Tonight we are staying in a renovated historic pilgrim hospital in Ribadiso.

The river made for a lovely, cold foot soak that we pilgrims really enjoyed. A cow even joined us on our side of the river. Tonight we are being serenaded by a bagpipe.

For this cow the grass is greener on our side of the river.


Tonight’s albergue.


A great foot soak.


Our dormitory.




Palas de Rei

We had another fog-shrouded day, becoming a beautiful sunny afternoon. We’ve had some super neat mornings over the last 2 days with a full moon lighting our way through the dark and fog before sunrise.

Below a photo from Castromaior, the remains of a castle dating to the 4th Century B.C. The sun is peeking through the thick fog. Surely there were some wraiths hanging around with us, but otherwise we were alone at this ruin.


Speaking of being alone… there are so many new pilgrims on the road. It’s pretty disturbing. They are just doing 4 or 5 days of the Camino (last 100km). It’s a shame that they don’t know what they have missed out on over the many weeks and there doesn’t seem to be interaction between the original cohort and the new ones. They seem to be all in large groups or tours for the most part.

For us, two more stages of walking and then the final day into Santiago!!! We’ll finally be there Monday.

Under 100 Km!

Spending the night in Portomarin, a pilgrim town that was relocated when a reservoir drowned its original location.  Only 4 days of walking left.

Galicia — land of mist and manure


The last 100 km out of almost 800!



Galicia is Beautiful

We are enjoying our days walking through Galicia. The land is green and hilly and we are spending more time along wooded routes. The villages are pretty tiny, with small herds of cows and sheep. There are lots of smallish gardens of kale and other cruciferous vegetables and some late tomatoes.

Once again this morning we set off in the dark for a climb in dense fog but the view as dawn came was amazing as we looked down from above the clouds.

One downside to our current pastoral region is the ever-present scent of manure. It’s really overwhelming at times and the streets in the smaller villages are just coated with the stuff. Today marked the last day of our 4th week walking and I slipped on some damp leaves during a descent and fell for the first time. Fortunately my fall was cushioned by — yep, manure.

We passed through Sarria today and have stopped in a small town Barbadelo a few kilometers on. Sarria is a very significant town on the Camino because many “fake” pilgrims (as some people call them) start their journey here. In order to earn the Compostela certificate from the pilgrim office in Santiago you only have to prove you’ve walked the final 100km of the Camino. Sarria is located 115km from Santiago so we are expecting anout 30% more pilgrims to join us tomorrow after commencing in Sarria.

About 500 pilgrims are arriving daily in Santiago. Last year 278,000 pilgrims walked to Santiago and earned their certificates. I’ve been checking live statistics on arrivals and about 100 pilgrims an hour are checking in at the pilgrim office. About 1000 pilgrims a day will arrive during October.

As you can tell the end of the Camino is on my mind. It is going to be so exciting and emotional to finish this journey. I have walked every step and carried every pound in my pack the whole way. If I fell and broke a bone tomorrow I’d still walk every step left — somehow!