Travel Journals

Monks and Miracles

Hello from the medieval cobbled Portuguese village of Obidos! I’m wrapping up the end of my sixth month overseas, and it feels like things have been whirling along since I left Dubrovnik in the beginning of July.

I spent a few days in Washington DC at the Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease conference and met other families who had lost someone dear to them to CJD. Also did some lobbying on Capitol Hill trying to increase awareness and funding and to promote significantly more testing of cattle by the USDA. The latter hasn’t even allowed voluntarily testing of herds for BSE, which alarmingly suggests a trend toward “if we don’t test, then we won’t discover more Mad Cow cases in the US...” There has even been federal prosecution of a farmer who submitted too many samples to be tested. There are still many unanswered questions for all of the different strains of this disease and so many holes left where Dad once was. The wheels of research and policy seem to always turn too slowly for my heart.

Jack joined me for a celebratory trip back to Flores for the unveiling of Island, the Portuguese/English poetry collection by my friend Gabriela Silva accompanied by photographs of mine. It was unveiled at an exposition for the Festival of the Emigrant and seems to have been received well. Please drop me a short note if you’re interested in purchasing a copy once my shipment arrives in the States.

The time on Flores was so special, and we were treated like beloved celebrities with beautiful accommodation in a historic stone cottage with antique furniture, flowers, welcome baskets, and our own donkey named Florinda in a spot beneath the green and blue-hydrangea cliffs and waterfalls near Faja Grande. We also spent two nights at a lovely watermill where Gabriela arranged a candlelit dinner outside beneath the giant ferns alongside the river. I have really been captured by the island of flowers and the amazing generosity and hospitality of its people...

The last couple of weeks Jack and I have been winding our way through mainland Portugal visiting castles and monasteries and pilgrimage sites. We climbed the 700+ steps with beautiful blue and white tiles to a church in Lamego just as the strains of Ava Maria were floating out the windows from Mass. We visited Fatima where the Virgin Mary appeared to 3 shepherd children in 1917 on four separate occasions and where devoted pilgrims make their (long) way to the chapel on their kneels. We stayed in Tomar, which was the famed headquarters of the Knights of the Templar from the 1100s. Abundance and faith and miracles are everywhere!

I had a very nice birthday too and am so grateful for all of the lovely wishes. I have much abundance of my own to be grateful for!

Back to Lisbon today, London tomorrow, and then I’m heading down alone to Capetown, South Africa on the 29th. I’ll be meeting up with the non-profit group “Bridges to Understanding” and participating in a photography workshop with rural village children teaching them the art of digital storytelling. It’s my last “known” stop, so continued prayers for safety and clarity of purpose for my next steps would be appreciated.

Much love and all best wishes...