The Year We Seized the Day, by Elizabeth Best & Colin Bowles

May 20, 2015 Leave a comment

This book is based on the experience that two Australian authors had when then walked on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. It was published in 2007, so things may have changed since they walked it. I admit that since my Mom and I did not stay in refugios (in 2012), except for two of the nights, when we walked the Camino, I am not confident in my impression of refugios. I mention this point, only because the authors spend a large amount of time talking about the bad state of refugios. However, the last book I read about the Camino and blogged about, was also pretty negative regarding refugios, so I think there is a trend. As for my experience, my Mom decided she could not put up with the snoring that occurs in large rooms with multiple bunk beds and exhausted walkers, so we chose private albergues where sometimes we were able to get private rooms to ourselves but at most we shared with about 6-8 people, which can make a big difference. There is a price differential, though, so it’s a big consideration.

Back to this book. So pretty early on, I realized that something was going on with these authors. They made the decision to walk the Camino on the spur of the moment, with only about 2 week’s notice. As the story progresses, so too do their personal stories. Not only is their experience on the Camino very intense, but what they are going through on a personal level and in their relationship is also intense. I’m not going to give away any details of their personal lives here. That would ruin it. But I will say that one has to be prepared for some fairly heavy reading.

Also, something that really struck me was the level of physical suffering that these two experienced. At no point, did they ever seem to be without serious injuries. This just shows how important some kind of training regime is. When my Mom and I walked it, we trained for 6 months prior to the walk and still my Mom had tendinitis in her foot and I had trouble with my knee (previously injured in a skiing accident).

I don’t have a bunch of quotes to add to this blog because it wasn’t that kind of a book. But there is one thing I did want to repeat in this blog, it’s something that Best repeats from a Swedish man she meets in Finisterre (which is further on from Santiago and was once considered the end of the world) when he’s talking about why he left Sweden and decided to stay in Spain and then she ruminates on what he says:

‘I go home to an office job in a call center with a boss who gets paid to stand over my shoulder and make me feel like mud. He doesn’t even know my name. But still, I must answer to him and he must answer to the company and the company must answer to the government, who I pay tax to. It is all around and about in circles going nowhere,’ he says. I tell him I understand. Life here is a far cry from the rat race of cities everywhere. Bills, mobile phones, Sex and the City, nine-to-five working days and the general dog-eat-dog mentality of everyday life are rendered inconsequential when each day is stripped to its essentials. Priorities change.

What I appreciate most about Camino life, however, is time. Time to think, to breathe, to talk, to ponder, to explore, to learn, to interact and grow, to enjoy food and wine and moments and views. Time to give thanks for what you have, identify what you don’t have  and work on things you need. Time. And as much of it as you like. I’m going to miss it and I know, in time, I will miss the person I am with it.

Perhaps this is why people return to the Camino, because it has something we cannot get in our ordinary lives…in the nothingness, there is a richness of life. The meaning of status, money and possessions drop away and you are left with yourself, nature, and the relationships you make along the way.

NB: A refugio and an albergue both refer to overnight facilities available to walking or cycling pilgrims who have authenticated pilgrim credentials. They are interchangeable.

Advertisements
Categories: Books, The Camino

Walk in a Relaxed Manner, by Joyce Rupp

April 28, 2015 Leave a comment

This is one of the few books out there that has been written about walking on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. If you haven’t heard of this pilgrimage, then you need to know about it. I won’t go into the history of the pilgrimage here, but suffice to say that hundreds of thousands of people have found themselves on this path for one reason or another. I walked part of it with my mother a few years ago. It haunted me for several years before that and has recently begun to haunt me again. Perhaps it is because I recently discovered the facebook page for American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) and reading about people who are preparing for the walk or who are reminiscing about their walk has brought it all up again. In any event, my fiance and I are planning to walk it together next year and I am yearning for that experience.

Although this book, Walk in a Relaxed Manner, was published in 2005, it is still relevant. I’m not sure about the quality of the Refugios, in general, since my mom and I stayed mostly in pensions. The two refugios we stayed in were extremely different. The first, was small and privately run. The pilgrims were respectful and we were exhausted, it being our first night on the Camino. It was after that night that my mom insisted that we stay in pensions as she could not sleep with the snoring. The second refugio we stayed in was quite a bit further along and was an enormous publicly run establishment. It was broken down into bunk rooms of 4 beds, which mitigated the snore factor, but the bathrooms were fairly atrocious and I recall not wanting to put anything down anywhere. It was in that refugio, though, that we met one of the women we became long-term friends with, so I can’t dog it too much.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it brings back so many memories. The facts and circumstances are not exactly the same and I don’t remember where certain events took place in my walk (which towns or villages) specifically, but the experiences are similar.

One quote the author used in her 16th chapter, that touched me deeply, was this from Joan Halifax:

The secret of life, say the Utes, is in the shadows and not in the open sun; to see anything at all, you must look deeply into the shadow of a living thing.

In that same chapter, the author talked about her expectations and disappointment:

As I listened to Rachel speak of her dissatisfaction…my own Camino disappointments revealed themselves for what they were: mainly a result of my own ideas, values, and expectations. It became clear to me that no one set out to deliberately cause me undue discontent. I was the main cause of the frustrations I experienced…

I looked at the disappointments Tom and I had experienced, including the smaller ones, and how they were largely due to what we imagined or hoped would be.

The disappointments I experienced on the Camino led me to ask numerous questions: “Is it wrong to have ideals, goals, and hopes for what might be? Is it disastrous to have expectations and longings? Is it unreal to think that life’s situations might match my own values? Is it crazy to believe that things might turn out as one wishes?” My response to these: not at all. But when something does not match my desires, I have a choice. I can crab about the situation or see it in the light of unmet expectations. Attention to expectations can keep me from blaming and carrying anger around unnecessarily.

I’m not sure I need to say anything about this, except that for some time I have been contemplating expectations: mine and those of others. Sometimes, I can clearly see that expectations are nothing but a box and if I try to live to those expectations, I am placing myself in that box. If I can live with an openness to experiences, then I am free.

Coincidentally, there is a chapter dedicated to the idea of traveling lightly, this is meant literally and also figuratively. This idea resonates with something I have been trying to do in my life, lightening the physical load of “stuff” that I possess and lessening the emotional “stuff” that I carry around in my thoughts. Rupp quotes Carol Christ at the beginning of her chapter on this subject:

Every time each of us resists the urge to buy, we are taking one small step to change our world.

She goes on to say:

The day after I returned from walking the Camino I opened the door of my clothes closet and stood there stunned…for the first time in seven weeks I had to decide what I was going to wear….On the Camino…I had only one change of clothes….Seeing so much before me felt daunting. I had grown to love traveling lightly on the Camino. Now I found myself returning to a complex world, one fraught with consumerism, with the pressure to look good and live a certain way to be socially acceptable. I did not want to return to this way of life. I longed for the simplicity the Camino had taught me.

I remember this feeling too, when it came to making decisions. On the Camino, the decisions are fairly simple. When shopping for food, it comes down to how much you want to carry and how much space you have in your pack, so that one piece of fruit or a can of beans, can make an enormous difference.

Rupp goes on to say that:

Since [the Camino] I have observed how traveling lightly is not just about the amount of things we have, it is also how we allow those things to lead us away from what truly counts in daily life. These things tangle our attention and absorb our time, often creating more personal stress…This practice of having too much is often an unconscious way of distracting ourselves from what is happening at a deeper level of life. It deters us from entering into opportunities for greater meaning and fuller peace of mind and heart…Traveling lightly means divesting one’s self of inner stuff, as well. This, too, can bog us down and keep us from being focused on what really matters in life. Emphasizing or being overly concerned about reputation, status, looking good, knowing enough, having an admirable position can also deter us from walking on the road of life with a clear mind and a liberated heart.

I think I can say that this chapter was my favorite, because it resonates with what I am trying to do in my life. Trying to let go of the ego especially in regards to how it is massaged by attention related to material and financial wealth is very hard. I might hazard a guess that it is a daily effort and requires me to remind myself, that often, that I am not in need of whatever my ego thinks I need in order to feel ok.

Finally, I will end with a thought-provoking quote from C.G. Jung, that Rupp uses in one of her last chapters:

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

Categories: Books, Personal, The Camino

Ich lerne Deutsch: 5 Tips for Learning a New Language

March 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Should apply to learning any language.

Making Apple Pie From Scratch

For the past few weeks I’ve been learning how to speak German. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time — having previously lived and worked in Germany, I have always felt a strong connection to the country and its people. Now that I have moved to one of Germany’s neighboring countries and work on projects involving the DLR German Aerospace Centre — it feels like a natural next step for me to speak the language too 🙂

DSCF6058 (2)

I’m enrolled at the Goethe Institute, an international language school with centres located across the globe. The course that I’m taking is the A1.1 class – the very beginning of the beginners course! Having studied German in school, I have some background in the language, however I think that starting with the basics (der, die und das anyone?) is the best way for me to really understand my new language.

I already speak English, Hindi and Punjabi, and have been…

View original post 464 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

ZAZ and her song: Si je perds

January 8, 2015 1 comment

I fell in love with this song while I was in France last year. I hadn’t ever heard of Zaz until my French instructor played this song in French class, and he asked us if we understood what the song was about. We listened to it twice and all I could get, I admit, was that it was very sad and was about a woman who was losing something. I guessed it had to do with her children but mostly herself. One woman in our class knew immediately because she has first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s in her family. Still, pretty incredible that she picked it up…the song never directly mentions Alzheimer’s, just the symptoms.

The tune sticks. I find myself singing it quite frequently, even though I still haven’t memorized the lyrics.

As for Zaz, herself, they say she is the new version of Edith Piaf. I think her voice is strong and sultry. If you check out her site here, you can listen to some of her other music by going to the video page. Or you can check out her latest release “Paris Sera Toujours Paris”, which I think demonstrates nicely, this idea that she is becoming representative of the great Parisian singer on the international stage. It’s great for some French scat too, which, let’s admit we don’t hear too often.

Good luck, Zaz, and I’ll be looking for more of your music!

Categories: Music Tags:

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

December 22, 2014 2 comments

I just had to write something about this book, The Paris Wife, because I found it so fascinating. I am not an Ernest Hemingway aficionado. I read The Green Hills of Africa in 2011 and found it to be very interesting, but also quite graphic and brutal. It’s a non-fiction book about the game-hunting he did while in Tanzania. It’s very interesting if you are looking to compare what the animal population once was in that part of the world, compared to the numbers today. Quite shocking, really.

After reading McLain’s book, I understand that this is something he was always trying to get to in his writing, this purity in the violent act, such as in the bull-fighting that is purported in The Sun Also Rises, which I have not read.

This book is so well written, that I truly felt I was reading the words of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. I pined with her for Hemingway when he was away on work assignments, and felt her frustration and her anger as he drifted into his relationship with Pauline Pfeiffer. McLain carefully lays out the suffering that these women have in common and they compete for Hemingway’s affection. But it is impossible to take Pauline’s side, interloper that she was. Although, in no way, is Hemingway innocent, having carried on affairs, apparently, throughout his marriage.

I highly recommend this book. I’m adding Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast, to my list of books to read, since it’s supposed to be about his relationship with Hadley Richardson. I suspect I have had this book on my audio list at the library for several years, so it’s about time to get to it!

Categories: Books

“All The World’s A Stage…”

December 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Thanks for this insight on the “muddle”.

BBG

Plays book imagesAs a lawyer, academic, theater aficionado and creative writer I have been doing research lately into ideal formats for persuasive yet authentic story telling. I ran across various recommendations from writing communities and authors on books to read and websites to follow. I was particularly intrigued by the BBC’s Writers Room that offers video and written tips, formats, guidance and a newsletter on writing screen scripts and stage plays for a variety of shows and genres. The tutorial context is straightforward, advancing common sense rules, along with some good insight on micro (character) and macro (world) perspective, plot and character building.

As an aspiring writer, with a couple dozen stories (plays, fictional works, short stories, poetry collections etc.) started but nothing quite finished yet (for publication purposes) I have been feeling like I was missing something crucial in the middle portion of my works which prohibited completion. I had the inspiration and appreciation…

View original post 870 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

The art of NOT being busy

December 17, 2014 Leave a comment

I just read this blog about being busy and the impact it has on our lives and how the author hypothesizes that we have become “human doings” instead of “human beings”. It reminded me of how hard I tried, when my children were young, not to over-commit them to extracurricular activities. And, how I tried to make family time our main activity. This was helped by the fact that I didn’t have much money, so we couldn’t afford to do everything we might have wanted to anyway. Even then, though, I struggled with the amount of mail I had to deal with, the email, the social commitments and the chores that made up the our lives. Still, there seemed to be less of it than there is now.

Sometimes, when I look around today. I think that one of the key the signs of status is showing that you are busy (with activities). In other words, having the time and money to be activity-driven is a sign of status. Other times, I just think we are so afraid of stillness, contemplation, looking inward and finding our creative center that we fill our time so we don’t have to do that.

My kids are adults now, but I still fight that activity-driven life. I fight that urge to fill every moment with something. I like having the flexibility of spontaneously going for a walk, or how about taking a day off from checking my email…that’s fun too. Could any of us, in this era of cell phone driven communication, bear to put turn those phones off for a day that was completely unscheduled and unstructured? What would happen? What if we could do that for one day each week, just let the day evolve…and see what happens…it’s a novel idea and I’m not sure even I could do it. But I think we would all be better for it.

Categories: Family, Personal