Here I go...

Join me on my new adventure - Van Living!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Catching Up on the News

I had a wonderful time camping with my family and friends last weekend. The campground was on the river and we spend much of Saturday fishing for crawdads.  The rocks were slippery and toward evening I fell and came down HARD on two rocks. Hit my butt first, then a pyramid shaped rock slammed into my ribs under my right arm. I haven't had the breath knocked out of me since 5th grade. It was NOT fun!

I now have a black bruise the size of a salad bowl on my butt cheek 
and 2 cracked ribs.
The ribs are the most painful. It's difficult to breathe and even more difficult to sleep. I spent  two nights at my ex's house because he has a recliner, which made it easier to get some rest. Last night I didn't sleep so well. Every time I moved, I'd hear and FEEL those ribs popping!

I'm really bummed but glad it wasn't worse.
Anyway, that's why I haven't been posting. 
It hurts to sit for long.

The crawdads were excellent, by the way. We had a feast! There was also corn, ribs, and fruit salad.  We ate until we couldn't eat another bite!
Tonight I'm visiting my good old friends out in Cottage Grove. I haven't seen them in a couple of years and it will be sweet to catch up on their news. Next week, I leave to house sit for my mother for a few weeks, then on to the desert for part of the winter. It gets too cold here in Oregon to camp.I'm in the process now of getting rid of more "stuff." It's amazing how much we accumulate!
I got a car top carrier yesterday for FREE!  
I love when that happens!  
It looks like the one in this photo, although it's a different brand.
Now my fiber and extra clothing will have a place to live while I'm camping. 

I guess that's it for now. 
I will try to continue my blog on the Camino in a day or two.

If you're in the path of Hurricane Irene
please hunker down and keep in touch.
You'll be in my prayers.

Until next time,

Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Doing Laundry On The Camino

When I was a girl, washing the clothes was considered women's work, and had been throughout much of history. Laundry day wasn't fun, but it also wasn't boring. It was often done alongside other women, and the work was made more pleasant by the sharing of stories and gossip.

In some places along the Camino, you can see large clothes washing troughs, usually under cover, where women still gather to wash their clothes.  These are made of stone or concrete and have inclined slabs around the rim for scrubbing.
 A girl could learn a lot by hanging out with the women on laundry day! When I had my first child, I lived in the Caribbean, away from my mother. I was 19 and had nobody to teach me about how to take care of a baby. I learned to hand wash diapers from the women who were working as maids in the trailer park where I lived. Wash day was an excellent time to make friends, hear stories, and to get advice. The women also (accurately) predicted the birth date of my son, which surprised me! I loved the look and scent of those sun-bleached diapers hanging from the clothesline, a rare sight in today's busy world.
One of the situations people who are planning to walk the Camino don't give a lot of thought to is how they will do their laundry. They just assume there will be laundromats all along the way. This is far from the reality.

You MAY be lucky enough to find a lavadora and secadora (washing machine and dryer), but for me, those were rare finds. I have heard that more albergues acquired them for Holy Year last year, but I have yet to see that for myself. Besides, machines were too expensive for my tight budget, so I was happy to do my laundry by hand.

There is no need to carry liquid or dry laundry detergent on the Camino. It is excess weight that is unnecessary. If you do find a machine and pay to do your laundry, the detergent is provided.
The washing machines in Spain are front-loaders. If you've never used a front loading machine, please read the instructions carefully and if you do not understand how to use the machine, please ask your hospitalero. They will be more than happy to assist you. It's good if you can share a machine between 2 or 3 pilgrims (or more) to save costs and energy by doing a full load.

Often, even if there is a lavadora, there will be no secadora (dryer), and you will need to hang out your clothes to dry. Sometimes there is a clothesline, but more often, you will find these really cool drying racks, loaded with pilgrim's wash.
You don't really need clothespins because you drape your clothes over the rack. But I usually carry 4 or 5. You may also want to carry some safety pins to pin your laundry to the rack on windy days. The safety pins are also great for pinning your laundry to your backpack on those days it hasn't dried by morning.
I like to carry a travel clothesline for those times the drying racks are full or you just prefer to hang your clothes on your bed or some other place. These elastic clotheslines are very nice, and don't require clothespins at all! You just slip the corner of your clothes through the elastic and it holds.

Steve Ricks' website and sell travel clotheslines. Here is a link to a tutorial for making your own out of rubber bands!

Sometimes you'll find a funny looking little can that looks like r2d2 sitting next to the washing machine.  This is a clothes SPINNER and it works like a centrifuge! You open the lid, put your wet clothes into it, and close the lid. It spins all the water out of your clothes and makes them almost dry. Taking advantage of this cool little machine can  cut your clothes drying time down to an hour or less.


Most of the time, you will be hand washing your clothes. Here are some simple instructions for people who've never done this.

When you arrive in Spain or France, find a market or hardware store and buy a bar of Fels Naptha soap.  This soap is made to work in cold water. Although it is now advertised in America as a pre-treatment for stains, it was originally was made as a hand-laundry bar.  You will find it all along the Camino and it is less expensive there than anyplace I've found in the USA.  The 5.5 oz. bar is a big 4.75" long. I paid less than 2 Euros for mine.

Fels Naptha is the consistency of any bar soap. You can easily slice it with a thin sharp blade.  Cut it into manageable pieces (thirds or fourths), and keep it in a plastic soap keeper or ziplock bag. One bar is plenty for 3 or 4 pilgrims, so find someone and share!

The clothes-washing stations on the Camino all look pretty similar. They are a stationary tub with faucets. There is almost always a built in clothes scrubber. Wash basins are often provided, and used not only for laundry, but for foot-soaking!
If there is no wash basin, and no stopper, use one of your socks to stop up the sink. I have never bothered carrying a stopper -- it's just extra weight.

The process for washing hasn't changed much in centuries. First, get the clothes wet. Toss in your dirty clothes into the tub (sometimes there is a wash basin!) and cover them with water. It will be cold water, so don't bother running it looking for it to turn hot!
 Take each piece out and rub the dirtiest spots with the end of your soap bar. Pay particular attention to collars and underarms. Then , rub soap over the entire piece. Turn the wet, soapy clothing over and over and rubbing the dirty portions against the ribbed sink. Lean into it and rub with an up and down motion, scrubbing the soap into the clothes.
Grab the piece in both hands and rub it together.
Sometimes a brush is provided. Rub soap onto the brush, and scrub the clothes with the soapy brush. This is especially good for washing dirty socks!
  When you're sure the clothes are clean, then rinse well with clear water.
 Wring as much water out of the clothing as possible. If there is a centrifuge available, use it!
Now hang them up and go find some dinner or take a siesta! By morning, they will be dry.
Photo by Carl Stonebreaker
Wasn't that easy?

Women have done laundry by hand for centuries, and they're still doing it, all over the world.
Washing bats, called "beetles" or "battledores" are still used for moving cloth around as well as for beating the dirt out of it. Doing this with a piece of wood was called possing, and various styles of of possers developed as an improvement on plain tree branches. Squarish washing bats could double up as a scrub board. Simple wooden boards can be taken to the riverside, or rocks at the edge of the water may be used as scrubbing surfaces.
Beating laundry with a posser.
Washing laundry in the river is still done in many places
Originally, clothes were scrubbed on (or beat with) rocks. Then ridged rocks, and finally scrub boards were invented in the late 1700's.

Rolling the soapy clothes is a good technique for delicate items
There's that bar of Fels Naptha!

Young people today don't realize that there weren't many options for women's work up until as late as the 1970's. You could be a housewife, a secretary, or a nurse. If you had no money for education, a woman of any color, who otherwise had difficulty finding work, could always make a living as a washerwoman. This could be done at home, or as an employee for a washing company.
Women washing clothes at a well.
During the 30's crank wringers became common, saving a lot of time.
Washing clothes in Tibet
Native American woman washing clothes. Photo by Paul Natkin.
Women washing clothes in a stream in Japan.
Washing clothes in Cameroon.
Really dirty clothes, like men's work clothes or diapers were boiled.
People discovered using a plunger worked great for washing clothes. The first ones were made of metal.
Any plunger can be used. I have a small sink plunger that I use only for clothes washing. You just use it to agitate the clothes in the soapy water. It's handy for camping and for when the electricity goes out!
Plungers for clothes washing are still made.
Well... that's it. A little history of clothes washing, and some instructions for doing your own hand wash. Although I wouldn't want to do the entire family's wash "on my fingers," I do find something very satisfying in washing my clothes by hand on the Camino. 

It gives my brain time to rest, and the cold water does a great job of pulling stress and negative energy from my body, leaving my mind as fresh as my laundry!

So grab that bar of Fels Naptha and your walking clothes and get busy!
You'll be an expert by the time you reach Santiago,
I promise!

Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago,
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining AnnieWalkers USA on one of our small, 
affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website
at this link: 
AnnieWalkers USA

However you decide to walk,
whether with us or on your own,
Have a Buen Camino!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Looking for a Flecha Amarilla

It's 5 am, 
and I woke up depressed.
I'm not sure why.
My life is not so bad.
In fact, I'm blessed in many ways.
But I feel... 
disconnected today.
My ex has disappeared from Facebook,
and I'm worried.
I can't call.
It wouldn't be right.
"Why do you care?" my sons ask.
I suppose the answer is,
"Because he's the last person I remember
truly and completely loving me."

What has our world become
when people can no longer speak face to face with one another?

This virus called the web
is smothering our humanity
and it frightens me.
My computer
can interact with me, I'm told.
It can "think."
But it feels like a poor substitute today
because it's not talking me out of my morning depression,
now is it?
It's not brewing me a cup of coffee
and telling me everything will be all right.
It's cold and impersonal.
I need warm and loving.
There are thing I used to have
that I miss these days.
I miss friendship with a real live human.
I miss having someone care about me.
I miss someone to talk to, to rub cheeks with.
I miss being touched, hugged, laughed with.
But a curious thing;
sometimes when I do have the opportunity
to talk to another human
I often walk away feeling empty,
I can't put my finger on it.
It's like I've forgotten something really important
and I can't remember what it is.
Even God feels too far away to respond to my emails today.
Maybe I should just walk out the front door
of this garage-made-into-a-room
and keep on walking
until I'm back on the Camino,
where people actually look each other in the eye,
smile honest smiles,
and say, 
"Buen Camino!"
like they mean it!
Life moves slow there,
on that twisting dusty road.
It's simple.
Just put one foot in front of the other
and you'll reach your destination.
Just follow the flechas amarillas,
the yellow arrows.

I'm slower and dustier too, these days
I've noticed.
And there are no flechas amarillas
anywhere to be found.
No sign to tell me which way to turn,
which road to take.
Perhaps that's why I long to return
to that faraway land
of blistering sun and cleansing rain
where I know no one person
but every pilgrim is my best friend forever.

* * * 

I found the following poem on another blogger's website today.
It felt "right."
Please come back tomorrow.
I promise to have worked through this
and have more to tell you
about eating on the Camino.
Today, however,
is going to be a day of reflection
and introspection.
I need to find a yellow arrow.

* * *
it is time for me
to see the flaws
of myself
and stop
being alarmed

it is time for me
to halt my drive
for perfection
and to accept
my blemishes

it is time for me
to receive
slowly evolving growth
the kind that comes
in God’s own good time
and pay no heed
to my panicky pushing

it is time for me
to embrace
my humanness
to love
my incompleteness

it is time for me
to cherish
the unwanted
to welcome
the unknown
to treasure the unfulfilled

if I wait to be
before I love myself
I will always be
and ungrateful

if I wait until
all the flaws, chips
and cracks disappear
I will be the cup
that stands on the shelf
and is never used.

-Joyce Rupp
from The Cup of Our Life

* * *

Note:  If you would love to walk the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Art along The Camino Santiago de Compostela

I've been to the Louvre and to the British Museum.
I've seen the Guggenheim.
I've visited the Vatican Museum, Naples, and Pompeii.
They are, of course, spectacular!

However, some of the sweetest art I've seen anywhere
has been in the tiny churches and wonderful museums 
along the various routes of the Camino Santiago. 
There is treasure to be found each step of The Way!

This will be a photo essay of some of my favorite Camino art. 
I'll do my best to make a note of where it was seen,
in case you'd like to see it in person. 
Grab a chair and a cup of coffee and settle in...

Unless it is on YOUR garage, graffiti can be quite artistic. 
I begin with this carving in the ancient prison door at St. Jean Pied du Port.  
See the name "Breton?" 
Well, my 5th great grandfather had the last name "Breton!" 
I wonder if he spent a night in this cell?

 This graffiti was seen walking through Trinidad de Arre.

It asks, "Who watches in this house?"
Pamplona is worth a day's layover, in my opinion. 
There is a lot to see there, including the Diocese Cathedral Museum. 
On the day I visited, Pilgrims got in GRATIS!
Catedral de Pamplona

On display are items of Navarrese religious art. There are many images of the Virgin Mary and a large collection of gold and silver articles, with such exceptional pieces as the gothic reliquaries of the Holy Sepulchre and the Lignum Crucis, in the French Gothic style, which belonged to the Crown of Navarre; the reliquary of Santa Espina (15th century); the custody of the Corpus and its shrine, made by silversmiths from Pamplona at the end of the 16th century with rich Eucharistic iconography and parish crosses of great value, such as that of Arazuri. There are also paintings, altarpieces, carvings and other decorative arts.

Address: Catedral de Pamplona (acces via Dormitalería, 3, 31001 Pamplona
Visiting hours: M-F10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sat: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sun and public holidays: closed.
Summer (July 15th-September 15th): 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., M-F. Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.
Entrance fees:adults: 4.14 euros; children: 2.45 euros; groups of over 15 people: 3.15 euros; special groups (OAPs and schoolchildren): 2.50 euros; pilgrims: 2.30 euros; youth cardholders: 3.10 euros.

 The church at Obanos has a beautiful retablo, and some very realistic statues of Jesus and the Sorrowful Mother. One thing people may not think about is that when many of these churches were built, the general population did not read. And so the sculpture and paintings in the church were a way for people to learn and remember the Bible stories and doctrine of the Catholic Church. I'm sure some of the art made quite an impression on young and old alike! Most Catholic Churches in the USA are bland by comparison, 
especially since Vatican II.

 At the Church in Puenta la Reina, 
watch for beautiful scroll work.
Before going into the church,
stop for a moment in front of its 13th-century doorway.
Look at the arches.
The first is smooth,
the second is decorated with pilgrims' scallop shells,
and the third displays some interesting figures
like  angels, birds, lions and a harpy, amongst other beasts.  

This church, known as The Church of the Crucifix,
dates back to the end of the 12th century
and was founded  by the Order of the Templars.
After the Order was expelled in 1312,
the military order of St. John of Jerusalem
took charge of their assets in the town in 1443.
Around the middle of the 15th century,
the convent of the Sisters of St. John was built next to the church,
as well as a hospital for caring for pilgrims making their way to Compostela.
The Brotherhood of the Crucifix took over hospital care in 1469,
giving its name to the church.
Having been abandoned for years
during the Desamortizaciones (Disentailments-confiscation of church property)
and the Carlist wars,
the Padres Reparadores (Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus)
took charge of it in 1919,
which enabled it to be preserved.

Inside, you will find a crucifix of curious design.
Those of you with some knowledge of Hermetics
might have ideas about its meaning. 

The beautiful Gothic carving, dating from the first half of the 14th century, has been associated with examples of Rhenish work due to its "Y" shape on wood that replicates a tree with the bark left on. You can also see the Italian influence in the exquisite treatment of Christ's facial features and the positioning of his feet. His expression of pain is notable, accentuated by his arms positioned in a very pronounced "V" shape and the strongly dynamic impression of his torso and feet.

The crucifix is attributed to the Templars, thought there is no evidence to confirm this, as the first document that makes reference to this piece dates from 1325 and the Templar Order was expelled in 1312. Local legend tells that the crucifix was donated by some German pilgrims who, on returning from Santiago, wanted to show their thanks for the kind treatment they had received in the pilgrims' hospital in Puente la Reina by donating to the church the cross they had carried on their shoulders during their pilgrimage

The Church of San Roman at Ciraqui is another church with beautifully carved arches. Take a rest here and see what images you can find among the arches.
Keep your eyes open along the road - you never know what you'll see! 
In Lorca, even the fountains were art.
The Iglesia San Pedro in Estella is a wonderful stop. 
There you will see images both Christian and pre-Christian. 
There is a curious statue in the cloister that appears to be Asian. 
Does anyone know the origins?

Inside Iglesia de Santa Maria in Viana, 
we were shown many treasures by the local Priest, 
after being invited us to stay for the night.

 We had a lovely family style dinner with other pilgrims, 
slept on comfortable mats on the floor, 
and were awakened by a choir singing outside our window at dawn, 
under the light of a full moon.
Outside Logroño, we came across a festival  
and the tiny chapel had the beautiful Virgen de Cuevas inside.
At Ventosa, the Mother was especially Sorrowful!
 If you look carefully, you find "mouthpullers" hiding about:
In Azofra, the Jesus looked especially sad. 
They also had another life sized Jesus laying in state on a glass-encased bed 
and a dark archway containing some other beautiful sculptures.
The Church at Santo Domingo del Calzada really DID have live chickens inside.
I don't think that qualifies as "art" but it sure was interesting. 
It was forbidden to take photos, but I found this one on the internet.
Redecilla's church had a beautiful stone carved baptismal font. 
Among the huge gold retablo I found these lovely angels. 
I also found this interesting Holy Mother. 
But where is her crown? 
Was it stolen by some hungry pilgrim?

 Passing Tosantos, look to your right 
and you will see the Ermita de la Virgen de la Pena. 
If you are lucky, you will stay at the albergue at Tosantos 
and take part in the tour which is offered. 
No photos of the inside are allowed, 
but I promise you will not be disappointed.
The Church at San Juan de Ortega is worth a visit. 
There you can see the souls in Purgatory begging Mary's help 
and there are dragons on the ceiling! 
Always look up!
I have spent hours visiting the Cathedral at Burgos, 
and it really deserves its own blog, 
but here are a few of the treasures you will see there.

Choir Stall Seat
Always look UP!

Which Mary is this?

I saw this interesting painting inside the little church at Hornillos. 
Anyone know what it depicts? 
As I often found in towns that had been nearly abandoned, 
the art was being destroyed by the elements. 
A shame, really.
San Anton was a wonderful place. What can I say? Even the bathroom was artful. This church must have been spectacular in its time.

 San Nicholas was stark , but still inviting.

 The Leon Cathedral will take you many hours to explore. 
Too many photos to post of that!
Keep your eyes open when walking through towns and villages. 
There are often interesting sculptures on the streets,
like this pilgrim who seems to basking in the sun, 
resting his feet, 
and reflecting on his journey.
Or maybe he's dreaming
about that lovely Pilgrim's Plate
he had for supper.
 In Villar de Mazariffe you will find Albergue El Refugio de Jesus. 
The owner allows pilgrims to decorate the wall there, 
and it certainly is interesting! 
There is even "art" out in the yard!

 Astorga boasts both a Cathedral and the famous Gaudi Palace. 
Be sure to take time to visit both!
Astorga also has a wonderful museum of history.
 I found this interesting St. James at Rabanal's albergue.
This colorful door was somewhere between Molinaseca and Cacabellos. 
Anyone remember it?
And then there were the GIGANTES!
This Christ Statue at Vilafranco del Bierzo made me want to cry.
And this giant at Vega de Valcarce made me LAUGH!
At Ponferrada, you can visit a the castle!
And soon, you reach Santiago, where there is the Cathedral.
The art there leaves an impression,
especially the Botafumeiro.
It is a sight to behold!
I'll save that for you to see in person.

Well, I hope this blog will encourage you to walk a bit slower.

Take your time.
Don't be afraid to take little side trips
into unexpected places along the Way.  

And while you're seeking treasure along the Camino,
don't forget to look 
into the kind eyes of those who serve you,
 into the weary but happy eyes of your fellow Peregrinos,
 and into your own eyes 
when you pass a mirror.

That is where you will see
the greatest beauty of all!

Live is so good!
Savor each moment!

Buen Camino!

* * *
Note:  If you would love to walk the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino