Thursday, September 4, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

Endless Summer at Ender's Island

Remarkable people make my life whole - Susan M.

Sieze the day; hacia la luz - Pat

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday March 28 2008

Coon Cat Reflecting in New Hampshire

The time;
not now
But when?

A charmed life
with charming people

Monday, December 31, 2007

Holiday Letter 2007

Camino de Santiago Special Edition

Season’s Greetings Everyone, December 2007

Here I sit at a small cafĂ© in Windsor, England (waiting to have tea with the Queen, of course) realizing it is already December and I need to get moving on this year’s holiday letter and drawing. At long last it is a sunny but blustery day and sitting in this cozy cafe is giving me time to reflect on 2007. My head is spinning just thinking about all that has gone on. It has been a busy, fun filled year of travel, change, packing, saying goodbyes, unpacking, making new friends, knitting, walking and contemplation. Here are some highlights:

· Going to Ethiopia not once but twice. It is a fascinating country.
· Being treated like a VIP when I went for day surgery at Al Hada hospital
· Lighting 45 candles for my birthday celebration
· One last boat dive on the Red Sea – a beautiful day but I can still feel the waves
· Saying good bye to many wonderful and kind people I met while living in Saudi. I miss the teachers, the students, the families, nurses, the staff, the shop owners in Taif, the lentil soup man, the bread man, the BA guys, and friends in Jeddah and Dhahran
· Saying hello again to friends in Petra and Amman and walking through Petra with 10 year old Hadeel – she would not let me walk alone fearing I would get lost
· Hanging out one last time at Michele’s swimming pool in Jeddah
· Starting the baby blanket knitting project/book – it has been well received and I expect the first draft to be completed by April
· Visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa and wishing I could stay longer
· Shipping 110 kilos to the states and having all 8 bags eventually arrive stateside
· Being escorted through the airport in Jeddah as I did my final exit
· Taking an eventful Greyhound bus from Denver to Vail with first, the bus driver deciding to throw off a passenger for no apparent reason before we even took off and then 10 minutes into the trip while the driver is trying to maneuver around rush hour traffic in Denver a lady comes to the front of the bus and says, “I am not one to complain, but….”
· A weekend backpacking trip with Steve in the Snowmass wilderness area, meeting 8 crazy men from S Carolina on their yearly gourmet trek, watching the meteorite shower on a cloudless night by the lake
· Two weeks in New England and realizing not to wear a lot of pink around the Springfield, MA bus station if I want to blend in
· Having a great Couchsurfing ( experience in Paris
· Spending a day at Mont St Michele when the tide was out
· Visiting the candle capital of the world – Lourdes, France
· Walking the Camino de Santiago - 900km in 45 days with only 3 really wet days
· Watching the baby blanket story unfold as all kinds of people partook in knitting some of it from around the world – also a set back occurs as I mistakenly left the blanket under a bed two weeks into my walk
· Taking the Eurostar from London to Paris – very easy and fast
· Seeing the Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall in NYC
· Comparing holiday light displays in London, Paris and New York City. London was OK, Paris had some nice traditional decorations, but NYC was over the top – I loved it.
· Best of all was connecting and reconnecting with family, friends, and people

As most of you know I took a year off starting in June to walk the Camino de Santiago to reflect, think, and to practice being in the moment. I will say my aching feet kept me in the present with every painful step. However, I did have many glorious days to walk and think and I will share some of that with you now (please see below); the real trip letter will come later in 2008.

For now I plan to be in the Denver area until June taking a class, studying for an exam to be certified as a secondary math teacher, writing the children’s story, working part-time tutoring math, writing, and looking for my next teaching job. Will it be in Mali or Egypt or Syria or Saudi or Madagascar?

I will close with a quote I came to appreciate very much this year. It is by Thich Nhat Hahn from “The Miracle of Mindfulness”.

“The miracle is to walk on Earth”

Happy trails to you,

Becky Stateside

PS for the fun of it I wanted to list places I walked around in 2007

Addis Ababa, Axum, Lalibela, Jeddah, Dharan, Shashamanee, Petra, Amman, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Denver, Seattle, Hanover New Hampshire, Woodstock and Burlington Vermont, Suffield, Norwich and Mystic Connecticut, Washington DC, Baltimore, Annapolis Maryland, Paris, Lessay, Mont St Michele, Bordeaux, Lourdes, St Jean Pied de Port, Roncesvalles, Burgos, Leon, Ponferrada, Astorga, Pamplona, Santiago, Fisterre, Muxia, Madrid, Toledo, London, Windsor, Eton, Reading, Oxford, Coventry, and New York City.

Walking the Camino de Santiago

St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago – 776 km
Fisterre to Muxia to Santiago – 123 km

Number of days: 45

Weather: lots of sun, 3 wet days, cool in the morning then nice temps by 10:00am

Start: Sept 22
End: Nov 5

Status: Solo

Trail: it is well marked by yellow arrows and scallop shell markers

Food: coffee, bread, cheese, bocadillos, tortilla, fries, chicken, fish, pasta, tuna, canned corn, wine, chocolate

Best meal: Paella at Fisterre

Accommodations: Pilgrim hostels – basic but functional

Best Hostel: Granon because it was a full house with 48 pilgrims and we all sat down for dinner and breakfast. Because it was a full house the overflow people slept in the choir loft and I thought it was very special despite it being cold. The hosts were great and made it look very easy caring for 48 needy pilgrims.

Cost: on average about 25 euros per day

Weight of backpack: never weighed it but estimate about 20 lbs starting off and then about 15 as I unloaded the pack three separate times

Why: to walk and to have time on my side

My 16 second elevator answer to “How was it?”: It was a great way to see Spain and I experienced 5 things: tolerance, insight, inspiration, community and camino magic.

Songs that popped into my head as I walked: Morning Has Broken, I am on Top of the World, On the Road Again, I have been Every Where Man, The Bear went over the Mountain, Hey Jude, to name a few

The Best Part: every day is a new day with new places, new people, and being outdoors

The “I could do without this” Part: the snoring and blisters

The Best Rest Spot: Muxia for 2 days

What did I learn: I am on the right path

Here are some excerpts from the journal I kept during the walk:

Sept 22 9:45pm

I feel cheated and robbed on my first day out. What rotten luck to have the whole day socked in! The mist was heavy and soaked everything. Normally I wouldn’t mind but today of all days was the day to be in the Pyrenees and you could hardly see 25 feet ahead. I could only imagine how beautiful the views could have been.

Sept 27 7pm

Day 6 of the walk and I am in pain. My poor feet are hot, tired, and bothered with blisters to boot. No longer is walking a natural thing. I have to think about it – how and where to put pressure on my feet. Each foot is in different pain so I have to try and accommodate each, resulting in a funny waddle that is not making me laugh. It made me a bit sad today because here I was on a very nice dirt road walking through vineyards with great views and try as I might I could only wince with each step rather than to be at peace enjoying the walk. My body is telling me loud and clear to rest more and to get rid of some weight.

Oct 7 7:45pm

Walked 28.5 km from Burgos and my feet can tell. The first 20 km went fine and then my feet started getting tired but still OK. It wasn’t until I got to the “Good Luck Spring” when my luck turned for the worse. They say if a pilgrim soaks their feet in the cold spring water (the water is freezing cold) then their feet should suffer no more on the camino. I happened to change socks to put on the extreme-hiker-no-seams-very-expensive socks and that is when my feet started to tense up and ache. The socks were left behind.

Oct 15 2:15pm

Now I am Hospital de Orbigo with a bottle of Vina Ruperez from the Rioja region. It is a sunny day and I’m in a beautiful, peaceful setting at the pilgrim’s hostel. The walk was short only 11km but I wanted another ½ day to rest – mountains are on the horizon.

Oct 17 8:00pm

You should be here. Spanish music, soulful music, is being played in the kitchen while the hosts cook. It smells amazing. From what I can see so far is salad, soup, and pasta for 14 people. I am ready for a good meal after today’s walk. I think one of the bests yet with old stone villages, some crumbling apart while others are neat and tidy and romantic, woods to walk through, autumn colors, mountains, blue sky, and comfortable temps.

Oct 27 7:00pm

Today was the day! We still didn’t know how far to walk today but was glad to be walking towards the full moon. By 3pm we realized we were only 5km away from Santiago so why not go for it. Alain and I decided to stay in the hostel since it would be his last night being a pilgrim after nearly 3 months on the camino (he started in Le Puy, France)….Alain and I shared a big bear hug at the cathedral – he was done. I still had leg 2 to do but knew the longest part was behind me.

Nov 6 8pm

On Sunday (Nov 3) morning at daybreak (~8am) I set off in the ground fog and was already chilled to the bone. Partly due to the adrenaline rushing through my blood which I hear can make you cold. The adrenaline was rushing because I was out in farm land with small villages and big guard dogs – no make that junkyard dogs because they were big and mangy – and not chained up. I knew the slightest noise or scent would set them off in a tizzy and with most farmers asleep or in the fields, no one would be around to witness the attack. I walk with bated breath feeling neither hunger nor exhaustion, conscious only of the threat with every step. This feeling lasted 10 hours until I reached the next hostel.

Nov 7th 3pm

Nov 5th was my last full day of walking. Again, the brilliant sun painted a wonderful picture with fall colors in the dense woods. I took this walk slowly and no longer feeling and threats of dogs, getting lost, and lack of time… I walked on thinking back over the last 44 days. The people, the places, the weather, the laughs, the picnics, the sleepless nights, and the common goal we all shared. The miracle is to walk on Earth.

A Pilgrim’s Pray

To know the way,
We go the way;
We do the way
The way we do
The things we do.
It’s all there in front of you,
But if you try hard to see it,
You’ll only become confused

I am me,
And you are you,
As you can see;
But when you do
The things that you can do,
You will find the way,
And the way will follow you. – Benjamin Hoff

Peregrinos, Pyrenees, plateau, plains, poplars, pines, pavement, pebbles – R Tumicki

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Quotes Part III - Way of the Peaceful Warrior


Quotes Part III
From The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Stay in the present, stay where you are – there you are safe. The demons are in the past. The door is the future – Beware

Cultivate a simple lifestyle of few desires; that way you always have enough money.

Insight and discipline to choose the simple way.

The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more but developing the capacity to enjoy less.

The time is now, the place is here.

Changes to show up on the inside

Body exists in the here and now. Mind lives only in the past or future – its power over you is to draw attention out of the present.

Stay in the present moment. There you are safe. Keep your attention in the present moment. This is freedom from suffering, from fear, from mind.

I am a warrior so my way is action.

Embody what you teach, and teach only what you have embodied.

A warrior can rely on the power of love, of kindness, of service – and the power of happiness

Happiness attains you – but only after you surrender everything

Your path will guide you; you cannot lose your way.

Better never begin; once begun, better finish

Life is the only teacher

The call – life’s longing for itself

Calls – do something, be something, change something. Calls towards whatever we’ve dared and double-dared ourselves to do for as long as we can remember.

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

We can’t help but approach the prospect of following our deepest callings with both exhilaration and terror.

Quotes Part IV - The Alchemist

7th Grade Students Al Hada

Quotes Part IV
From The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes it interesting

It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary

To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation

People learn early in their lives what is their reason for being – maybe that’s why they give it up so early

The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself

Dreaming gives me something to live for

Sometimes there’s just no way to hold back the river

Never stop dreaming. Follow the omens.

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it

There is a force that wants you to realize your Personal Legend; it whets your appetite with a taste of success.

God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.

Urim – white stone – no

Thummim – black stone – yes

The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon (never forget what is true and dear to you)

Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

The desert is a capricious lady, and sometimes she drives men crazy

The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being.

Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of Life

People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want

When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the soul of the universe

All things of manifestations of one thing only

Because people become fascinated with pictures and words and wind up forgetting the Language of the World.

If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.

Don’t be impatient. Eat when it’s time to eat. And move along when it is time to move along.

He felt the urge to go out into the desert to see if its silence held the answers to his questions.

Always heed the omens

The secret is here in the present

All of us know that whoever believes in dreams also knows how to interpret them

To die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day.

You already know all you need to know. I am only going to point you in the direction of your treasure

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find your treasure so that everything you have learned along the way makes sense.

Life attracts life

Are you a man of the desert knowing that you have to go away in order to return?

The omens will abandon you because you’ve stopped listening to them.

One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.

I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.

Listen to your heart

In pursuing your dreams, you might lose everything you’ve won.

The fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself.

Strongest qualities – courage, enthusiasm

Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and that’s where your treasure is.

The path was written in the omens and there was no way I could go wrong.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quotes Part II - What Should I do with My Life

Dead Sea, Jordan

Quotes Part II – from What Should I Do with my Life and other favorite sayings

When there is no desire, all things are at peace

In dwelling, live close to the ground

In thinking, keep to the simple

In conflict, be fair and generous

In governing, don’t try to control

In work, do what you enjoy

In family life, be completely present

From “What Should I do with my Life” article

What do I do next vs to what can I devote my life?

Who you are vs what you do

What is freedom for if not the chance to define for yourself who you are?

We are all writing the story of our own life. It’s not a story of conquest. It’s a story of discovery

What gifts do we have to offer the world?


What in my life builds meaning for me?

What do I do that I like?

What do I do and like that has impact on people?

What calls out to me in life?

What do I expect and want?


Give it the time it requires – don’t rush

Involves clarity


Involves deep interests


Deeply excited about doing something

Deeply engaged in doing it

Themes present during those times


Blessed with the ultimate privilege – our economy is vast

Filter out chatter that tells you to be someone your not

To learn the sound of your own voice

To ask the Question and seek out a path to the Answer



Turning points

Having more choices makes answering the question harder

Face up to the challenge; armed with weaknesses and equipped with fears

What really matters when it comes to work?

Whisper – faint urge – that’s the call – it’s up to you to do the work of discovery

Never a single right answer

At some point it feels right to choose

Stumbling Blocks


Even with financial independence to walk away, people rarely do

Making a change comes from a personal trigger

The shortest route to the good life involves building the confidence that you can live happily within your means

Embracing your dreams is liberating

Have a sense of purpose

Spending habits reorganize

You discover you need less

Your callings, most often, comes after great difficulties

Connect with people emotionally not just rationally

What moves your heart to put up with the down sides?


Your calling is not always what makes the brain happy

Don’t ask what I am good at – this is intensity not passion

Passion – meaningful + fulfilling

Is your choice something that will stimulate you for a year or something you can be passionate about for 10 years?

My life plan should be






What belief system will I adopt?