MR. BRAY

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Road Trip Reflections: The Good Fight

Wednesday October 30th-November 7th 2019


While I've entered this new season I'm aware that an even greater change is ahead of me. On one hand I'm somewhat apprehensive to admit. On the other hand I feel more purposefully driven then I've ever been! I've rediscovered my faith! Maybe not in the sense that I had abandoned my faith altogether but one that has been permeating my every thought. I'm feeling more acutely aware that all I think about and want to talk about is things that relate to God and my new lease on life! This is most definitely going to turn people off and scare them away from me, my blog, and my work. However I'm feeling lighter than I have ever been and I'm seeing meaning and direction in the most personal and profound ways. Yes, I'm becoming a Jesus Freak again! I'm being called back to ministry. What that looks like only time will tell but this is happening and I'm gonna ride this wave as it completely overtakes me.

I want to say I can't help it. I want to say sorry for being preachy. I want to say I didn't mean to offend you or that it's not my intent to come off so strong. But I honestly don't. I was dead and now I'm alive! I was at the very edge, I wanted to take my own life. I wanted to kill myself! I tried to kill myself!!! This is huge! I was a crumbling mess. And God, through grace, circumstances and loving family and friends from across the globe brought me back! This has forever changed me! And I'm compelled to talk about it!!!

So if you're reading this and are about to click away I think you're going to miss out on something big. You see life is a battle. Living is hard. But life is also a gift. I understand it's cliche yet if you've ever wanted to take your own life or are having troubling thoughts I have a personal insight to why these things are happening. 


You see I thought my troubles were all internal. I had been successful in masking, suppressing and even misdirecting all my turmoil with Faith, meditation, journaling, medicine, CBD, and therapy. Yet the more I looked at the inner hurts the more I was just managing my emotions. Even when the therapy or particular treatment dug deeply into repressed feelings. 

Then I thought perhaps the troubles were external. My childhood abuse and neglect, family trauma and drama, health issues and heartbreak. So I tried to fortify my life, my finances, mend or make peace with my past, write letters, give apologies, hugs, take on more of the responsibility or blame on both how I responded or understanding best to act. Still I was just putting out fires as I was trying to course correct my mistakes or reconcile with my limited ability and resources.

Finally it struck me. My troubles aren't internal or external they're eternal

The famous Jewish lawyer turned Christian preacher, Paul the Apostle said "We battle not against flesh and blood but of principalities and darkness in higher places! - Ephesians 6:12...What am I talking about? You see whether or not you believe in it we're more than just physical beings and emotional beings we're spiritual beings. There's a supernatural battle for your souls and that makes itself manifest in your life. You might be thinking what proof do I have in these things? What weren't you reading this post?!!! I literally tried to kill myself. I was at the end of my road and it was only a perfect in flowing of love that woke me from my prison. It wasn't mindfulness meditation or pills that made me stop hating myself it was the image of Jesus loving me through people. Love saved me and "God is love". Yeah that's preachy because that doesn't align with a narrow world view of health happiness and love. Well the world has some backwards ideas about all those things!

Speaking of health I was starving myself and losing tons of weight because I was depressed and the world said "but you look so good!" The world knows crap about health.

Speaking of happiness I was working tirelessly for my dreams to manufacture opportunities; which the world said that's how you find happiness. Wrong! There's no guarantee your dreams coming true will make you happy. Ask a rich person and see if they're free of anxiety!

Speaking of love I was looking at inner beauty to find love. Absolutely wrong! Beauty doesn't teach us about love it just tries to say that beauty and attraction are entitled to love. And that being ugly makes you undeserving of love. The world knows crap about love! 

When Jesus loved leper's there in the history of world has never been an attractive or physically beautiful leper! But he loved them. When he met a rich man what did he tell him to enter into eternal happiness? To part with his things! The very things he thought would make him happy but they didn't! And when a woman that had a chronic illness that wasted a fortune on doctors what did he do? He simply healed her. The world doesn't get it dude! Health, Happiness and Love aren't things our society has any real clarity on. And if you're honest you'll agree we all want health, happiness and to be loved. 

But what does a crooked merchant do? They try and spin flaws as features. Then when pressed enough they'll say "well nobody really knows". Wrong! There's a fight that I've had for decades and now it's melted away. I've learned how to fight from it's source. And at the end of this essay if you can't believe a person that literally wanted to kill themselves has found a genuine reason to live; then perhaps your heart is afraid to believe that love can be good? Perhaps your afraid that fighting for love isn't an internal or external but is in reality a fight with the eternal. Because love, true love is ETERNAL!

Thanks for listening,

-Jesse

Ugly Duckling

Sunday October 20th 2019


Ugly Duckling


When I was a child I remember my grandma reading to me the Ugly Duckling. A story about a young chick that is despised by its family, neighbors and even its own mother and neglected for being physically repulsive. Eventually the duckling having been outcasted by those that should of loved him grows up to become a beautiful swan. However the ugly duckling, now a beautiful creature, has a bit of trouble recognizing its reflection as a thing of beauty. It's not util this Swan is treated like a swan that he rediscovers his value. This story deeply puzzled me as a kid. And it's one I've had trouble until recently appreciating.


This desire to be loved or deserving of love I believe is a universal feeling. I want love. It's fair to say we all want to be loved. So if this is a universal truth why is it so difficult to find? If we all need love why aren't we more loving? I have a theory perhaps. You see in the story the ugly duckling, the poor creature, is mistreated for something it has no power over. Its inability to be born beautiful. There's this idea that beauty is a magnet for the senses. And hence attraction deserves love. But is that true? Do we really love beautiful things because they're attractive? And are only attractive things worthy of love? 


Well heavens no! Yet I've felt like the ugly duckling many times in my life. I think most people can or have. That because we're undesirable we're ugly and therefore ugly is undeserving of love. Now you're tracking what I call “a path to sadness”. Feeling sadness can be from a loss or pain or heartache. Say we’ve lost a friend or family member to cancer, that person is no longer here on this earth to feel loved or to receive our love. Or someone we love has let go of us and moved on so we're left feeling rejected and discarded. So I’m left feeling ugly. 


There's an adorable episode of "Sponge bob Square Pants" called "Something Smells". Where Sponge Bob and later Patrick are convinced they're ugly when in reality they just have really bad breath from a funky meal. This wrongful conclusion spirals the characters to feeling exceptionally low. No one wants to feel ugly. Yet in a beauty obsessed culture from cosmetics to physique it's easy to feel the strain on my psyche. "I don't want to be ugly because if I'm ugly I'll never find love" is a possible thought that rolls around my mind. 


This is why I'm provoked to re-examine the tale of the ugly duckling. There's a relevant idea in this story. As I mentioned earlier I think it's a fair statement to say that “we” think beauty is synonymous with worthy of love. While “we” think ugly is equally paired with being unloveable. So how do I break this cycle? By denying I’m ugly? By undermining the feeling you get when you see something beautiful? Personally I think both of those reactions are problematic. 


For example my sister has two daughters that are just adorable. They’re picturesque in how cute they are. I know I’m not without some biases as they’re my baby nieces but they’re beautiful, they just are. Now since they’re both under six years old they haven’t developed deep intellectual curiosity or an array of obvious talents yet. Which is okay. They’re children. But the default is to compliment their cuteness, their beauty. And since they’re little women it can be argued that praising their beauty gives a disproportion of importance of physical desirability. Or that unconsciously by only complimenting their beauty I’m saying that their value is in being beautiful. However, this logic follows it is not siloed to women. Men want to feel handsome and attractive too. I think the issue isn’t that it’s wrong to praise beauty or that we need to deny ugly but the connection it has to being deserving or undeserving of love. How do we do that? By loving ourselves? I think that also is problematic.


There’s an inherit problem when I say I need to love myself. Because if I already hate myself for feeling ugly how am I going to pull myself out of this pit? And if I’ve always been praised for my skills or attractive qualities and I don’t feel loved; how am I ever going to discover this love when the very things that promised me love and adoration have failed to deliver? You see as an artist I’m prone to co-dependence. I often feel the need for others to validate me, to give me purpose, place and value. Some of this is genetic. I’m the second born and statistically speaking the second born feels left out. Yet I also struggle with expressing my feelings, who doesn’t sometimes. I feel bottled up and so frustrated that if I don’t create something I’m going to spiral. Emotions can wash over me at times. And I have to ride them or restrain them. I’m an emotional being. I just am. I try not to be a slave to my emotions but I would be a poor liar if I didn’t acknowledge how strong they are within me. I’m a very passionate person. This is both a great strength and something that creates a lot of blind spots.


The ugly duckling isn’t far from everyone. I can’t escape these feelings. And beauty isn’t evil in itself. Nor does attraction deserve love. For me the answer is probably the most difficult thing to admit. The answer is another question. What is love? Enter self help gurus, psychologists, and religious experts around the world and time to give you an answer. Yet for me when I think of the perfect standard of love it is the picture of Jesus Christ. Here’s a man that was beaten to death for loving people. I know people are going to check out now that I mentioned Jesus. Here comes a sermon you’re thinking. But hold on that’s really not my point. My point is if you’ll just track with me for a minute longer. Regardless of your feelings about Christians or religion in general Jesus was a real person that loved people. He challenged what his society said were people worthy of love. He created a higher standard for love. 


Yes this is a deeply personal faith I have but what I’m trying to share here is there’s someone that speaks to my heart when I think that I’m the ugly duckling, when I feel undeserving of love. You don’t have to agree with me. You might even have another standard or strength that gives you comfort. However like it our not feeling ugly and thereby feeling unworthy of love has everything to do with our standard of love. So if you have no higher standard than beauty then whenever you feel ugly you’ll feel unloved. If your partner, mother, grandmother, best friend, Mister Rogers, fill in the blank gave you a higher standard of love that’s wonderful! For me it’s Jesus that makes me feel loved. He just does. So it’s the standard of love that reflects our self worth. For me looking within only makes me more sad. And looking at skills, talents and external qualities makes me feel poorly as well. It’s only when I look at someone higher than myself do I feel worthy of love, regardless if I’m a swan or an ugly duckling. Ugliness or beauty can be removed from the equation as I’m loved and desired by God. This gives me comfort. And turns the ugly duckling story on its head.


You don’t have to prescribe to my way of thinking or personal convictions but if you’re like me and you’ve felt ugly and thereby felt unworthy of being loved. Know this you’re worthy of being loved no matter how ugly or beautiful you have felt. You are worthy of giving love and receiving love. And it’s when we share love with others we’re transformed into graceful swans in this universe. 


Afterglow: Afterthoughts on The Camino

Wednesday October 16th 2019


Afterglow: Afterthoughts on the Camino 


Last night I dreamt I was inside a house in the California suburbs. As I sat down to visit with the people that lived there the house began to rock and shake back and forth. We were in an earthquake and the strongest I had ever experienced. I started to fret and looking towards the other people I said "shouldn't we seek cover"? Yet, they kept on doing their usual tasks completely disinterested with the fact that we were actively experiencing a powerful earthquake. Not knowing what else to do I rebuked the earthquake telling it to stop, and it did. Walking outside from the home in this California suburb I felt puzzled then I woke up.

A lot has happen since I've returned from The Camino. I've cemented many friendships, thoughts, plans and ideas. While others have begun to drift away. California somehow feels strange to me. Not any less familiar but just stranger. This is often the case when you return home from a trip; you have an afterglow then an aftershock or a bit of both at the same time. I miss Oregon if I'm being honest. Fall is my favorite time of year as the whole state is transformed into the most incredible autumn colors. I miss The Camino. It was a wonderful healing experience, one that is hard to leave behind and one I feel the pull to return to over and over again.

Returning to California after my trip feels less anchored than I was before to this state. However as I mentioned I've set several fleeces before the Lord as to where my next move, adventure, work or events will take me. Which has been happening somewhat more gradual than I had expected. Nonetheless I'm not bothered by that. I know all things in their own timing. There's no sense rushing into a decision that you're not all in on, especially if you're using a spiritual rudder. I rediscovered my compass on the Camino and I'm finally at peace. Especially as I'm reflecting on the richness of my recent experience.

You see there's a beautiful picture I learned about the term "afterglow" in art school. It's quite hilarious too! Based off a misinterpretation there was a time that artists depicted the prophet Moses with horns. Look it up it's quite interesting to see and comical in their confusion. The translators of the Hebrew text mistook the word "holy" for (an excuse our common sense of this word) "horny" meaning with horns. The artist actually thought Moses had horns on his head instead of what the text said that he was holy. So there's a bunch of paintings and statutes where Moses has horns. 


Now if you're unfamiliar with the story and who Moses was: Moses was a key prophet in the Torah that was used to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Ancient Egypt. Moses spoke directly with God and when Moses would speak with God the effects of that intimate conversation with the Almighty made his face shine, literally radiate light. So much so Moses would cover his glowing countenance from people. Then he'd remove his veil when he'd commune with God. Now the reasoning Moses veiled his face was his face was diminishing his glow while apart from God's presence. Hence the term afterglow. Moses veiled his face from peoples sight not the Almighty. So fast forward to the mistaken artists that depicted Moses with horns; completely losing sight of the message of the story. Moses was holy from his encounter with the supernatural! 


Such is this picture I'm seeing about my afterglow from The Camino. I had a supernatural life changing experience. It's hard to fully express it and in some ways I feel the urge to hideaway from those that might be apprehensive to understand it. Yet at the end of the day people are going to misunderstand your message all the time. You'll be glowing and they'll paint horns. You'll see an earthquake and they'll be disinterested. A picture is best understood when the artist best understands the message. So what does this mean? Well to the best of my ability I'm painting some very private pictures. Which I hope to show soon. I'm experiencing an afterglow from my time on The Camino. My soul feels full. And yes I'm obviously concerned about losing even a drop of this nourishing liquid. I want to hold tightly to this feeling of inner peace and comfort with the uncertain. And I'm so very grateful for everyones prayers, time and love while I let this afterglow change me further. Pictures are coming, stories and richness you've not seen from me before. And I'm finding this all very exciting!

The Camino Adventure: The Voyage Home

Wednesday October 9th 2019


The Voyage Home



When you're flying across an ocean and two continents you have quite a bit of time to reflect. This Camino Adventure plus France extension has been incredible. Not without ups and downs like all journeys. But the greatest gift has been the time. The time to heal and process my inner pain and personal growth. I've traveled back and forth over eighteen thousand miles by air and walked over a hundred and twenty miles on foot. I've spent a great deal of time alone and a great deal of time with absolute strangers that have become my friends. I've grown spiritually and relationally and the most inspired I've been in my life. I'm truly in love with The Camino. There's so much more for it to teach me and so much more to learn. 


I'm sitting here on my flight trying to make sense of my adventure. What have I accomplished? What answers have I found? What resolutions have I made? What are the fruits going to be from this experience? Well there's many answers to these questions and even more questions to my answers if I'm being honest. And I recommend you buckle up for a gamut of emotions. I'm about to bare my soul with you.


The three topics or "results" to use an umbrella of a phrase are the following:


Faith, Forgiveness, and Focus.


All three of these results have given me anxiety and elation. They've buckled my inner being and challenged my heart and world around me. They've also been so personal that it's difficult to express them in words. They have been like being moved by a sunset or the feeling after being satisfied by a meal. You can relate them to others but really nothing can really approach what those experiences feel to you while you're going through them. Let's start with the "results" of faith on this adventure.


Faith.


I've been challenged in what I know and what I believe. Only this summer was I so broken-hearted that I had resolved to end my life. At first minus one meal at a time. As that became a more difficult task as loved ones intervened I planned darker methods and even decided on a specific date and time I was going to end my life. Yes this is heavy and yes it's a vulnerable and frail subject. However my veil is torn. There's no pretense or ceremony for me to withhold these painful truths. I had decided I was going to jump off the Saint John's bridge in Portland Oregon, on December 25th at 11:59pm. There I said it! It was a very dark time for me. However please understand I'm not saying these things to rattle peoples cages. For me saying this stuff helps me acknowledge how lost I felt. You see that's the beauty of The Camino. After you've traveled this great distance you can look back and see how far you've come. And as I'm now seeing this at a significant distance I can look back and be amazed and appreciative. I've had many saviors along the road which I've mentioned in previous posts, and I can list The Camino as one as well. But in the spirit of this retrospective I need to further express what pushed me so deep into this pit of depression.


Most importantly I'm not here to blame my ex wife for being the reasoning for my suicidal issues. Heavens no! I had a hidden struggle for many years. What exasperated my sadness was not my wife leaving me but the context in which she left me. For I was always afraid that if I told her these things she would leave me. So while in therapy I revealed these dark secrets and my fears that if she discovered my inner sadness that she'd leave me. Well she left and I felt my fears had become reality. So while I was looking for a freedom from my pain it had only worsen when my closest friend abandoned me.


So I spiraled and as I mentioned above I actively planned how to end my life. I won't go into any further details as I believe I shared a great deal already. But this is where my road was starting from which I can't express how blessed I feel to be alive today. Sure there will always be sorrow and hardship; but I've grown to appreciate that my suffering doesn't isolate me from others but actually connects me to others.


So this is apart of how I've grown in faith. I've also seen doors break open as the world seems so much smaller. I've become a world traveler! Anywhere and anything is possible now! I've been given this wonderful gift. I can now dream bigger and be more fulfilled like I never believed. It also means I have a new dilemma of where will I call home? Well to those closest to me I'll be sharing this in more details but I've come to a crossroad so I'm using what Christians refer to as "setting a fleece".


What does that mean? Well there was once a prophet in the Bible that wanted to know if God really desired him to do a particular path. So he asked God saying tonight I'll lay down a fleece on the ground and if your hand is in this decision when I awake the ground will be wet with dew and the fleece will be dry. So low and behold he wakes up and the ground is wet while the fleece is bone dry. However this wasn't enough of a confirmation for the prophet so he asked God to this next time when he wakes up for the ground to be dry and the fleece to be wet. So the next morning the ground was dry and this time the fleece was soaking wet. So much so that when the prophet ringed the fleece it filled a cup with water. If you're not a person of faith you might find this silly but for me I've placed a certain set of fleeces out for when I return. If they happen as I perceive it I'll call one particular place a home over the other. I've resolved to let my faith lead me and guide me and not anxiousness or fears. This might puzzle or frustrate some but this is my life to live and I need to just do these things this way. I don't ask for others to understand it just if you're curious this is what and why I've decided to do. You can respect it or you can ignore it it's my decision and I'm at peace with it. The next "result" is that of "Forgiveness".



Forgiveness.


Three people the experience of The Camino has given me the power to forgive. Three people I could also use forgiveness from. Yet only one is both living and has the potential for an active relationship with. Of the three: my father, my mother and my ex-wife only my father is both alive and currently interested in forging a relationship. But apart of this forgiveness both giving and receiving it takes time and takes authenticity. I've resolved to forgive my father. Not to hash up the past or rewrite history. What's been said has been said and what has been done has been done. In order for me to forgive him we need a future not a past. There will be challenges and there will be issues that will most likely need to be addressed but as I see it I just want a blank slate. If we can start that way then there's hope. If not that's ok too. I've decided to the best of my ability I won't be uncorking past hurts about him on my blog as a sign of solidarity and resolve. That's between him and me and I've let it go. I love my father and I want a relationship with him. We've both wronged each other and got ahead of the feelings of one another. He's not me and I'm not him. We'll just have to accept each other for who we are, agree to be respectful first and take it a moment at a time.


The second person the Camino has empowered me to forgive is my mother. This has been the most difficult and the most unexpected. I've come to a peace with my mother. She was unfortunately mentally ill and I lacked much in how to make sense of it. I was hurt and regardless of all that took place she's gone and there's nothing I can do about it. My mother is in heaven and I've made peace with her passing and I'm ready to let go and forgive her. I'll always love my mother and even with her gone I know the Lord has given me many mother's in my life, and will continue through mother's show me the kindness and nurturing I still crave.



Lastly the person I've been needing to forgive the greatest, and the one that still owns my heart; my ex-wife Katie. There's a large apart of me that wants to write her a love letter or do a big romantic gesture aimed to win her back. But I'm at a complete loss of what to say or do that I haven't already said or tried to make her love me again. I wish I could see her again. I miss her so very much. I wish I could hold her again. To talk to her again. To kiss her again. To smell her hair and touch her skin. I miss her so madly deeply I miss her. I wish I could understand why she's gone but this is my reality. 


Not to be rude but as bluntly as I can express: If you haven't had your heart truly and profoundly broken you can't possibly scratch the surface of what I'm feeling or going through. Unfortunately because there is so many people that have been hurt I'm not alone. I still love Katie. And yes I forgive her. I know that I need her to forgive me as well for many things too and I hope one day she will do so. I love you Katie and I forgive you. And in solidarity for that I've decided to the best of my abilities to refrain from uncorking any further details that might seem to disparage her on my blog. She's not a villain and if you respect me please don't trouble her or pick a side. I love her and I pray for her all the comforts and happiness that God's grace can pour on her.


Furthermore I need to express another revelation. You can't replace people. You just can't. While I've heard advice, thoughts and opinions about what it means to move on the truth is layered. Layered how I feel. Layered how I think. And finally layered what I need. When someone catches my eye that is a reminder there is no shortage of beauty in the world. When my heart suddenly aches that is a reminder there's no shortage of pain either. But aside from what I think and what I feel there will never be a replacement for my love of Katie. And even as things are today I would take her back in a heartbeat. I've forgiven her and am continuing to forgive her. If I could understand why she pulled away I feel it would help me better in my forgiveness but I'm currently not allowed to know why. My heart breaks whenever I think of her. I worry about her. Is she safe? Is she being taken care of? Is she eating or being comforted while she's in pain? Whose there to love on her? Whose there? Has she attempted to replace me? 


All of these swirling thoughts and feelings will remain for quite sometime. This is also why I've decided to remain single. I'm not interested in a fling, that's not me and I'm not interested in tethering myself to another person while I'm still hurting. I've resolved to remain a chaste man. Through the grace I discovered on The Camino I'm not afraid of being alone. So I say this in all love and respect I'm not going to hookup, make out, score with or cuddle up to another girl. I'm not. I might be single for quite sometime but I'm not troubled by that. God has given me a very clear message that I'll know when my heart is ready again and at the present it's just not ready. So please respect my decision.


Furthermore I'm not going to listen to any advice about me needing to have some string of sexual partners! No thanks. While Katie was the only woman I've ever known that doesn't bother me. To me that makes what I had more precious. There's more to life than sex and if this confounds you understand this is my personal convictions. This also means if I'm befriending someone of the opposite sex I'm strictly looking for friendship, truly and in a platonic way. I enjoy female friendships quite a bit as women are typically more comfortable talking about their feelings like I am. This isn't always the case with women but I'm looking for meaningful relationships plain and simple. This is my time to heal and I just need to clear the air for my own peace of mind.


And finally the powerful clarity The Camino has given me is "Focus".


Focus.


Be that adding or removing creative projects or ventures I'm no longer interested in spinning my wheels on anything thing that bares no fruit in my life or fire within. There are many decisions ahead of me and I'm cutting burdens and weights on all sides. Much of this will reflect in the work that I do and in my creative partnerships. I'm taking less on to do more. I'm going to prioritize my education, my writing, my family and my dreams. Specifically I'm going to, Lord willing, publish a series of children's books. 


The Camino has been this well of inspiration and I need drink from it while the water is flowing. This also means my relaunch of my podcast might be short lived we'll see. I'm going to take my spirit as the lead and quit things early if they begin to feel a lack of strength to do it. Which might result in me even setting down some vocational opportunities, I can't yet say all of this as I mentioned there's many fleeces I've set out. Sure you might be thinking I thought he said he had focus? I do! My focus is to look to my spiritual rudder and that compass will guide me. I'm going to say "no" more often and "yes" only when I mean it with my whole being. 


So there it is. My soul laid bare. I've grown in my faith, my forgiveness and my focus. Reality will take its place soon as I enter back into my life in the United States. But the effects and the decisions I have to make will feel so much lighter. Thank you for following my journey.


-Jesse

The Camino Adventure: Day Sixteen

Tuesday October 8th 2019

French Fries

Today is my last day in Paris France as tomorrow we fly back home. This has been an incredible journey and one I'll be reeling and reflecting on for sometime. New doors have opened and old wounds have closed. There's a new air on the horizon. I'm still here and feel more alive then I can remember. 


Last night we enjoyed a special dinner cruise; eating delicate and decadent French cuisine all the while spotting an array of Paris landmarks. Of course we saw the Eiffel Tower again lit up in splendor, the palace square, the Louvre and the heartbreaking skeleton of the Norte Dome cathedral. It was plainly the most romantic evening I could of dreamed up. Except I had no romance seated with me. However I was surrounded by new colleagues, and my sisters clientele which were a raucous and friendly bunch. We had a blast.


As the boat was going around the bend I saw the miniature Statue of Liberty, gorgeous and ornate. The design is clearly French when you think about it. Feminine, and strong. This elegance and powerful petiteness is a Paris distinctive in my opinion, it reminded me in a strange way of my mother. It makes sense why the French people disliked the American gift of the Eiffel Tower. It's so rustic and sharp. The French seem to love curves and narration above all else. Everything architecturally here has an obvious story to it. While the Eiffel Tower is visually striking it does feels out of step taste wise. Nonetheless I think it's beautiful! 


At the end of the cruise I popped outside the boat as we rested one last time to look at the Eiffel Tower. A lovely woman was seated on a corner looking up. She was smoking a cigarette as her eyes flooded with tears. She genuflected and muttered a prayer to herself in French. I had stolen a very private moment she was having. But my heart could somewhat relate. The evenings beauty drew out certain longings for prayers unanswered. Sometimes the sweetest of times are sour and sometimes the sourest of times are sweet.


Today my sister took me to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The only place in Paris that from my experience revivals the skyline view of the Eiffel Tower. It's just breathtaking! This was a nice perk from our mornings task of releasing some of my mother's ashes in a garden near the Eiffel Tower. My mother loved Paris! She dreamed of the place so much. I think she always wish she was French. We had placed some of her ashes in a garden nearby and hugged each other as we said a prayer out loud. Today was about letting our mother go, about finding peace.

We stepped inside a cafe to warm up and enjoyed some coffees. We shared about our mother and how we wished we could see her again. And for the first time I had a painful revelation about my mother. I could of seen an illness in a million other people and I would of treated them differently. My mother was ill and she saw the world in an almost childlike way. With her reality distortion she wasn't lying, she believed the world to be the way she dreamed it. In a way like the famous and tragic painter Van Gough, the artist that created “A Starry Night” he literally saw the world differently. It was her escape and it was her life. It was also one of the many gifts she had given to me. I'm a dreamer and warm to absolute strangers. The friendships I made on The Camino are a reminder of how much my mother is alive in me. My mother was beautiful, delicate and high energy. There will never be another like her but inside me and all her children remain a spark of who that wonderful dreamer and warm person was. My mother wasn't perfect, clearly but today I've made my peace with my childhood wounds from the woman that brought me into this world.

By lunch time we were craving something more familiar than the rich French cuisine. We walked into a Five Guys burgers and fries. And as silly as this sounds. It was my sister and I warming up after a rainy and emotionally exhausting day enjoying some French fries and a soda that it completely kicked in. My journey has been about many things but none greater than healing. I miss my mom. I forgive her and I know in my heart she forgives me and that I will someday see her again.

I love you mommy and I always will. 

The Camino Adventure: Day Fifteen

Monday October 7th 2019


Dust to Dust


I've observed something profoundly unique to this whole adventure. From The Camino in Spain to Lourdes and Paris France all three of these locations have something beautifully in common. They're all flooded with people from all across the world looking for a life changing experience! This isn't the sort of every day group of citizens. From the devout to the wavering to the seeking and unburdening every place has this in common. It might need further explanation to fully see the picture in my mind, perhaps it it's just the tapestry I'm seeing unfolding before me as I've walked each day in a new place, new town and met new people from every corner of the earth. 


On the road to Santiago my friend Moon from China gave me the most incredible advice. I was sharing with her about my life and my heart break. She asked if I had been receiving any help. I mentioned friends, family and even therapy. She asked some probing questions about my therapy and I mentioned how my therapist helped me with some guided meditations for anxiety and whatnot. She then said "mediation is perfect for you! Because to do meditation properly you need to be alone." I mentioned how I struggle with that and she said "oh me too that's why I have a cat". We both laughed. But her words about needing to experience aloneness in meditation and reflection struck me to my core. Just like I mentioned how all three locations revolved around people looking for an experience. An experience, even a shared experience, is still deeply personal. It's your eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul that experience something. While it feels great to spend those rich moments with loved ones an experience is personal.


So while yesterday as my eyes swelled with tears from the Eiffel Tower missing and wishing I could share the moment with Katie: She would of loved it. But even if she was with me it would still be my experience. Not hers that I have. Now my heart will have aches here and there as long as my lungs have breath. Yet they will come and go. At the end of the day it is your life to live not another's. That's the beauty of it! I can attempt to share something through my eyes but they will always be a distortion or filter from my experience. But I want the experience! Today I got to experience a complete dream come true! I got to visit the Louvre Art Museum in Paris. While on this trip we visited many cathedrals, this is one especially for me! My eyes gorged on the classics to the renaissance to ancient Egypt to Babylon to Greece and Roman to my favorite DaVinci! I got to see the Mona Lisa in person!!! It was absolutely incredible! I enjoyed breakfast at the Louvre cafe and overlooked the palace square. I walked for hours and hours soaking up the magnificent culture and stories across human history. They were grand and ostentatious! They were ornate and compelling! They were incredible! And they both made me feel insignificant and significant at the same time.


You see all these wonderful artists throughout the ages were the historians of their day. Be that to communicate a birth, death, event, afterlife or praise to a god, goddess, deity or dedicated to my faith. These artist told unique yet universal to their audience messages and stories. They told people an experience they were wanting to share. And it's this sacred task these artist performed; sometimes to educate, entertain or inspire, they poured their lives into their work. It's reframed my life seeing such beauty. It's refreshed my soul feeling such unity and its renewed my heart and mind walking The Camino. I only need to share my message from my perspective and if my experiences touch others God bless it. And if it's doesn't that's ok for the world is a great big place with lots of places and opportunities for others to connect. I'm humbled by this time in Spain and now France. Seeing the Eiffel Tower and then the Louvre has given me a larger view while narrowing my desires. I don't need more to be at peace. All I need is to the experience the day, love those that God gives me to love and sincerely do the tasks that are near to my heart. This isn't to sound bleak but precious. From dust we came and dust we will return; because we're all apart of the same Potter's clay.

The Camino Adventure: Day Fourteen

Sunday October 6th 2019


Ashes to Ashes


Walking through the terminal to my flight to Paris I feel a rush of sadness. This is my final leg of my Camino journey. Though unrelated to The Camino this was an optional extension to my travel package through my sister's company. I've learned so much and lighten my heart. I've made peace with the fragmented relationship and bitterness I have towards my father. Whether or not we can bridge an authentic relationship I feel resolved in letting my hurt go. I've unburden my broken heart over my divorce and loss of my best friend, Katie. I still love her and miss her but I'm at peace with the funeral of our relationship and am learning to even appreciate the good that we had. She was my closest friend and the most precious person in my life. I'm still concerned for her and I'm still raw about her abandoning me. Yet I'm hopeful for my own future and she is often in my prayers. So like my father whether or not if I ever see her again I've made a certain peace with our past, my heart break and bitterness. While I do hope we can someday be friends again that reality is out of my hands. If God wills that to happen so be, if not I'm at peace with it. She'll always be the first love of my life and I pray her all the happiness and to find her own place in the world. 

The reasoning for my sadness as I walk onto the plane is not because my trip is coming to a close. My heart aches for why I'm actually flying to Paris. My sister and I have planned to spread my mother's ashes in Paris. My mother and I were estranged the last several years of her life. These things happen and there's no quick way to illustrate all the reasons why. If you've followed my previous stories you have a better picture but the truth is I haven't really processed her death. This is a grand hope in someways that I'll be fortunate enough to make peace with her passing. Yet when I look at the all the softening of my heart from my time on this trip I believe I'm at the precipice of another miracle within me. So while much of this journey has steadily eroded my hard heart: my heart has been betrayed and guarded for so long I'm learning to trust God with my heart. It's a difficult task and I wish the road was easier. Though it is obvious to my spirit that I'm in desperate need of a greater heart to be ready for the path ahead of me. I can't speak of my future nor do I believe anyone can truly. However in my soul I know I'm being pulled from my old self. Not to gain wealth, affluence, or importance, but to be open to the still small voice of the Maker of Heaven. God is with me and I need to be with God. 

On our last day in Santiago we had a special Mass dedicated to our prayer partners. As we started off as strangers, Father Michael had given each of us private cards with a special bible verses along with a unique persons name on the card to pray for. I thought this was a beautiful idea and it gave you a person to think goodwill for even as they being a stranger to you would eventually become a friend. When it came time at this Mass to share our cards Deacon Tim jr. handed me my card and it was so awesome! It was a verse about being a prophet to the nations. He also included a postcard saying some incredibly moving words along with a special memorial Camino coin. I was overwhelmed, hugged him and cried. My heart has been healing through my tears and my laughter and there's nothing shy of a miracle in the way I've been experiencing this growth. 


As the plane to Paris begins to land I'm reminded I am here in such a wonderful time. I can't fully believe how these opportunities presented themselves to me at such a time as this. That I would be so desperately in need and have been rescued over and over again by the loving hands of friends, family and the providence of God. This beauty in my present has been pulled me from the ashes.

The Camino Adventure: Day Thirteen

Saturday October 5th 2019


Cuisine to Candles 


We spent the day learning more about the city of Lourdes, France. While I had no supernatural encounters or met anyone new or exciting. I was really happy to spend some quality time with my sister Micah. She had encouraged me to take this whole adventure and it has been an amazing one!


The French are quite different than the Spanish. Somewhat similar to the Americans, overeating and at the normal breakfast, lunch and dinner times. Yet the French like the Spanish love to smoke cigarettes, drink espresso and eat croissants. Now I've only visited a small portion of France but the real difference I've discovered is the food. French cuisine is all that its promised. Delicious, delicate, ornate and wonderful. However it's also quite rich and exceptionally sweet. I thought Americans loved our sugar, but from my experience the French celebrate sugary confections masterfully and plentifully to another level entirely. 


This however has been the first time I've had significant stomach distress. I had anticipated this happening while I was hiking The Camino in Spain. Figured I would be having to use the bushes as the bathroom, which thankfully never happened. Yet here in Lourdes their rich foods while heaven in your mouth just twists my insides. I'm going to need to take care for the next few days as I don't want to have a restroom emergency while I'm in Paris.


Now with two evenings behind me here in France I can say I do miss The Camino. Spain has a familiar flair to it but The Camino is where I truly encountered healing. I felt it and I could see it everyday. Lourdes feels more of a spiritual resort setting. While stunning and inspiring it feels more westerns and commercial. Less of a retreat from the everyday life. And I'm guessing Paris will be somewhat more so.


There is an incredible beauty to a town that's so dedicated to religious culture where each night they do a fabulous candlelight vigil by the thousands. It's so overwhelming and peaceful. I have trouble imagining a similar experience being able to be so uninterrupted in a public setting in America. I stood there as droves of the devout sang Ave Maria, holding their own little lights to the world; there's no wonder people feel connected here. The architecture in Lourdes is like walking the magic kingdom in Disneyland. You feel like you're inside the film beauty and the beast with the spiraling gothic towers and castles all around.


I soaked in the moment. The waters here do taste delicious yet I'm not sure if there's really anything more powerful about them then their freshness of the spring. The Saint this town celebrates, Bernadette fought with cholera, a waterborne illness so my empirical mind has to assume a fresh water source had a large aspect to the health benefits of the people. However I'm not here to scrutinize people's experiences. Lourdes is quite lovely and the cathedrals here are just marvelous.


Throughout the day I reflected on my time and inside me there's a push and pull: I do and don't want to go home. I miss my bed but I don't have one. I miss my home yet I don't have one. This trip aside from a couple days at my sister Jaime's in Colorado has been the first I've had a bed in almost four months. Inside like a crockpot I'm feeling a pressure to return to my everyday life. I have a few weeks to make a decision: build a life in California or elsewhere. I've collected so many powerful and moving moments durning this time and I feel both refreshed and a bit puzzled. I wanted a lot from this experience if I'm being honest. I wanted to find healing for my broken heart from my divorce and I can say I've found quite a bit of that. I wanted to find direction for where to go after The Camino and in many ways I've only opened more doors than I can choose: an excellent problem but still one my heart and mind are prayerful considering. And the largest ask: I wanted to find love while I was on The Camino. While I figured it would be romantic love I can't say if anything like that will blossom, but I did find love. Love in international friendships and they easily could last the rest of my life. 


The Camino provides was a common sticker I saw people wearing in Spain and that is so truthful. The Camino does provide: it is a wonderful experience with wonderful people on a journey to grow and process experiences. My heart has swoon a few times here in France. I've felt the pangs of a missing companion but I see now that the shape has changed to a friend sized hole and hopefully one day a new wife. 


So while I walked back to my hotel, blowing out my candle from the evenings service I know my heart is with God and that my path will be visible as I take those steps. I am loved from all across the oceans now and I feel that love transforming me. I know a greater change is before me and while I'm at a loss for what that looks like; at the moment I'm ready.

The Camino Adventure: Day Twelve

Friday October 4th 



Lourdes Have Mercy


Marching up to a 3am wake up call. The powerful moments have barely finished behind me as we move to the next event. It's skeptical or perhaps I'm just lingering to think this next portion of my journey could hold a candle to what I've experienced. Ushered onto a tiny air plane from Santiago to Madrid my heart is longing for The Camino and the friendships I forged. I miss Moon, Gaby & Beautiful Song; my China Girls. I miss the snap of cold air in the morning as I get ready to tackle a ten to fifteen mile journey. I miss my Irish friends I made and I miss the anticipation of the arrival into Santiago. 


Landing in Madrid there's a clear sense of deja vu. We've been here before. Tired and frayed at this airport is starting to feel the norm yet now we're on a special extended experience as we travel to Lourdes, France then Paris, France. I'm learning about the history of Lourdes and I have to be candid, perhaps it's because I'm tired but I'm feeling deeply unspiritual about it. The story involves a young girl that is visited by Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, who is instructed to dig in the ground. Afterwards the water that sprung forth becomes supernatural and is now a river rushing through the valley. In my minds eye it's a parallel to the birth of Athens. I'm apprehensive to believe in the visitation from Mary. It's just bizarre from my perspective.


The Athens story is about the god of the sea Poseidon and the goddess Athena and how they're both bucking for the affections of the people. Poseidon strikes his triton into the ground and a spring comes forth. However Athena throws a tree branch into the spring and causes it to be fresh water instead of salt water so the people dedicate the temple to Athena hence the name Athens. Now in the story of Lourdes there is a supernatural visitation to a simple peasant girl so the stories do vary greatly. There's also something that feels magical about this place. I'm not sure why? Tomorrow we visit all of the major sites and even have a chance to draw into the source of the water. Many people boast of profound supernatural healings. I don't want to miss out now. I've opened my heart and God has helped and healed me so much during this trip. I need to stay present and in the moment.


At dinner I meet a lady from Los Angeles named Lourda. She was actually named after this very place "Lourdes". Her father passed away when she was eight years old so she struggled with her faith because of it. However on her fifteenth birthday she was cursing God and asking to see a sign at that very moment she sees a halo of light around the priest's head and she begins to faint. She says she felt touched by God and that is why she's here. During this holy celebration. While much of the day I was holding back tears from my experiences in Santiago, and missing my new friends I could see the same sincere spark in her eyes. She was here for an experience. I would never want to take that away. If anything I was here to experience something profound here as well. 


As I write this I can hear the peaceful angelic singing of thousands of people lining the streets. In candle light I realize apparently this place can literally hold many candles to a previous experience. I pray I'm further healed and that my future plans will have a stronger focus.

The Camino Adventure: Day Eleven

Thursday October 3rd 2019



Tears of Joy In Santiago


I started my day heading to the pilgrims office before 7am. The previous day they had closed before I had arrived. I was having to much fun with my new friends that I finally got to the office around 5pm. To explain how it works: after you've traveled the Camino and collected your passport stamps along the way you present it at the pilgrims office in Santiago to receive your certificate. The certificate says how many miles you walked, when you started and your name in Latin. 


Waiting in line for my compestela I meet up with my China Girls and I'm immediately perked up. They had become such a wonderful reminder that life is best with friends. After we grab our certificates we decide to grab some breakfast. As it was approaching 10am they invited me to Mass and I agreed, however I wasn't sure which cathedral it was as there are several in this town.


Then something unusual happened. A girl sat down next to me on my right. She looked like the mirror image of my ex wife when we first met. She started chatting with me while I was there eating with the my China Girls. As she started to share with me her life story, her interests, and mannerism, and etc aside from her being German, she was like someone had cloned Katie looks and personality. It was strange at best. No fault of her own but it was pretty clear to me I send out vibes in the universe to attract women like my ex wife.


I left the cafe and the German girl to catch up with my friends. We went to the San Francisco Cathedral for Mass and I had just a beautiful time. Afterwards the four of us had lunch. I tried snails for the first time. I wasn't impressed and all the girls talked about how they missed their spicy food.


Later we went inside the main cathedral. I saw the sepulcher of the Apostle Saint James. Hidden within this ornate box contains the bones of the man that directly knew Jesus of Nazareth, my Lord and savior. It was overwhelming as I felt connected with two thousand years of Christian history. We walked across this colossal place of worship marinating in the richness of the experience. At two separate altars I lit a candles: one for Katie and one for my father. I prayed for them, my bitterness towards them and to be filled with love towards them in best way possible. 


After the cathedral I treated the China Girls to some coffee and churros. They had become more than just my new friends, I felt like they were my new sisters. We hugged as we parted ways. Then the most beautiful thing someone had ever done for me: The China Girls turned around and began to sing to me in Chinese and wave as they said goodbye while I waited for my taxi. As they walked out of sight I could still hear their tender voices like angels in the breeze. When I returned to the hotel I broke down in tears over this moment. As long as I live I will treasure it. I had friends and my heart for the first in a long time felt full.

The Camino Adventure: Day Ten

Wednesday October 2nd 2019: Amenal To Santiago



A Ring Of Friendships


As the day started and I was feeling the slight weight of sadness. I had gone this great distance and had such a profound experience I didn't want it to end. I spent my time allowing myself opportunities to particularly to be alone. Reflecting on the amazing journey and on a dream I had the night before. In the dream I saw my ex wife as the day I met her: young and happy. She was sitting outside at a table smiling and enjoying a meal. She looked at me still smiling then she looked away and disappeared. Soon after she had disappeared the ground and the sky canopied into a living room at a large hotel room near the ocean. I was in my pajamas as running past me were three adorable children calling me daddy. I turned my head as my new wife kisses me on the lips as I'm playing with our children. I feel at peace and at home even though I know I'm on vacation. The day winds down as my wife and I watch the sunset and our three children have fallen asleep next us. We kiss and sigh in contentment. As I close my eyes I wake up. What did this dream mean? I felt a void through out the day. 


As I traveled my foot started to cramp up. So at multiple intervals I took breaks to stretch my foot and work out the muscles. I spot a cafe next to a church and decide to grab lunch. The barista is having what looks like a shouting match in Spanish with a coworker and is in no way interested in customers. I step out side the cafe only to see Patty from our group at a cafe on the other side of the road. My sister was also inside this cafe and we made a Starbucks joke about there being a cafe on every corner now. Wanting to spend some time alone, though I also missed my new friends I walked back to the road. And I hear three adorable tiny voices saying my name "Jesse!!!" And it's the three Chinese girls I befriended the previous day.

They said they were in the middle of trying to contact we to see if I wanted lunch. So the four of us sat down and enjoyed a meal at the grumpy barista's cafe, as it had more seating and the barista seemed to have settled down. Afterwards the four of us decided to walk the remaining way into Santiago.


My China Girls as I started to referred them: I learned so many fun and interesting facts about Chinese culture. Such as their culture is so food obsessed the traditional way to say hello is "Hello, have you eaten?" and the traditional way to say goodbye is "Goodbye, let's have dinner?" I also learned you never gift a clock to a Chinese person as it's the equivalent of saying "times up!" The ladies had such an incredible experience and I felt lucky they chose me as their roadside companion. I learned they all had three special names they go by. Gabriel goes by Gaby while her Chinese name means wisdom. Gaby was the most warm as she was collecting friends like myself on the road. YY's name means "Beautiful Song In the Morning" and she had the most lovely smile. She was also the more athletic one of the bunch. Then their was Yue, who's name means Moon though she oftentimes go by Lucky. She was the most petite of the three and the first of them that I befriended. They taught me about the significance of Chinese holidays and how to do standing meditation. 



When the four of us arrived into Santiago we took our time soaking in the beautiful and ancient city. There was something so energizing about this place. It felt like a birthday place of a supernatural experience, and for many that's true. As I parted ways with my China Girls I felt again the hang of sadness. The Camino had given me something I was so desperately in need of: friendships and community. That was the power of The Camino. I meditated on this insight while I looked to make peace with my wedding ring. I sat behind the cathedral at a cafe looking at the church as I started to tear up. As I could feel a large tear buckling in the corner of my eye a waiter at the cafe asked to take my order. I ordered a coffee and sat in silence. I wished I hadn't of had to make this journey to let go. I wish I hadn't of had to have experienced all this pain to necessitate so much healing. But here I was letting go of Katie. I placed my ring down next to my empty cup and sulked for a few minutes right as I was interrupted by a friendly German lady named Stephie. She sat down and made me laugh for a good thirty minutes. It was really nice. It was as if I had done my journey and God said "you're done Jesse, it's time for a new season and this new season begins with laughter". So I set on my journey to lay my wedding ring at the feet of Saint James’ statue in tears but instead I left my wedding ring next to an empty coffee cup in laughter. 




The Camino Adventure: Day Nine

Tuesday October 1st, 2019: Azura To Amenal 


Luck of The Irish


There's no question The Camino has been life changing. A simple thing as walking across town and country side, through forest and mud, asphalt, rain and sunshine The Camino is a beautiful journey. However the most beautiful thing I've discovered is the people. The traveling community is overwhelming! If someone sees someone in need or looking to strike up a conversation there's no shortage of opportunities to meet and interact with the most wonderful people.


It's funny how you'll meet the same person or group of people at one point then again and again and again. Such people that have in such a gentle and subtle way have moved my heart is Mary and James from Ireland. When I had hurt my knee two days back a friendly lady named Susan gave me some medicine and a knee brace. I actually didn't even know her name at the time. Susan and her friend stopped to offer their help complete unprompted and then carried on down the road. However I had given them my business card. Because I figured why not?! I brought them so I could connect with people and it's been easily the greatest networking experience I've had as well. All that aside: the evening I had been given the knee brace, as I sat down for dinner at the hotel with my group I get this message from Instagram from a lady named Susan.

Turns out the lady that helped me, was named Susan and she was reaching out to see how I was doing. I replied and thanked her again. As I walked out of the restaurant this bubbly red haired lady waves at me to come over to her group. She's tells me her friends have all been praying for me and asked about my knee. I'm thinking how in the world do these people know my name or anything about my knee?!  Well the Susan that had given me the knee brace was friends with this bubbly red haired lady and her friends were all traveling together. It was just amazing that we they were staying at the same hotel and same restaurant as my group all at the same time. We had a brief chat as I was heading off to bed. But that moment was the start of a small connection that began many many more. Crossing each other back and forth a dozen times along the way I started to feel a strange pull. Perhaps God wants me to visit Ireland? It sounds beautiful and similar to the lovely green I miss from Oregon. Eventually I learn that the bubbly red haired lady's name is Mary and her husband name is James. Well today I while sharing a stretch of The Camino with Mary and James along with their friend Neil we get to sharing our stories. I tell them I'm here for healing and the prayers for direction. I uncorked about my divorce and heart break and depression and where I had stopped eating and wanted to even end my life. It was heavy stuff but that's the beauty of The Camino: here is where you unburden yourself. The four of us stop at a cafe and enjoy a bite to eat. Neil and I ordered the same thing and they gave him the last slice of the local dish I believe translates as tortilla cake. Neil insists on sharing his meal with me, joking that he was "literally taking food out of Jesse's mouth". So I sit down with Mary, James and a Neil and we have a great chat: laughing and talking about an array of topics. From religion to politics which can be a tricky thing to navigate but it was so fun, insightful and just downright healing to make some new friends. 


After lunch we part ways as I slow down a bit to reflect and process some more of my grief. I was here for a reason and I had still felt like I was aiming in the dark for me next step. Why was I here exactly? Was it just to process my pain? Which for sure has helped but I felt deep down there was more. As I was thinking and praying about these things I say hello to a girl using a makeshift walking stick, made from an actual walking stick. We strike up a conversation and I learn that her name is Yue, which means Moon, and she's from China. Her friends had gone ahead of her but poor Yue/Moon had injured her knee so she was trailing behind. I asked if it was ok if I kept her company? And she said yes and we enjoyed hours of conversation. This was Yue's first time in Europe and her friends were traveling on a similar soul refreshing journey. Eventually Yue and I sat down for a cup of coffee and funny thing we find out that we're way ahead of her friends. Her friends catch up with us and we all decided to travel together. So here I was this giant ginger bearded man traveling with these lovely petite Asian girls from China. The four of us have a wonderful time talking about all the cultural differences from Spain to our home countries. We talk about music and film and food. I find it hilarious and amazing that Yue and I both love listening to James Taylor, what are the odds in that?! One of the girls named Gabriel I gives me all the backstory for why they're there on The Camino; how they had been introduced to the Christian faith from an English tutor who had walked The Camino and how they had decided to make the journey themselves. There even was this absolutely beautiful moment when the three girls started singing in harmony a traditional Chinese song as we were trekking through the forest. It was just surreal, as if I was being teleported to another country. I just loved it!


As we walked I kept them company until they safely got to their place of lodging. And as I was walking back towards the next town I realized I had walked some distance off the trail, close to maybe a mile away. No troubles at this point you can't be in a hurry you're just walking and spending time with nature, God and a rainbow of interesting and beautiful people. Then it struck me that passage where Jesus say’s “if someone asks you to walk a mile with them to walk with them two”! I had literally walked that extra mile just out of the sake of friendship and didn't even realize it! I felt encouraged and moved again. I was here for a purpose! Finally as I was about two forests and two towns away I bump into Susan again! It was just her and a friend and we say hello as she passes me by. Well not long after then I get miss directed. And start accidentally walking again in the wrong direction. Then I hear someone hollering my name. I turn around and it's James and we start laughing! I had apparently wondered across the hotel that James and Mary and crew were staying at that evening. James here tells me that they'd like to offer me a place to stay at his and Mary's a few nights if I'm serious about visiting Ireland. And that's when it's cemented in my heart and mind. I'm supposed to visit Ireland. It's meant to be and in no small or subtle way am I being pulled there. I don't know all the particulars yet but as a freshly christen world traveler I'll figure it out on the way. 


To add even more luck of the Irish when I arrive at our hotel Amenal who do I see but the father and daughter travelers from Ireland, Morris and Catherine! Catherine writes for a media company and she actually spent a year in college in McMinnville Oregon! Which was just wild! We're both the same age and it's just incredible how you can find so many similarities from people far and wide. Her father Morris is a realtor and I funny enough was able to do a bit of research about estate and whatnot. Now all of these dozens of kismet happenings have started to add up and I feel on the precipice of some even bigger changes in my life.


I closed the evening having spent such a wonderful day feeling sad. I was sad that tomorrow would be my last day on The Camino, not the end of my trip, but the road proper. I don't want this time to end. I've had so many profound experiences and have met so many people and made so many friends. I'm going to miss them all so dearly. Tomorrow we walk into Santiago and tomorrow Lord willing I will place my wedding ring at the Statue of Saint James. Perhaps my new friend James is a parallel to what I anticipate tomorrow. While I was unburdening myself on a new friend I'll also be unburdening myself next to the bones of the very friend of my Lord and savior the Apostle Saint James.

The Camino Adventure: Day Eight

Monday September 30th 2019: Melides to Azura


Adventures In Healing


 

I woke up not with my knee pain but with a swollen leg and foot. I had heard some people yesterday mention how I should be sure to wear my knee brace to bed. Which turned out to be just awful advice! I tried to elevate my leg to regain feeling and lower the swelling, not going to lie, inside I was kind of freaking out. But I was ok to go walking. I had some stiffness and knee pain; then this wonderful saint named Martha offered me some all natural CBD oil and that did the trick! Worked better than ibuprofen or any other recommendations. The pain went away immediately and I had zero troubles all day.


Which was perfect because I was able to walk for most of the day step by step with Deacon Mike. Deacon Mike is one of the coolest guys I've met. He's a retired L.A. homicide detective with an ocean of life experience and intense stories, whose also an ordained Deacon. I never knew really anything at all about how the Catholic Church organized itself but Deacons are effectively the Pastors of the churches. They just don't do confessions or communions. But all the regular church stuff Deacons do it! Which from my upbringing means Deacons do more than most of the Protestant pastors I knew. It was such a blast to have some one on one time this trip that I could really dive deep into rich discussions over scripture and faith. Seriously it was like having a four hour interactive sermon. I learned a novel sized insights into burning questions I've always had. I half jokingly told Deacon Mike you're starting to seriously sway me in your direction. "This stuff is so fascinating!" We talked about saints, healings, early church history and immensely more personal stuff. I just loved it!


As the last few miles remained we came across Jilly and her Grandmother. Jilly is from Belgium and her grandmother, eighty one years old are doing the pilgrimage together! And they're both just so precious! Jilly and I have become fast friends as we both have so much in common from art to music to poetry. It was like meeting a part of myself on The Camino. I seriously can't believe how much we have in common there's already plans for me to come and visit with her in Belgium. 


It's absolutely amazing to see how these friendship I've been building on the road to the bones of Saint James are actively changing the course of my life! As Jilly, her grandmother and I walked into town we bumped in again with the Irish father and daughter group, Morris & Catherine and if all goes well tomorrow we're going to sit down for drinks and share our Camino adventures together.


It's been such a wonderful time and in many ways I do wish it wasn't so close to this end of our pilgrimage portion. But such is the Way. Life's an adventure but through the journey often more than the destination.


The Camino Adventure: Day Seven

Sunday September 29th 2019: Pallas Del Rei to Melides 



Aches & Pains


First off I learned a serious life lesson. I just can't party like these Catholics haha. The previous night we got to celebrating and Chuck and I got to drinking some white wine with dinner. Like I mentioned earlier wine is cheaper than water here and it's served with everything. The wine tastes smoother and is far more delicious than the stuff you get in the States. It's just I'm not really a wine drinker. There is also a lot of sugar in it and I'm a diabetic so I especially need to take it easy with wine. But here's the thing... Chuck is a wonderful storyteller and an amazing person. So when you're chatting with Chuck you're a captivate audience. And when Chuck is pouring you another glass as he's expounding it's easy to accidentally drink three, four, five glasses of wine. Which is what happened to me.


I got sick that evening and threw up a bunch and the next morning I woke up dehydrated and with a wicked hangover. Not my finest hour but again these Catholics drink wine all the time. I'm being tongue and cheek about this but I think perhaps the Camino is an excuse to drink for them haha. So back to my hangover before we started the day: I sit down and nothing looks appetizing but I force myself to eat some surprisingly delicious eggs. Though when I started to munch on the amazing Spanish bread the crunching sounds of the crust were like a cement grinder in my head haha.


We also discovered some very sad news: my new friend Cheryl, her brother in-law had just passed away back home in the States. I gave her a hug and we both wept a bit. It breaks my heart that she's going through this pain while she's here. But in a way I'm so glad we sparked a friendship the previous day so I could in a small way be there for her. I prayed for and her family throughout the whole day.



After breakfast and as we were getting started slowly my knee which I injured yesterday began to lock up in the worst pain. I had resolved to power through it but everyone in the group that noticed my limp wouldn't stop fussing over me. I popped an ibuprofen and barreled down the road;in hopes the pain would subside but also so I could be a bit alone and not have everyone bother over me. Then person after person that recognizes my limp, many could barely speak English, offer me treatment after treatment: from meds to ointments to eventually giving me a spare knee brace. Not once did I ask for help, not once did I cry out in pain. People just saw me limping and leaning heavier on my walking sticks so they wouldn't let me refuse help. It was like having a stream of mothers rolling past me on the Camino. An Irish Dad and his daughter were the first outside my group. I had met them the day before and Catherine, the daughter kept saying my name in her adorable accent and it immediately disarmed my machismo. Then couple after couple, group and friends all brought me a bit of attention. Finally another group of Irish ladies offered me some medicine and gave me the spare knee brace I mentioned. I eventually placed my knee brace outside my pant leg just to stop everyone from continuing to offer me more assistance. These Camino Angels have completely restored my faith in people.


Micah, Ron & Patty the leaders of Immaculate Tours forced my hand and said they wouldn't allow me to walk any further for the day. I had only put in five and half miles and it was bumming me out hard. Then they called in the big guns as I was refusing the cab. They had Father Michael talk to me. He convinced me that taking a break for the rest of the day will assure I can walk tomorrow and into Santiago. Since if I hurt myself to bad I won't be able to get my certificate at the compostela, the proof that I walked the Camino.


There's a lot I've been discovering about The Camino that makes it such a unique pilgrimage. According to Chuck there are three major pilgrimages: Ephesus, Rome and Camino. Ephesus is where the Apostle Saint John was buried. Rome is where the Apostle Saint Peter settled and finally the Camino is where the Apostle Saint James bones are laid to rest. You see Jesus Christ had three particular disciples that were closer than all the others; Peter, James & John. James & John we're brothers, in the New Testament they were nicknamed by Jesus as the "Sons of Thunder".


Now the fascinating thing about the Apostle Saint James was that' James' gospel was all about you have to work so that your faith is matched by your life. It's not enough to say you agree that we should love one another or think good thoughts about others. The proof is in the pudding so to speak according to Apostle Saint James. So the Camino is an inner work that transforms your outer life.


At the beginning of the day I for the first time since Katie divorced me placed my wedding ring on. I walked a couple miles and placed a stone I had kept from our Portland apartment on a Camino mile marker. On the stone I had placed the date of my Camino, the twelve years we were married and Katie's name. I wouldn't be surprised if someone saw it and thought it was a grave stone. And truthfully it was. I cried as I placed it down but I felt lighter. After this point I took my ring off and for the first time I didn't miss the weight of the ring on my finger. Though I might change my mind where exactly; I believe I'd like to place my wedding ring at the statue of Saint James in Santiago. The greatest thing The Camino has done for me is help me properly grieve the lost of my wife and best friend. I'll always love her and a part of me will always long for what we had. But the Katie I loved for all those years died. If the Lord wills, I believe, I will find love again but the Katie I thought I knew and loved is gone forever. The Katie I loved would of never abandoned me and or of betrayed me. And that reality soaked in completely today. I've been clinging to a person that no longer exists. While I'm not without my flaws failing to love someone or a lack of devotion are just not apart of my DNA. I'm loyal, faithful and a believer in the goodness of the people I love. This is why The Camino has balanced my inner faith with and outward truth. People can be so good, kind and relentlessly loving. I'll continue to pray for Katie. But I don't want her back anymore. For what we were and what she was to me died. And this is my funeral and new life experience. I miss the relationship norms but I won't sacrifice a familiar comfort for a lack of passionate authenticity. I'm feeling more and more that God is making me a new kind of whole person. So while I'm fighting aches and pains today God is with me, and I have all the reason to be bold and fearless as a lion! Fearless to love myself and others and fearless to live life alone or otherwise.




The Camino Adventure: Day Six

Saturday September 28th 2019: Portomarin to Pasa Del Rei


Friends of The Camino


The Camino experience has been absolutely life changing! I started out traveling along with a new friend from our group named Cheryl. We shared life stories and soaked up so many little side adventures. Cheryl's husband is a photographer so she caught her shutterbug addiction from him. So we literally stopped and smelled the roses along the way taking a ton of photos on her canon camera. She deliberately said she only wanted to use her canon camera as not to be distracted by her phone. Throughout out the day it was so fun to have a traveling buddy. Cheryl and I shared life stories and the reason and meaning of our Camino with one another. She had always wanted to make the trip along with the purpose of prayer for her loved ones that are in need of healing. I told her about my recent heartbreak and divorce. I have to say what I enjoyed so much about her is as a Protestant I'm really out of the loop on a lot of the catholic nuances. And Cheryl has been to kinda and excited to explain away any particular questions I have about faith and practice. The coolest highlight about walking with Cheryl is the homework she had done about each leg of our travels, particularly the ruins. We took a slight detour and saw ruins from the 4th century BC. They were incredible! They were Gaelic and Roman and I believe they were ancient foundations of a long lost town.



Nearing the last five miles of our fifteen mile trek we came to a small cafe to stop and began like usual meeting new people and sharing stories with other pilgrims. Sitting around the table people from Australia, Ireland, Canada, and of course all across the USA, Florida, Texas, Ohio and beyond. We had also shared collected stories from other pilgrims along the way. One particular story was about an elusive pilgrim that apparently was walking the whole Camino barefoot. Another was about a man that had lost his ability to walk and miraculously regained the use of his legs that had decided to walk The Camino out of gratitude to God. Then another about a woman in a rainbow scarf that was pushing people through The Camino in a chair if they needed assistance. You could just so easily sit back and collect thousands of unique and interesting stories from people all around the world here. It's been amazing!


Cheryl and I parted ways for the last leg of the day's walk and I came across a guy named Kevin from Columbia that barely spoke English. His phone was dying so I offered him my charger. We chatted through google translate and had a blast telling each other jokes and sharing why we were on The Camino. As a thank you for the charger he bought me a beer and we soaked up the afternoon sunshine.


That evening celebrating with the group from our days journey I did however learn I'm not able to party like my catholic buddies. As I got sick from too much wine. I think I'll try and hold off tomorrow from drinking wine even though the funny thing is wine is significantly cheaper that water here haha.

The Camino Adventure: Day Five

Friday September 27th 2019


1:22am Hotel Roma in Sarria

Can't sleep still stuffed to the rafters. And truth be told I maybe ate half of the food placed in front of me. The first dish was easily three pounds of scrambled eggs with mushrooms, shrimp and some sorta meat. It was enormous! And that was just the dish before the entree and not including the heaps and heaps of bread with oil and butter and wine they stuff you with before this dish haha. These Spaniards seriously eat such larger quantities of food than I'm used to.


3:49pm between Sarria & Portamarin


Gems 


The wonderful thing about the French route of The Camino is all these hidden cafes. They're like gems in a Forrest. You'll go walking along some few miles. Maybe see some ancient cobble stone wall or a deserted ruins or a patch of dairy cows and then you'll pop into an adorable cafe. They'll have of course coffee and a restroom along with a unique stamp for your Credentials/Pilgrims Passport. They'll also have sometimes music and gourmet food. It's just so bizarre. Basically you're literally in the woods in the middle of nowhere and then out of the corner is a little cafe. And sometimes these are elaborate lodging spaces, still of course isolated from normal roads and no people aside from pilgrims in sight. It's just incredible.


Herd Of Thoughts 


Passing through a herd of dairy cows I laugh out loud as they refuse to get out of the road for anyone. They're social creatures and demand you give them attention and are even more curious about what you're doing. Perhaps it's because I've been a city folk for so long but it tickled me to see them. There's no end of livestock along this stretch. Passing by another pasture this beautiful black horse comes up to me. She pushes her face in my face and starts to nibble on my hat. I pet her as I realize she's probably expecting a snack. Just as that thought popped into my mind she pulls away tilts her head up at me and shows her gums and snorts a breath of disappointment. I can't help but laugh. It's just so cute. Moving further down the road I see the most incredible view. For a moment I begin to tear up. From my angle I can see miles of soft green pastures and ancient stone fences. Walking deeper into the forest and it's begun to rain. The trees rich and leafy green this is the first time I've felt at home since I left Portland. How is it that the scenery can look and feel so identical to Southern Oregon? I'm puzzled and again feeling moved by the moment. I think of Katie at this moment and at several intervals through out the day. At times missing her, some times shedding a tear for her, a couple times upset at her then back to praying for her. There's no question that this walk is helping me to forcefully heal from all my hurts. It makes me laugh and cry. It's very obvious to me that if it wasn't for Katie leaving me I wouldn't be here on this very journey. At first that thought stung and afterwards it has mostly become a peaceful realization. I am not the master of my life's directions. God has a work to do on me. And I'm struck with awe and elation as the Camino does this not so subtle work on my body and soul.



Well & The Many Buckets


How can I liken the Camino? Even from my short stint, knowing little and anticipating close to a fifteen mile trek in just today's journey: the Camino is like a well with an array of buckets with varying lengths of rope. So imagine one person has a long rope but a small bucket. There's depth just perhaps their depth might lack breadth. Or perhaps they have a large bucket but the rope attached to that bucket is very short. So their breadth is wide but their depth is a bit shallow. I think this analogy expresses my current experience. For a simple example my catholic companions absolutely have a greater width of understanding to the Camino. Yet myself as a Protestant, artist, and art history buff I can at times see layers to the symbols on a cathedral because I've studied them and see their universality. This isn't to disparage anyone's journey but perhaps to express how I feel that we're all dipping into this well called the Camino and we're all bound to be filled up with a different perspective and from different depths. The Camino is bigger than any denomination and bigger than religious beliefs.



Fairy Tale Forests & Foreign Friends


Along The Camino we've bumped across the kind of nature you really only read about in books. The idyllic countrysides just leap forward like living paintings. The grasses and forests and trees; rich greens and I'm at awe. So many little corners teleport me to the Shire or some Brothers Grimm fable. Millions of tiny acorns line the forest floor as the oak trees twist in all directions. I feel as if a mythical creature is going to pop onto the road and want to grants me wishes in exchange for some mad thing beyond reason haha. I can't fully express exactly how my mind has been changing just traversing through the trails but it has. I've found myself alone at times and with a group, then alone again then having chats with complete strangers which somehow you'll pass then they'll pass you then back and forth until you've both in bite like motions have learned a novels worth of their lives. It's been wonderful. And everyone you meet has a spirit of generosity and kindness - from the pilgrims(peregrinos) to the vendors in the shops and cafes. There's only the rare pebble in the shoe when you'll come across a "tourist" so to speak, typically they seem to be twenty something persons with their friend. They look more like they're off to a trip to the gym especially as their athletic clothes unbeknownst to them is gonna tear from the bracken and black berry branches and their fancy shoes are in for a world of soiling as you're trudging through mud and cow pat haha. Basically they'll give you the cold shoulder and won't say hello or "Bon Camino" on the road. I think it might have to do with the French Route being the most popular. Nonetheless all the rest of the people are just so amazing! From young to old the smiles and warm hellos are a currency in no short form. Make no mistake you're welcome on this road and they're excited to see you.


10:14pm at the Hotel Villa Jardin in Portomarin


Walking fifteen mile from Sarria to Portomarin I'm exhausted. I slipped into my room, and what felt like a breath I had fallen asleep for twenty minutes. Micah accidentally wakes me up as she mentions she's heading off to do some tasks. I hear these wonderful voices coming through the wall. The weary saints were having a mass nearby. I couldn't believe they had the energy. It was beautiful even though I wasn't in attendance. I opted to take a shower and get ready for supper. I felt like I was falling asleep at the dinner table. Today really stretched me, mentally and bodily. Surprisingly I wasn't very hungry. But I tried my best. I had hoped I'd of built up a Spain sized appetite but honestly I think my body was still working on the previous feast. Tomorrow we have an even more arduous day but we'll me cutting through more of cities. I'm excited and exhausted so I'll do my best to goto bed quickly tonight.



The Camino Adventure: Day Four

Thursday September 26th, 2019


1:04am Palafox Hotel

Having a bit of trouble getting to sleep so I decided to shower and do some light packing. I haven't mastered the hot water issues here. It basically goes from the temperature of lava to McDonald's coffee haha! Plus the pressure is so powerful mix that with the heat and you feel like you're losing up to two layers of dermis with each shower haha. 


2:13am Palafox Hotel

I've been fighting with my thoughts. I took a bath to unwind. It didn't really help much. What am I going to do after the Camino? In my heart I know it's a silly thing to strive over as the very purpose of this pilgrimage is to answer that question and recenter my soul. Yet my mind has been racing the last hour. I have some options I've been weighing, some involve moving back to the Pacific Northwest and reclaiming my roots. Some involve digging deep and discovering roots in California while others involve even more unfamiliar territory and traveling to distant states or even countries. That's the thing, my mind is just striving, racing to an end which is ultimately robbing me of sleep and the day by day beauty of the Camino. I just need to air this stinking thinking and enjoy the present. My mind doesn't have these answers but my heart does or rather will. Because even if I never return or if I'm radically transformed all of these troubles are paralysis of a hypothetical analysis. I'm getting in touch with my God, myself and my spiritual heritage. A few of the pilgrims made little jokes about me converting to Catholicism I laughed it off, because in my mind's eye I'm already catholic is the sense that the word "Catholic" means: of a universal Christian faith. 


Father Michael and I had in-depth conversation about faith and spirituality and it's been such a treat. A lot of my misconceptions about Catholics have been readily being dissolved. However here doesn't feel natural to list them perhaps another time. But what has really seared my conscience is the love that these people have for their Maker and the richness in which they express that. I told Father Michael a rather controversial thought I had, which I'm adamant in it though I understand many people might be offended to hear it. I told Father Michael that I personally believe as an artist and storyteller that religious folks and people of faith have a greater propensity to connect through stories. We just do! If you're an atheist a symbol will never have the kind of powerful significance to you as it does as a person of faith; for from our point of view we're sharing actual believed to be true stories! Doesn't matter how sensitive or creative you are if you're an atheist everything of spiritual significance just doesn't have the same weight. And there's power in believing something to being true over just something being interesting or insightful. If you hold nothing sacred or truthful no symbol in the world however personal has the same strength, it's just your personal point of view floating along. Sure I get this is a preachy idea but if you give it any moment to think about it you'll see what I'm getting at. Think of it like this say a child believes in Santa to them the evidence is insurmountable, Santa loves them and thinks about them and even rewards them for their goodness. 


Now perhaps it's an unfair comparison of a child's beliefs in Santa to say that of a Catholic believing that the Eucharist or communion supernaturally becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but I'm not poking fun at all! You see just because you don't believe something, especially in the realm of faith doesn't mean you're better than the believer: it really only shows that you don't understand and feel the significance. Taking this idea a bit further I'm realizing that when I connect with another person it's not because they entertained me but because they made me believe something was true about them. And that revelation created an empathetic thread to them. So when we lie to each other or rather tell stories that are not meant to be believed we attempt to create an artificial connection with others. Perhaps this is why over exposure to social media can make us feel depressed? Or when someone we've loved for over a decade professes they've moved on and what was inside them towards you is now dead? To believe in something is really an awesome thing yet when I stop believing I feel like I'm unraveling my purpose for living. This might just be a bit of a stream of consciousness but there's a logic here that speaks to my heart. So while these pilgrims jest that I might be converted I also deeply hope I am! I hope that I experience such an encounter that I can believe in the goodness of others, the power of prayer, the strength of my inner self and the roots of my faith in a greater capacity.



9:34am on the bus to Sarria

Laying down in the back of the bus listening to James Taylor and I'm feeling at peace. His music has a strong connection with my childhood. My Dad's folks lived way out in the sticks in Southern Oregon and they'd often be blasting James Taylor records. So whenever I'm listening to James Taylor I feel immersed in those times of nature and comfort at their home. He’s one of those artist that the older I get the more depth I find in his music. He just gets me. He's down to earth, cool with faith, family and Jesus. I dig it. I'm also sure there's a track at any moment of his that could be the soundtrack to much of my life. I've cried a lot of healing tears these past few months from my heart break and divorce listening to his tunes. I hate that I'm divorced so much. It feels like a scarlet letter. But this is my reality and I can't run from it. There's a question in my mind I haven't been able to escape. Will I ever let go of the flame I have for my ex wife? I get were divorced and she's decided to cut me out of her life but it's hard to let go. I heard a lot of advice from people and loved ones on how to move on or process this stuff. Some advice was well intended, and some was excellent advice but if I'm being completely honest few people I know have been in truly the exact same shoes, having their spouse or loved one leave them and no longer love them. I know people mean well but at the end of the day it's my life and I need to learn to take care of myself as it effects me the greatest. Basically you have the most skin in the game of your life. I just feel so alone sometimes.


There's a silly idea that popped in my mind that I might discover love on the Camino and that while completely hypothetical it has given me a pinch of comfort. I just miss the normalcy of affection I had for so long. I miss holding someone and being held myself. I'm glad I'm here and I'm glad I'm taking this time to work on my inner being. 



6:37pm almost to Sarria 


Today we took a stop off in the town of Burgos to have lunch and tour the local cathedral. By far the most animated tour guide we've had. Her name was Gloria and she was hilarious! We'd be walking through the town and she'd say after we awed and gasped at some architectural details and say "oh and you'll forget all about this in a minute after you see this next. Honestly this is nothing" and she'd wave her hand at it like it was garbage. 


When we arrived to the town square we had a short lunch break. I had the lamb and a side of black pudding, my first time trying that dish. I shared some with Father Michael whose Irish and his eyes widened and in his adorable accent said"oh that's the real stuff" as he smiled from ear to ear. I'm so much enjoying his company. He's just this precious minster and exceptionally kind person. He feels like the Irish Papa I never had. Moments earlier when we were on the bus Father Michael and I had spotted a lady on the corner arrayed in a wedding dress and he looks over at me and says "we've gotta bride looking for a groom I suppose". We both laughed. 


Lunch was really nice until we realized we had to rush to our tour. The Burgos cathedral while not as large as the Zaragoza Cathedral was everything your art history classes showed you. It was grand, over the top, at times modest and every inch serine. In the Zaragoza cathedral along with the Burgos cathedral you'll often see a mosaic or facade where there's angelic people and they all have the same faces and expressions. It can be argued that the artist was just trying to save time on another reference model but the more accurate interpretations is that the belief that we're all the same in God's eye and heaven. You'll see this half asleep half awake expression on everyone's face to show them that their in a deep sense of tranquility. The funny thing in my opinion is this expression is also found in Buddhism and Hinduism to: the expression of inner peace just looks the same across the pond and in other works of art.


There was really only one upset inside the Burgos cathedral. I had forgotten to take my hat off. Honestly the previous cathedral had displayed proper reminders and such at the door so I hadn't seen anyone say otherwise. I'm not catholic, and a hat isn't hurting anyone from my point of view. Heck Jewish men wear special hats as an expression of their faith so I still don't see the big idea. Well some dude in a thick accent snaps at me to remove my hat. So realizing my faux pas I apologized and quickly removed my hat. I need to be more mindful of the cultural milieus. All that aside the Burgos cathedral was truly amazing! Unlike the Zaragoza cathedral they allowed photography so I went crazy and took a ton of photos.


Outside the cathedral we all got our first stamp on our journey. Outside we also see other "peregrinos" or Camino Pilgrims. A young couple from France that clearly had too much sun and another group from Chile. The guy in that group was wearing sandals to help air out some gnarly blisters he got on his feet after his last thirty mile stretch. Hopefully we're not in for that future but I assume only time will tell. 


7:37pm bus to Sarria


For the last 50 plus miles the landscape has dramatically and beautifully been transformed into what looks like southern Oregon. Thick green forest and mountains covered in trees. If it wasn't for the occasional castle or other distinctly Spainish ruins I'd be convinced I had awoken to my old home state.


11:14pm Hotel Roma Sarria, Spain


We just finished up dinner and did a quick prep for the next day's adventure. I feel so stuffed it hurts to lie down. These Spaniards eat crazy large portion haha. Tomorrow is projected to be a fifteen mile hike. I'm a little nervous if I'm being honest. I don't wanna get any nasty blisters. Oh well I've done all the prepping I can do thus far, onward we go! 

The Camino Adventure: Day Three

Wednesday September 25th 2019


5:09am Palafox Hotel Zaragoza, Spain


So I woke up fully rested then looked and saw it was 4am. This time zone jet lag has got my body all out of wack haha. However last night I tried a gamble with some food. In the States whenever I eat pork products I get just awful stomach cramps, feel flu-y and have bathroom troubles. Since I'm here and at a nice hotel I decided to risk eating some ham. So far no problems! We'll see how it goes tomorrow but if I can eat ham or bacon while I'm in Europe and not feel unwell like I do in the USA I'd say that'd make this whole trip worth taking haha.


Yesterday I made a new friend with a fellow pilgrim in the Camino group. His name is Chuck and he's probably my Dad's age. He's this Native American looking dude with a booming Texas minister's voice. He's an amazing storyteller and has such a passionate spiritual walk. He recently started a nonprofit that helps provide housing for homeless people, which is incredible! We both dreamed out loud in how I might possibly assist using my nerdy tech and artsy fartsy skills. We'll see what the future holds. Nonetheless it's nice making a new friend. Chuck is a bit of a Camino pilgrim junkie as this is his fourth pilgrimage. 


11:30pm Retuned To Palafox Hotel after seeing the Basilica backlit in the cool summer breeze. What an incredibly full day! So it's official I can enjoy pork products with no gastrointestinal troubles! Woohoo!

So we toured the Basilica and Zaragoza ( pronounced "Tharagossa") and enjoyed the local history, landmarks and cuisine. What a beautiful city. The city feels both large and small at the same time. Built by the Romans, occupied by the Muslims and recreated by the Christians. There's such a rich and diverse character to Zaragoza. The Basilica as I discovered by Father Michael is a cathedral but unlike your average Protestant church it houses dozens of smaller churches or chapels within it, each having multiple services or masses every hour every day of the week. So while it's by far this overwhelmingly magnificent building it serves the community nonstop.


The cathedral has this multilayered history. Throughout every inch is masterpieces after masterpieces. From the most elaborate facades to stunning paintings, some by the Spanish artist Goya. Father Michael tells me the lush imagery were the ancient visual aids for the teachers and ministers. Each piece of art told a powerful story. I could easily consume a week attempting to digest all the wonders of this cathedral. It's as if they placed a ceiling over the sky to bring us closer to heaven, just breathtaking!


Our group reserved the chapel of St. Anthony and had a mass. I being non-Catholic, yet still Christian found the whole experience beautifully foreign yet strangely familiar. There's so much to really share of the spiritual experience perhaps I'll unpack more such details as I attend more. After our mass we had a special pilgrim ceremony. Ron Tindage our guide initiated the shelling, for lack of better term. We were all given a shell necklace which symbolizes our pilgrimage. We were also given a couple trinkets which I'm still learning about, a St. James' pin, a rosary made by these nuns from another church and our pilgrims passport. The pilgrims passport is this really cool like book that you need to collect stamps from local shops and vendors along the Camino so at the very end it proves you walked the way. 


There's little critique I can give to my experience at Zaragoza aside from the silly plumbing, be prepared to be puzzled on how to use their showers, and the smoking. Plain and simple everyone in this city smokes cigarettes and constantly. A crowd could be circulated around a group of children all the adults like chimneys billowing smoke in all directions. So that was for sure a culture shock to me. Lung cancer be damned they're smoking everywhere and all the time. I got a bit of a headache from having to walk through so much of it.


Aside from that I'm absolutely loving it here! Spain is an exciting place to visit. And the group has really been just wonderful. I purchased a small pocket sized journal so I can really spill all my notes and experiences on the go as I walk along the upcoming days. We're heading out tomorrow to a place called Sarria then the following day we'll begin the serious adventure.

The Camino Adventure: Day Two

Tuesday September 24th 2019

 

10:07am on the bus Zaragoza


I can't fully describe how wonderful it feels to be able to fully recline my seat. My back has felt a bit like an accordion most of the last 16hrs. Now just to force myself to stay awake so I can sleep through the night and get on Spain time which is 9hours ahead of Los Angeles time.


There's a calm to the country side as Father Michael wraps up some blessings for us pilgrims. Soon following we hear a cover of the Leonard Cohen song "hallelujah" sung by probably a local artist in Spanish. I can't escape how much Spain looks like Northern California. Flat plains, rolling hills, splash of tree tops that line the not to distant mountains. Then every few miles the landscape changes, folds into prairies then back into craggy rocks, grass hill sides then lush mountains. Spain you're beautiful!


12:59pm Rest Stop & Restaurant 

We stopped for lunch at a rest stop slash market place. Boy are the Spanish obsessed with pork or "jamon". It's honestly difficult to not see that as their meat option on just about everything. While I'm planning on trying out the jamon here despite my allergy I'm gonna wait until I've got a bit more settled as we're still an hour and half away from our hotel in Zaragoza. The bread here however is just wonder! Fresh, crispy, chewing and has a golden crumb to it. I'm most definitely a fan of Spanish breads! Yum!



11:15pm Zaragoza, Spain🇪🇸 

What a long full day! We're spending tonight and tomorrow in the Palafox Hotel. While the Spanish country side was gorgeous once we arrived here in Zaragoza I felt like I was in Spain, like I was no longer in the USA. We arrived around 3pm and got settled in. I took a quick nap followed by an even quicker shower. Then we had dinner at 7:30pm, which apparently was a special request because "Spain Time" usually means dinner after 9pm. The meal was good but the real shining thing to me was the coffee! Wow! I absolutely love Spanish coffee! The coffee in Portland has been my gold standard so the coffee in Los Angeles has been really disappointing. But boy am I in love with Spanish coffee! It's rich and flavorful. It's typically served in a tiny cup and black and it's so complex. With caramel and floral notes yet still creamy with the chocolatey tastes of the beans. For me I hardly enjoy a cup of warm coffee as I prefer cold brew. The process of cold brew keeps the coffee creamy as heat usually strips the oils from the beans away. But not here in Spain! The coffee even while hot is just so delicious! Anyhoo I could wax and wane about their coffee all evening. Having trouble staying awake as this travel has been so steady. 

The Camino Adventure: Day One

Monday September 23rd 2019


12:16am Huntington Beach California 


Still can't sleep. I thought taking a bath would of mellowed me out. But I'm still too excited! My whole body feels like it's tickling in anticipation! I just wanna head out the door now and start my adventure haha! Need to force myself to sleep a few hours before we head out the door at 3:30am.



5:59am LAX

Just made it through the largest airport I've ever seen haha! Portland airport seems like a one horse town in comparison. I've paired down so much since my divorce that aside from a few items I'm carrying almost everything thing I own on the Camino; my checked bag and the stuff I have on me. It feels strangely good to be living so light. Perhaps this is the spirit of The Camino; learning to live lighter to live richer.



10:08am PST  at 10,000 in the air traveling to Newark Airport 

I've already fallen asleep a few times in small ten to fifteen minute intervals. My lack of rest is starting to catch up with me and this is only the first leg haha. I'll be landing in Newark airport with a couple hours layover then hoping onto the next flight to Madrid. On the shuttle over I asked a silly question. "Is Madrid a big airport?" The reply was " Oh yes, they hosted the Olympics not long ago." I guess I never needed to pay attention to those details before. 


When we land in Madrid what I understand is we've got two long bus rides, one three hours long the other seven hours long before we finally and officially start our walk on the Camino. I've been in pretty good spirits most of the day except for one moment when I over heard some older couples brag about how long they had been married. One couple said forty years while the other said forty eight years! They continued to talk about being each other's one and only since high school and how so many people doubted they would of lasted so long. My heart broke for a few moments and I began to miss my ex wife. I never wanted for our love to end and I still very much love and miss her. I'm reminded of the overwhelming purpose of my Camino walk. I need to find greater peace and enduring strength. I've been exceptionally low these last few months and while I'm not 100% out the woods I do feel with each day I'm growing towards a new type of whole. She was my world and I need to discover a new one.


On another note I've been so impressed with my sister, Micah. I can't believe how incredibly talented she is at running these pilgrimages/trips, even with the journey barely begun she's a natural at hospitality and a master at having all these travel plans sorted out. To my last recollection there will be around thirty plus of us all together on this trip. And Micah has the perfect temperament for making people feel comfortable and at ease with this. I guess it's just crazy seeing this side of my sister. She's just so darn professional haha. 


You know it's funny how much you can take for granted walking and stretching about. As a man of 6foot 2inches these flights can make you feel a bit packed in like a sardine. The flight attendants have been pleasant but I've gotta say their job doesn't look easy. Effectively their job is waitressing on a cramped vehicle with no existing until we've arrived at our destination. Not an easy gig by any means. God bless these saints in the service industry doing their darnedest to make us fussy passengers feel comfy haha. 



11:27am PST  at 20,000 in the air still traveling to Newark airport 

Ok I'm gonna be a little mean here. But perhaps it's not odd to everyone else as I hardly ever saw this stuff in Portland compared to Los Angles. There's one particular flight attendant, no fault to her job or friendliness, but she's had so much plastic surgery done her whole face looks artificial. As she hands people their drinks I can clearly see its physically uncomfortable for her to close her enormous puckered up fish lips. Why do women feel this pressure to manufacture this cartoonish youth? I understand as a man we're sorta playing a different game, we look generally better with age. Outside of gaining weight which we can lose in an instant as a man I just look more handsome when I'm more rugged. Yet personally I don't really care for it when women plaster on layers of makeup and whatnot. I think makeup should make natural features pop instead of looking painted on out of thin air. I'd rather see acne scares and thin lips instead of this adult industry looks so many of these poor women are going for. I think wrinkles and gray hair and muffin tops are attractive! I don't want to look like a baby face twenty year old, especially since I'm thirty seven. I'm happy with my appearance, well most of the time. Too many Cheetos will make me feel like a lump but bodies are supposed to stretch and droop and sag with time haha. However, I'm sure this is probably offensive to someone because as a man I shouldn't look at women as if they're here to please me eyes. But honestly that's not even close to what I'm ranting about. I just feel that excessive efforts to capture a caricature of young age perplexes and averts me. We all judge a book by its cover and I wonder what others think of me, a tall, bald ginger bearded Scottish-Irish American man. But to me plain can be so much more beautiful than ornate. Well end of my soapbox and maybe I'm just tired haha.


8:32pm Newark Airport NJ eastern standard time.


We're about to take off for Madrid. Wow is this plane enormous! There's seven seats to a row!  Starting to feel quite exhausted so will try and get some sleep. My first time flying over the Atlantic Ocean I'm so excited and dog tired haha.


11:21pm 25,000 feet up still flying to Madrid eastern standard time 


Rocking out to "Working Man" by Rush! Such a good band!!! I don't know why I'm not banging their tunes more often. I'm feeling fantastic! Had dinner and Micah aka the fixer gave me some ibuprofen for some back pain! Been drawing a ton on these flights and I'm really finding a new groove. Amped to be trying a new artistic flair. It's a funny thing as an artist and animator you want your work to be cute but also sophisticated enough that you can cover an array of subjects. Been working on a possible series that's quite autobiographical, at least the adventures this character is experiencing are autobiographical. It's about a ginger Sasquatch. I wrote the first story that covers divorce and am working on two more. One that deals with spirituality/faith and the other that deals with mental health/thoughts of self harm. I guess I'm taking my dear friend Michael Gettel-Gilmartin's advice to heart: "write what you know and write what you love". So I know this tuff life stuff and I love Sasquatches. 


So my official day two of the Camino will begin sometime between my flight to Madrid. So this days entry will be a bit disjointed. I only had one more big sad feels over Katie when I attempted to watch a movie on my phone. It was the Detective Pokémon movie, as it was the last film we saw together before she left me. It might be sometime before I'll be able to fully enjoy certain films especially that one.  I do miss her but it's a strange reality I wouldn't be on this very plane ride had she not of left me. So missing her perhaps isn't the correct feeling. I guess I just hope and pray she's alright, that's she's safe and maybe just maybe learning how to be brave. And that she's taking good care of my cat Doc. I miss his fluffy little gray face.