Welcome Family & Friends

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting ~ a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last year as I was contemplating my 40th year on this big blue planet, that I have not seen nearly enough of, I thought that it was time to set some firm goals for myself rather than constantly saying “Wouldn’t it be nice to one day…”. Instead of having another blowout birthday bash, I have decided to opt for something a little more introspective. So, that’s it. 2011 is the year I’m doing my Pilgrimage on The Camino De Santiago De Compostela.

Why have I waited so long? Well to be truthful, I really had not heard about it until recently. I actually happened upon the idea watching an episode of "Burt Wolf's Travels & Traditions" on PBS one weekend. Then there's also the finances associated with such a long journey rife with logistics. This endeavor isn’t going to be cheap when you add up plane fare, hiking equipment, 50 euros a day, and time off from work. But my plans are slowly materializing. It’s going to happen - I can see it! I've even asked my friends and family to keep me to my word on this one. I plan on starting my trek in late September during the less congested season. If all goes well, I should end my journey close to the end of October 2011!

I created this blog to keep you all informed on my progress in the months leading up to my trip. This blog will give me a forum to educate everyone about the Pilgrimage and its history...and even comment on the French and Spanish cultures. I also plan on doing a lot of fundraising to help me pay for things I will need, so check back often as I announce events and opportunities for you to help me reach my goals. Speaking of goals, I will also be doing a lot of physical training to ready my body for the long walk. I will be sure to post all my trials and tribulations here as well. I know a lot of you will get a kick out of hearing how I "get back into shape" over the next few months. Please don't hold back if you have any tips that will aid in my fitness.

I will also utilize this blog to diary and chronicle my days while on the Pilgrimage. It will be my main mode of communication since I will be all the way in Spain. I will try and post daily musings of my travels, send out pretty pictures of the contryside, and tell you about all the wonderful people I encounter along the way. My path will take me across 350+ miles of beautiful landscapes starting near the Pyrenees and traversing all the way out to the Galician coast. I’m figuring on 4-5 weeks to reach the Cathedral where the remains of Saint James The Greater rest - I know, can you believe it?!!!

So thanks for visiting my blog! Please come by and poke around as I send out future updates and please spread the word - I want to share this story with everyone and anyone that is willing to listen and learn!

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Love Always,
Richert Gordon

The Cathedral De Santiago De Compostela

The Cathedral De Santiago De Compostela
Click the above image to visit the Catedral de Santiago

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Run To Feed The Hungry

I will be opting out of the traditional Thanksgiving day feed this year and, instead, will be joining thousands of individuals and families for this noteworthy Sacramento area charity! Run to Feed the Hungry has become an annual holiday tradition for countless area families. Beginning in 1994 with only 800 runners, the event now ranks as Sacramento Valley's largest annual run & fun run/walk. In 2008, over 28,000 participants attended and we met our goal of raising $750,000 for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. As we approach our 16th year we look forward to another record crowd and donations topping $800,000. This is a 10K Timed Run, 5K Timed Run, 5K Fun Run/Walk that takes place this coming Thanksgiving Morning - Thursday, November 26, 2009 - Rain or Shine! The race starts just West of the entrance to the Sacramento State campus and runs through East Sacramento. Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fundraiser Alert!: It’s a Jewelry Trunk Show, a Book Sale, & a Loose Change Drive!

My dear friends at Corrick’s have generously allowed me to conduct a fundraiser in their beautiful store. As most of you already know, I am going on a month-long pilgrimage next year to Spain. I have already raised much needed monies for my trip, but I still have a ways yet to meet my goal of $10,000. So, with the holidays just around the corner, I decided I would peddle some of my hand-made crafts and wares.

I have been making jewelry for many years - many of you have already purchased my pieces in my shop RELISH or at my online store on Etsy. For this special fundraising event I will be pulling from my old inventory, and I will also be revealing fancy new blingy pieces that have just been created. This means I will have lots of pretty treasures on sale for UNDER A $AWBUCK!!! And, if you so please, you can also purchase my premium choice stock that will be over $100.00 a piece. I will have rhinestone rings, beaded watches, luxurious necklaces, and stylish bracelets - something for everyone! You can get a ton of your shopping done all at once!

I will also have a varied selection of beautiful books for sale…and get this…EVERY SINGLE PIECE WILL ONLY BE $5.00 - WHAT A BARGAIN!!! All volumes are BRAND NEW and will include: Martha Stewart craft books, Coffee Table Photography books, Cookbooks, Children’s Christmas books, AND, MUCH, MUCH, MORE!!! Where else can you get 4 presents for $20.00?

Finally, I will also be collecting loose change in a big glass jar. Bring those bad pennies that keep showing up, your dirty dimes, and ashtray quarters. Empty out your purses and pockets to lighten your load - I WILL TAKE YOUR COINAGE AND PUT IT TO GOOD USE!!! Thanks in advance for your kind donations!

So here are the details: This exciting fundraiser will be happening at Corrick’s on Saturday December 5th ALL DAY from 10am - 6pm. There will also be special LIVE musical performances by Jazz Vocalist Susan Lee Vick from 4pm - 6pm and also Acoustic Piano pieces performed by Corrick Brown & Norma Reddert-Brown throughout the day! Since this event is being held separate from the retail store sales, I kindly ask that you please pay me with either cash or personal check. One last thing - for every person that purchases more than $100.00 in items, you will receive a special Holiday Ornament to hang on your tree as a personal gift from me!!!

637 Fourth Street
Downtown Santa Rosa, California 95404

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day Of Prayer Is Today May 7th, 2009

Why We Pray
As American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, President Franklin Roosevelt called for our nation to unite in prayer. He also offered a prayer to prepare each citizen for the road ahead. "Let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee." The victory that followed on June 6, 1944-also known as D-Day-began the march to Berlin. Eighteen months later, WWII was over and one of the world's greatest evils had been defeated. The prayers of a nation had been a powerful force. Prayer has always been used in this country for guidance, protection and strength-even before we were a nation or a handful of colonies. The Pilgrims at Plymouth relied on prayer during their first and darkest winter. Our founding fathers also called for prayer during the Constitutional Congress. In their eyes, our recently created nation and freedoms were a direct gift from God. And being a gift from God, there was only one way to insure protection-through prayer. President Abraham Lincoln knew this well. It was his belief that, "it is the duty of nations as well as men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God." When it came to the fate of the nation, he practiced what he preached. Before the battle of Gettysburg, he turned to God in prayer. "I went to my room one day and I locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to him mightily for victory at Gettysburg." Won by the Union, Gettysburg was one of the turning points in the war that ended slavery and kept the states united. Today the need for prayer is as great as ever. Our nation again faces battlefields, along with an epidemic of broken homes, violence, and social strife. As the heroes of our nation did in the past, we must again bow our heads in prayer. We must ask the Lord to bless our leaders with wisdom and protection, and that we will have the fortitude to overcome the challenges at hand. If Roosevelt, the Pilgrims and Lincoln never underestimated the power of prayer, neither should we. It is my hope that you, your family and friends would participate in the National Day of Prayer. I pray that the event impacts your life, and that praying for our nation moves from a one-day event to a lifetime endeavor. So join me on the first Thursday in May and pray with conviction that God would continue to shed His grace on thee. For more on this movement and its mission please visit
The National Day Of Prayer Website

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

The Greatest Christian Feast
Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian calendar. On this Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent. Through spiritual struggle and self-denial, we have prepared ourselves to die spiritually with Christ on Good Friday, the day of his Crucifixion, so that we can rise again with him in new life on Easter.

The Fulfillment of Our Faith
Easter is a day of celebration because it represents the fulfillment of our faith as Christians. St. Paul wrote that, unless Christ rose from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17). Through his death, Christ saved mankind from bondage to sin, and he destroyed the hold that death has on all of us; but it is his resurrection that gives us the promise of new life, both in this world and the next.

The Coming of the Kingdom
That new life began on Easter Sunday. In the Our Father, we pray that "Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven." And Christ told his disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God "coming in power" (Mark 9:1). The early Christian Fathers saw Easter as the fulfillment of that promise. With the resurrection of Christ, God's Kingdom is established on earth, in the form of the Church.

New Life in Christ
That is why people who are converting to Catholicism traditionally are baptized at the Easter Vigil service, which takes place on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), starting sometime after sunset. They have usually undergone a long process of study and preparation known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Their baptism parallels Christ's own death and resurrection, as they die to sin and rise to new life in the Kingdom of God.

Communion - Our Easter Duty
Because of the central importance of Easter to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church requires that all Catholics who have made their First Communion receive the Holy Eucharist sometime during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. (They should also take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving this Easter communion.) This reception of the Eucharist is a visible sign of our faith and our participation in the Kingdom of God. Of course, we should receive Communion as frequently as possible; this "Easter Duty" is simply the minimum requirement set by the Church.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast which always falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates an event mentioned by all four Canonical Gospels: the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his Passion.

In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday is marked by the distribution of palm leaves (often tied into crosses) to the assembled worshipers. The difficulty of procuring palms for that day's ceremonies in unfavorable climates for palms led to the substitution of boughs of box, yew, willow or other native trees. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as Yew Sunday or by the general term Branch Sunday.

According to the Gospels, before entering Jerusalem, Jesus was staying at Bethany and Bethphage, and the Gospel of John adds that he had dinner with Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. While there, Jesus is described by the Synoptic Gospels as sending two unnamed disciples to the village over against them, in order to retrieve a donkey that had been tied up but never been ridden, and to say, if questioned, that the donkey was needed by the Lord but would be returned in a short period of time. Jesus then rode the donkey into Jerusalem, with the Synoptics adding that the disciples had first put their cloaks on it, so as to make it more comfortable. The Gospels go on to describe how Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and how the people there lay down their cloaks in front of him, and also lay down small branches of trees. The people are also described as singing part of Psalm 118 - ...Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father, David. ... (Psalms 118:25-26). Where this entry is supposed to have taken place is unspecified; some scholars argue that the Golden Gate is the likely location, since that was where it was believed the Jewish messiah would enter Jerusalem; other scholars think that an entrance to the south, which had stairs leading directly to the Temple, would be more likely (Kilgallen 210). According to Jewish tradition (Sefer ha Zohar, part about donkey driver) the one who is able to bridle and ride a colt (or donkey) has a status of Messiah.

It was a common custom in many lands in the ancient Near East to cover, in some way, the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. The Hebrew Bible (2Kings 9:13) reports that Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was treated this way. Both the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John report that people gave Jesus this form of honour. However, in the synoptics they are only reported as laying their garments and cut rushes on the street, whereas John more specifically mentions palm fronds. The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and of victory, in Jewish tradition, and is treated in other parts of the Bible as such (e.g. Leviticus 23:40 and Revelation 7:9). Because of this, the scene of the crowd greeting Jesus by waving palms and carpeting his path with them has given the Christian festival its name. It also shows the freedom wanted by the Jews, and their desperation to have political freedom.

On Palm Sunday, in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many Anglican churches, palm fronds (or in colder climates some kind of substitutes) are blessed with an aspergilium outside the church building (or in cold climates in the narthex when Easter falls early in the year) and a procession enters, singing, re-enacting the entry into Jerusalem.

The palms are saved in many churches to be burned the following year as the source of ashes used in Ash Wednesday services. The Roman Catholic Church considers the palms to be sacramentals. The vestments for the day are deep scarlet red, the color of blood, indicating the supreme redemptive sacrifice Christ was entering the city who welcomed him to fulfill- his Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

It is customary in many churches for the worshippers to receive fresh palm leaves on Palm Sunday. In parts of the world where this has historically been impractical substitute traditions have arisen.

In Latvia, Palm Sunday is called "Pussy Willow Sunday," and pussy willows - symbolizing new life - and blessed and distributed to the faithful. Children are often woken that morning with ritualistic swats of a willow branch. People also catch each other and spank each other with the branches.

In the Saxon regions of the Netherlands, crosses are decorated with candy and bread, made in the form of a rooster. In the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden a great procession with oil lamps is held the night before Palm Sunday in honour of the Sorrowful Mother of Warfhuizen.

Many Polish towns and villages (the best known are Lipnica Murowana in Małopolska and Łyse in Podlasie) organize artificial palm competitions. The biggest of those reach above 30 meters in length; for example, the highest palm in 2008 had 33.39 meters.

The Philippines
In the Philippines, there are some places where a re-enactment of Jesus' triumphal entry occurs. The priest rides a horse and is surrounded by the congregation, bearing palms. Sometimes women spread large cloths or aprons along the procession route. Palm branches, called palaspas, are taken home after the Mass and are hung beside, on or above doorways and windows.

Instructions on how to make palm Crosses to tuck behind picture frames and hang on your wall:

Take a palm that is about 2 feet long and 1/2" wide (if it tapers at the top, this is good!). Hold the palm upright, so the tapered end points toward the ceiling.

Then bend the top end down and toward you so that the bend is about 5 or 6 inches from the bottom of the palm.

About a third of the way from the bend you just made, twist the section you've pulled down to the right, forming a right angle.

About an inch and a half away from the "stem" of the cross, bend this arm of the palm back behind the palm so that it is now facing to your left. Make the bend at a good length to form the right arm of the Cross. Folding that same section at a point that equals the length on the right side, bend it on the left side and bring the end forward over what is now the front of the cross.

From the very center of the Cross, fold that arm up and to the upper right (in a "northeast" direction) so that it can wrap around where the upright post of the Cross and the right arm intersect.

Fold this down and to the left behind the Cross...

...and then fold it toward the right so that it is parallel and under the transverse arms of the Cross.

Bring it up behind the Cross again, this time folding it up toward the "northwest" direction.

Tuck the tapered end into the transverse section you made in step 7...

...and pull through. Turn the Cross over; this side will be the front. Trim the tapered end if necessary, remembering that the palm is a sacramental and any part you trim away should be kept and respected as a sacramental! Use that piece for burning during storms.

National Start! Walking Day Is April 8th, 2009!!!

For getting (and staying) in shape there is no better exercise than walking - since I've recently, I can definitely agree. It’s easy on the joints, you don’t need special equipment, and you can do it anywhere - FOR FREE! You can even do it in the comfort of your home with some of the great walking DVDs that are on the market.

To show you just how easy it is to walk for your health, the American Heart Association has started a National Start! Walking Day. The day is April 8th, and everyone, young and old alike, is encouraged to participate!

The movement has a
website with loads of great information on getting your coworkers involved as well. There you will find helpful tools to keep track of your progress and create a personalized walking plan. Wouldn’t it be great to go for a walk at lunch instead of sit and complain about your job? You don’t need a lot of time to do this, either. Doctors say that ” just 10 minutes three times a day of walking will help you live longer. In fact, studies show that just one hour of vigorous exercise will increase your life expectancy by two hours.” - just think of the things you could do with those two extra hours...go to a concert and dance your butt off...spend more quality time with your kids...get a refreshing swim in at the beach...have more sex...the possibilities are endless!

Why not commit to a healthier lifestyle and join others who want to do the same? Mark your calendar for April 8th, and encourage everyone you know to do the same, and have a great walk!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Modern Day Pilgrim - What I can expect on my trip to Spain.


Towards the end of the middle Ages the number of pilgrims traveling to Santiago began to decline but it never stopped, and these days it is definitely “back live”. During 2004, over 190,000 pilgrims walked or cycled some part of the road. However, it is no longer just the religious pilgrimage it once was.

The pilgrimage to Santiago is based on Catholic doctrine regarding sin, its remission and salvation. But today those religious elements share the stage with transcendental meditation, a physical stress test, a place to grieve, a journey of spiritual awakening, and a unique vacation.

Each day’s journey is like a field trip through a continuous museum. You cross two-thousand-year-old bridges that were built by the Romans. You sit down to lunch in the reconstruction of a five-thousand-year-old Iron Age hut. You are in constant contact with the great art and architecture of the Middle Ages.

For many people making the pilgrimage to Santiago is one of the most important undertakings of their lives. It gives them a sense of community in a society that goes back for thousands of years and includes everyone from Saint Francis of Assisi to Shirley MacLaine.

You may be alone when you start your trip but you will always be with someone at the end. Friendships are formed that cut across normal boundaries of age, class, and nationality. Becoming part of a larger community is an essential aspect of the pilgrimage. And working together to get through the challenges of the trip gives everyone a heightened sense of generosity.

The road is also unusual because it is so direct. Everything—the road, the setting sun, the stars—all appear to be going in the same direction. The pilgrim is literally “shown the way”.

Pilgrims experience a powerful feeling of being guided toward a goal, of having a sense of direction, and of knowing where one is going that is not so clear in daily life. Each day is an act of accomplishment toward a stated goal in which everything seems to be going the pilgrim’s way.

Most of the pilgrims are urban, well-educated members of the middle-class and they follow routes that are well marked with yellow arrows or scallop shells. In addition, there are signs that explain the importance of various historical sites.

Central to pilgrimage are the concepts of sin and the weight of one’s soul at death, eternal salvation and damnation. In order to save your soul from the tortures of hell, the Church suggested things that would lighten a soul weighed down by sin and making a pilgrimage was always on the list.


Pilgrims on the road to Santiago are easily recognized. Almost every pilgrim can be identified by the scallop shell around his or her neck or attached to their backpack. The pack itself is also a signal and so is their walking stick.

For some pilgrims the backpack is a symbol of the baggage one carries through life— the lighter your pack the more unnecessary mental and physical baggage you have been able to discard.

The scallop shell is associated with Saint James, but also with the legend of Venus and rebirth. It is meant to remind pilgrims of their spiritual reawakening.

On a gastronomic note, it appears that pilgrims returning from Santiago to France brought with them the inspiration for coquilles Saint- Jacques—a dish of scallops in a cream sauce that is served in a scallop shell.

Pilgrims also carry a credential—a passport that is stamped each day. The stamp indicates a pilgrim’s progress or in some cases the lack thereof.

As part of man’s desire to make life as annoying as possible travelers on the road have developed their own totally unofficial criteria for authenticity. To make the trip on foot is the most “authentic”—the real stuff.

To make it on a bike is “semi-authentic”. Spanish walkers call people who use bicycles “decaffeinated pilgrims”.

To walk but have a support vehicle is not “authentic” but might still be accepted—depending on the circumstances.

Make the trip in a bus or a car and you’re off the team. Many pilgrims also believe that “authenticity” requires at least a month on the road. Of course, none of these standards existed in the Middle Ages—you made the trip and that was it.


At 3,500 feet above sea level, the hill town of Cebreiro is the last great physical challenge for most pilgrims on their way to Santiago. For hundreds of years a Roman way station at the top guarded this mountain pass. And until the 16th century Cebreiro was one of the only passages into the Northwest of Spain.

In the year 836, a Benedictine monastery was established and it cared for pilgrims for over a thousand years. During the 11th century a rest stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago was set up here and it is still in use.

In the 12th century the church of Santa Maria was built nearby. It contains a sacred chalice that commemorates a 15th century Eucharistic miracle.

The legend states that the Holy Grail from which Christ drank wine during the Last Supper was hidden in Cerbreiro. A priest who had his doubts about the validity of the story was using the cup for the Eucharist.

A massive snowstorm had been raging outside and only a single peasant had climbed the mountain to hear the mass. The priest began to criticize the man for coming through the storm when suddenly the bread and wine turned to flesh and blood. The priest saw the error of his ways.

The remnants of the miracle were placed in a silver container that was donated by Queen Isabel—the same Isabel who had the foresight to put up the money for the voyages of Christopher Columbus.

Cebreiro also has a reconstructed palloza — a type of oval stone house with a thatched roof that was used by the Iron Age tribes who occupied the area before the Romans arrived.

Santiago is less than a hundred miles from Cebreiro—a distance that will be covered in less than a week. The end of the physical trip is near, but for many the spiritual journey is just about to

Monday, March 16, 2009

My walking distance log with a few observations along the way:

Please be sure to check out the newly posted walking routes I take on a regular basis. To find them, simply scroll down to the bottom portion of this blog to the "MapMyWalk" widgets. Once you pick a route, click on the "view full" button and then select "hybrid map" from the map type drop down menu - this allows you to see actual satellite images...Enjoy!!!

  • 03 June, 2009 ~ 10622 Steps ~ 5.02 Miles :: the weather outside for the past few days has been very "june gloom" - overcast and humid - it even rained a little yesterday, i walked to bel air first to mail some packages and was greeted with smiles from all the customer service clerk ladies who all know me - i stopped to show them my shiny new ipod shuffle...and they all marveled at it.
  • 31 May, 2009 ~ 9641 Steps ~ 4.56 Miles :: another walking expedition at denio's with my push cart at the ready, did a brisk run through first, then negotiated a few items down, ran into the nicest couple (clinton & becky) again - previously purchased some chairs from them several months ago and got 2 beautiful statues from them today: a stunning madonna and child icon and a chippy gold chalkware classical bust - thanks guys!, got to the auction at 8:30am and didn't leave until 1:30pm.
  • 24 May, 2009 ~ 11337 Steps ~ 5.36 Miles :: i got up at 9:00 and headed out to denio's and walked the entire market probably 3 times over, summer is definitely approaching - it totally worked up a good sweat today.
  • 23 May, 2009 ~ 13143 Steps ~ 6.22 Miles :: i decided to get up early and walk before it got too hot today and i was comfortable the whole time - nice breeze and no crowds, my feet ached a little today - maybe because i walked late last night and again early this morning, planning on adding more variety to my walking by trying a little jogging too - perhaps i'm inspired to do this because i had a funny dream that i was running last night - and when i reached the end i realized that i just completed a marathon - weird!...we'll see how that goes over.
  • 22 May, 2009 ~ 12763 Steps ~ 6.04 Miles :: all i have to say is: i was almost attacked by a large white dog at the park today!!! - good thing the owner had him on a leash because the beast lunged at me and almost bit me on the arm but i managed to swerve out of his way in time - whew!, i totally love my new 4GB ipod shuffle - this miniature wonder of technology is astounding - i just wish the ear buds fit a little more snugly into my ears, it is totally hot in california nowadays so i didn't finish my walk until nearly 8:30pm - the last 30 minutes cooled down, but i definitely got a good sweat on today - yes!!!
  • 17 May, 2009 ~ 7707 Steps ~ 3.64 Miles :: late evening walk with anne, bailey, & maya - it was way too hot to walk any earlier, an entire field was mowed down revealing a vast plain of golden hay - such a pretty sight against the verdant green foothills...i absolutely love living in california.
  • 14 May, 2009 ~ 9394 Steps ~ 4.44 Miles :: brisk morning walk at jill & julie's house, the 2 fields i usually cross are now overgrown with weeds so i cross the street to walk pavement, back to wearing my shoes - way better on my feet, the sunshine is blazing outside nowadays - i need to start using sunscreen!
  • 07 May, 2009 ~ 13394 Steps ~ 6.34 Miles :: spring showers have kept me from walking outside - along with other last minute duties, it was a splendid 72 degrees in petaluma today - still a little cautious about the recent 200 pound bear sighting in the hills last week, a ruby-throated hummingbird sat perched in a branch, chirping a song forever, until i approached within a foot of it when suddenly it darted off skyward toward another mate - the two shot off like missles and quickly disappeared into the deep blue yonder in courtship, i forgot my walking shoes in sacramento and had to walk in my slippers today - i now have the blisters to show for such regret.
  • 30 April, 2009 ~ 14104 Steps ~ 6.67 Miles :: a man and his daughter fly a really nice remote control plane in the sky above the park, a group of about 7 teenage boys gather around a picnic table after school and sip on cheap beers and puff on cancer sticks - they try to look cool everytime i pass by, but yet there are no girls to be seen anywhere in the near vicinity - omg...losers!, received a sad phone call from mom early this evening - uncle benji passed away after his long fight at the hospital - uncle...your happy face and funny stories will be sorely missed - my heartfelt condolences, prayers, and thoughts go out to the cabansag family in this time of loss and mourning.
  • 28 April, 2009 ~ 12030 Steps ~ 5.69 Miles :: the weather has cooled down significantly - might even rain this weekend, decided to walk in the late afternoon since earlier today was full of errands - post office, library, one thrift store, walmart, ebay, and cooking an early dinner.
  • 26 April, 2009 ~ 10485 Steps ~ 4.96 Miles :: the only walking i did today was at denio's flea market with dad, if the sunny weather keeps up my skin will - as canyon exclaims "richert, you are so dark you turned dark green!", mental note - buy sunscreen.
  • 24 April, 2009 ~ 16682 Steps ~ 7.89 Miles :: the temperature has cooled down significantly, back walking loops at blue oak park today - i was taken by surprise yesterday when a minivan appeared out of nowhere behind me - i need to lower the volume on the mp3 player when i cross roads in the neighborhood, i am toying with the idea of doing 20 miles on monday - we'll see how the weekend goes.
  • 23 April, 2009 ~ 12491 Steps ~ 5.91 Miles :: it has been a while since i walked last - lots of easter activities and busy working, the weather has gotten blazing hot - for a week now the temperature has climbed into the high 90's, by accident i walk into the women's restroom at the bank after my walk because i was totally rushing - even though there was a keypad code required to get into the bathroom i still managed to gain access to the wrong one - you would think the men's room would have a different code than the ladies - anyway, i found out when i was washing my hands and a black lady walked out of the stall next to me and squealed "you are in the women's bathroom!!!" and she proceeded to crack up hysterically - i thought it was a joke - the worst part was walking out out back into the bank lobby after my folly, everyone was staring because the lady was still laughing out loud - she even tried to give me a high five, but i scurried out in shame!
  • 14 April, 2009 ~ 12402 Steps ~ 5.87 Miles :: dad, bailey, maya and me walked to the park to play basketball, i did a late afternoon walk to the softball park by myself and the wind was crazy - felt like winter again.
  • 13 April, 2009 ~ 17777 Steps ~ 8.42 Miles :: dad, bailey, and maya drove to the golf driving range and i met them there - it is just a little more than 3 miles but it is a little dangerous with all the cars speeding by, taking it a little easy on my left foot - i twisted it on saturday when i walked into a crack in the sidewalk, i think i need to take pain pills after my walks instead of before - my lower legs seem to cramp up more when i do things in this order.
  • 11 April, 2009 ~ 15664 Steps ~ 7.41 Miles :: i walked the back route at the tiu house once by myself and another time with dad, bailey, and maya while they rode their bikes, totally windy outside and not many people on the trail - i guess everyone is getting ready to celebrate easter, i drank a little too much last night visiting with the fisher's at susan and tim's dinner - i could feel it in my legs and was a little lethargic!
  • 08 April, 2009 ~ 31815 Steps ~ 15.06 Miles :: i would not have been able to break the 15 mile mark on national start! walking day without madonna, the bee gees, and tracey ullman...their tunes kept me motivated!, totally broke a sweat today and got rained on simultaneously - that is definitely a weird feeling (hot & cold at the same time), i saw the most glorious John F. Kennedy rose bush in full bloom today - the perfume was intoxicating!
  • 07 April, 2009 ~ 12926 Steps ~ 6.12 Miles :: thank you so much mom for letting me borrow your mp3 player and sending me the "alive whole food energizer liquid" - you are my savior!, i listened to an intriguing podcast on "guerilla gardening" while on my walk and couldn't help but notice all the beautiful plant specimens people plant in their front yards...you just can't appreciate them speeding by in a car - check out the conversation between josh and chuck here: How Stuff Works, the rain is back - i made it home just in time before the downpour.
  • 03 April, 2009 ~ 11683 Steps ~ 5.53 Miles :: my pedometer broke today but walked the same exact route as yesterday, i didn't see a jackhammer operator repairing the road and the sound totally scared me!!! - i thought i was being shot at!, the dead squirrel i saw yesterday really is dead - he's not just sleeping, it was so windy that i didn't have a drop of sweat but my allergies sure are back.
  • 02 April, 2009 ~ 11683 Steps ~ 5.53 Miles :: switched up the route and walked along elverta - about 4800 steps from our door to walmart, today was the first time i've seen a dead squirrel, passed by the old acappella house - the neighborhood sure has changed, found a nickel on the sidewalk.
  • 31 March, 2009 ~ 12895 Steps ~ 6.10 Miles :: my first walk with roxanne, bailey, and maya (on her brand new bike!) through their neighborhood, we see rich coming back from renting his car, we get a little lost crossing picturesque bridges and find a beautiful softball park, nicely paved trails with pretty landscapes but it got chilly toward the end.
  • 30 March, 2009 ~ 10943 Steps ~ 5.18 Miles :: my first walk with julie through her neighborhood, we find the back trail and cross the creek where a little kid's bike is trashed and dumped in the water, i tell her she would love hiking at cherry creek and tell her she should come with us this summer.
  • 27 March, 2009 ~ 12763 Steps ~ 6.04 Miles :: little kids rollerblading with sweaty faces remind me of small kid time when i would bmx with my friends to the pink store in maile - we would buy a cold coke when we got there to refresh ourselves from the scorching summer heat in hawaii then we would sell the glass bottle back for the deposit and buy candy with the refund, a bazillion red ants swarm on a poor baby bird that fell from the eucalyptus above, at dusk 2 ladies ask me for directions on my last lap around - i notice that they are drinking king cobra 40's from paper bags.
  • 26 March, 2009 ~ 21961 Steps ~ 10.39 Miles :: i decide i like walking in a counter-clockwise direction around the park, i become perturbed when i overhear a fat soccer mom refer to her kids as "troops" as in "let's go troops" and then plead with her oldest daughter to drink more banana-orange juice so that she stays "hydrated" when all the little girl wanted to do was hang off the monkey bars, i witness 2 teeneage boys sell weed to 3 of their friends and not look concerned about being watched, 21961 steps = 24 laps around blue oak park = i finally break the 10 mile mark!!!
  • 25 March, 2009 ~ 18453 Steps ~ 8.74 Miles :: the park is filled with chirping birds heralding the return of spring, an old russian couple and their family cheer me on by keeping count of how many laps i do but leave before me, it's a BIG day - i broke the 8 mile mark.
  • 23 March, 2009 ~ 14231 Steps ~ 6.73 Miles :: teenagers eat at picnic tables and let their cheeseburger wrappers fly in the wind and litter the park - they pick them up after i give them dirty looks, looks like the oak trees are finally gaining the first sign of leaves - spring is here.
  • 21 March, 2009 ~ 12746 Steps ~ 6.03 Miles :: group of teeneage boys sing cool rendition of Run DMC & Aerosmith's "walk this way", a little pug/chihuahua puppy named Rocky chases me while his owner picks clover weeds - she claims that if you eat them after parboiling, they aid in curing diabetes.
  • 19 March, 2009 ~ 11450 Steps ~ 5.42 Miles :: 2 laps into my workout my legs start cramping up - i need to return new boots and get re-fitted at REI, i try to keep up with 2 black girls doing exercises but they whiz past me and kick my butt.
  • 18 March, 2009 ~ 10146 Steps ~ 4.80 Miles :: russian lady fills a grocery bag with dandelion flowers probably for tea, fat retired golfer uses park for his own personal driving range, i find one lonely freesia flower in bloom in the rocks.
  • 16 March, 2009 ~ 4995 Steps ~ 2.36 Miles :: dogs in obedience training, i make bailey and maya kick the ball while swinging in the park, bailey's basketball falls in the creek - we retrieve it with sticks.
  • 12 March, 2009 ~ 16073 Steps ~ 7.61 Miles :: almost pooped my pants - plan bm's accordingly, i find a sterling silver dragonfly pin with turquoise stones laying in the grass.
  • 11 March, 2009 ~ 14478 Steps ~ 6.85 Miles :: i am saddened by the flowers, pictures, and letters left tied to a tree where someone died in a car accident, the plum trees are in full bloom.
  • 10 March, 2009 ~ 12341 Steps ~ 5.84 Miles :: mysterious tied-up plastic bag in bushes - does it contain money or dog poop? i decide to leave it alone.
  • 09 March, 2009 ~ 12070 Steps ~ 5.71 Miles :: the walking path in jill & julie's new neighborhood is nicely paved, the smell of garlic and onions cooking at the amy's food factory nearby makes me hungry.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

So I was on the phone with my mom last Sunday (she is currently semi-retired and resides in Hawaii.), and she suggested that I try and do some fitness walking at the local shopping mall. She had the foresight to check the weather report here in Northern California before she made the call (non-stop rain, FINALLY! We sure need it here in Sacramento), so as to deter me from coming up with any excuses to not exercise. I was then faced with the reality that I really needed to start walking to work my way back to fitness. Sitting idle in front of the computer is worse than being a couch potato watching TV all day, and I have been doing BOTH in the past few months following the holidays! So I took her advice to heart, and drove to the Roseville Galleria to get some much overdue walking in. The rain was relentless, so I was glad to be inside. I proceeded to start walking, and was immediately distracted by a wonderful scent emanating from L'Occitane, so I went in and the very helpful salesgirl told me it was a limited edition "Honey & Lemon Shimmering Eau de Toilette" that goes for $46.00 - go check it out, it is FABULOUS!

After my little diversion, I decided it was time to get to the task at hand. I walked half the length of the mall on the bottom level, and was stopped 4 times! I had enough of the hard sell skin care, 30 minute masseuses, & cell phone barkers, so I took flight to the upper level. Much better, and also carpeted. The immediate thought I had was "Gosh, this mall is empty!". There was no one shopping! This economy was being protrayed dismally on the 5 0'clock news, but it really didn't hit me until my stroll that day in the mall. I have worked in retail over 15 years and I don't think I have seen it that dead in a mall EVER - times have definitely changed!!!

I told myself I would walk non-stop for 2 hours. But I only could manage 1 hour and 40 minutes. Boy am I out of shape! Half way through the walk, my left hip started aching so I stopped. I left the mall a little deflated and pessimistic. In order for me to do the pilgrimage properly, I will need to walk at least 15 miles per day. I didn't even make 3 miles. But I remained positive and remembered that at least I wasn't sitting at home snacking mindlessly, or Facebooking, or Twittering!!! I actually had a smaller meal that evening, and I seemed to rest at night a little better.

The following day and still felt a few creaks in my leg, so I decided to wait a day before I gave it another try. The last thing I want to do is injure myself.

Today I woke up to sun-filled windows. The rain broke, and I could actually walk outside. I proceeded to get dressed and set my sights to Blue Oak Park that is just behind my house, not even a block away. The day was immediately optimistic with clear blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds and I was hoping for a little meditation while on my walk. I was so happy to see that the circumference of the park was paved in smooth cement walkways, and no one was there. I had the whole place to myself. Then I was taken by the blooming plum tree branches and wondered how great they would look in a huge vase on my kitchen counter, and that I needed to bring some pruning shears to collect a few later. Why did I not bring my iPod?! Then I noticed the grass was overgrown and wondered when the maintenance crew was coming by to trim the lawn. It was also a little nippy - why didn't I bring a sweatshirt! Then I noticed how my foot started to ache...why am I wearing these slippers again? I need to break in those new boots!!! So much for meditation. I was able, however, to do 5 laps around the park for about an hour and 15 minutes and my hip wasn't bothering me - yaaayyyyy!!!

So I figure I will continue to do my walks every other day and try to work my way up to 2 hours per day. Once I get my pedometer, I will know better the total distance I cover in a single workout. I am glad I have started and I am positive that I will gain endurance and hopefully drop some weight as my fitness regimen progresses. If any of you out there want to walk with me, let me know - I would love the company!!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

The Wednesday after Quinquagesima Sunday, which is the first day of the Lenten fast. The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead - or in case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure - of each the sign of the cross, saying the words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of those present. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.

There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes to all the faithful arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. But this devotional usage, the reception of a sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the cor contritum quasi cinis of the "Dies Irae") is of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Ælfric assumes that it applies to all classes of men. "We read", he says, in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.

And then he enforces this recommendation by the terrible example of a man who refused to go to church for the ashes on Ash Wednesday and who a few days after was accidentally killed in a boar hunt (Ælfric, Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, I, 262-266). It is possible that the notion of penance which was suggested by the rite of Ash Wednesday was was reinforced by the figurative exclusion from the sacred mysteries symbolized by the hanging of the Lenten veil before the sanctuary. But on this and the practice of beginning the fast on Ash Wednesday.

In the Roman Catholic Church, ashes, being sacramentals, may be given to any Christian, as opposed to Catholic sacraments, which are generally reserved for church members, except in cases of grave necessity. Similarly, in most other Christian denominations ashes may be received by all who profess the Christian faith and are baptized.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance - a day of contemplating one's transgressions. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer also designates Ash Wednesday as a day of fasting. In other Christian denominations these practices are optional, with the main focus being on repentance. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are permitted to consume only one full meal, which may be supplemented by two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Roman Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations demanded by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (for those Catholics age 14 and over), as are all Fridays in Lent. Some Roman Catholics continue fasting during the whole of Lent, as was the Church's traditional requirement, concluding only after the celebration of the Easter Vigil.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spain...On The Road Again

All this month I have been watching Gwyneth Paltrow hit the road with Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols in the foodie adventure of a lifetime: a 13-part television series, "Spain...On The Road Again", premiering on PBS. "Spanish food is not famous in America like Italian food," says Paltrow. "We tried to show the ethos of how the Spanish eat and live. There's so much soul that goes into food there." Gwyneth has been a devotee of Spanish food and culture since she studied in Spain at 15. The following are a few recipies that have been featured on the program that I wanted to share with all of you. Perhaps you could dazzle your family with your culinary prowess and try one out this weekend! _____________________________________________________

Hake with Clams and Parsley

Claudia had never made hake before and now this recipe, which Mark says is the most useful one in the book, is in her repertoire.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Four 6-ounce hake fillets (or substitute cod or haddock), skin on
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
10 Manila or other small clams, scrubbed

Combine the olive oil, half the parsley, and the garlic in a cazuela or sautŽ pan large enough to hold the fish and clams in a single layer. Sprinkle the hake on both sides with salt and add to the cazuela skin side down. Dust the fish with flour, then add the clams and 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, then turn the fish, lower the heat and simmer very gently until the clams open and fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Divide the fish and clams among four plates, stir the pan juices, and spoon over the fish and into the clams. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.

Mixed Grill Catalan Style

You can grill just about anything. We were lucky to have some espardeñas (sea cucumbers) on our hands, so we mixed them with a few gambas (shrimp), peppers, and onions and had a wonderful lunch.

Serves 4

12 large shrimp in the shell
1 pound espardenyas (sea cucumber), cleaned and soaked in cold water for 5 minutes (or substitute 1 pound large sea scallops)
2 red bell peppers, cut into wide strips
2 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse sea salt

Rub the shrimp, espardenyas, peppers, and onions with olive oil. Grill over a hot fire, turning once, until the seafood is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 2 to 3 minutes per side for the seafood and a few more minutes for the vegetables. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with salt, and serve.



The name of this traditional savory pastry comes from the verb empanar which means to coat or cover with pan (bread).

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 pound Spanish chorizo, casings removed, cut into 1/4inch dice
1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 pounds pizza dough
Olive oil

Cook the chorizo and pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until they begin to render their fat, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the onion and peppers and cook until the chorizo and pancetta are well browned and the vegetables are softened, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Cut the dough in half. Roll one piece out into a thin (1/4”-1/8” thick) 1/4 round. Line a baking sheet with parchment, rub paper with olive oil. Place dough on parchment and spread it generously with olive oil. Spread the chorizo mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around. Roll out the second piece of dough. Moisten the exposed edges of the bottom round of dough with water, place the second round over the filling, and crimp the edges together with a fork to seal. Brush the dough liberally with olive oil and cut a few steam vents in the center. Bake in a 450°F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where do we go from here?


During the Middle Ages, most pilgrims made the trip to Santiago hoping to improve their standing with God, which might then result in the miraculous cure of an illness or salvation in the afterlife. But a pilgrimage had to include some suffering. Suffering echoed the passion of Christ and improved your chances for a successful trip.

Even today there is a fair amount of suffering on the road, nothing like the Middle Ages but still significant. And some people believed that the kind of physical pain you suffer during your pilgrimage is related to your mental state. Pain in your back or shoulder comes from emotional stress. Leg pains are the result of relationship problems. Lower back pain is thought to come from too much responsibility or too many commitments.

A pilgrimage might be based on the desire for a more spiritual life or it might be in atonement for previous sins. During the 12th century, a criminal might be required to make the pilgrimage to Santiago as part of his punishment. Murders were often required to make the pilgrimage to Santiago with the murder weapon hanging from their body so everyone could identify both the criminal and the crime. Today the head of a corporation that defrauded its shareholders might make the trip dragging his annual reports or the body of his accountant.


The Road to Santiago is actually a series of connecting roads that have been in use since Roman times. The Irish and the English came by boat and arrived at La Coruna just north of Santiago. The Portuguese walk straight up along the coast. The Silver Road brought pilgrims from central and southern Spain.

But the busiest route was the French Road. Perhaps the French had more sins that needed to be forgiven. Actually, that’s not a fair comment, the French Road also brought pilgrims from Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, even Italy. It was open to all sinners regardless of their race, creed or previous position of servitude.

Each of the four roads that went through France started in big cities like Paris or Arles - then crossed the country until they all came together at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains that form France’s border with Spain. At that point they merged into one road that passed through the mountains and crossed northern Spain until it arrived at Santiago de Compostela.

The routes in France and across Spain were highly developed. They offered pilgrims places to rest, and recover. And all along the roads monasteries and churches promoted the journey.

The pilgrimage to Santiago was a major commercial enterprise. Important churches along the route would travel their relics throughout Europe to advertise the trip and raise money for the maintenance and expansion of their buildings.

There were abuses but the majority of clerics involved respected the religious devotion of the pilgrims and spent enormous amounts or money feeding and housing the poorer travelers.

In addition, many townspeople along the roads helped the pilgrims in exchange for the pilgrims offering prayers on their behalf in Santiago.

Wealthy pilgrims were expected to pave the road with donations. During the Middle Ages a team of laborers worked through the day gathering up the gold and silver offerings that had been left by the altar along with the donations of cows, sheep, pigs and horses.


In the year 711, Islamic Moors from North Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula and occupied parts of it until the end of the 1400, a period that lasted over 700 years. Christians in other parts of Europe were determined to take Spain back and their first successful battle in the Reconquest took place in 844.

Just prior to the battle King Ramiro I had a dream in which Saint James appeared and announced that he would join the battle carrying a white flag, riding a white horse and brandishing a great shining sword and that he would help Ramiro win the battle.

Ramiro did win the battle and Saint James took on the roll of the slayer of Moors. The belief that Saint James was present at each of the important battles was an essential element in the Reconquest of Spain. Saint James ended up with three images:

St. James as the Apostle, St. James as a pilgrim heading to his own shrine, and St. James on horseback as the slayer of Moors.

And these days, he is returning in his role as an agent of reunification.

In Europe, World War II was a demonstration on a mass scale of man’s inhumanity to man and it left the continent broken and fractured. The late 1940s marked the beginning of a search for a politically united Europe through its shared past. The Road to Santiago, with its historic roots throughout Europe provided an ideal way to overcome political differences. It was also a time where middle-class Europeans began to travel. The pilgrimage was no longer solely for the religious traveler, it became a more general journey for people in search of personal and social goals.

The Spanish government saw the light and began promoting the road as an alternative to mass tourism and the apparent superficiality of sitting on a crowded beach. Once again Santiago became a symbol for enlightenment and reunification.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Donation Buttons are up...let the gifting commence!

Dearest Family & Friends,

I am very proud to announce the official launch of my new blog christened “The Staff & Shell”:


For those of you who don’t yet know this, I am planning on taking a Pilgrimage through France and Spain in the fall of 2009. I will be following the Camino de Santiago de Compostela…a Pilgrimage route that has been in existence since Medieval times. Once you arrive at the blog, everything will be spelled out for you so I won’t go into too much detail here in this email message.

I have been slaving away struggling through HTML code trying to tweak and snap all the loose pieces of content together. Please bear with me as I do my best to create a blog that is both interesting and compelling. I appreciate any feedback you may have - even corrections to my spelling or syntax…I really mean it! Please take a moment and become a “Fellow Pilgrim” by following my blog – you can do so in the left hand margin right below the “Blog Archive” section. Also, be sure to click on any pictures to see full size images or be instantly transported to links related to the Camino. You can also leave direct comments to any of my posts.

I really appreciate everyone taking precious time to read a little about my trip and learn how I will achieve this goal I have set before myself. I will need to raise a lot of money to get there, so I am coming up with a lot of creative ways to solicit your help. This journey really means a lot to me and my hope is that some or all of you can share in this awesome experience. So please visit my blog often and keep in touch with me in the following months!

In lieu of birthday and christmas presents this year, I am asking that you please donate to my trip. Watch out...if you attempt to buy me a beer at a bar this year, I may just pass and ask for a contribution instead! Today I successfully posted donation buttons, so now I am totally in business! I have created a variety of donation levels or “cliques” that one can join. Each one has different benefits, so please check them out! I am proud to announce that my Grandmother Eugenia Ompad was the first to donate to my cause to the tune of $1000.00!!! Thanks Grandma, I am already 1/10 of the way to meeting my goal! Additionally, I give you the option of purchasing individual items I will need for my trek like hiking boots, guide books, and a pedometer. You can find these in the left hand margin of my blog. There will be lots of other “brick–and–mortar” fundraising events that I will announce in the near future. These will give me the chance to meet with you in person so I can share all the finite details, and spread the word.

I am so full of HOPE and excitement for the coming months. Thanks again for all of your Support and Love as I welcome a new chapter in my life. I am so fortunate to have all of you around to share such a wonderful endeavour!

Love Always,
Richert Gordon

Saturday, February 7, 2009

So why a Pilgrimage, you ask?

A pilgrimage is a trip to a sacred place - a place that was made holy by a special event or because it held a magical object or both. People have been making pilgrimages for tens of thousands of years - in fact men and women were going off on pilgrimage long before the idea became popular in Christian, Judaic and Islamic cultures.

In the Christian tradition, the earliest pilgrims went to places associated with the life and death of Christ. After a while, the graves of early Christian martyrs were added. People believed that if they saw or touched a sacred relic some of the divine energy in that relic would be transferred to them.

Sacred relics and objects that were promoted as sacred relics were spread out over Europe. A relic was usually some part or all of the body of a holy person or something that was in contact with the holy person. It might be the jaw of Saint Coloman which is a sacred object in the Austrian monastery at Melk, or a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified. Almost every community suffered from ‘relic envy”. Relics brought pilgrims and pilgrims brought money and money brought power and power brought more relics.

Of course, not everyone was convinced. Saint Augustine believed that what was holy could not be localized to a specific place, which meant that a pilgrimage was a waste of time and money, but that was a minority view.

The word was out that when the world came to an end the holy person would return to earth and collect all of his or her body parts and at the same time decide whose spirit would return with them to heaven.

If you were a believer and rich you tried to get buried near an important relic. You wanted to be in a convenient spot when the saint came back to earth and was deciding who would return with him to heaven.

Rome was the epicenter of the relic trade. You could purchase one of the loaves of bread or a fish from the miracle of the loaves and fishes, a table setting from the Last Supper or a thorn from the crown of thorns.

It’s easy to laugh at these things and see many of them as the fakes they were, but their effect on people was real. If your belief in an object’s power results in your cure, then by definition, it is a miraculous object.


Throughout most of history there were only two reasons for traveling - you were going to war or making a pilgrimage. In either case you gave up the life you were living and went off on a new and usually dangerous journey - a journey that often went on for years.

Every church was required to have a relic even if it was only a local saint. But certain relics were understood to be much more powerful than others and those were the ones you wanted to get to.

Power was based on hierarchy - Christ of course was at the top so visiting Jerusalem would be most effective. But in terms of time and expense Jerusalem was unreachable for most people. It was also under the control of the Turks which made the journey extremely dangerous. Next came the Apostles Peter and Paul who were buried in Rome, which made Rome first runner up. Rome was easier to get to but often in political turmoil. You could never be sure of what would be going on in Rome when you finally got there.

Peter and Paul were followed by the other Apostles with James the Greater being of particular importance because he had actually been with Christ. Santiago de Compostela in the northwest of Spain, where the great cathedral was said to contain the complete remains of Saint James was your best shot. It was near enough to the great cities of Europe to be reachable, yet far enough away to be exotic and exciting.

Santiago was at the very edge of the known world, yet in the middle of the Middle Ages over half a million people made the trip every year. It offered Christians living in Europe the opportunity to make contact with someone who had actually known Jesus.

Another reason to go on a long pilgrimage was all the powerful relics that you would encounter along the way. Since every church needed to have relics, it would be to a pilgrim’s benefit to stop at every church on the road and offer a prayer.


The legend of Santiago de Compostela deals with James the Greater who was the brother of John the Evangelist. Both were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. One day Jesus passed by and invited the brothers to join him and they did.

After the death of Jesus, James left Jerusalem with instructions to spread Christianity in Spain. Having very little success with this mission he returned to Jerusalem where he was beheaded by the Roman governor.

His disciples recovered his head and his body and placed them in a stone boat that had neither a rudder nor sails yet somehow ended up on the northwest coast of Spain.

As the boat came ashore the first miracle associated with Saint James took place. A bridegroom riding along the beach lost control of his horse and was thrown into the surf. Instead of drowning he emerged from the waves covered with scallop shells. The rider’s safe return from the deep is credited to the intervention of the Saint. And ever since, the image of the scallop shell has been associated with James.

The followers of Saint James then buried his body in an ancient Roman cemetery where it rested unnoticed for 800 years. At some point during this period the cemetery was abandoned and slipped back to a grass covered field.

Then in the year 812, a star appeared above the field accompanied by the sounds of heavenly music. A hermit saw the star, heard the music and followed them to the body of St. James. He reported his discovery to the local bishop who built a chapel over the grave. The site became known as Santiago de Compostela which means “St James of the Field of Stars”.

What is important about this story is not what historians have been able to prove or not prove, but how it has affected the hearts of the pilgrims who have made the journey.

The Power Of Myth :: An elaboration on the significance of the scallop shell and the pilgrim's staff.

The scallop shell, typically found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Over the centuries the scallop shell has taken on mythical, metaphorical and practical meaning.

There are different accounts of the mythical origin of the symbol. Which account is taken depends on who is telling the story. Two versions of the most common myth are:
James the Greater, the brother of John, was killed in Jerusalem for his convictions about his brother. James had spent some time preaching on the Iberian Peninsula.

(version 1) After James' death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, the body washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.

(version 2) After James' death his body was mysteriously transported by a ship with no crew back to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. As James' ship approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young bridegroom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse got spooked, and the horse and rider plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, the horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells.

Besides being the mythical symbol, the scallop shell also acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim. As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God's hand also guided the pilgrims to Santiago.

The scallop shell served practical purposes for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago as well. The shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl. Also, because the scallop shell is native to the shores of Galicia, the shell functioned as proof of completion. By having a scallop shell, a pilgrim could almost certainly prove that he or she had finished the pilgrimage and had actually seen the "end of the world" which at that point in history was the Western coast of Spain.

The reference to St. James rescuing a "knight covered in scallops" is therefore a reference to St. James healing, or resurrecting, a dying (setting sun) knight. Note also that the knight obviously would have had to be "under the waters of death" for quite some time for shellfish to have grown over him. Similarly, the notion of the "Sea of Darkness" (Atlantic Ocean) disgorging St. James' body, so that his relics are (allegedly) buried at Santiago de Compostella on the coast, is itself a metaphor for "rising up out of Death", that is, resurrection.

The pilgrim's staff is a walking stick used by pilgrims to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Generally, the stick has a hook on it so that something may be hung from it. The walking stick sometimes has a cross piece on it.

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