Walk a half mile down the McKenzie River Trail from Clear Lake, Oregon & you will come upon a treasure of waterfalls and azure pools. I like to stop & gaze at the dance of the water, infinite incarnations in the blink of an eye.
It was the late 1950s and America was on the road. My family was one of them. Some of my fondest memories were from these times and our many camping trips to Yosemite National Park & beyond. This one’s for you, Dad…..
“Are we almost there yet?”
I whined to my parents as we motored down seemingly endless highways
punctuated with Burma-Shave signs,
Jumbo Orange stands and other odd roadside attractions.
We traveled to the pace of a ’56 Chevy Station wagon
two-toned Red & White
unbuckled with my older brother in the way back
windows rolled down
stifling heat & wind flapping about our ears
while we sang songs in harmony
& read piles of comic books
rejoicing in those stops
with dripping ice cream cones
& Jackalope postcards
on the way to that perfect camp spot under shady pine trees.
We slept under the stars on army cots
tucked in thick sleeping bags lined with red flannel plaid
waking to the “shhhhhh” sound of the Coleman stove.
We waded in creeks turning over rocks exposing odd bugs
& released crude sailboats made of wood scraps & white rag sails
into the current past our tin can waterwheels.
It was a wild wonderland
for a young girl with legs as spindly as a colt’s.
Now looking back to those years from the arc of adulthood
“Are we almost there yet?”
We were there
We were there all the time.
For centuries Catholic pilgrims from all over Europe & beyond set out to walk often hundreds of miles to the shrine of the apostle, St. James whose remains were said to rest in the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Santiago, in northwestern Spain. Though many routes crisscrossed Europe, the most well-traveled route stretches 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port in France over the Pyrenees through Basque country and then onto Galicia.
The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims wear them on their packs & they are on all the way markers for the trail.
In modern times the trail has been popular with hikers and bikers all over the world for a variety of reasons, Some travel just for recreation, others during a transitional time in their lives & many for spiritual reasons. It is still popular today among Catholics. In 1987 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Along the way, pilgrims stay in “albergues,” similar to youth hostels. At each albergue you get your pilgrim passport stamped.
In 2013 I walked 250 miles of the Camino with my long time friend, Deb,marking my 60th birthday. We skipped the middle part since we only had 2 1/2 weeks. It was a pivotal experience in my life. We started in France with many other pilgrims beginning the long trek from the charming medieval village of St. Jean de Port crossing the Pyrenees the next day.
Some of the many memorials along the way. Deb is leaving a special stone in the Pyrenees in memory of her father.
Scenes along the Camino….
The End of the Journey- for most, the Cathedral de Santiago, for me – Museo by the Sea (in new shoes.)
There is no roadmap through grief. I find peace through writing after the recent passing of my father. Here are two poems…
ON THE DAY MY FATHER DIED
I heard the earth sigh
Above the splash of tears
His spirit slipped away quietly
It’s shell worn from years of living
It was lifted by the cadence of prayer
Then finally free
Into the arms of angels
And as we mourned him by his bedside
The heavens welcomed his spirit
Unencumbered by flesh
Finding peace among the stars
Forever in our hearts.
THE GRIEF WASHED OVER ME
Like a strong wave of the sea
My face hit bottom
My cheek scraping the coarse sand
I stood up and was knocked down
Over and over again
Until I released to the ocean’s power
And washed up spent upon the shore.
Waldo Lake is one of the many gems of Oregon. At 5,414 ft in the Oregon Cascades, it’s the second-largest & deepest lake in the state & is known for it’s pristine, crystal clear water. It’s a magical place.
Please do not apologize to me for your physical state as you leave this world. Yours is not an enviable path, your body rigid from Parkinson’s, your lungs compromised from the pneumonia that finally will be the demise of your 91 year life.
Yes, I am bearing witness to your diminished body, reliant on the hands of others. But my memories of you will be fonder ones. You were a man of great stature and heart, a man who took the time to read me my favorite Dr. Suess books over and over and over again when I was a little girl. Perhaps that’s where I got my quirky imagination? You were the one who tucked me in, put me on the handle bars of rented bicycles in Yosemite. All those family camping trips? Those led to my love of nature & the outdoors & for that I am so grateful . You helped move me from college and helped me pack for my new life in Alaska. I looked forward to those care packages from you. When I needed comfort in a far off place, yours was the voice I could count on.
Thank you for your generous spirit that manifested itself in many ways . Thank you for not criticising my numerous stupid decisions in life, preferring to be my cheerleader. Thank you for being a good grandpa to my son.
I am grateful that you found your true love, that you lived life large and got to travel to exotic places. You are leaving this life with more friends that I can count. There’s a bright mark you left on the world and we will feel a void when you depart. Leave it to you that in the end you can still crack a good joke.
I am grateful for morphine and hospice care.
It is me that wants to apologize to you. I am sorry that you have to end your long life in such an uncomfotable manner. But lets just skip all those apologies. May you leave this life knowing that you were loved and admired by many, including myself. Congratulations on a life well lived.
Thank you for being my father.
IN HONOR OF BRUCE PASS
December 7, 1925 – May 5, 2017
I hate lists
They wind around me
Like boa constrictors
Squeezing out my life’s energy
Feasting on my self-esteem
Waiting for others in queue
To take their place