A Heavenly Lake of Beer: St. Brigid’s Day Blessing

I publish this each year at this time to remind us of great lakes of beer, lambs, groundhogs, milkmaids, and miracles.  This includes St. Brigid’s Blessing, well worth reading.  Tired of groundhog day?  Celebrate St. Brigid instead.

Saint Patrick, meet your better half!
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  Brigid is a jolly saint of babies, poets, cows, scholars, travelers, and beer (the last attribution mine).  She’s a vernal saint associated with the green fire of rising spring energy. Her Day is February 2,  Imbolc. In Celtic mythology this the beginning of pre-spring, lambing, and lactation… birth and milk in the animal folk. She is a patron Saint of milk and milk givers, beast and human.

Groundhog Day was formerly Bear Day.  It’s time for us all to come out of the winter hibernation now.  Artists, this means you.  And in this year of drought,  a bit of St. Brigid’s spring rain would be very healing.

She studied under St. Patrick, founded her own convent, and tended the poor.  Some– I am one– think that she surpassed him in his time.

I often do series cow series that I associate with her, but what I love about her is this list of her best and deepest wishes for the world.  Read through to the last two lines, then get yourself a brewsky.

I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

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Left Behind

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Here in Porto, Portugal, I´m sitting in a beautiful hostel, a real hostel this time, that has won many prizes. It´s in a renovated townhouse in the center of old Porto: high French windows in each room, billowing white curtains, views of the port and river. I am in a woman´s dorm of six, and am about to go upstairs to a breakfast, up the old wooden stairs to the rooftop kitchen area. Once again, I feel like I am borne along on some gentle river of right place, right time. And there´s a computer that seems to work.

I left things behind, and lost things, on this trip.  Let´s start with the physical.  That pack is your home, and when things are lost or stolen, the shock is disproportionate.  I lost three items, probably because I left them behind~~ sarong, prescription sunglasses, and a pair of underwear.

This whole trip I have been experimenting with flow. I decided that when things went wrong, that was a signal to stop and do something else, in other words, to actually change something. I think it was Einstein that said you can´t solve problems on the level they were created, but have to step outside them to another place.  This loss of items sounds laughable when I list it, but these losses caused my stomach to lurch.  In the damp weather, having only two pairs of underwear left me no margin of error for drying them.  The sarong was my security item~~ scarf, pillowcase, bedcover, blanket, modesty while changing, and a curtain for my bunk if I wanted privacy.  Oh, and it was my towel too.  And sunglasses.

When I encountered bad events, feelings, and bad days, I had the time to do a few existential experiments.  My idea was that if things were going wrong, or I was freaked out, I could change my ideas and plans to something that felt better.  This sounds so simple, but often in life we are bent on a course.  If you have an awful work day, you stay at work and tough it out.  But I didn´t have to do that here.

So when I lost things, or became fearful of hiking alone in the green, dripping Galician woods, I could read these as gentle nudges to change plans.  It worked well.  When I got an infected blister, it gave me two days in a hotel room to reconsider how I approached the walk.  I think one reason my walk was so wonderful is that I let painful signs actually give me a message to change, and I could act on them.

I also had some bad dreams on the Camino.  I think that we brush through layers of religion, history, blood and war when we walk through these places.  The cathedrals are full of blood, bones, skulls, body parts, and monsters, the gargoyles.  When you start to align yourself with the good, I think the shadow can be activated.  I am used to this.  I often have bad dreams when I start innovative creative projects.  When you step outside your comfort zone, your subconcious mind knows it.  There is often a kickback, like firing a gun.   I believe all dreams are meant to help us, and are messages, so I don´t worry as much about uncomfortable dreams as I used to.

The Camino is a metaphor.  How wonderful to leave things behind!  I could leave the dream in a church, or at a tree, or in a cafe, and hike on.  All of life is a process of leaving things behind.  We can read that as loss, or a new chance.  I did my final leaving behind of deep things at the alter of St. James.  I left behind the same things the ancients did:  old wounds and sins and temptations, atonement.  I feel like I literally left them behind for the saint, or history, or nature, or God, to return to the cycle of the universe.  We leave things behind and face the new day freer.

By the way, after I started this post, I found my blue sarong in a ball in the bottom of my pack!  My friend returned!  Ah, synchronicity.  Go figure.

Greetings from the End of the World

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I’m writing you from my favorite cafe at the end of the world, a cheery place to counteract all the endings. Seagulls shriek, cry, bark, howl, meow, and moan; I’ve never heard anything like it, all day and all night. A person with too much imagination could easily hear them as the souls of the damned, wailing before they are carried away. Did I mention that Finisterre is built on a graveyard? Hey, I watch movies: I know what happens when you build on burial sites. Or maybe only Americans notice.

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Continue reading → Greetings from the End of the World

Donkey and Company

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This beautiful girl, Jenny, came all the way up the Le Puy route, over 60 days into her journey with her French master. They stayed at the country place because there was a stall for her and a couch for him. I told you it was the right kind of inn.

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This hound would lay directly in front of the albergue entrance so you had to step over him to get in. Later I saw the three huge German shepherds roaming through the fog like spirits of wolves. I’m walking in fog and chill wind, but thankfully no rain. I am sitting in the first place in the mountains of Galicia that has weefee , so I can post a few pictures.

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The fire, as a primal element, deserves its own photo.The owner would heap huge logs covered with moss and lichen into it, and urged us to dry our shoes in front of it. Here’s a travel tip: stuff old pages ripped out of your guidebook into your shoes to help dry them.

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Beautiful brown cows make a beautiful fresh cheese with the consistency of soft tofu. A heap is served on a plate with a little compressed square of quince jam to eat it with. Delicious!

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This is a beautiful 12th century virgin. She is the patroness of O Cebreiro, and her feast day is celebrated on my birthday. Since it is the custom to dress up many of the more doll-like virgins in costumes, I felt free to dress her up digitally, and a halo appeared. The landscape is just honeycombed with virgins, each dripping a blessing into a little village.

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The thunderstorm that soaked me.

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A sadly graffittied shrine to a virgin of the Camino. You can see the mural on one side and the defacing on the other. This was on my creepiest walk, right in the middle of the day. I saw only vandalism and violation and not one other person, either caminante or citizen. It was during the siesta apocalypse outside Ponferrada. Suburbs are the scariest walking of all.

<img src=”https://saltworkstudio.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/20140629-091934-33574463.jpg” alt=”20140629-091934-33574463.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” />This isn’t my sketchbook, but an image from the Templar Library. I was struck by the ancient illuminations. They have a dream-like quality. These illuminated manuscripts must be the most beautiful books ever made.
Have to get back on the trail now. Suzanne