(“ALT BLiR BRA!” = Everything’s going to be fine!)

The 31st leg of the virtual Camino.


Today our guide gives us insight into the pilgrim experience in the 12th century. The threats from the elements, from other humans – from viruses and other plagues. There is a lot we take for granted. And a lot we mistake as necessities.

Like a morning cup of coffee, talisman against a grumpy mood.

While drinking my coffee, I was listening to a podcast about “ganning“. The Saami version of a hex, or the evil eye, or whatever name the practice falls under anywhere in the world: the scapegoating for misfortune. We’ve a secular version of the practice, too. Someone we’ve bumped into has cursed our day, is responsible for our mood – which caused our stubbed toe or our burned palate. It is always someone else’s fault – someone is out to get us.

I read an associated article on the website. It was written by a sociologist who said something things about the ancient Saami culture need to be abandoned. I’m not one for promoting witch hunts, but I’m thinking there might be something important to be learned from a formal system for the attribution of blame. Such a thing can be mediated. Arbitrated. Maybe even judged. At least with a formal attribution the absurdity of the accusation can be faced squarely, and dealt with.

Instead I go on grumbling about my students, or my step-kids, or the neighbor’s rooster as the cause of all my woes. Maybe the first step to taking responsibility is actually externalizing the problem: why am I using this person (or rooster) to punish myself?

Today I’m appreciating the synchronicity. “My students are driving me crazy,” I think. Like they have the time to bother with that. The energy to spare.

On Fridays, after the workday I usually listen to a recorded meditation by Jen Louden. Today she talks about making a truce with your God, or gods or the universe.

Synchronicity.

I don’t know what I believe in exactly, but I believe in metaphors as tools for dealing with the truly ineffable.

I believe in the power of formal systems to identify what moves us – in productive and destructive directions – in prayer, in hope, in forgiveness and in absolution. I may have fancy collapsible hiking poles, Gore tex shoes and Merino wool underwear, but at least I have those other things in common with the pilgrims of the 12th Century.

The 30th leg of the Camino.


For three years I wore only black. Black pants, black t-shirts, black dresses, black socks, black shoes. It made my busy mornings easy. Most days at work I am literally rolling on the floor, so it was also practical.

The funny thing is – I don’t think anyone noticed.

Yeah, I don’t know if that is funny.  At any rate, I woke up one day two summers ago and wanted a pair of harem pants. I craved colors and patterns. I craved playfulness. Now my closet is overflowing again.

I have moved so many times in my life that I have stripped down to the essentials over and over. And I have lost essentials, too. Noting the loss matters, though. I continually mourn for these things – not forgotten in the back of a drawer – but physically gone.

Don’t lost things take on a significance they could not otherwise obtain?

I read that Kondo book until I got to the sentence where she said if you do come to need something that you are thinking to throw out now, you can always buy a new one later.

No.

That is not that philosophy I am looking for.

I’m coming to understand that simplicity for me doesn’t mean fashionable minimalism. It doesn’t mean living in a tiny home, cute as they are, with those custom furniture pieces. There seems something extravagant to me about selling my home and finding an affordable plot of land on which to put a tiny house – a location that would allow me access to legal sewage, public transportation and within walking distance to a grocery. That kind of simple is a lot of work. And a kind of privilege. And maybe for single people who don’t have 80 pound hounds.

Maybe for me simplicity is about embracing the routine; about finding the familiar strange and interesting; about finding perspectives – and nudging the edges instead of stripping to the essentials. About wanting what I have.

There is a simple joy in ornamentation. A simple pleasure in in a room full of books.

I’ll be sorting through my closet this week. I’m not going to ask myself what sparks joy, but what causes me distress. I’ll pack those things into cardboard boxes. The local charities are overrun with secondhand fast-fashion right now.  So I will stick the boxes in the attic. And if after a year or so,  I have not missed them, I’ll try to find a simple solution for my excess – one that doesn’t make someone else my sin-eater.

Nothing is simple. But I will keep working on it:

I have a yard. I’m planting a garden.

Something tells me that whole endeavor will be a kind of complex simplicity, too.