Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lewis "Mucaw" Jefferson (1987-2008)

I was deeply saddened tonight to hear that one of our Walker family, Mucaw, crossed over to the Spirit world. I don't know the details of his passing.
I loved hearing Mucaw sing, which he did so often, up at the front of line, his rich, baritone voice keeping time with his tin can shaker. I walked countless miles to the songs of his ancestors,from the Quechan of Arizona, songs that he sang proudly and with the utmost care and respect. Sometimes, when I heard him sing, I couldn't place that deep, soulful voice in the body of such a young just seemed to come from somewhere else.
I pray that he is still singing with his ancestors and offer my prayers to his family and beloved grandparents who were so proud of him.
You will be sorely missed my friend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gettin' cold here in these parts

And I know for my friends on the East Coast, and those folks in Minnesota, complaining about 40 degree weather will just be mocked and scoffed at. But..I'm a West Coaster and dammit, it's getting cold here in these parts!

I'm sitting here in Gwen's cozy house tho, having enjoyed a fabulous pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner (but mine was with eggs and toast and spinach - the fun trimmings will wait until Thursday). Gwennie will be gone over Thanksgiving, but she felt the need to cook a big 'ol turkey and I got to enjoy the spoils.

Today was my first real "Monday" since I've been home. I got myself up and out of the house early in time for my old home group meeting and then went to a coffeeshop down the street where I worked for about 4 hours, drafting and sending a query letter here, looking for submission placements there. I also started work on a story about my time on the goat farm. My brain has defogged considerably in the last few days and I've enjoyed wrapping my head around something more tangible than whether I'm gonna have eggs and toast or beans and tortillas. Or both. I continued the work later in the day and am dearly looking forward to one of my queries finding interest in an editor's hand.

In other news...

Patrick from the Walk is here in Portland (this guy)

and I had a chance to catch up with him last night - so nice to see him and share stories of what we and everyone else has been doing. He'll be here all week, so I look forward to seeing him again.

Also got to spend time at Lone Fir yesterday - it's so nice to revisit my old comfy places. I have found a new love for Portland and her sweet, goofy tribe of inhabitants.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down Burnside near the Laurelhurst, and this trio of hipsters were standing on the corner, talking the talk. One of them, a lanky guy in a stripey scarf and pointy wool hat, blurted out suddenly,
"Hey you guys, look at my reflective tape."
And everyone turned (me too, since I was right there) to check out his bike, which had a strip of bright orange tape down the crossbar, but he had meticulously carved out "flames" all the way around it. It was funny, and there was something so sweet about his enthusiasm for his idea and execution, that it just made my afternoon.

So, there you have it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hoodies, Beanies and Dreadlocks. So good to be Home!

I'm sure I don't look as cute as Gwen's cat when I'm sleeping, but that's pretty much what I did for the first few days I was home. I was completely laid out by jet lag for a good 4 days. Brutal.

My friend (and massage therapist) Jenna told me a little story about jet lag that made me smile. She said that we always have a spiritual pony with us when we travel and that if we do something crazy like fly for a bazillion hours across land and sea, the reason we're so tired is because we have to wait for our pony (who can't fly!) to catch up with us. That's a lot of miles for the little pony to travel (and swim!). I feel, now it's been about 10 days since I've been home, that my pony has arrived.

I haven't been doing a whole lot since I've been back. I've had two massages (I know, it's crazy decadent, but I tell body...wracked up. After my first session Jenna said, "great, that's layer one!" I think my poor bones and muscles just haven't really known what to do with themselves now that they're not carrying a load and moving miles everyday. Everything just stopped, so things are kind of shifting and settling, causing me much discomfort and general achy-ness. But it's fine, really.

I went and re-upped my gym membership and have been able to do a few miles on the treadmill. I saw my old trainer Regina who is cutting me no slack and expects to see me back soon for her brutal cycling and cardio classes. I'll need to stay on it, lest all this hard earned muscle starts to slip and slide into pockets I'd rather not see on me.

Money...well, it's running low but I have a lead on a job, so that's good news. And I also have a possibilty, perhaps, of a new housing situation here in a couple of weeks.

So, essentially, we are just putting things back together. It's a little overwhelming, but I'm so happy to be home that it's all just gravy for me. Walking my beloved Portland streets. Going into coffeeshops and making small talk with, I missed that being away. Just chatting with people can make such a difference in your day, I so love having community again.

So...that's about that for now. Oh, I also got my astrological chart read. I do that every year on my birthday with my writer/astrologer friend Emily Trinkaus - who is so good at what she does. I love having her tell the tales of possibilities ahead.

I have mucho ideas for stories and am starting work on those as we speak. Gonna sign myself up for a language workshop, keep myself in the Spanish language realm. Have plans to get down to Southern Oregon and the Bay Area in Mid-December; but until then I am settling into the wintery weather here in Portland and catching up with everyone. It's really nice to be able to the hear the voices of my friends and family again!

Oh, and eating all my favorite foods again has You think things like eggs and toast aren't special? They're special..added bonus of spinach and sausage on the side? Yay! Miso soup, pinto beans, granola, burgers...yum.

Okay, I'll talk with you again soon. If you haven't checked this in awhile, you may want to scroll down and check out the new pictures. Also, there is a fun little video of Ellen DeGeneres' goat routine in the October posting. It's only about a minute and a half long.

Great to talk with you from this side of the world! Look at this amazing tree!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Just a quick post to let everyone know I made it back to Portland without a hitch.

I was in the air today for nearly 15 hours...three planes, four cities and nary and missed connection or even near freak out.

I did get held up for a second at U.S. Customs in Denver. Those guys are serious man. Serious. I would be nervous to come into the country if I wasn't from here. On the flight they showed us a video of how to properly fill out all the claim forms, even going so far as to remind you that in the United States we do NOT place a little horizontal line across the body of our number seven, so you better not do it on your claim form. DON'T DO IT!

Once I got through the first customs desk I was wandering around, kinda stretching my legs after the 10 hour flight from Frankfurt and waiting for my backpack to come off the carousel. A really, really tall guard came over to me..

"maam, you doing okay? You look a little confused."

", not confused. Tired from the flight, just...stretching my legs."

"Mmmhmm. After you get your bags, why don't you step on over here to the search area and we can have a look through your belongings."

Lesson #2 - DO NOT WANDER IN THE BAGGAGE CLAIM AREA.. Apparantly, this is a Red Flag, so I suggest simply standing at the unmoving baggage attention...and wait passively.

But, all was well since I wasn't smuggling live animals, meat, weapons or anything else considered unsavory. I did have some nice cheese from the farm, which I mentioned and they didn't care about that, so I got to gift that to my cheese freak friend Gwennie. She was really happy about it.

The flight from Frankfurt was actually just fine, even for the length. They have little viewing screens on all the seats now, with dozens of movie and television selections to choose from, so if you didn't want to could while away the time watching all kinds of stuff. I chose Mary Poppins for my first selection, which was fun. was an incredibly long day, but now I'm here at Gwen's, comfortable and happy and ready to sleep for days.

I'll be putting loads of photos up here in the next days, some I'll probably put in with the stories and others I'll just randomly show you so go ahead and check back here soon.

Lots of love, thanks for comments and I look forward to talking to you all on the phone soonly!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"I crave inerita every move made so I can stop..."

It feels like I´ve been out here an awfully long time. It´s only been three months, but it just feels longer than that. A lot longer. But I'm coming home now, and happy about that. While you are all tucking into your beds, I will be getting up and getting on an early flight, making my way across the ocean, the continent and into the rainy night of Portland.

I hope it´s been a good trip. I´m still too in it to know. These types of experiences can sometimes only truly be realized later; when we´ve had a chance to live outside of them for awhile and see life, react to it in a different way than we may have before.

We change all the time of course, from year to year. I would´ve been a different person at the end of this year whether I made this journey or not. But I can tell you that this particular time has been beautiful because this trip has challenged me in a way I haven't previously been challenged.

It was the solitude, or rather, the being away from my comforts, my family, my routines, that got me to dig a little deeper and understand what comfort truly means...and how little it depends on anything really tangible. And that my previous understanding of self-reliance has been shattered and has come to mean relying less on my own wit and experience, and more on Faith - and yes, with a capital "F." A concept I thought I had understood long ago...I learned in these last couple of months that I understood nothing about faith. And while I won't claim to have "gotten it" out here, I can say that I've gotten a little closer.

Another thing that has happened, and it's surprised me, is that I feel I have aged considerably in these 90 days. My body feels wracked up, I am creaking and loping, and have even taken to a little hobbling from time to time. This is inexplicably new to me. I've always taken not a little bit of pride in that fact that even though I'm small, I'm pretty strong. But it seems all of the combined miles of these last months have taken a toll, and I need some serious downtime I think to heal.

This doesn't mean completely slugging out in front of the TV with the Xena Box Set (though you can place even money that many episodes will be viewed in the next weeks). A massage, a long one, is certainly in order (and I just learned from gwen that she has scheduled one for me for Thursday of the many reasons why I love her.) And then I'll head back to the gym and talk to Regina about how to best repair these bones and muscles, and keep the strength I know is buried in there somewhere.

But I think too, as I look at some of the pictures of myself...that I´ve aged in another way as well. It feels, that I've lost something...pieces of myself that have dropped off along the way. Old armor perhaps. Maybe it's been replaced by a new, more malleable version, I don't know. But in looking at some of these photos, I am struck by not knowing completely who that person is. I don't dislike it, neccesarily, she's just a little different, and I think I'll need to spend a little time getting used to the new skin.

And in saying that, the first thing that comes to mind is that I can't wait to start spending time with other people. 3 months with yourself is PLENTY.

I'm looking forward to catching up with my entire Portland crew, and heading south to see all my family from Southern Oregon to San Francisco (with, of course a diversion to Seattle - don't worry Rebecca!).

And I have loads of stories I want to work on. There are people out there doing far more productive things than myself, and I want to focus on them for the next several months.

So we close out this chapter, with joy, thanks and glee for having finished unscathed in all the ways that matter. And simple gratitude for being able to have the experience in the first place. I know it hasn´t been a unique undertaking, but it´s not the sort of thing we get to do everyday, and I recognize and appreciate that.

Thank you all so much for continuing to follow along. Writing this is incredibly grounding for me and I would do it whether anyone was reading or not.

But it makes it a lot more fun knowing you're here with me.

* above quote from the song "Leeds" by Emily Saliers/Indigo Girls

Monday, November 10, 2008

No really, it's a good one!

I don´t like jokes.

The phrase, "hey, you wanna hear a joke?" falls right next to,
"can I help you, sir?" in the category of things I'd be happy to never hear again.
It could be because I grew up around comedy; listening to it, watching it, worked in the business for many years. So it could be that I'm full, but it's probably a truer statement that because I have seen so much good comedy, that a stale joke just rubs me the wrong way.

Also because your standard barroom jibe only amounts to making fun of someone for their gender/physique/ethnic/religious-ness. And therefore...isn't funny.

This is funny...from one of the masters, Paula Poundstone (my personal favorite):

"My mom once told me how she was taught to swim. That her parents took her out in a boat in the middle of the lake and threw her off the boat...and that's how she learned to swim.
I said, 'Mom, they weren't trying to teach you to swim.'"

Why am I bringing this up?

Because last night, at about two in the morning as we were sailing through the night towards Portugal, I was woken up by the snuffled guffaws of the couple behind me. I had originally liked these guys, we had had a nice chat before leaving the station...interesting couple.

But man, it's hard enough for me to get to sleep as it is, and on a train no less. So to be woken up, and then have it turn out they were telling stupid jokes to each other...really stupid jokes...and actually laughing, with knee slaps and everything,well...that was the end.
I killed them.

And got away with it too, because here I am sitting comfortably in an internet cafe in Lisbon. I am super tired, wandered around for awhile today, kind of got a gander of what I really want to see tomorrow (Maritime Museum, walk to the beach, Fado music). I'm in a lovely little hotel (Hotel Azul, in case you want to know. Oh, maybe my Dad, 'cause he's been Goggle-Earthing me - it's on Rua Luz Soriano, Dad) and I couldn't be more excited about coming home on Wednesday. I'm ready. Although, there is a slight tugging that I don't get to play a little more in Portugal...but I'm ready to stop being a freak in a strange land and go back to being a freak in my own country.

So...we'll have some parting words tomorrow I'm sure, and then the next time I write to you will be from Portland, Oregon!

Oh...for fun, why don't you send me some of your own least favorite things people say to you?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hasta luego España

A few years ago, shortly ater I moved to Portland, Gwennie and I went to Oaks Bottom Amusement Park for a little amusement and we made three successive mistakes.

First, we parked the car about 3 miles or so from the park and took a lovely stroll through the woods to the entrance.

Secondly, upon arriving, we hoovered a couple of soft freeze cones, and I think there were even corn dogs involved.

Then we hopped on the roller coaster, immediately followed by the Tilt-A-Whirl.

We had to sit on a bench for close to an hour to get our balance and stomach back. It was a slow, miserable walk back to the car.

That´s sort of how I´m feeling right now as I sit in the Chamartin train station in Madrid. I´ve been volleyed across the continent, riding fast subways, a jet and another subway to get here in just a few short hours and I´ve got a little vertigo thing happening.

But, I have several hours to even out before I hop on the night train that will deposit me in my last destination city of Lisbon, completing this grand adventure.

I spent some time walking the quiet, Sunday financial district and was fortunate to happen upon a small museum that was offering, gratis, a wonderful show of photography, focused on women. Movie stars to migrant workers and spanning nearly 100 years, the perspective was terrific and it was nice way to while away the time and clear some of the travel out of my cells.

Over the years I´ve gotten very good at whiling away time. I can write in my journal, read, or just sit and watch the people as they wander around in their people modes.

There´s an episode of Seinfeld, a little scene that I think about from time to time. It´s actually my father´s favorite episode...the one where the gang travels to India for a wedding (the story moves in backwards time, which my Dad likes). Anyway, the scene is of Elaine and Putty as they are sitting in the plane, preparing for the long journey. Elaine is getting books together for reading and she notices Putty just sitting there.

"Don´t you have a book or something?"

"Nah," he says.

"What, are you just gonna sit there the entire flight?"

"Yeah," he says.

It makes her crazy, but there´s a part of me that gets Putty in that. I don´t know what goes on in his head, but there´s certainly enough musing that gets batted around in mine to loosen the hours.

Well, I'm scattered it seems...which makes the time go faster because I can´t really focus on anything anyway.

So...I´ll just sign off I suppose. I say goodbye to Spain this evening, goodbye to cafe con leches, bocadillos, the culture of tranquilo, siestas, loud motorcycles and barking dogs. The memories of long days spent walking through farmlands filled with wine grapes, of plains that have relinqushed their grass to the stables, of silent, dark woods that fill the air with the energy of an ageless time.

I don´t know when, or if, I will return here. There are so many other places I want to travel to if I get the opportunity to continue my journeys. But, the weeks I spent walking the Camino will be treasured as much for their serenity as for their burden, and I am grateful for it.

Con mucho amor you crazy country, perhaps we will meet again down the road.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Last night, after giving me several small cheeses for the road and a few hugs, Monika and Ulrich packed me into the car of a friend of theirs and I was whisked down the Autobahn into the outskirts of Munich.

I am staying at the home of Stefan and Steffi, also friends of the Leiners and who were gracious enough to put up a stranger for two nights. Stefan is a musician that runs a music school here in Munich as well as plays in a pretty tight little cover band (I saw a DVD the other night) that tours frequently here in Europe. This morning he told me he grew up in this house, and that it had been in his family since the 20ś, but that it was destroyed during the war and rebuilt in 1949.

Munich was the center of the Third Reich, and Hitler delivered many of his tirades here in the city plazas. Subsequently, much of this city was virtually destroyed during WWII. I had an opportunity to go on the "Third Reich" walking tour this morning, but though it would no doubt be interesting...I felt it was a little bleak for only having one day here, so I stuck with a couple classical museums instead.

A few days ago, at dinner, we were talking about U.S. History and Native Americans. I was telling them that one of the things I learned during my walk across the country is that our history books don't adequately represent what really happened, even after all this time we aren't in the habit of telling the truth of our own history. They asked why. I said I didn't know. Blindness, shame...unwillingness to deliver anything but an embellishment.

"Why?" Johanna, Monika and Ulrich's youngest said, "We had Hitler...we had Nazis, we learn all about what happened during the war. It's important to know exactly what happened so that never happens again."

As I walked through the streets of Munich today I couldn't help but think about what was happening here 60 years ago. I went St. Peter's Cathedral and saw photos of the wreckage after it had been bombed; with altar statues crumbled under the marble columns and the pews wasted and splintered to near dust. Many of the sites I saw depicted these "before and after" photos and I appreciated the will to rebuild.

Steffi told me last night that her grandparents would say that those here in Munich were the lucky ones because this was the area occupied by the Americans following the allied victory. Germany was divided up into 4 regions, the U.S., British, French and Russian armies each had a section of the country. She told me that the Americans were the most tolerant, and weren't as prejudiced or cruel against the German citizens as the other occupying forces. "The Americans weren't attacked on their own land by the Germans...maybe this is why," she said, "also, I think many Americans, especially during that time, had relatives or knew people that were from here, or at least had some familial ties to Europe and I think this helped them understand and relate to us during the rebuilding. And I think this is why the Iraq occupation is a failed effort and is so different for the United States now."

Yep, different.

I've enjoyed getting to know a few folks from Germany over the last weeks. It seems to be an astute culture, with people widely interested in politics and history. And, thankfully for me, pretty much all speak fluent English. Germans spend 7, 8, 9 years studying English, starting at an early age...and so not only do they speak it well, they seem to enjoy practicing it with a native speaker. Many also learn another language (French, Spanish or Latin) in their later school years. They don't understand a culture that doesn't encourage this sort of multi-linguistic education. Neither do I.

History, history. I know sooooooooo little about the world. I don't even really have a good bead on my own country sometimes I think. People kept asking me here to explain the Electoral College to them. I would mostly shrug, "I have no idea. I try, keep trying every presidential election cycle to wrap my head around...can't." They would kind of laugh, but not really. How could I not know how our own President gets elected?

Well, it's a good thing there's weisswurst and bretzels during those times of trouble! Mmmmmm, sausages. They like their sausages here in Bavaria, and I am all for that. White sausage, with a little sweet mustard and a salty pretzel to go with it is pretty standard fare here. Knocks those bocadillas clear out of the arena of snack food competition. There is no competition when it comes to sausage and mustard in my book.

And if I had that passion for understanding the Electoral College, I could deftly explain it to the world. But, so it goes.

And it's probaby a good thing I'm leaving tomorrow or I would get quite portly from weisswurst and then I would come home all roly-poly and you would wonder if I really did any walking at all.

Well, it's evening here. The taverns around the Glockenspiel are filling up with people enjoying liter mugs of beer here on a Saturday night. The air is crisp and a half-moon is hanging up there with a few sifty clouds around it.

Tomorrow is a long day - flying in the morning to Madrid and then take the train later that evening to Lisbon. I'm getting excited though about making my way home.

Oh, and before I forget, and in case I can't get to another internet station, I wanted to wish my Aunt Rebecca a happy birthday on the 11th!!!!!!! And a big thanks for collecting those papers for me, you rock. We will celebrate your birthday when I get home!

Also wanted to thank all my Veteran brothers and sisters for their service and will remember them on Veteran's Day.

And I also wanted to give a shout-out to my buddy Gwennie who has been so helpful in taking care of my mail, my truck and my motorcycle for all these months I've been away. She's been a rock for me this whole year and I really appreciate it. Love you lots!

Okay my to you soon...Oh, and Kathleen? Keep it can do it!!!!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Well howdy there

Monika and Ulrich have given me leave to play on the computer a bit and download some photos. I have a lot from the cheese-making side of things, which they were interested in having, so here are a few photos from my time here in Bavaria.

This photo shows me looking not too troll-like surprisingly and was taken yesterday in Kempten. It was market day and I strolled around town while Monika sold her beautiful cheese at the Farmer´s market.

I´ve spent most of my time here in cheese-making room at the farm. Monika runs and incredibly clean and efficient operation and it´s been a joy to witness how milk turns into cheese!

It all starts with these guys, of course. Gals, really. There are 60 goats here on the farm. 59 females and one male. Right now all of the goats (except Billy of course) are pregnant and will give birth to the little ones in February.

Every morning and evening the goats are milked. Right now as it´s winter and they´re pregnant there is less milk, but they´re still getting about 50 liters a day. I love watching the milking process. The goats are just fun to watch. They are milked 6 at a time, Ulrich will drop down the ramp and 6 goats will race up onto the platform and put their heads in the little slots with amaz rapidity. There are treats on the other side of course, and the food keeps them occupied while the milking commences. The process takes less than 5 minutes, then the ramp is let down on the other side of the platform and they race off of it and into the stables to their dinner of hay.

These goats are outside all day and are only in the stables at night or if the weather is too cold for them to be out. They are fed with hay that the Leiner´s grow themselves. All their feed is certified organic. They´ve been doing it this way for nearly thirty years, long before the current trend towards organic foods. They try their best to keep their goats happy and healthy to ensure the best possible lives for the goats, and the best possible product for their customers.

Monika starts her mornings at around 6:30. She will cook the milk in these big ól copper kettles......

.....add a few magic ingredients....

....and then pour the milk into molds to begin cheesing.

She makes at least 20 different kinds of cheese. Hard cheese, fresh cheese, camemberts, herb spreads, feta, etc. This photos shows a variety of cheese in the "curing" process.

Every day the cheese gets "shmeared," with a little water and turned over. This was a perfectly simple job and perfect for me! I got to do this every day, except I liked to think of it more as "massaging" the cheese. Monika says she will hear complaining from the cheese after I´m gone. She also said today that "now, your days will be dreary because there is no more cheese in them."

Here´s some just poured curd, hanging to get the water and whey out...

The same cheese in a little more forceful water removal method...

Twice a week they take the cheese to the local market in Kempten, about 6 kilometers from the farm. The Leiner´s prefer to sell this way. Small, quality products in a place that they can interact with their customers. They´ve been selling at this market for nineteen years.

Here´s a little photo of dinner...I have so enjoyed getting to eating like this every night.

Here´s Monika and Ulrich and their daughter Johanna. They took me up into the mountains the other day to check out a famous Bavarian castle (which I can´t spell at the moment, but it was built by King Ludwig II!). They then treated me to a wonderful lunch, with the Alps as our backdrop. You´ll have to trust me...they´re there.

Whelp, looks like that´s all the pictures I have for the moment...perhaps I can download some more in a bit, but it´s getting late and the day starts early here, but I hope you enjoyed these little snaps. Soon, very soon I´ll be home and will spend mucho time putting pictures on the web for you!

Lots of love.

Oh hey...way to go on that there little election. I got up at 4am to watch CNN´s coverage and was deeply moved by Obama´s speech. Dare say I feel a little pride coming back for my country. What a thing to get to witness...I´ll talk more about that in a bit I imagine.