California Dreamin'

Trip Start Nov 01, 2007
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, February 25, 2008

We have now walked 780 miles, which works out to 1,681,680 steps, and have found over $17 in lost coins along the way. Spotted on a church marquee somewhere along the way: "A good example is twice as powerful as good advice."

Our F/friend Tom Goodridge of Morningside Friends Meeting in New York City sent an e-mail with a host of questions about our personal feelings and experiences on our walk, which we though deserved answers for all of you.

I wonder about how you feel being nomads? So much of our consumption and sense of security seems to be bound up with making a safe and secure nest/home. How does it feel to be heading each day into the unknown and spending each day on a new (or no) pillow? It is clear from your accounts that this endless web of supportive hosts and supporters along the way become your net of nurture... But that is so profoundly different than the safety, and continuity and control we exert over our homes. Yyou've spoken a bit about your needs for privacy and days off to heal blisters or just be (without mileage) but I would love to hear more details on these...

Surprisingly, we don't have an insecurities about heading off into the unknown each day. In fact, we begin each day with a sense of optimism and excitement about what may happen. After each day's walk, we're so tuckered out and with sore leg muscles that we can sleep in any and all beds we're offered. We look forward to each encounter with new hosts and aren't really seeking the privacy of hotels or campgrounds, but just enjoy that alone time as it comes. A big part of the difference between our experience and a homeless person is that we are in a web of relationships based on receiving and giving. This walk is also an opportunity to grow in awareness that the earth is our home, a truth that is harder to come by when we are focused mainly on establishing and maintaining our individual domiciles.

How about your clothing and your shoes... how do you look at your wardrobe differently from when you were at home and selected your attire on a very different basis? What is important now ( weatherproof gear or socks or headgear) how do you look at these  differently from your pre- nomadic days..

Someone recently asked us whether we were tired of our clothes. Funny thing is, we're not! We're okay getting into pretty much the same outfit each day. We just have to work out washing the clothes on a periodic basis. We wash our underwear and socks by hand almost every night and accept the offer of a washer and dryer when our pants and shirts need cleaning. We're probably pretty relaxed about what we think is clean or not. We each have two outfits, doubles of everything. We're both now thinking of reducing our clothing collections at home when we return.

How about health and hygiene...what food sustains thee? What about elimination?  Isn't it hard to deal with a new bathroom every night... What do you need as a minimum to travel with... toothbrush soap toiletries,,, you are in a sense field testing products--what has passed the test?

Since we have access to bathrooms every night, hygiene isn't a problem. We tend to shower every other morning. We're taking daily vitamins and extra vitamin c to help keep us healthy. Since we're exercising so much our elimination is regular, and we aren't affected by being in a different bathroom each night. The personal products are the same we use at home, just in smaller quantities.

You are also reviving a Quaker practice of traveling ministers....  How is it to come to new settlements and new folks each day and to be able to minister to them..? How is it to face a new "audience" each day with the same message and how many have the message? How has your message changed as you walk it as well as talk it?

Our "message" comes naturally. It's just an extension of our lives and commitments. When we arrive at a new host home we get to know our hosts in the way most people do. We find out about children, work, faith, etc. The discussion deepens as we share. Some hosts are a bit uptight at first that we will discover their "sins" of not recycling everthing, or using their car too much, or not eating local foods, but they soon discover that we're just regular folks and have our own failings. We're really not there to pass judgement or point fingers or minister to them. Once they get over this, we work at strengthening our new relationship. When we give our presentation we are presenting from our heart and the positive response reflects that. We don't judge the participants. Since we started our pilgrimage, our presentation seems to be coming more naturally from our experiences. We laugh at our goofs and kind of resonate with the conversation following the presentation.

One other thought was how the nomadic life affected your relationship.  I loved it when you expressed appreciation for getting the cart fixed just so you wouldn't have to hear anymore about it....  Does the nomadic life wear on you both differently.... do your different strengths become even more apparent and appreciated since you've only each other and the path.... Oops there's another potenial theme... the spiritual life as a path or journey.... How is your spiritual life affected by not having the sanctuary of your home or the solace of daily rhythms rituals?

Since we work together, play together, and homestead together in our regular life, we already have the experience of spending an enormous amount of time together. We know that our relationship is being strengthened by our pilgrimage. Our relationship is the familiarity which helps us feel at home no matter where we are. Sometimes our rhythms rub against one another, but never for more than a few moments. We have such respect and love for each other that the small things don't affect our caring. Our home is not our spiritual sanctuary, though we do feel a deep sense of place on the land where we live. Our spiritual enrichment comes from the every day functions, from the love of family and F/friends, and from the beauty of the earth.

Thank you Tom, for your curiosity and caring questions. We'll now turn back to our walk experiences:

We were delighted to be worshiping with Grass Valley Friends again and were happy to see old Friends. Harry Bailey, our Grass Valley contact, did such an outstanding job with maps and details for our walk to Sacramento. He even indicated on the maps where there were restaurants, quick stops, portable toilets, gas stations, and dangerous stretches of road. We are very grateful to his hard work on our behalf. All 12 of the Wool man Semester students attended our presentation at Sierra Friends Center, which swelled the attendance to about 50. One young woman was willing to partake in our interview process but the query was different. We asked her what she wanted of the elders for a better future. We've included her interview even though her comments were a surprise to us.

We spent Sunday night with Mary and Gordon Starr, who live in Applegate. We again had so much in common that we felt like old friends right away. Gordon is a life-long Quaker and it was great hearing some of his stories of growing up with activist parents. Gordon and Mary are in the process of looking for community in some way or another, and we explored what that meant to them. The meals were terrific and we felt well cared for. It really was a great evening and morning and it was hard saying goodbye.

Our 16-mile walk the next day to Newcastle was spectacular. The weather was in the low 60s and the sun was out. Ruah changed to her sandals, and we both took off our vests. It was mostly downhill, with only a few small hills to get over. There were places to stop and rest all along the way and plenty of spots to look at birds. How much more perfect could it be? Our hosts for the evening, Stuart and Jennifer Smith of Grass Valley Friends, gave us lots of space to rest and work on our computer, fed us wonderfully, and shared some of their dreams and plans of doing energy-efficient renovations to their house that Stuart grew up in. They are both teachers, and so the next morning they were off early, and we followed shortly thereafter.

The next day was a planned 17-1/2 mile day, and we were met by our next hosts, Paul and Judy McClish at our lunch break. Judy drove much of our heavier gear on ahead and left Paul with us to walk the remaining seven miles. We felt so light not having our backpacks weighing us down! We continued with the stripped-down cart (i.e., minus the tent and various equipment) and the Earth flag, since they are good visuals of our purposed walk. Paul and Judy attend the Sacramento Friends Community Church (affiliated with Southwestern Yearly Meeting Evangelical), and we learned much from Paul about their pastor's good works in the congregation. He leads "Quakerism 101" courses and emphasizes the Friends Testimonies as guides for right living. The fifth Sunday every month is open (unprogrammed) worship. We really enjoyed getting to know Paul and appreciate what a thoughtful man he is. We then appreciated our evening with Paul and Judy and took the fun photo of finally being in the land of palm trees, orange groves, and sunshine. Judy's soup and salad were the perfect meal for the end of our day. The next morning Paul walked for about the first five miles with us. We knew we'd be seeing both of them that evening at the church event, so goodbyes weren't necessary yet.

We were met at lunch time by our next host, Robin Aurelius, and Laurie, both of the Sacramento Friends Community Church. They walked the last five miles with us and we so enjoyed our time with them. Once again we were amazed at how close we felt with Robin and Laurie over the several hours of walking with them. At Robin's we were warmly met by Mary McGrath, Robin's wife, and after a short rest they took us to the church for the evening's potluck and presentation. There was a good turnout, and we were well received. We were pleased to see Jim Healton, the pastor, once again. He had given the Bible reflection at a QEW annual meeting about five years ago. There were a few people from the Sacramento Friends Meeting there, and all were pleased to have this opportunity to have a chance to be together.

We spent two nights with Robin and Mary, with a day of rest and catch up in between. On our second night they invited us to come with them to visit their son Matt and plan Scrabble. We never pass up a chance to play Scrabble so happily climbed into their car and headed out. Their son had been hit by a car when he was ten years old (he's now about 40), leaving him with a sever head injury, so that he now is a hemiplegic, with full use of only one side of his body. We were very impressed with Matt's artistic works, which were on display throughout his apartment. It was so good we felt he should have his work in a gallery. We were touched by the opportunity to share in a host family's personal life in this way. Mary and Robin are also very creative people through story telling and music and are community activists as well.

The next day we walked with our full gear to Claudia Kirkpatrick's home. Claudia was our Sacramento Meeting contact, and it was great to be with her. We enjoyed an afternoon visiting and snacking citrus fruits from her heavily-loaded backyard trees. We began to ponder whether folks in California have the same problem with citrus fruits as we in the east have with zucchinis. In the east some people know to lock their doors in the fall for fear of having an unwanted "gift" basket of zucchini delivered when away. When we arrived with Claudia at the Sacremento Friends Meeting for a "100-mile potluck" we noticed a box of lemons on the floor with a sign saying, "please take as many as you want," confirming our ponderings. A delight in arriving at the Meetinghouse was the banner hanging outside welcoming us! (see photo)

The conversation following our presentation that night was full-ranged and exciting. On this evening a few people from the church attended who hadn't been able to attend when we were there. Again we were told how much they appreciated the chance to engage with the "cousins" in the Quaker family. And, incidentally, for the second time on this trip we found someone who claimed ancestry going back to the family of John Woolman. When the evening was over our next hosts, Jim and Kristy Updergraff, drove us to their home. We had a short time with them, but enjoyed coming to know them. Kristy is a birthright Friend and Jim traces his Quaker roots back more than 300 years. As proof he showed us a copy of a letter of protest against slavery written by Germantown, Pennsylvania Friends in 1688 and signed by Updergraffs.

In the morning there was a breakfast at the Meeting, followed by worship. Then we commenced that day's walk to Davis with some Friends from the Meeting. Folks turned back at various points along the way, and Claudia hung in there until we crossed the Sacramento River. We are very grateful to Claudia for her good care and for her and Robin's mapping out our walk to Santa Rosa. It was a sunny and warm day, and we had a nice little picnic along the way. Just as we were about to approach a bike/recreation path, we were greeted by a woman on a bicycle. This turned out to be Margaret Eldred, our Davis host. She was concerned about our progress and was checking up on us. We agreed that due to the late start in Sacramento we would complete another four miles on the path, which crosses a massive wetland on a causeway. Her husband, Bob, then picked us up, allowing us to complete 16 miles of walking. As a special treat, Bob took us on a detour to a wildlife area, where we were thrilled to see Burrowing Owls and Black Phoebes for the first time.

Bob and Margaret are retired from teaching at UC Davis, and they had invited some of their friends over for dinner that evening. It was a total success with stimulating conversation and great people. This was a situation where a Quaker host could not be found in Davis but through some mutual acquaintances a place was found. We felt so lucky that there's this network of people who are willing to host us. Kindred spirits abound all over the place! Margaret and Bob walked us out of Davis the next morning and sent us on our way towards Winters.

Again our day was absolutely beautiful, with sunshine and warmth and blossoming almond trees. We found a little spot for lunch. In the early afternoon, a car pulled over in front of us, and we were greeted by Allan MacLeod, who had been present at our Sacramento Friends Meeting event. He was on his way to the same home we were walking towards, to take part in a practice session for some local musicians. He offered a ride, which we declined, but we accepted a ride for some of our gear. We felt like we could fly, we were so light! Walking into Carol and Dick Holdstock's home was a delight. There were about a dozen musicians (including  Claudia, our Sacramento contact, who had arranged this host site) practicing Irish folk tunes for a gig on St. Patrick's Day. Instead of excusing ourselves for our usual nap time, we were totally engrossed in the music. We thought how wonderful it would be to always be greeted at home stays with such wonderful music. After dinner out with the crowd, some of the musicians returned with us to Carol and Dick's to jam for the evening (see video).  Dick and Allan have been performing together for many years and they gave us their most recent CD of English and Scottish traditional songs.. They have terrific voices and spirits.We loved the music and the company. How can our hearts grow anymore!

The next morning, after breakfast, Carol and Dick give us a lift part of the way to Napa to get us past what we all thought was basically an unsafe section of the route, consisting of twisting, narrow mountain roads with narrow or non-existent shoulders. After being dropped off, we started off hoping at each bend in the road that we were coming to the end of the dangerous section. Instead we walked about seven miles of more mostly unsafe routing, with steep hills, narrow shoulders, and curves with poor visibility. At times our only way to decide whether it was safe to venture around a blind curve was to stop and listen for the sounds of cars coming before scurrying ahead with our bright-colored warning flags flying. We felt very vulnerable at times, and our nerves were quite frayed by the time we reached town. Louis called this day the longest 11-mile day we've experienced. At one point we were taking a break where a group of bicyclists had stopped, and we heard one of them comment that he felt the route was so that he would never come that way again. In spite of these conditions, we were also in awe of the beauty that surrounded us and we found an exquisite overlook for our lunch.Once we headed down into the Napa Valley we began to see all the vineyards for which this place is famous.

In Napa, after one night in a hotel, we stayed with Joe and Diana Wilcox who are part of the Napa-Sonama Friends Meeting. They graciously offered their home though it was on short notice once we realized we'd be walking through Napa on our way to Santa Rosa and then walking back the same way for our presentation in Napa. Joe is a resource person for high schools and Diana is a reading specialist mostly in a high school but sometimes in elementary schools as well. Diana cooked an incredible meal which was visually very pleasing as well. We felt very at ease talking with them and look forward to seeing them again when we return.

The next morning's walk to Sonoma turned out to be a bit scary. We've decided that the California drivers are the worst of our trip. They drive very fast and often wander over the white line of the shoulder area, oblivious to the possibility that a cyclists or pedestrian may be needing that space. We kept motioning them back inside their lanes with the flag and our hands. At one point Ruah began to wonder wether we should even continue our walk in California! She mused that we could take public transportation to each of our host sites instead. But then we turned off the narrow but busy road and felt a bit calmer with less traffic (though the driving wasn't any better). When checking into our hotel in Sonoma, a woman approached and said she had done several long walks some 20 years before to promote peace between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. She was running some errands but had seen us walking and asked us to call her when we were settled. Louis called her and after both of us had talked with her she offered to host us when we walked back through Sonoma on our way to Napa. This was a relief since we were in a pretty pricey area and needed to conserve our funds. The rolling hills of the vineyards are exquisite as were the sky and sun and colors that surrounded us.

That brings us to another miracle of this trip. The contributions we receive at each presentation and from various contributors who send money to our Friends Meeting have been just sufficient so far for us to keep going without using our personal funds! There are many blessings to be thankful for.

The next morning we headed for Oakmont. We were given directions that appeared to be better for walkers because they took us off the main highway. However, after about an hour of of uneventful walking we found ourselves on yet another twisty, narrow road with no walkable shoulders because of lots of erosion past the edge of the pavement. Also, lots of residents had left recycling bins at the ends of their driveways, which we often had to walk around. We were nervous at every turn, and the off-and-on rain made it even more hazardous because it reduced visibility for the drivers. At one point a man who had stopped to get his newspaper from the roadside box asked us about our purpose, and as we talked we learned that he was a third-generation inhabitant of the land. His grandfather had raised dairy cows, but his father had turned to outside work to support his family. He now was a vinter on the land, while his son, an agriculture student, raised organically grown vegetables that he sold through a farm stand .At the man's suggestion, we stopped at the next house to visit the son and see his beautiful organic gardens. He wimsically had placed two windows and a glass door as part of the fence surrounding the garden. He had broccoli, onions, and garlic growing in February, a wonderment to us.

When we finally arrived at Dorothy Lucken's house (she's the mom of Claudia Kirkpatrick) it was almost time for the Democratic presidential candidates' debate, and so we drank our tea and watched our first debate. Dorothy has been a life-long hiker and has a delightful perkyness about her. She was so supportive of us and fed us and took care of us royally. We loved visiting with her.

In the morning Barbara Moulton, our contact from Redwood Forest Friends Meeting in Santa Rosa, biked to Dorothy's house so that she could walk with us the five miles into town to her cohousing community. We found in Barbara someone who is very well informed on the issues that are dear to us, so the five miles whisked right by. Barbara had moved into Santa Rosa from a nearby rural community to lessen her carbon footprint by not needing to use her car as much. The Yulupa Cohousing Community is in the city and just a block from a whole foods market and other small businesses. We were very taken with the whimsical and colorful facade of the cohousing buildings and so we immediately stopped to take a photo to share with you.

There are 29 residential units, another which has been split into a guest unit and an exercise room. The common space includes dining area, kitchen, and a wonderful, cozy library/movie room. We felt right at home. After settling into the guest room, we voted in the Vermont primary with absentee ballots that had been sent to us in care of Barbara, then went off to the post office to complete our good citizen rolls. We had relaxing afternoon and then Barbara and her friend Tom drove us to Friends House, a retirement community that was founded by the late Bob Schutz and his wife, Marie, who were also cofounders of Quaker Earthcare Witness about 20 years ago. We encountered many Friends we knew through QEW and Quaker circles during the dinner meal. We were also surprised and delighted to see Paul Burks, a Methodist, who for many years had been editor of EarthLight Magazine, a "sister publication" of BeFriending Creation.

After dinner we gave our presentation to a packed audience of residents of Friends House, many of whom were not Friends. It was interesting to be speaking about simplifying lives as a necessary step to sustainability to a group of elderly people who have already simplified their lives quite a bit. So we geared our comments to things that all people can be doing regardless of their place in the cycle of life. They were very responsive, and the questions were showed they had been quite moved by what they heard. It was very poignant to hear from some quite elderly Friends who had appreciated and supported Quaker Earthcare Witness over the years.

Saturday was a day of rest for us. Louis finished working on the newsletter, e-mailed it off to the printer, and then worked on updating the QEW website. Ruah read and relaxed on the rainy and windy day. Part of the day she spent with Barbara while uploading videos to the blog. This time was a gift in getting to know Barbara more and having fun together. In the early evening we and Barbara walked about a mile to a church where there was to be a showing of a video, followed by conversation with the film maker, on the issue of Christian love and Third World poverty. It included evocative footage from Tanzania and interviews with leading Christian authors and Tanzanian church leaders. We were touched by some of the interviews. When one person talked about our challenge to really see Christ in another's eyes ("the least of these"), it awakened much in Ruah. When we truly see Christ, or God, or Spirit. in all that lives, won't we act differently in our lives? How can we continue with "business as usual" when we know and feel the suffering of life on this planet? Louis thought that the film also raised some important population, consumption, and economic justice issues that have been addressed in various ways through QEW publications. One of the video's speakers recited the saying, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Louis commented that this works in the long run only if you also teach him how to limit his family size. Because of population pressures, many Third World countries are running short of potable water, arable land, and other resources. On the other hand, the U.S., with its relatively low population density, can be considered one of the most overpopulated countries because of its extremely high per-capita consumption. People at the viewing generally agreed that inequality is being maintained not only by a shortage of compassion on the part of those who are privileged but also by national policies that institutionalize poverty and oppression.

On the way home we stopped by the whole foods market for some deli items for an evening meal that we shared with Barbara in her apartment. We were feeling like we were old friends already.

Sunday we attended worship at Redwood Forest Friends Meeting and followed it with our presentation. We were moved by the discussion following the presentation. One question, which had not been asked before but which is on many people's minds, is about how people retire who have been living simply. Can we live on social security income and be satisfied with medicare? Louis and I plan to live on two social security incomes, but what happens if, or when, one of us dies and we're left to live on one income? Are there ways that a Friends Meeting can be involved in aiding the elderly to at least get by regardless of their reduced income? We all need to ponder these questions as we try to simplfy our lives. We'd like to hear from others on this.

We were delighted that our old F/friend Brian Lloyd, a member of Burlington Friends Meeting living in Santa Rosa, was present for the presentation. Later he came to the home of Andrea English and Tom Whiteman, our new hosts. We had a stimulating conversation on a range of topics with Brian, Tom, and Andrea and the afternoon sped by. We met Andrea and Tom in 2004 when we visited with the Eco-berries, a group of Strawberry Creek Friends Meeting in Berkeley, Calif. They have been supporters of QEW and we were appreciative of their offer to host us since we wanted to spend time with them. Since moving to Santa Rosa Tom has been dedicating much of his time to rehabilitating birds at the Bird Rescue Center. His stories of the various birds coming through the center were so fascinating. Andrea is busy with various committee work, but is working hard to find the still and quiet place in her life as a path toward spiritual simplicity. We had a wonderful evening with them. We were looking forward to the next morning when they would walk part of our day's journey with us.

We leave you now and will post again next week when we are in San Francisco. Many blessings are sent your way as we enter the last two months of our pilgrimage.
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Dear brethrens,

First receive our greetings from here Kenya under the Lord's name.

I am happy to contact you through this Email.I wish that we share in Christ and Denounce Satan.Iam from kenya and I love to kwow more about God.I request that you assist me materially christian literature so that we can share with our church members and fellow christians.Pray for all of us and support us where possible.Be blessed always .

My names are Francis Mangera Ombogo

P.o.Box 298,Ogembo Gucha,Kenya.


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