The Last Entry….home

Portland International Airport passport control and immigration were a puzzle to me.   Of course the confusion contributed to my anxiety level as I had a limited amount of time to get to my Seaport air flight home.   We disembarked at the International flight terminal and walked into a large room where all passengers from all incoming flights were lined to scan their passports into a machine.  With 400 people inline, 6 of 8 machines were functioning. Two attendants were available for assistance and one was fixing machines while the other was directing passengers to the immigration officers.   My turn to scan my passport and answer the list of questions and then have my photo taken, resulted in a successful first attempt.  At the next station the officer looked over my scanned photo, passport and declaration card and then sent me to the another officer who stamped my passport.  Then I ran the hallways to the baggage claim area where I found my pack intact and was directed upstairs to my connecting flight.  I did not expect another security check and I had a knife, liquids and my trekking poles in my pack.  The backpack made it through the scanner just fine.   My day pack got examined as well as my body!  I forgot I had placed a bottle  of water in the pack.  The scanner  did not like my ankles or belly so the woman officer did a pat down to check things out.  Quickly , I got my shoes on, my pack went on my back, I held the day pack and I ran.  Sorta, well jogged, well kinda.  Anyway, my ambulation was much faster than my usual pace.  Coming down the stairs to the Final E gate  I heard the Seaport employee call my name.  There was a quick visit to the bathroom and I walked to the familiar Cessna 9 caravan. With three other passengers on board, the rattling plane gave us smooth and beautiful ride to Pendleton.  Luke and Charlie were at the Pendleton airport, with roses in hand to greet me. It was so very glad to see them I about squeezed the stuffings out of them.
So ends the travel log of my most recent adventures in Spain.  I have not posted to my blog so there will be new stories and pictures coming as I reflect on the events since Sept. 4, 2015.
Buen Camino

Who assembled this group?

There are four women staying at this house.  I am 20 years older than the oldest.  Their life experiences reach far beyond mine.   When I first arrived there was a woman from Seattle, a Washington State Patrol Officer.  Merka had most recently lived in Bend.  Gwen called Portland her hometown.  Gwen’s uncle once taught art at Hermiston High and her parents live in Goldendale.  To break up the monotony of  Pacific Northwest Americans there was Alise from Latvia.

Each of these women has had many different careers whereas I had the same employer for 31 years.  They have journied much further in seeking peace iñ their lives…and in fact still search that route daily.  I came to grips with that life journey long ago.  I listened and shared as I can and lifted them up in prayer and thanksgiving.   

Alise had several pages of “questions” for discussion after dinner.  Those around the table went from nearly strangers to close friends as the questions and answers  opened up the stories of our lives.

The State Patrol Officer left in the morning.  Alise, Gwen and I decided to walk to the Costa da Morte to see the lighthouse.  It was a delightful time I will treasure. We walked through the eucalyptus forest and I learned these trees were not it native to Spain.  

The Rio Grande is a lovely river.


 When we reached the estuary the white sand beach was covered with millions of tiny scallop shells.  

We took the long way which took us off the highway.  We were tired and stopped to eat at a family owned bar.  After a big meal and 12 km I was ready to call a taxi.  So we went on four wheels the rest of the way.  The lighthouse and coast line were well worth the effort. 

Today we walked a country path to a neighbouring village for groceries.   Then we said our goodbyes to our Latvian.  She insisted on  buying us coffee before she parted with us.  It’s funny how in just a few short days you feel so close, like someone you had gone to school with from first grade on.  She is so alive and so beautiful and fighting so many demons.  She loves lighthouses and the ocean and mapped her course to Lisbon so she could see more. My last words to her were “love yourself”.   It will be quieter around the dinner table tonight but we will all carry memories of these past few days in our hearts.
Carol, Gwen and Merka 

Alise, Gwen and Carol hiking to the lighthouse

The Little Fox House

Are you wondering what I am up to today?   I awoke before the alarm from a dream about chasing pigs off  Maryhelen Peterson ‘s porch.   After a luxurious hot shower  I headed to the bus station for tranporttation to a place  where I would still need to walk 18 km.   Just by chance the information office was open at that early hour.  I asked there and found an afternoon bus to the exact location I needed.  (Or so I thought). Now what to do with my time!    I went to a bar where I was served a cafe con leche grande, a small honey covered croissant and a shot of OJ.   It cost 1 Euro! !!!  I walked about 4 blocks from the bus station to the Camino…About 10:30 who should I see but Carol Lundeen and Ann on a fast pace to the Catherdral.  There was a quick exchange of greetings and well wishes and we promised to meet up  Friday.     Now I wait for a bus!.  Ease dropping on the women sitting behind me I heard a variety of American accents.  Southern, Western, Minnesotan.  I inquired if they were headed home.  As we talked I checked out their hiking boots. The condition of one’s boots tell a lot.  These boots looked in good shape, almost new.   The woman nearest me explained they had met up in Lisbon for a reunion of Peace Corps workers and decided to walk a little on the Portuguese  route. The conversation was cut short by their bus arriving.  One thing for sure, they had enjoyed shopping.  They juggled  several bags along with their packs. I longed for some non pilgrim clothes..

The bus driver nodded yes when I showed him the name of the town where I thought I needed to be….I had written it on my hand for lack of paper.  I sat right in the front so I could see the countryside and get off at the proper place. It s very nice of the Spanish to have a sign to identify the town when you enter and exit. I did not recognize any of these names.  
The bus  carried workers and people who had been grocery shopping.  No other pilgrim looking person was on board.  One woman had 10 plastic grocery bags of items she had selected from the store. The ride became quite curvy as we wound our way through river valleys and over passes, occasionally stopping alongside the highway when someone flagged the bus down, or pulled the cord to tell the driver they wanted to get off.  Soon the bus was empty of all passengers except me.  The driver glanced at me with twinkly eyes and a grin and cranked up the radio.  We boogied along as if the big bus was actually a sports car. He slowed and stopped near the entrance of a town.  “Vimezeo” he said.  That sounded Italian.  Was this the wrong Bus?  If so it was really really wrong. I had to trust.   Two women sat in the small park  near the bus stop.  I showed them the address of The Little Fox House, thinking I was in the correct town.   They shook their heads and gestured “far far away”. Ahah!  I asked if a taxi was necessary and the older woman nodded yes.    Across the street someone’s grandmother was standing in a doorway.  She stared gesturing to me. And as I understood it she was telling  me ” go down this street and take the first right .” I followed her gestured directions and I entered  a bar.  It made perfect sense to find the taxi driver in a bar. Yikes! Actually  It was siesta time the mentoring nearby  hung out and the women went home to prepare lunch for the children . I walked in the bar in full pack with my walking sticks.  I must admit I was confused when all the men looked at my boots. We’re the checking to see how many miles. I walked?  We’re they embarrassed for me? “Taxi?” I asked sheepishly.  “Is there a taxi driver here?”  The bartender came around the corner just then and told me to go back to the bus stop where the taxis were parked.   He assured me that a driver would be along soon. I walked out the door and back up the street.  I gave the grandmotherly woman across the street a thumbs up and she smiled.   Soon enough a man appeared at the taxi stand.  While he was taking the sun visor off the windshield I tried to ask in Spanish but I could not think or the word for “fox” and all I could think of was Casa de Ratone.    “Casa de Tracey Saunders?” I asked.  In perfect English he responded “The Little Fox House”.  “Yes. Across from the white church”. “Of course”  he responded and off we went to a tiny hamlet about 7 km away.  After a short drive I arrived!   Arriving where you are supposed to arrive is a good feeling.  It was especially nice to arrive at this place.

Backyard fences

 Growing up on Berney Drive in Walla Walla I learned a lot about fences.  The man who built our house, Ralph Bramlet, brought a load of lodge pole from his land in Dixie, Idaho.  I was given the job of peeling bark and painting a sealant and holding the poles while we built the lodge pole corral at my folk’s house.  Over my backyard fence, pastured by the lodge poles was a big Quarter Horse Thoroughbred cross named Shawna Alate.  She was my first backyard fence connection. We spent all of my free time together.

The fence around the house was woven cedar boards.  My mom stained it red.  Every few years she would don old clothes and a shower cap to protect her hair and paint. I was supposed to help but ended up spilling a lot of expensive stain. What did I care.  For me,  it was fun to go to Van Patten’s Lumberyard to purchase more stain.  I had a haircut just like the little kid on the Dutchboy paint can. I pretended it was me.

On the other side of Shawna’s pasture was the Fazzari’s. They had a short white fence so I had to keep a hot wire up so Shawna would not eat the petunias growing along the their fenceline.  I played a lot with the two younger boys, Greg and Rod.  As we grew up, all four boys and their mom Marie worked at my parents’s drive-in, the Ice Burg.
Greg and I developed this saying:
“Meet you at the fence at midnight”
“I’ll bring the wine”
“I’ll bring the glasses”
And once,  after high school, we actually met at the fence at midnight. 
No one believes I was a rascally kid, but I was.  There are lots of stories about me sneaking into the school on weekends and even one about me escaping out the second floor drama room window and breaking the fall on the awning over the door of the Ala Room and falling into the flower bed…but believe what you will..this next story is true.
My friend in shenanigans was none other than Dawn Adams.  Imagine that.  We loved sneeking around. I think it started at 4-H camp.  One night I snuck over the backyard fences of all the neighbors on one side of her street.   She watched.  I was good! No one switched on lights. Only a few dogs barked. I thought I had a great future ahead  as a climber of fences.  But I was told to keep my day job.
Walking along the French way of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, there were many types of fences.   We also met animals that roamed without any fences.  A few fences come to my mind…and these thoughts have nothing to do with shenanigans, Dutch boy paint or meeting at the fence at midnight.These fences brought special meaning to the walk.
It was another spectacular day on the Camino.  We left Astorga as soon as we could see the yellow arrows painted on pavement, signs and curbs to guide us out of the city. I have  walked this way before and I remembered these places..
We passed the modern church and wondered why the woman holding the chalice and host in one hand  is blindfolded. We visited the small road side chapel and well of “living water”  where the drowning boy was saved by his mother’s  pleas to Jesus. We walked across the countryside and farm land and into the rolling hills and then into the mountains. I walked quietly. I listened to the stories around me, the stories of heartaches, infidelity, abuse, alcoholism,   divorce,   addictions,  loss of children and parents and siblings…I carried all this for awhile until I could listen no more and I pushed ahead by myself.  I entered an oak forest. A fence ran alongside the trail. Woven into the fence were crosses….big and little.  I wanted to place my own cross there, but there were so many crosses there was no room to add new ones.  I wanted to build a new fence so I could make more crosses. With no materials available I  hung the sorrows  I heard on the crosses that were already there.    Then I thought of all of my friends at home who have followed my journey with Parkinson’s.  I said their (your) names and saw their (your) faces and hung their (your) sorrows on those crosses.

As the trail joined the highway I said  goodbye to the sorrows. It was good to leave all the pain behind. Out in the sunshine now I turned my thoughts to the joys and celebrations and births and graduations and anniversaries. I thought of how much I love  Charlie and Luke  and Loren and Maryhelen  and Laura  and her beautiful Mariska and how much I miss my dad  and my mom.  I was sobbing in joy and relief when I walked into Rabinal with Karen.  Janet and Mary Jo and Deb and  other friends I met along the way were  there to greet  me.   It was a most amazing day.
 I wrote on the Facebook note  “I am spent and full and  empty all at once.”

Fences keep things in.  Fences keep things out.  But not me.  I can climb over.