Webinar-smebinar & Hangout-bangout!!!

20140508_074356Everyone is jumping on the latest bandwagon – webinars, hangouts, video-casts and whatever other next-gen ‘fun’ name is taking flight – and for the most part they absolutely suck.

1. You can tell the tenor of the event by the first 90 seconds. Don’t show me your fuss and prep, show me your presence and polish.

I don’t care if it’s your first time presenting, did you prepare? And, I don’t mean write those notes hanging off to the side of your computer, I mean did you stand in front of a mirror and practice your eye contact and speaking?

2. Don’t read from  a PP presentation. I’m not in first grade.

Tell me what isn’t on the PP presentation. Put flesh on that skeleton. I want to savour an insight, after all you’re an expert, right, and you’re calling this event because you have something that will make a difference in the quality of my professional life, right?

3. Don’t begin by telling me you’re selling me at the end. 

Then, I know you’re not doing this for my benefit, you’re doing it for you. You’re going to ‘set me up’ and ‘lead me on’, give me a few pearls but lure me into the trap of buying your product ‘to get the real answers’. F–K you!

In the real world that’s how school bullies get a kids milk money, or the popular girl gets the ugly duckling to serve her whims just to stand close.

4. If you don’t have stage presence or speaking experience get some before you do your webinar. 

Camera is unforgiving. Every detail of your distracted mind and nervous body is visible. Every um, uh, and and wandering eye, fidgeting finger is where the attention goes. Get some training. Show us you are an expert rather than an awkward inexperienced person taking a shot at the latest inroad to business trafficking.

5. Always remember, your viewer’s life is more important than your traffic numbers games. 

Real, living people gather to listen to your wisdom. Real lives, hearts beating, dreams percolating, apprentice minds are open to glean your message. Every second you waste of those lives is an offence. It shows egocentrism rather than ecocentrism. It shows you think you’re hot and we’re not – at least not until we eat from your  hand.

Wrong. Just like the film NETWORK, it’s time to raise the window and shout, “I’m not going to take this crap any more!”

IMG_2119Come on, attendees, let’s DEMAND higher quality  from the presenters.Here’s how:

A. Opt out as soon as you see lack of professional preparedness

B. leave the meeting when the sale flag starts to climbs the flagpole,

C. when they read from the slides on the screen click OFF

D. when they appear distracted by incoming messages or literally start writing  on the computer while trying to form sentences,

E. do not give you their full attention

F. excessively use uh, um, and, uh, um, uh,uh, sniffle, wandering eye, fidget

G. opt out of being the expendable practice toy

H. Make them deliver what they promised up front and in full.

Don’t let anyone sell you short! Make each learning experience an ‘aha’ moment of greatness. Rest assured, you deserve it!

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All that beach garbage, what the fcuk are you thinking?

Keyholebridge 8:50 a.m. I drive a short distance to the glistening sea. First, a walk, then a swim. I’ve got my towel, goggles, and a small plastic bag in case I see any seashells that catch my eye. Mid July, hardly any tourists will be on the beach that early; Spain is a country where people hit the beach late, 10 a.m., even 11.

9:00 a.m. Gentle breeze. Clear skies. The sun is preening, just warming up. The water is that perfect chilly and the beach is empty except for the men setting out the chez and the local garbage collectors trolling the beach with their pronged poles.

IMG_1457 9:10 a.m. The tide is going out, and I’m walking on the wet sand along the sloping water’s edge. My senses are in paradise. The waves tumble over my feet and my ears canals are cleansed by the sound of the splash and draw. My back enjoys the growing intensity of the sun rays and I’m starting to get in my sea groove when the first can of Coca Cola rolls towards me. I should be grateful because my next step would have caught a 3-inch cut of broken glass. I pick them both up and give them to the garbage collector. As I turn back to the sea I see a crushed Schweppes can, then a 7Up, wads of tin foil, an empty Chips bag – all of them no more than 10 paces away from a garbage container!

I walked a little over a mile. For every 5 steps I took there was another tin can, plastic cup, wadded up tin foil that had wrapped someone’s homemade bocadillos. Seagulls were picking the remains and strutting off with bits of aluminium in their beaks. A child’s deflated plastic inner tube was partially buried in the wet sea earth. Boxed fruit drinks with the straws still inside the tiny hole. Tampons. The mashed advertisizing section of the Sunday Times. Candy wrappers.

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All this garbage is revealed because the tide was on its way out. Imagine what’s under water!

We come to the sea to enjoy its pristine beauty and the health benefits of its water, don’t we? How then can we be so crass, so lazy, and so self-centered that we leave it worse than we found it? Desecrated! Ugly! Dangerous!

No one can be ignorant of the environmental disaster facing our oceans and seas, and the risk to priceless creatures! It’s in the papers, taught in schools, on UTUBE and the Internet.

So, WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE that think you are exempt from your ecological responsibility?

STAY AWAY from our oceans, seas, mountains, rivers, and valleys. STAY AWAY.

 

 

 

Ethical cracks start early!

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1957. I was in second grade at John Eaton Elementary School in Washington D.C. A theft had occurred in the cloakroom and we’d been called back from recess. The teacher was adamant, she wanted to know who had taken the money. I knew who it was because I’d entered the cloakroom just as D took the money and put it in his pocket.

“Put it back,” I said.

“Shut up,” he answered. “You tell anyone and my sister will hate you forever.”

“She will not,” I whined. “You put it back or she’ll hate you. ” It wasn’t true. I’d seen her side with him before, even when he’d been wrong. Even though we were best friends I knew blood ran thicker than friendship.

Now, the classroom was quiet and the minutes ticked away while the teacher stood impatiently at the front of the room waiting for our honesty. I watched D out of the corner of my eye. He sat there like the little prince of innocence, his eyes utterly guiltless and his body completely at ease.

“Which one of you took M’s money from her coat pocket?” Her eyes were fierce.

With the speed of a lizard’s tongue D’s arm pointed to the less fortunate kid in our class. The teacher glared at the J.

“Is there something you want to say, J,” she accused, “or must I call your parents?”

“I didn’t do it, honest,” J cried.

I glanced at D. Clearly, he was enjoying the show and had no intention of coming clean.

“Oh, J, not a liar and a thief, shame on you!” the teacher exclaimed. “Where is the money?”

“I didn’t take it, I swear I didn’t,” J pleaded. “It wasn’t me.”

I raised my hand. “J didn’t do it,” I said, “honest.”

“Then who did, you?” she barked.

I shook my head. “It wasn’t J.”

D should have put the money back; I’d caught red-handed so I was a witness. It could have saved us all a lot of grief – but he didn’t and now the whole class was a hostage. Even though I didn’t like the situation I’d have kept mum and allowed time force D to confess  - but he accused J and that put an ugly spin on everything.  We all felt it. Even D.

“Who then?”

I didn’t have to say a word. Simply turning my body to face the direction of D’s chair was enough. Suddenly, this spectre of malevolence and anger shattered his mask of innocence and left GUILTY written head to toe. But D continued to profess his innocence.

“It was J!” he cried. “I swear it, check his pockets.”

Had he slipped the coins into J’s pocket- just in case? No, he wasn’t that smart but J looked scared. The teacher called him to the front of the room.

“Empty your pockets on the desk.” Twenty cents.

“Where’s the rest of it?” D asked before he realised what he’d done.

“Come here and empty your pockets. D.” It was all there.

True to his threat, he told his sister I’d ratted on him and in a blink that relationship was over. Worse still, for weeks I bore the stigma of class snitch. D had to return the money and write an apology to the girl and her family; instead of recess, D had to fill pages with the sentences ‘I will not steal. I will not lie.’

All this for the thirty-five cents a young girl kept in her pocket.

 

Notes on Days 6-11- the last leg of El Camino de Santiago

20140508_074356Leaving Cabriero was a pleasure; it wasn’t a village that welcomed, it was a village that took, and this was disappointing. Many of my fellow pilgrims noted the curse, quick service without smiles, pauses, welcome. And, while this is everyday in the ‘real’ world it is never expected on the sanctuary roads of el camino. My mind wandered back to Pilar at her Meson El LLAR in Murias – a woman of the world who held court with pilgrims and fed us succulent foods created with love and shared with joy. Her strong hands set the plate down before me as respectfully as she’d cured its preparation. Pilar and I were instant ‘sisters’ and together we celebrated my ‘breaking bread’ at her Meson and shared tales. Do not miss Pilar in the petite villa of Murias de Richevaldo – it is one of the ‘renaissance’ moments along the road that will stay with you forever – as it did with me. Leaving Cabreiro I thanked the Big Dipper for her joyous vitality – a breath of fresh air and human balm on this inexplicable pilgrimage.

Day 6 – Downhill. Tiny steps. I couldn’t find my groove. The night had been troublesome, the bed hard and unwelcoming as the locale and I think I bore a grudge. The night air and brilliant sky reminded me there were greater gifts – and to get on with living rather than dying in vain judgment. All the way to Triacastella the landscape was as breathtaking as the pain was intense in my right knee. It would be a short day. I kept my eyes on the happiness in the vegetation – you have never seen happier grass, happier weeds, happier flowers, not even in Wales where even the sheep smile all day long! It was overwhelming. You walk in the throes of vitality, vibrancy, bounty, fullness – nothing is held back, nothing is lacking, everything is brimming, overflowing and sharing its pleasure of aliveness. Captivating. Stunning. It left me trembling, my body shuddering like a hungry orphan. Where was that richness and aliveness in me? Barricaded behind a wall of body thoughts and beliefs. I saw a bull that was so stunning I had to stop; first, he was a tawny brown, soft buttery velvet colour and every muscle was visible, and he stood alone in this field of leprechaun green, still as a statue, looking in my direction. I don’t think a fly dared touch its skin, it was so silken smooth and clean. The sexiest beast I’ve ever seen, and try as I might I couldn’t get a picture to do it justice so I simply drank in his beauty before moving on. By the time I got to Tricastela I was in a stream of tears.

And then, outside my hotel room, where I sat savouring my ‘vaso di tinto’ a terrifying domestic dispute broke out across the street and reminded me of the travesty of crimes we reap upon one another. I shut my eyes to listen to the shrill notes of terror in her angry voice and his saccharine cooing to try and lure her back to betraying herself. Screams. “Don’t touch me!” Slapping. Feet chasing feet. Tears. Growls. “I won’t go back to you.” But she did.

20140508_070344Day 7 – I woke to a dream in which I was being instructed that pain is a fixation of energy, the body is energetics, synapses firing, mutability in active evolution, and I saw my body as this twinkling energetic of electrolytes. In fact, when I rose, I was without pain. I felt absolutely refreshed and wonderful. As I set out, I simply kept elaborating this vision of energetics in motion. Where my mind had focused earlier on getting inside my bones and muscles, now I saw those as cellular synaptic connections. Was this ‘el camino’? Transformation. For me, it was a daily lesson of recovering aliveness – being the aliveness that is me – and releasing all the beliefs that have left me victimised by mindsets. This was my ‘camino’. Others were on very different journeys but we were all pilgrims and the homogeneity of our diversity was a profound joy to me; there were no altercations or disputes, no offences or rejections – or gossip. We were all pilgrims – and we connected and released with the same spontaneity and delight that my synapses were firing. We happen to be in each other’s presence and then we move on. I walked a stretch with Tess from Pensacola and then moved on when she stopped a couple of towns before me. I’d see her briefly in Portomarin the next day – share a hug – and continue our separate pathways.

Day 8 – Lots of little towns on the way to and out of Portomarin. For the first time, outside Vilacha’ I made my version of an arrow – a stick with a stone above it. It was the first time I had felt inclined to ‘mark’ the journey with a token of me and it felt good. Shortly, thereafter I found a stone – or the stone found me – and this is the only item I brought home from the journey. It’s one of many ochre coloured stones you’ll find along the paths, nothing special – except to me – and when I hold it I feel ‘el camino’. How is this so? I don’t know. It happens. Like most of el camino, the discovery comes through the walk, it’s impossible to know anything of significance beforehand. You become like a seed and how you blossom unfolds day by day. The clarity you glean, the messages your receive, the changes in the body all come – and go – as part of this blossoming. We don’t have a language for this in the ‘real’ world. From Hospital to Ligonde I traveled with my fellow pilgrim friends from Italy and Denmark; we hobbled the last kilometres together because we didn’t feel the energy in Hospital was the energy we wanted to end our day with. What a special 1 KM walk that was, cheering ourselves forward with the laughter that comes from deep fatigue mixed with proud satisfaction. That was the only evening we ate together and it would be the last I saw of them until the morning in Santiago. There as a quiet reverence, perhaps even a sense of sorrow, as we all wondered what it would be like once Santiago was reached. No one knew. It didn’t matter what ‘plans’ there were, none of us had any idea how we’d respond when the knapsacks came off for the last time.

Day 9 – I began at 4:30 in the morning. A restless night in the public dormitory. Too much snoring, tossing and turning, energies at work in the night that kept me awake so I snuck out early and used my trust 2 inch Chinese flashlight to guide me. Sometimes, you don’t see the yellow arrow and it’s a moment of defiance , sometimes you have to guess and then the arrow materialises. More mysticism, or simply attention. Did I trust my instinct or was I still in self-doubt? The roar of the tiger was within. I chose. I went. I found out I’d chosen correctly. Tess and I had shared our stunning discovery of how many subtle trust issues rose to the forefront as we journeyed solo.

bodytalk3Day 9 was my Forest Gump day. Unbelievable. From the moment I set out walking a voice within said, ‘Run, run, I want to run!” And, I couldn’t. My knee would not allow it and my poles were now my partner appendages. We’d danced together for days. I depended on them for the downhill and toyed with them on the straight. This morning I walked like Forest Gump in the beginning of the film. Uncoordinated by fact – injury – yet also because the drive to run, to break free from the confinement of this injury was overpowering, it was a beast within me. The day before I’d had an awareness that I’d enter Santiago free of pain – yeah, probably some trance state, hyper pain compensation – yet I knew I would, it was a fact, not a potential. So, now, this impetus to run was marvellous to feel and yet I simply was not able. Humble pie. Time to search again for the electrolytes and energetic synapses. Time to release the mind and give the body back its right to life. Time to stop the fear and embrace the intensity of aliveness vibrating inside me. I felt this deeply and yet I was fearful; it was a trust issue. Years and years, layers and layers of limited beliefs and impressive learning to warrant holding myself back debated the other side of the story as I continued walking. What did I really believe? Honestly? I didn’t fully know, or better yet, I knew in fits and starts, in certain moments, and often those moments were always when push came to shove – in extremis – and I was not facing that now.

I accept my schizophrenic diatribe and continue the walk. I continue breathing and focusing on the electrolytes, the mantra of trusting the body and releasing the mind. I can hear the debate loud and clear between the sides but I’ve chosen to apprentice the ‘life’ side so I’m in the mutability of a Forest Gump moment. Believe me, I was grinning all over at the very thought. I could see the armouring crack and fall from my chest, my abdomen, my back and the legs begin to scramble for new balance, awkwardly at first and then grabbing the flow and feeling the power. I could see it, taste it, appreciate it, love it, and embrace it even as my poles kept tapping the earth to give me the support I needed moving downhill. I let them dance – awkwardly. I let the poles affect my body as my body sought a trillion different avenues of innovative motion to break free. There were moments I was pole free but I never ran. I tipped my body forward just enough to take rapid little steps that felt like jogging – and I enjoyed those tiny steps. At 6:30 I had eggs over easy and pan tostado and coffee. By 11:30 I was in Melinde eating the biggest plate of pulpo – their specialty – you have ever seen and loving eat bite… This would get me to Boente where I’d rest for the night.

Day 10 – You could feel ‘Santiago’ close by. It calls. I had mixed feelings. This would be my last full day of walking. I wanted to wait and enter in the early morning of the 11th day. Early mornings were my private time with ‘el camino’ and it was fitting I should reach the cathedral alone and in the morning. My footfall wanted slow that day, to savour the walk, to get even more intimate with each foot stepping and so I began gently rather than bursting into the night. I felt overwhelmed by sadness. Each time I’d hit a major ‘city’ on this walk I’d fled; the cement, the noise, the social hype had become too much for my system; I’d entered a ‘quiet zone’ that demanded other rhythms, the energetics of respect, space, and public privacy that pilgrims understood and city folk simply, quite understandably, didn’t have time for. Who knew what Santiago would feel like?

This last day was a lot of asphalt – almost as if preparing me for ‘city’ and I resented it. I resented the cars and trucks and noise, and heaved a sigh of relief for every passage away from the auto via or highways. At Pedrouzo I was told there were hotels at 4 and 10 KM – and then nothing until Santiago. I knew I’d make the four but I privately longed to make the 10 since that would allow me the dawn arrival into Santiago I’d envisioned. However, my contrasting emotions and the walk that day had worn me out. By the time I got to the 4KM I was drained although not physically exhausted and as I ate a slice of apple tart and coffee I pondered the point of going on with a nearby pilgrim. A young Korean man smiled at me and nodded, “You can do it!” Sure, I could do it but was it the right thing to do?

Was I being greedy? It was 2:30 pm. The words ‘slow and easy’ came to mind. A step at a time. Feel the steps. I’d make the final 6KM. Off I went. One by one everyone from the cafe – the Australian woman, the Koreans, the Danes – shared a smile or an encouraging word as they passed me. It was an odd sensation, my motor slowing as theirs revved, and yet it was so. However, when I arrived at the Ruz Jacobean hotel in this tiny town (I can’t remember the name) I had no knee pain. After 38 KM I had no physical pain other than tired feet. I was amazed. I tested them again. The day’s walk had been anything but a breeze… and yet I walked downstairs to dinner without a limp. Ah, my inner Forest Gump had prevailed I smiled while sipping an exquisite tinto.

Day 11 – Santiago, oh Santiago! I left at 6:30. It was a short walk; I’d be there by 8:30 and it was Sunday – Mother’s Day – my day. I loved motherhood. Conception, pregnancy, and childbirth had been as profound a journey of discovery and ‘becoming’ as this ‘camino’ of renaissance. I was feeling very soft and tender toward these last kilometres. Despite the anticipation and excitement, it was hard to believe this unusual journey was coming to an end – of sorts. And, when I saw the first spread of cement buildings my body quivered and I slowed my pace. I didn’t want that Santiago. I wanted the old cathedral and city centre but not the modern crap, thoroughfares, and periphery I’d have to walk through to get there.

Yes, there were 2 KM’s of asphalt, sidewalks, stop lights, roundabouts, buildings, and yellow arrows to show the way. A young girl from Portland, Luisa, was standing outside all dressed up and looking like a city girl on tour. Radiant. She’d traversed 800 KM alone and there she was standing in a short dress, city shoes, her long hair released around her shoulders, sexy sunglasses and a camera, taking pictures at the cathedral. This was her ‘the day after’.

“You made it,” she said as we shared a hug.
“Yup,” I answered quietly.
A french woman who’d watched me along the path said, “And, your knees?”
“Pain free,” I answered with a smile. I’d walked into Santiago ‘in/on/with my own legs’.

My Italian friends found me as I was entering the pilgrim’s office. After a long, warm hug they waited for me and then we shared coffee and two days worth of stories. Again, so quintessential of el camino, you meet and then you part, the moment comes, no one resists, and so I moseyed on my way down the old street to the train station.

Where was I headed? I wasn’t sure. I knew I needed to leave. I was still completing my walk. All the adios were part of that walking but my camino hadn’t ended – not yet. Hard to explain. My body needed to keep going. Completion would take place elsewhere, where I was not sure until I reached the station and asked the station master for a ticket to Malaga via Madrid. Of course. Home.

My camino had begun at 5:30 a.m. April 30th when I left home wearing my backpack for the 15 minute downhill walk to the Caravajal train stop where I caught the first of four trains that would take me to Leon.  As I made the 15 minute walk uphill from Caravajal to my home I savoured the quiet morning, quiet sea, the cheerful flowers along the road, and the last footfall of my feet on my camino. Now, closure was becoming….emerging….initiating conscious awareness of a full cycle seeding whatever would be next….

 

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Day Five- Cacabelos to Cabriero – A day of reckoning on El Camino de Santiago

20140508_124755By now, early rising was in my veins. I needed the privacy. I craved the night, the panoply of stars, being alone with existence. I might be tired but that first step into the chilly morning was an elixir. No fear. Unknowns. Me and the universe in an intimate dance of really getting to know each other.

I hadn’t read up on anything. I wasn’t ‘prepared’ or ‘educated’ about the camino. Some days I thought I’d been stupid. Day 5 – the ascent – was one of them… and yet maybe not. You decide for yourself. Other days I thought it was essential to be without knowledge if I was going to enter the zone and be the ‘camino’. There are two sides to the coin, each valuable and I found myself periodically listening to others at the small spots where we took periodic breaks.

I’d usually put in 11 Km before breakfast – 2 hours alone with the night and early dawn. Two towns, two taps. It just happened that way, I didn’t plan it, I wasn’t working off kilos or running some health trip, Most breakfast spots opened around 7 and it depended where I was in the journey whether I was in a location or outside. And, truth be told, it’s like anything, you want the right spot, the right experience so I didn’t just stop anywhere.

As I set out that chilly morning, a stray dog appeared out of nowhere and yapped at my legs. I growled. It cowered. I felt like a shit. It yapped. I talked to it in Spanish, then Italian, then English. The word was out that stray dogs were dangerous and I had no poles, only my knowledge of dogs – knowledge I wasn’t using because I bought the fear of stray dogs story. So, I stopped, I looked at the dog,  a mangy, hungry, gangly mutt, a mix of wolfhound and something, nothing to be afraid of, and I apologised. I told him, he reminded me of a dog I once had, Ollie, and said I was heading on – unafraid – and it was welcome to come but there wasn’t going to be any food since I had none. Off I went, and Ollie followed – all the way to my first town, Villafranca de Bierzo.

In exchange for the company – and lessons – I protected Ollie from the cars speeding by. Yes, some of the roads on the camino hug the highways and this was one such tract of sentiero.  For a while it was ‘me and my dog’, Ollie was no longer a stray – or we were both strays in search of meeting our needs – and so I’d watch Ollie saunter ahead of me and think about how easily his body moved him forward while I was ‘taking my body’ forward. I was walking me. Ollie was the walk. Sinuous. Easy. Integral. Suddenly, I realised, I was also ‘animal’, like Ollie, my body had the same capacity his did, so why was I in pain and tension when I didn’t need to be? Ah, such is the effect of lives framed around chairs and the sedentary.  I spent conscious time reconnecting with my thigh bones, feeling the joint motion, filling the bone with my connection to it, being aware of the length and flow and its placement between acetabulum and knee – how do they collaborate, how do they sustain each other and connect to the tibia and fibula, ankle and foot? Using a visual of the skeleton I kept visualising the kinesiological flow until my walking felt organic and the reverberations rose up through my chest and head. Just like Ollie. Wasn’t that why I had come – to reconnect with my whole body after a year of 14 hours days with my butt in a chair writing?  Now, Ollie was my teacher. As I experienced this me in motion, these tissues and bones and muscles collaborating effortlessly I wept. No, my body wept. Relief. Breath. Space. Ease. The nagging pain diminished because I entered the alignment. It was divine.

Still, I needed poles. I could see that poles were a must on this trip. Another humble pie moment. Shepherds use poles. What’s my problem with poles? I ‘expected’ my body to be capable. Yes, the body is capable – when you are the body, and that simply wasn’t my case. My strong, athletic body was capable but I’d censored it. I saw how the descent into Acebo – and the injury – was a direct result of using my legs but not being in them. However, when I arrived in Villafranca it was way too early for stores to be open, and the waiter at the cafe told me the next location was 15 km away. Stepping outside, I found Ollie had vanished.

Lost in my own rediscovery of my bio-logical those 15 Km passed rapidly. As I rounded a curve and saw a pair of poles in a bin outside a roadside store I felt a surge of relief and rushed to possess them the way a child would her favourite toy. I coveted them. I adored them. Shiny black with adjustable measures and rubber handles. Sleek. Lightweight.  I told the tiny, old woman behind the register I wanted to cover her in kisses of gratitude… and then I saw she had sole inserts… and I wanted to kiss her that much more. She cut the inserts to fit my shoes. When I laced up my walking shoes it felt like clouds were under my feet. I wept again. Relief. Ease. The foot was happy, oh God was it happy, so happy that I would do what many – including myself – had thought impossible. I’d make it to Cebriero. The last 10Km are straight up.

To sustain that original doubt, at the foot of this ascent, I stopped for a bocadillo and the woman in the bar took one look at me and suggested I have a taxi take my backpack up the hill for me. I thought that was a fabulous idea and gave her a thumbs up – but there were no taxis. She sent me to another bar where she said the bartender had a taxi and would do it – certainly – so I went there quite excited at the thought of an ascent without a backpack. The young man behind the counter said his driver would only take me and the backpack; that was a no. I wasn’t willing to do that so I asked about the horses. He said that would be an option, and the service was 1 Km down the road. A horse for the pack and a horse for me; that seemed a bit over the top but it wasn’t a problem because there were no horses.

Thank you, Universe. If I couldn’t walk it, I should stay in town and rest. Could I walk it? I’d just eaten a huge queso bocadillo and felt energised. It was a question of one footfall after the other, nothing more, and I’d grown accustomed to the sound of my footfall and the connection of hip, thigh, knee, shin, ankle, foot, one step at a time.  Then, a solitary young man ‘d seen before passed me, looked at me with his chocolate brown eyes, and said, “Vamos!” with such verve that I immediately responded, “cierto!” He left me in in the dust, his pace was expedited, strong, wonderful to watch and I drank from that image as I had from Ollie, over and over again, as I headed up the hill, until that strength was in me. Transactional takes on a whole new meaning, so does transform, transitional, transference, and trust.

I entered a zone. Me and the earth. There was no ascent. Just me and the earth in consummate motion – together. Our dance. It wasn’t about ‘making it’, it was about feeling my legs become mine again; it was about understanding the laws of gravity in my being, it was about the smells, the soft earth under my feet, trust, being the walking. Absolutely nothing else existed. I wasn’t even animal, I was me in motion. The pleasure was immense. Earth, air, fire, water, ether – me. If there was a time I was truly ‘el camino’ this was it. The 10 Km disappeared into what might have felt like 3. I loved each step. I was the ‘vamos’.

When I reached the top. the solitary young man was having a cigarette and a beer. I smiled at him. He nodded and gave me a thumbs up with a large grin.

I touched 40 Km that day. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to cover that much territory in a blink of an eye. The gift of Ollie. The fairy sparkle of the tiny, old woman in the store. Mutable pain. Temptations of taxis and horses. Beliefs of others accepted and acted upon as truths when, in fact, it wasn’t so.

Vamos was now conjugated as somos.

Notes on Walking El Camino de Santiago

I am currently walking the camino from Leon to Santiago. This is from my cell phone so no pictures, sorry!

Day one: walking the walking.

There is no right way so do not walk the camino so I will only speak for myself. It is dangerous to think your experience will mirror your friend’s or a story you read about it somewhere. Following other people’s advice I took too much and had to leave it along the road on day 3.

Thank God for the camino de Fresno so the first day wasn’t only asphalt and cars! Further to walk but out in the countryside. I put in the KM, 32+ and realized I have great stamina and the wrong shoes; yeah, light weight trekking shoes, solid soles and mesh top. The sole wasn’t created for 30+ KM day after day. I was feeling proud.ah, vanity is young!

Day Two: more of the same,

Pushing the KM’s, mind over pain by the end of the day; I figured I was breaking my body into ‘the walk’. Met people, short chats and then I wanted quiet- me and walking. Dealing with flashes of very old aloneness from early adolescence. Very odd, I told myself, I don’t feel alone – but I did. Adolescent alone. Old stuff. Sadness. My feet really hurt, every bone cried out.

Day 3: breaking through the veneer.

From a glorious, 5am beginning under the night sky, Big Dipper, birds and breezes, a divine commune with Earth into the torture of excruciating pain. We crossed a mountain and came down the other side, like a ravine of shale- endless shale, endless curves with no reprieve in sight. I thought about prisoners of war, the Holocaust, forced marches, stiff upper lip- and the unbelievable pain in my toes, feet and knees. Was I crazy? Deep searing pain. My hat was down over my eyes so I could only see my steps and I begged my body to cry, to relieve the pressure but the pain was too acute. When I arrived in Acebo I could barely walk. Blisters on the balls of my feet and sides of my heels.

I stood under the shower as my body shook from the emotional trauma. I had walked an eight hour crucible. Long day’s journey to the soul. I questioned everything. And, I wanted to quit. Something was running me and I didn’t want to play that game. I snuggled under the covers as my body shook. I could not get warm so I went outside and sat in the sun. I wanted to write and couldn’t, my toes ached at rest, and my knee drank in the sun as the blisters on my feet grew in size. The owner of the general store gave me salts and a needle to puncture them. I slathered everything with Betadine. Then I covered my body in Arnica and felt everything calm down.

Day 4: messages from the oak tree and the voice of my body.

I woke at five and felt great so I set off in the wee hours. My knee hurt but it was manageable. Except in descent. More ravine-like shale and running water! I had to find another level of trust with my body or I wouldn’t be going anywhere.
So, my mantra was,”I trust my body and I release the mind”, over and over. My body heaved a sight of relief; it is so easy to think you are in the body but really you are in the mind’s belief about the body.

I entered a magical oak grove, 3 old oak trees surrounded in Irish green grass, utterly breathtaking. I hugged one of them and begged it to drain off my pain. It’s bark was warm and deeply comforting. It said, ” let go if Time” and I understood i was not listening to my body’s timing and that was a lot of the pain. I had expectations. Another mantra. “I trust my body and I release my expectations.” Over and over. Yes, the body was designed to walk free of pain. I had to find that connection again. The mantra got me down the hills. I began to realize I had a number of trust issues with myself. Five steady hours of mantras and my body found its flow so the pain was gone- until I went into my head; whenever I lost my presence with myself the pain returned!

Now, I write from my alberque in Cacebalos. I want to share this ‘in the raw’ – uncensored- so you will glimpse the layers falling away as I walk the footfalls rather than the walking.

I had a new appreciation for caps with visors: they really focus you into the narrowest perimeter, you must pay attention when the cap sits right. Now I understand baseball caps, golf, etc.

As for the mind and body dissonance, I continue my mantras until I enter into the sentience once again where that disconnect dissolves.

Day 5: not here yet.

Hola, Camino del Santiago (francese)

 

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All the book edits have ended. All those long days in a chair committed to words and phrases now pause as I set off to Leon, Spain to begin my 16+ days on foot to Santiago de Campostella.

Tomorrow.

A light backpack. Sleeping bag. Towel. Toiletries. Chlorella tablets and cell salts. Tiny flashlight. Notebook. A Tibetan flag and indelible pen to sign along the way – perhaps to gift to Santiago, perhaps to fly off my balcony when I get home; I do not know. The journey will tell me.

One change of clothes. This takes me back 45 years to when I was 17 in Bassano del Grappa and working in a ceramics factory. My living quarters was the equivalent of a laundry room adapted for spartan living. Two burner stove. Laundry sink. Couple of pots and pans. Small bed. 2 sets of clothes to my name. Hand-washed one while I wore the other. You get up close and personal with what matters. Nicla, my landlady, was amazing. She’d sit on the hall stairs with me and listen to my worries in broken Italian, then smile and say, “You stop the worry and the answer comes.” She was right.The ears are keen when worry ceases. The answers wait to be heard.

I’ve waited years for the little voice to say, now, do the Camino de Santiago now. Then, last Wednesday the thought appeared out of nowhere and by Thursday everything was ready. Yeah, it was that right.  The backpack has waited patiently in the corner of my bedroom. Finally, tomorrow at 5am we depart for Leon – by train – and May 1, May-day, the walk begins.

My feet will walk on new earth. It’s land I’ve never set foot on. Places yet to discover. New friends yet to encounter. Messages from the universe yet to receive. Other foods to savour. Different beds in different hosteles, or refugios,  every night. No reservations. No musts regarding distance. I will buy the return ticket once I’ve reached Santiago de Campostella.

El camino – the path. The walk. To walk. To be the walk. To walk with being.

Es mi camino. Todo da descubrir.

Hasta pronto mis amigos y desfrutas bien estos días entre ahora y cuando vuelva….

Tumbleweed is on her way…

 

Face 2 face with charitable giving

 

6TwYEfFUFpj7SlBq06NUmfD3V4UUOIt2lrGMFl5DhjE I’m a hands on type of charitable person. After I learned about the profits going to the executors of charitable business and not to the needy I stopped donating to charities. Instead, I’ll invite a homeless person to come in with me and get a hot drink and roll (butter and jam), or oatmeal – yeah, smelly and dirty and delirious even. Last time I checked hungry was hungry. We are all people. Every so often, I’ll just leave a tenner with the cashier and ask them to make sure someone who is hungry gets a bite to eat. And, they do.

I don’t shove a bag of my old clothes in those bins anymore. Most of them are recycled to the flea markets – after the top selections are taken home – so I put them where I know needy feet tread. In plain sight and made to be inviting. Once, in Los Angeles, I was rolling an empty suitcase toward the corner bus stop and I saw an old woman – or maybe it was the ageing of sleeping in corridors, noise pollution, miles and miles of endless cement streets, sidewalks, and car fumes – with her unruly supermarket cart brimming with contents as tossed and tumbled as she –  so I asked her if she’d like my suitcase. At first – I saw it in her eyes – she didn’t know if I was harassing or mocking her, you know, some wise ass setting her up of trouble, or sincere. Worry etched her face as her brown eyes studied me and her lips twitched. Definitely a size-me-up moment because nothing was wrong with the suitcase so why would I be offering it to her? I better fucking explain. So I did. Before unzipping it to show  her how spacious the interior was I gave it the 360 swivel so she saw that the wheels were intact, and finally I explained why I thought it would help her. Those eyes lit up like the lights on a Christmas tree and we shared that Santa Claus moment when all dreams DO come true. By chance, I passed her several hours later; she was sitting at a bus stop and her suitcase was upright in the supermarket cart – full of her things. My heart soared.

But I’m facing a different situation now. There’s a gypsy woman that sits outside the CarreFour supermarket just up the hill from my home in Spain and she’s there every day, all day. The first day I left some spare change with her we shared a few words and with time I came to know her story – real or invented – and so every week I’d make sure I had 2 euros to put in her hand. Sometimes we’d chat, sometimes just a ‘take care’ and ‘thank you’. And, I grown to care about her; if I’m driving by I look to see if she’s there, and if I walk to the store and she’s not there I wonder – and worry. So every week for a year and a half I’ve given her 2 euros, and on special holidays I might leave her with a bag of groceries. It always felt right – until about a month ago.

A month ago, I felt ‘obliged’ to give. It had become a habit as well as an expectation. So, the first time I said I didn’t have a spare change – true, but I had planned it that way. The next time I gave her 2 euros but I felt bad about it and all the way home I wondered why, why did I care? Then I found myself shopping elsewhere. I didn’t want the discomfort. What was my problem?

The problem was that I wondered if I was enriching her life or keeping her in ‘her story’.

Was I improving her quality of life or simply continuing a standard of life that left her playing the role of outcast, victim, and social ‘panhandler’? Not to mention me and my role as ‘lucky one’ and ‘benefactress’.

Was I seeing her whole or crippled by circumstance? Was she seeing me only as a ‘supplier’?

Had both of us become ‘inhuman’ in our own politically correct way? Was this  the same thing as donating to a business? Had she created the business of being out of business and I the busy-ness of charitable ‘donation’ and not really giving?

It’s a dilemma. I haven’t gone back since. I’m still digesting this insight. It’s easy to get sloppy and well,  so off-the-cuff and second-nature about it all that giving becomes denigrating and degenerating despite what we ‘think’.

What do you think? I’d really like to know.

 

The Unthinkable… through a child’s eyes

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Walking down Constitution Ave in Washington DC when I was seven, I noticed a woman climbing onto the ledge outside her window. She wore a nightgown and with her slight frame she looked like an angel, or fairy. For a brief moment, the palms of her hands met in front of her heart before spreading into wings as she fell forward into space. She looked light and free as her nightgown fluttered around her as her soft body fell quietly through the air and bounced the way limp dolls do when they fall, a small hiccup and then stillness. I waited for her to get up but she took too long so I knew she was dead. What a waste. How stupid of her to jump without knowing how to land. Why hadn’t her family warned her? As I walked away the image of her soaring ever so briefly lingered in my mind and I hoped she’d liked that part as much as I had watching because everything after that was bad luck.

Ten years old. The first buds were starting to blossom on the trees. Megan and Mary, M&M, were twins living up the hill from me, and eleventh-graders at my same school. Identical twins, a bit chunky and buxom but with two golden hearts, and warm smiles even on the rainiest of days. I don’t think they ever complained, just a wink with a shrug and onward, never letting the world getting the best of them. I loved them. Then, on a gorgeous spring night their baby-blue convertible wrapped itself around the trunk of an old oak tree killing the twins instantly.

The news spilled across pages two and three of the city paper. The pictures of the two looked like police mug shots and the front end of the Thunderbird was an accordion. Paragraph after paragraph made unkind remarks about the girls, troubled teens, rowdy, undisciplined, and too many beers for proper girls on a night out on the town. I wondered how their parents could allow such slander until I saw them quoted in direct. Even they didn’t spare a fond memory or a loving word: what was wrong with them? At least, I finally understood the secret sadness in their eyes and disappointment hidden in the folds of their effervescence. Wrong world. Wrong parents. Wrong life. M&M never cared about the big house and upper crust neighborhood or the fancy schools and holidays in St. Moritz. They rejected the stuffy white-elite, cracker box universe others quickly sold their lives for. The loved the Thunderbird because it was a convertible, the top came down, there was no separation from the sun and wind and starlit skies, in a box but not locked in by the box. Rebels only because they loved life. If only they’d interviewed the cafeteria cooks, they would have set the record straight and said the girls always made them feel special.

The autopsy showed alcohol levels were high. I wondered what had tipped the scales that night; was it being marginalized for their largeness or their unbridled truth? Was it their indifference to prestige or had someone touched them without their consent? Why on such a beautiful night? Had the night sky distracted them or had they chosen to pull a Thelma and Louise and soar past the gated community that housed them? There were no skid marks. Had they been driven by the angst of knowing they’d never measured up, or did they simply want the noise to stop?

I made a pilgrimage to the place where M&M had met their death. Tucked inside a gash in the tree trunk I found a tiny piece of chrome that I clenched in my hand as I hugged the dented oak tree and implored M&M to talk to me. Minutes passed before I heard Mary’s voice tell me not to worry, they were much happier where they were.

“Keep on smiling,” Mary said, “and forget the rest of it.”

I wasn’t so sure I could. “Did you want to die?” I asked.

“No one wants to die,” she answered, “but it happens.”

The absence of attention to human life scared me. It was the first time I realized I could disappear, or die, and no one would care so I spent weeks going everywhere I knew they’d been, looking for traces, asking questions, listening to the silences wishing they’d show up but it was always only me; I’d have to figure it out alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How PORCUPINE COOKIES pulled me out of a catastrophic funk!

I’d been invited to a party but found myself wallowing in the waters of righteous self pity at seven in the morning. Even with coffee. What was the matter with me?

The phone rang. So early? It was the hostess of the party.
“What time you comin’ over, sugar?”
“I don’t know if I can make it.”
“What?”
“Yeah, it’s kind of a weird day.”
” Come on, Tumbleweed, you’ll enjoy it. Besides, I absolutely want to see you.”
“I don’t know,” I hedged, “I don’t think so.”
“Please, please… pretty please?”
“I’m not feeling like party material.”  Party material? I dropped five floors deeper into funk.
“Well, you’ve got all day to rev your motors,” my friend said, “and we’ll be waitin’. It’s gonna be fun!”

Yeah, sure. I wasn’t feeling a match for the interesting and unusual people at her parties.  Hours passed as I moved from my comfy arm chair to my spacious couch, arm chair… couch, arm chair… couch. Then, it hit me like a thunderbolt. I’d become predictable and boring. Same old same old. I never changed it up. I was the delicious, deluxe salad girl and health nut. Yuk!

Time to reinvent. What about a dessert? Yes, I grinned, I used to bake delicious carrot cakes,  cookies, and brownies. My heart sank.  I hadn’t baked more than a baked potato in ten years and I couldn’t remember the last time I ate a dessert.

So what, I said, change it up! So, I googled desserts that didn’t require baking until I found the the one… PORCUPINE COOKIES… quick and easy, and, trust me, DECADENT! And, they were the rave of the evening!

Here’s the recipe:  Makes a dozen cookies… more or less

Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup dates ( I pit and dice) – you can also substitute figs or apricots, or mix either with the dates for added taste
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla ( or other extract you desire – I used Rum)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup flaky cereal (I used Nestle’s FITNESS for this batch but feel free to experiment and use what inspires you)
1 cup rice cereal ( I used Kellogg’s extra Chocolate and Nuts – bending the rules a bit )
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

Preparation:

Mix sugar, dates and eggs together and cook over medium heat until the batter comes away from the sides of the pan – approx 5 mins
Take off heat
Add nuts and extract – stirring well
Add cereals slowly and mix well
Wet your fingers with warm water ( I keep a small bowl of it to use as needed) and make balls by rolling batter gently in your hands, then roll immediately in the coconut and set on tray.
When you’ve finished making the balls – or any shape you wish – then cover and put in refrigerator for several hours, take out before serving so they will be room temp for your guests.

For a gluten free version go here:

http://femfusionfitness.com/porcupine-cookies-gluten-grain-egg-and-dairy-free/

Enjoy!