El Camino – The Highlights

We started walking from St. Jean Pied de Port, France on 20 April. Thirty six days later, we walked in to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, traveling 497 miles (799 km) westward.

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Other than 5 miles (8 km) on horseback, 12 miles (20 km) in a taxi, and 110 miles (180 km) by bus from Burgos to Leon, we have traveled on these feet.

We walked 370 miles (590 km).

We slowed down. We rarely reserved beds in advance, trusting that we’d find something. We woke at 0600, walked for over an hour before coffee or breakfast. We learned to share space with other people – a LOT of other people. We met people from around the world – sharing laughter, tears, a meal, a few days walking together – glimpses of our lives.

We learned to appreciate every moment of peace. We ate when we were hungry, rested when we were tired. We redefined luxury – to include walking in solitude, wooden bunk bed ladders, and cloth sheets on a decent mattress. We carried in our packs a bare minimum of belongings – nothing unused. We washed our clothing by hand. We learned the power of restoration that comes through sleep. We lost an appreciable amount of weight without being hungry. We are harder to kill.

We accepted that the most environmentally responsible option for clearing our sinuses does not involve tissues. We saw enough spindly-legged old men in their undercrackers shuffling about hostels to last us a lifetime.* While many peregrinos leave their fecal matter a reasonable distance** from the trail, others seemed to have no problem leaving it mid-trail, for the rest of us to admire. We learned a teeny bit of Spanish – and although we didn’t always get it right, it was universally appreciated.

After five weeks, we thought we were done walking – even though the daily routine was deeply ingrained.

Arriving in Santiago last Friday, with a week to kill, we hopped a bus for the coast. We spent four days farting around by the sea at “the end of the world” – Fisterre and Muxia. But we were restless… We didn’t feel right NOT walking.
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When we arrived back in Santiago today, our plan was to take the airport bus to our hotel. It was only 12 km – so we walked it – in a chilly, misty drizzle.

It felt good…

Tomorrow, we’re off to fart around in Barcelona with an old friend, who has planned an intense repatriation experience.

And then home, for what lies ahead…

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* One. Exactly one of these is enough to last a lifetime. We saw dozens more.
** If you see an area adjacent to the trail littered with toilet paper? Probably not the best place to have a picnic. Humans can be really filthy animals…
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i go out walkin’….

It’s been less than a year since retirement. Nine months. We did not want to spend the first year getting oriented to our new lifestyle. Reflecting on past careers. Sifting through travel guides. Let ourselves get mired in “analysis paralysis.”

We decided to put a virtual taser to the gonads and shake shit up.

The key question we’ve set out to answer — “how do you travel when you have more time than money?” We’ve been fortunate to cover a lot of miles – we want to change how we go.

Shortly after retiring, we stumbled our first few miles on the Appalachian Trail last August, thinking that backpacking  would be the obvious means to travel on the cheap. What we quickly determined is that we were in no shape to tackle such adventures. At least not right away. i also was reminded how much i despise sleeping on dirt.

Studley’s daughter, Pixie, was very supportive of our pursuit of an adventurous travel habit. We discussed other options – including El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. “From what I have heard, one of the hardest things about doing the Camino is staying sober – they serve a LOT of Spanish wines during the meals there…”

Studley and i exchanged a glance – and a high five. “Drunk walk Spain? Yeah. We can do that…” We started planning our camino. While still chasing other adventures, staying in Turkey for a month, and living our regular lives, El Camino became a quest.

We started training. And by “training” i mean “walking” – because it’s really just a walk. Doing 30 half-marathons back to back, however, will wear down your body, so we have been walking. A lot. We’ve walked in rain. In snow. On the one warm day this season, we walked 12 miles. Has it been enough? Probably not. But here we are, about to get on an airplane.

i’ve got several friends who have taken on this pilgrimage. They have been our primary resource in thinking through what to pack. My cousin (who has walked El Camino twice) did a gear shakedown – we were pretty proud to show her that we’d gotten out packs down to 15 pounds.

Cousin L [pulling a tiny travel mug from Studley’s pack]: Isn’t that adorable. You know, they DO have cups in Spain.

gear

She was brutal, questioning each item. With her help, we further lightened our loads. Base weight of my pack is 10 pounds (4.5 kg). This is a very good start. With water and consumables, i’ll be at about 13 pounds (7 kg).

One of the most challenging aspects has been preparing to be GONE for so long. Bill paying, mail, home maintenance, appointments. All of this must be squared away so we can disappear. Taking my cat to go stay with a friend was difficult. This is also training…

We’ve walked. We’ve packed, repacked, and packed again.  There’s not much more to do but get to the airport. And start walking…

Rain Gear

For decades my “power word” has been “onward”. When i felt mired in the muck of life, or quicksand of toxic relationships, i have grabbed that word as my shield and plowed ahead. Within Camino culture, there is an ancient equivalent – “Ultreia” (old Spanish spelling – “Ultreya”). Rough translation – ‘Onward! Beyond!’

 

Road nuggets

Somewhere between London and Philadelphia, the fever hit. i have spent the past week dealing with a mild case of the flu, while managing re-entry after being away from home for a month. Some random nuggets…

  • Thirty days. That is the longest i’ve ever been away from ‘home’ as an adult. This is mostly because of The Job, which i no longer have. Studley and i were very deliberate about pushing our comfort limits, and we’re still sorting out how we feel. Not seriously considering life as ex-pats, but some gentle experience should we ever choose that route.B1
  • i missed my pets. If i am going to do this on a fairly regular basis, i probably should not have pets. My live-in pet sitter had a pre-planned trip in the middle of that 30 days, so i scrambled to hire people, and find a friend, who could cover those 10 days. One of the most stressful aspects of being gone – and most expensive. i took to feeding treats to the street cats and dogs. cIMG_6363
  • Air travel is still pretty awesome – about 12,000 miles flown on this trip. How long would it have taken by ship? Who knows? Luggage lost on the way to Athens, but it found us a couple of days later. British Airways thought we hadn’t shown up for our flights TO Athens, so they canceled our return, but still managed to get us on a flight home. For all the barking about how shitty air travel is, it’s pretty amazing when you stand back a bit…izmir to istablnu
  • Turkey – Izmir is a lovely city – about the size of Chicago. The public transit cards include use of buses, ferries, trams and bike share. To the people who consider this a ‘third world country’? Rethink that shit… We were out and about alone, day and night, and i NEVER felt unsafe.10
  • Plumbing – in Turkey, there are bins in the toilet stalls for the collection of used paper. The plumbing systems and sanitary waste processing facilities do not handle toilet paper. Surprising how fast you get used to this. On the plus side? Most toilets in Izmir (public, private) have built in bidet functions. Surprising how fast you get used to this, too. Exploring options to upgrade my home toilet…IMG_6268
  • Language – We started using an app (Duolingo) to learn Turkish about two months before launch. The Girl emphasized the need to be fluent in numbers – enabling basic commerce. We thought we’d done ok. We were wrong. i DID have a really cool conversation with my son-in-laws 2 year old niece about colors and animals. i think this topic requires a separate post, as there are numerous examples of how things worked, and didn’t, and many lessons learned along the way!b13
  • Baggage – The Girl had a list of things she wanted us to bring, and we hauled another bag of Christmas gifts from The Girl’s Dad and his wife. We had to bring the big suitcases. Limited to 50 pounds each, we still had to deploy two roll aboard suitcases, along with our standard travel backpacks. Didn’t leave a lot of space for our personal belongings – so we packed REALLY light. Turns out, i can live for a month with just a few shirts, trousers/leggings, a dress, a fleece jacket, raincoat, two pairs of socks, one extra pair of shoes, and four pair of undercrackers. Excellent training for what lies ahead…55

Fierce…

She was born and raised in a small village on the Black Sea, but married and moved to a larger city years later. Ayse is 65 years old, and a widow. We met her while visiting friends of The Girl.

The Girl’s friend, Sevda is married to Pete (from the US). They had a son, Ender, about a year ago, and Ayse spends time with them, helping with the little boy, and managing the household. Ayse has four daughters, three (including Sevda) are engineers, and the fourth is trained as a social worker.

We are working on learning Turkish, but our skills are rudimentary at best. With translation assistance from Sevda and The Girl, i told Ayse that she should be very proud of raising four smart, professional daughters. “In my family, everyone must do something.”

Ayse did not go to college herself, but clearly understands the value of education.

As we picked up Ender’s books, we started sounding out words – numbers, colors, animals. She looked at Sevda with a very determined look on her face, threw a side eye toward Pete, and spoke at length in Turkish.

Sevda said she is going to study English, and was inspired to tackle it because we were trying to learn Turkish. She also said that our Turkish is already better than Pete’s, and thinks he should make the same effort after living in Turkey for so long!

Ayse is a thin woman, wearing modest clothing*, taking the occasional break to go out on the porch and smoke. Her eyes are sharp, and her face looks younger to me than her 65 years. Despite Sevda telling us that she has had trouble with her back, she picks up Ender with ease, slinging him onto her shoulders, her back, turning him a million different ways as she carries him from room to room.

“She could juggle babies! Wow!”

Sevda showed me her garden, which includes herbs, peppers, greens. “That’s an olive tree! We just had a harvest, and made olive oil! Pete and I were picking them from the low branches, but my mother climbed up the tree! She has practically build this entire garden herself! I’ll send home some of the tomato sauce she made this summer!”

As we said our goodbyes**, Ayse invited us to visit us in her home town when we visit again. i told her that we’d help her practice her English if she’d help us practice our Turkish!

In the car on the drive home, i was commenting on how fierce Ayse is – “She is extraordinary! She is fierce, smart – and can juggle babies! How cool is that?”

The Girl seemed a little sad as she said “Yeah… I think she’s sick. Cancer. Not sure of the details, but it’s not a great prognosis…”

baby juggling

Image found here. A famous ‘baby juggler’ statue in Oslo. Who knew?

* In Izmir, women are free to choose to wear modest clothing (hijab) or not. Based on several visits here, and observation, i’d say around a quarter to a third of women – of all ages – make this choice. 

** Saying goodbye in Turkish culture takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There are a dozen words for “goodbye” and the process is complicated, but heart felt. We are still getting the hang of cheek-kissing (right side, left side, right side again for family… i think…)

On the blend…

Blended families.

We think of the classic Brady Bunch situation, or the more complex arrangements where there are young children, remarried parents, custody and shared parenting. With effort this can work well, but often leads to headaches, holiday melt downs, and logistical nightmares.

What happens when old people, with grown children, pair up? Not a lot written about that…

Studley had two twenty-something children when he divorced his wife, and my children were college-aged when their dad and i split. Our courtship was fairly non-traditional, but after hanging out together for a few years, it was inevitable that our spawn would be introduced.

With my kids, it was a more organic process. In the early days of our relationship, they were either living at home, or at university and coming home fairly often. They’d spend time with us, we’d go out to dinner, hang out, watch movies, and they grew attached. Studley and i were also in the more enthusiastic stage of dating, and maintained an open relationship*, which meant he wasn’t my only date. There was only one other man they met, and neither liked him. They were “Team Studley” from the start…

Studley’s situation was quite different. His eldest lived out of state, and his youngest was away at university. There was also a bit more stress regarding the parental divorce, and no way for him to have a civil relationship with his ex-wife. It took more time for him to feel comfortable introducing his children to his “girlfriend”.

Things gelled a bit when i attended his son’s wedding a few years ago. Some combination of me being polite to their mother, and the kids seeing what a couple of dorks we were on the dance floor, seemed to break the ice. Their dad was happy! There have been a few other holiday gatherings over the years, more time spent together, closer connections, and conversations going deeper.

i was honored when his daughter introduced us to her trail family as “her parents” when we met her during her Appalachian Trail hike in August. Allowing things to proceed at their own pace was the right thing to do. It took time, but it took!

This year, his kids wanted to meet up somewhere for Christmas. We settled on renting a condo in Big Sky, Montana, with the goal of exploring somewhere new and getting outside to enjoy the snow. Not being quite as old and crusty experienced with travel planning, they chose the absolutely most expensive travel days for airfare!

Montana

Snowshoe hike. i’m on the left, and Studley is in the middle. It was -2 F  (-19 C). We did not die. 

Calling on my inner travel ninja, i was able to save a lot of money by hacking flights together, adding a 2 day layover in Denver. This allowed for a very quick stop with my son and his family the week before Christmas! The bonus? Studley’s daughter would be traveling with us – a chance for some ‘cross spawn’ time!

Over the years, there have been a few other opportunities for my kids to meet his kids, but they’ve been limited because they all live in far off places! Louisiana, Washington, DC, Colorado Springs and Izmir, Turkey! Doesn’t make it easy to get together for Sunday brunch!

It was an absolute delight to see my son and his wife connect with his daughter. She didn’t mind hanging out with the two grandcritters, either.  She enjoyed her time, and we’ve since had discussions around building some future holiday plans where we’re all in the same general vicinity to make the bigger gatherings happen.

Non-traditional? Whatever that means. The blend extends. 

gratuitous gamma pic

Gratuitous Gamma pic… they are adorable!

 

* We still are in a ‘non-exclusive’ relationship, managing a comfortable degree of ethical non-monogamy. We have, however, become quite particular about such arrangements, having been burned to a crisp a few times by people who are batshit crazy claim to understand what this means, and then try to change the ground rules. 

Ten Years After…

As i procrastinate forge my way into the new year, it occurred to me that it was ten years ago that i wandered into the blogosphere. As a recently divorced woman with an emptying nest, and inspired by a real life friend who was a blogger from the early days, i put a toe into the blogwaters.

10th birthdayFar more disciplined (and less distracted) back then, i generally posted daily – a concept that boggles my mind. That was before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram were available to serve as host platforms for oversharing of the mundane aspects of daily life.  Short blasts, mostly reflecting on my days, i would dig in deep and hoark up something difficult about once a week.

People showed up. i followed a few people, commented regularly, and was honored and astonished when they would stop by my virtual trailer park and leave a comment or two. And they stayed – some of you crazy folks have been hanging around from nearly the start. Others have wandered in for a bit, and wandered off. Even though i’ve been far more sporadic of late, i still see the occasional first timer.

Initially, i expected this to be a somewhat masturbatory activity – spanking my keyboard in solitude. By the end of the first year, i’d made some virtual friends in the blogosphere. In my first year of blogging in 2008, i decided that flying to Europe to meet up with a couple of them was a grand idea – and i did so. Learning much from that trip, i did it again in 2010, meeting up with my two besties from Australia and South Africa and having quite an adventure in Greece for two weeks.

Despite wondering if i would end up abducted, robbed, or skinned, it has all worked out fabulously. The people i’ve found through this blog – and those who have stepped from the realm of the virtual to the real – have been good people, people i am glad to have as part of my world. Those i’ve never managed to meet in person, remain just as real to me.

Somewhere along that path, i stopped considering my blogmates as virtual friends. They are just as real to me as those i see on a regular basis.

From the outset i planned to write for myself, and kept this blog disconnected from my ‘real life’. i do not hump this blog to my friends to drive stats, and it continues to humble me that those who wander in and read are doing so based solely on the words that i spew into the ether…

On this 10th Birthday for The Trailer Park Refugee, i thank you for showing up, commiserating, and taking the time from your day to reach out and connect with a strange woman stranger that may only seem to exist inside of your computer, or tablet, or phone. i assure you, i am real.

The path i’ve wandered for the past decade, documented on this ol’ blog, brought me here… And i’m good – damn good – with where i’ve landed. What will the next 10 bring?

Beats the fuck outta me… but let’s go!

Here’s to a grand year ahead for all of us!

Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied*…

It’s just hair.

Why have so many of us bought into the marketing myth that the perfect hair style, or hair product, will absolutely revolutionize our lives? We consider stylists to be magicians – that they can wave magic scissors and completely transform all that is rotten in our lives into goodness and light.

We all want to look good. To be attractive. That’s human. A flattering hairstyle is part of that… but it seems we look to “The Haircut” as the Big Momma of Transformation! i see dozens of photos of friends and acquaintances as they leave the stylists chair – “I did something! Look! It’s a New Me!” The modern, mysterious phenomenon that drives millions of people to take selfies in their cars** seems, in part, based on people feeling that they’re having a “good hair day”.

i’ll say it again – It’s just hair.

i’ve been sucked into this myth as much as anyone. i’ve kept long hair since childhood. i couldn’t imagine having short hair. A response to medication made most of my hair fall out about 20 years ago, and i was mortified! Hairpieces, products… you name it, i bought it! During the recovery phase, as my hair grew back, i felt that i looked terrible with short hair, and believed that it mattered.

Genetically predisposed to white hair, mine would have lost all color by the time i was 40, if i hadn’t intervened. Keeping some of the white for a few years, i spent a lot of money getting my hairs professionally painted. i played with bright red, purple and blue for the past few years, sorting out what i might want to do with all that white some day.

But this year, something snapped. Not sure whether it was triggered by retirement, or the time i’ve spent living outdoors, but the hair became a liability. A nuisance. It was thinning anyway, and i had to spend a lot more time to get it to look ok. Never ‘good’, just ok.

Without giving it too much thought, i told my hairdresser to just shave it all off. And she did. No more color, either. Cold turkey, it was just gone.

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From a maintenance point of view? i absolutely love it! i wake up with a funky mohawked, bed-headed look, but a quick swat with a brush and it’s fine. My neck gets cold, but i have a gazillion scarves.

hairs1

Appearance-wise? Still not totally used to it. Deeply ingrained in my personal body dysmorphic disorder is that i must have long hair to be attractive. Sexy? Maybe with some more piercings and a bit of leather.

i think that will come with time… Perhaps a bit less frequent than in my 40’s, the quality of sex in my life is delicious, and i’m happy.

Form follows function. It’s just hair. Most importantly? It aligns with the life i choose to live – on the road, off the beaten path. The very definition of simplicity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 * No googling – anyone know the referenced lyrics?  

** i don’t understand it. Maybe it’s the natural light? If someone knows the answer, please enlighten me. As a friend says “I don’t just get in my car and say ‘damn, I think I look good in my car! Better capture this moment!”

 

 

Just plane fun…

What would you do if you had: A plane, free time, and a desire to be useful?

Studley has all of the above. For the past two months, he’s shared a gig with me that may be the most delightful volunteer job imaginable.

The network of animal rescue organizations is robust and highly organized. Large or small, the people involved are devoted to saving animals from terrible circumstances, and finding loving, safe, permanent homes.

Since becoming a foster dog momma, i’ve learned just how extensive this network is… Frantic pleas go up: “I need someone to drive to Carbunkle, Kentucky to pick up a new mom and her puppies.” “Is there anyone in Fleahaven, Connecticut that can pull this beauty from a kill-shelter before Monday?” “Can someone pick up a transport leg between Hoarkston, Indiana and Fartknocker, Illinois on Saturday?”

It turns out, there are also volunteer pilots who do specialty transport for animals that can’t tolerate ground transport – through Pilots and Paws. Studley decided that this was the definition of an exceptionally good reason to fly!

He checked the mission board for locations, and checked our calendar for availability. Weather was a factor, even though he’s rated to fly in crappy weather, it’s not as much fun. Complex multi-leg transport missions required coordination with other pilots. It took some work on his part, but it finally came together.

First mission in October was to pick up a Lab and her nine puppies. They were about 2 months old, and as squiggly as a bucket of octopii! And adorable!

Gracie's puppies

We met the woman with the rescue dogs at a small airport in Tennessee, and she immediately handed us two adorable, squirmy pups! Loading them in the plane presented a small challenge, but the crate full o’wiggle was safely in the back seat.

Pilot with paws

My job? Dog wrangler. Just ride shotgun, keep an eye on the critters, feed Studley snacks and scream “PUPPIES!” every few minutes…

gracie in flight

The little bits howled for the first few minutes of the flight, then settled down for a good snooze… Mom eventually got comfortable on a nest of blankets on the floor.

into the terminal

At the destination airport, our cargo got a good bit of attention. Workers provided a luggage cart to help get the dogs into the terminal. A passing pilot decided mom needed a good scritch behind the ears…

It was another month before the timing worked out for round two.

A momma Beagle and ten week-old puppies! Too small to touch, they were crated from pick up to hand off. As Studley says “about the size of biscuits”, they were all bellies, paws and stayed in a tiny fur ball the entire time.

Ashley and Pups

If you look at the grand challenge of abandoned animals? It’s overwhelming. You can’t save them all. It’s worth an effort to do what you can, though. Human or canine, there are many good creatures out there – and it simply feels good to contribute (even if i’m just ‘meat in a seat’ screaming “PUPPIES!” every ten minutes).

The network is powerful, and politically agnostic – a collection of strangers working together to solve a problem. More of this, please…

 

Zen and the Art of Toilet Repair

For two years i have engaged in combat with the toilet in my guest bathroom. It started with a sticky handle. Being a two-banana mechanic*, i was comfortable doing the easy replacement myself.

With a little tweak here and there, i was able to keep it working, but eventually it stuck again. i dove in again, tearing down some of the bits and nuggets, and re-set the handle until it worked.

Success remained short lived. No matter what i did, which type of handle i used, i couldn’t make the repair stick. Or un-stick, as this case called for… How much did i spend on handles? Replacement innerds for the entire flush mechanism? i lost track.

Giving up, i put a note on it that simply said “Please lift handle after flush”.

i live alone, and primarily use the toilet in the master bathroom, adjacent to my bedroom. Studley is my most frequent visitor, and he’d learned the drill. Parties? Guests? i was constantly poking my head into the guest bathroom to make sure the handle had been lifted.

Right before i headed out west in July, the toilet in the master bath had colluded with the guest bath toilet, and the handle refused to lift. Wrench in hand, i dove in and tweaked until it worked again.

Until it didn’t. Headed out the door for the airport, i left a note for my pet sitter explaining the process. He apparently didn’t get it working, because i got a frantic text one morning – “I can’t flush the toilet! Help!”  i was able to video chat with him through the brute force process required to successfully empty the bowl.**

When i returned home, i spent more money on toilet repair gear, and settled in to tear both toilets down if needed. And i failed. Commiserating with Studley, i came to the only logical conclusion possible.

“i’m going to blow up that motherfucking toilet and put in a new one. Maybe turn the old one into a planter in the back garden to annoy the home owners association, and serve as a warning to all future toilets…”

Two days later, while slugging coffee, i had an epiphany. Call a plumber. It would be far less expensive, and stressful, to hire a pro. Choking on my ego, i made the call. “It’s just a problem with the handle, but i’ve tried everything i can do to fix it! i’m a moron, and i’m sure it’s something simple, but i give up!” The scheduler assured me it was a common thing, and set up the service call.

Jerry arrived, and patiently listened to me babble on about my war with the handles. The angst, the frustration, the rage… “Help me, Plumber Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope!” 

He was patient. He was good at his job. He repaired both toilets in less than an hour, using parts i already had on hand. He talked me through it. He explained the problem, and imparted a few words of wisdom…

“This seal? This was the problem from the start. It degraded over time, and made it hard to pull the handle. It should be fine now…”

“i am SUCH a bonehead! i feel like a complete idiot! i should have checked that!”

He didn’t laugh or make fun of me. In fact, he smiled and said it happens quite often.

“You’d be amazed at how often we drive ourselves crazy fixing the wrong problem.”

let it go

image found here

* In the realm of the gear head, there is a ‘five banana’ scale for repair skills. When i started assisting with the rebuild of the old Jeep, my friend tagged me pretty quickly as a “one banana”. Over time, i’ve gained some skills. 

** And he mercifully did NOT reveal contents of the bowl during our video chat…

Dia de Muertos

“Hey, daisyfae – someone sent us a message asking if we could organize some cyclists to join up with a parade. They’re trying to put together a Dia de los Muertos celebration and asked if we could help.”

“Sure… Sounds like fun!”

That was in 2011 – i was a volunteer with a cycling group. Putting on make up, decorating bicycles and riding through town seemed a grand idea!  The first year they hadn’t secured an actual parade PERMIT, so the bikes and a couple of cars went slowly down the street while a gaggle of people followed along on the sidewalks.

There was a gathering at a gallery showcasing ofrendas – altars commemorating the dead. Flowers, candles, and music. It was absolutely beautiful to see the altars, carefully crafted with the remembrances of the dead.

In August of 2012, i was shattered by the suicide of a close friend – rattled to my core and immersed in the complex grief that comes from an unexplained death. i was still a mess when the organizer of the Dia de Muertos event asked me to help. i joined the ragtag band of hippies and artists, and sat in a few meetings. They were expanding the effort to include workshops on crafting ofrendas.

Still grieving, i decided it was worth a couple of hours. At that workshop, i dug in… i learned how to make a skeleton from bread dough ‘clay’. i spent hours over the next few weeks thinking of all of the things he had loved, the things that brought him joy.

Cooking, his old gray cat, beer, sushi… i built a beer glass, and figured out how to make acrylic beer. i am not a crafty person, but i build shit. And that year? i built an altar to remember my dead friend. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was cathartic.

stella

The following year, when contacted by the organizer i offered her my services. i basically laid down at her feet and asked her to put me to work. That was the year i strapped a giant skeleton to my body while driving a car through the entertainment district in town.

i’ve continued as a parade marshal, farting around with a variety of creatures and whatnot to launch the parade with a bang. This year, it was cold. The parade was a touch smaller, but no less enthusiastic than in the previous years.  i modified the fanciful alebrije we built last year, gave her wings, and let her fly…

parade 2017

The ofrendas draw me in – whether small remembrances, just a few photos and candles, or intricate creations, they leave me wanting to know more about the person being remembered…

altar 2017

i’m not religious. Can’t say that i’m even spiritual. But this is a beautiful, healthy and glorious way to work through death. We paint our faces in the style of the Calavera Catrina.  We dance with death – and celebrate life…

skelfie