The Letter

Dear One,

I know some days you feel like I am little more than a nag. A pain in the ass. Something you must tolerate or worse…endure. Some days you find me annoying or challenging and some of my ways are hard if not impossible for you to understand. I know that some days you wish you could trade me in for another. Start all over again. Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance. You and I both know I can’t stick around forever. In the meantime, try to see what I have to offer. Try to see my beauty. Under these wrinkles and scars I am still me.

 It’s true. Some days I hide my good qualities well below the surface. Some days I really don’t make any sense, some days even I think I’m just difficult, actually some days I really am just a bitch. It’s true. A selfish, heartless bitch. But I hope you can love me anyway. Please love me anyway. In fact, I am begging you to love me anyway. You see, the more you love me, the more I will love you back. I promise.

I miss you when you don’t come play with me. Get dirty. Be stupid. Have fun. Laugh at the little things. Come play with me and I swear we will get along better. I pinky swear it!

Embrace me. Hold me like you mean it. Seriously. I actually become more beautiful when I am in your embrace. I can’t explain it but it’s true. It’s as if my bitchiness doesn’t matter anymore. It’s as if the sharpness of my bad days softens and I just become better. On those days, those bad days, be patient. Embrace me. You’ll see. I won’t let you down.

Please, please love me, laugh with me, play with me, embrace me. Do the very best you can with me, especially when I am being a pain in the ass. I want to enjoy every single precious moment we have together. Every single one. 

I want to be wild with you! I want to be real with you. I want you to smile when you think of me. I want them to tell stories about us. I want you right here with me. Right here!  Come on in, trust me, the water is fine. I will be waiting for you….

All my love,


#8 Bonjour Paris- Bonjour Karen. Paris part one.

I arrived in Paris in the afternoon and easily found my way to Karens flat. She was waiting outside. I knew I would like her, she was a friend of Graces and when I was in Ireland Grace had arranged for me to stay with her. I had been planning to hop a plane or train to one of the cities on my mental list of interesting places and just sort of coin toss the details of those three days but instead I found myself with Karen who will now be a lifetime friend.

Her son is 4 and speaks mostly French but Karen and Fred are trying to get him to speak more English. I read French better than I understand it spoken and I speak only about twenty words, sadly they all involve food, drink and the toilet none of which I would be discussing with this four year old. Karen made dinner so Azriel and I danced to Michael Jackson in the front room. I kept saying “Little dude, I don’t speak french” and he kept saying things I didn’t understand but we danced and I read him bedtime stories, in English, and played with play dough and I got a hug and a kiss goodnight and permission to sleep on the floor.

Karen is an expat, with a French husband living her dream in Paris as a tour guide and one of the funniest people I know. She owns a company that does walking tours of the city and she invited me to join her on the tours she has scheduled over the weekend. A Jewish tour, and a night tour. She tells good, moderate and bad jokes along the way, the kind that make you laugh even though you don’t want to.

I am not Jewish and have a hard enough time keeping track of what I did yesterday let alone studying Jewish history in Paris so I learned a LOT on Karen’s tour. Since Charlie and the recent hostage situation in which several Jews were killed in the supermarket, the streets are lined with military and police, especially at the synagogue entrances, even the lesser known ones.

The family that booked this tour were from America. A couple who wouldn’t say where they were staying or who with. “With someone who works at the embassy” was all of the information they gave. We ate at the most famous Falafel restaurant in the area. It was, of course amazing.

I was convinced that I wanted to go to the Louvre, I figured that I couldn’t possibly visit Paris and not go. Karen tried to talk me out of it. The plan was that I would take the train there alone because she would rather eat lightbulbs than go to the Louvre. Later in the day she would meet me at Pere Lachaise Cemetery and show me the graves of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde before meeting the group for the night tour.

The wait to get in, even with an advanced ticket I could buy from tobacco shop that Karen knew about, was over two hours. Karen got an “Ok, you were right” text from me as I stood in the courtyard in the pouring rain surrounded by french men trying to sell me umbrellas and more asian tourists with selfie sticks than I could ever count smiling with the giant inverted glass pyramid in the back round. Karen in her not-so-gentle-jewish-mother-tone said “I tried to tell you”….. She met me for an impromptu full tour of the cemetery which was far, far better than the Louvre could have been.

We walked from Pere Lachaise to Place de la Republique where the Charlie Memorial is. That was sobering. There is an enormous statue in a large square. Marianne, which is the name traditionally given to the French Republic is on top holding an olive branch and a sword. The symbols of Ladys Liberty, Equality and Fraternity surround the pedestal. Thousands of candles, flowers, photos and letters cover the bottom levels. The statue has been painted and drawn on since the attack and will now forever be a memory to that day. People have written all over the stone and bronze. In French it says “Mohammad would be ashamed of his brothers”, “Make art not war” “We are One”, “One Love, one world” and everywhere it says “We are Charlie”. I didn’t realize the global impact of that day in France until I saw that statue and Karens photos of the march through the streets that closed a large part of Paris.

I don’t feel it is right to mock a persons beliefs or religion but I most certainly don’t think it is right to be killed for it. Twenty five years ago I worked for the Comic News, a satirical, mostly political biweekly newspaper not all that much different than Charlie Hedbo. In fact, very, very much the same. We often chose not to publish certain cartoons as too not offend but others we ran for that very reason. As I walked around the statue I thought that each of those candles was placed there by the hands of a person who was filled with grief and fear and anger and the desire to unite and speak against terrorism. Each word written on that stone had been written by someone. A person not that much different than me. For three years and while pregnant with Maraya, I did the very same work as those people who were killed for publishing the voice of the left. I left the square thinking, I’m not French but I too am Charlie.

We sat in a cafe and had coffee while waiting for the night tour family. A woman from Kenya and her English husband and their two grown sons. We walked the streets of Paris at dusk and spent sunset at the Pantheon. From there we walked down a narrow, dark street where once a barber shop stood. Young men would go into the barber shop and never return until one day a man left his dog tied up outside while he went for a shave and a trim. After a while the dog started barking and didn’t stop which of course drew the attention of the police who discovered that the barber, we will call him the real Sweeny Todd, was selling the boys to the butcher down the road where they became meat pies.

On that same road a stone building had collapsed trapping a mother dove and her babies in the rubble. Her mate brought her food until she was freed by people who watched this amazing act of devotion take place. There is a plaque and the story is written on a wall explaining that the people who witnessed this were so moved by it that they began a sort of occult type worship of the birds. Eventually bird worship was banned. I imagine young man meat pies were as well.

As we stood overlooking the Seine Karen pointed out a butchers tower and told us the legend of a beautiful British girl who would meet young men in the park and invite them home with her. They, being young men would eagerly follow her home only to disappear forever. A detective finally sent out a young man as bait, to wander the park alone looking handsome and available. He was eventually approached by and invited to the home of the beautiful British enchantress. One inside she suggested that she would slip into something more comfortable and disappeared behind a changing screen. The young bait followed and to his horror found the heads of the twenty six missing men. German medical students were studying what a head looks like at death so this enterprising woman was selling heads to the students and bodies to the butchers.

Karen reminded us that Napoleon had said “history is a bunch of lies we all agreed on” and we walked on wondering.

We walked for three hours on this particular tour and saw most of the main sights including Notre Dame, the outside of the Louvre and the old jail with gold rimmed chandeliers, after hearing the meat pie and severed head stories I wondered what they had fed the prisoners in Paris. Karen and I would be meeting her family and their friend Jacques soon. He would be driving us to the places to far to walk. It was cold and windy and I was relieved when we said goodbye to the Kenyan Brits and got into the warm car.

#7 Morning in Hastings

On the third floor of an old Victorian row house in England I wake to the first sign of sun and the sound of gulls. It’s hardly daylight and warm under my feather comforter and although I am tired I am also excited. I am excited to be here, I am excited to go home soon and I am excited to be alive.

I make coffee and sit at the window seat overlooking this part of the city and think about what to write about Paris first. Across the street from me is an area of town that during the Second World War was bombed and destroyed. My hosts tell me that the room I am staying in was damaged in that bombing and rebuilt. The morning sky is blue and the sun reflects off of the window in an old church below me. It is distracting me from thoughts of Paris.

The wind from last night has died down but as I open the window I am greeted by a cold gust of salt air. The sea is a few blocks away, the English Channel. There is a large ship just off shore and in the distance beyond I see cliffs. Last night the ferry from France dropped me in Dover. The white cliffs of Dover tower over the port. I can’t tell if these cliffs I see now are white. Chris and Steve picked me up at the port in the pouring rain. We were several hours late due to high winds and bad weather. They waited patiently and when I arrived they smiled and hugged me. We’ve never met but they are friends of friends. On the way home we talked about life and kids and school and politics and the economy. I took a hot bath while Chris made dinner. More amazing, generous people just became my friends.

The journey here was less than fun and while the kid in front of me on the bus screamed and cried I thought of my iPod, sitting in my car…in Seattle. This is the first time in over two weeks that I have wanted to drown out the world around me so the first time I have missed it.

The old man next to me was literally pulling his eyebrows out. Literally. He said later that he was eighty. As we sat listening to the screaming kid he would reach up, grab an eyebrow hair, yank it out and look at it. I couldn’t decide if it was disturbing but I did decide that before I started doing the same thing I would talk to him. We talked about wine and where different grapes grow in the world. Merlo, Chardonnay, Riesling, ice wine, he said he knows that near Eugene we grow magnificent Pinot Noir grapes though he had never been to Oregon. He said that if we were going to be around that kid much longer we would need a whole lot of wine.

The kid screamed, the mother roller her eyes and ignored him, I sighed heavily and Mike patted my arm saying “We are going to get through this” and we both laughed I was glad he was sitting next to me.

Later on the ferry I walked around for a while before heading to the bar. Mike was standing there as if waiting and waved to me saying “There you are, coffee or whiskey?” As we sipped our whiskey they announced that the sea was rough and winds were high through the channel and that we would be delayed about an hour more. I bought us another whiskey while Mike told me about his wife Tilly. They live in England but have a house in Spain. They stay there for most of the winter because they hate the cold. Tilly decided to stay in England this winter so Mike went alone to Spain but was heading home early. He said he only lasted a few weeks because he missed her bitching and nagging and her cooking and her sexy legs. When I left the bus the old man struggled to stand and gave me a big hug and a pat on the arm “I’m glad to make a friend today” he said in his thick Spanish/British accent. I promised that if he brought Tilly to Oregon I would take them on a wine tour.

I love being awake at sunrise, I always have and as I sit here alone with the gulls and my coffee I am realizing that this is the first morning I have had like this since I left home. Just slow and quiet and calm. Although Steve, Chris and I have two full days planned I don’t feel rushed right now. Maybe it’s the ocean air, the breathtaking view, the sun I’ve hardly seen, or the good night sleep or love or gratitude but I decide to write about Paris later and instead do nothing but watch the light change as the world around me is waking up.

# 6 Irish Pubs

I was warned that there was no way I could keep up with the Irish when it comes to drinking, especially since in real life I don’t actually drink that much. The first night I was feeling somewhat accomplished after 3 pints of Guinness until back at the house Kiah, stared blankly and said “yeah, ok, that’s like lunch”. I decided not to even try to keep up and to definitely not report back to the twenty years old about how “good” I was doing.

It’s cold out here and coal and oil are expensive so it’s also cold inside which explains both the huge number of baby carriages around and the high consumption of alcohol. The “It’s noon somewhere” theory clearly applies here and honestly, was not to difficult to adopt. The Irish coffee by the fire at 11:00 am did warm me up. It’s much warmer indoors in Iceland because they pipe water all over the island including under the sidewalks and certain parts of the highways. Scalding hot water from hot springs is always available and runs through pipes under every building. Birgir said he pays the equivalent of about ten dollars a month to keep his house warm. They use their geo-thermal energy well. Here, it’s whiskey.

All of the pubs have fires burning and all kinds of people congregate around them. All kinds of people that is except for the young girls that can be found in any city anywhere. The ones with 3 inch high heels they can’t walk in, skirts far shorter than the thumb length rule and a constant smile. The girls who are freezing and drinking creamy whiskey drinks, the long blond hair that they flip around when they laugh the only thing keeping them warm do not stand by the fires. Grace and I discuss that that is a hell of a lot of work to get laid and we agree that we are grateful for the wisdom that has come with our years. And… we are grateful for the fire. We ask a man sitting at the table next to us to take our picture which will go on my wall at home.

The next night the same man was in the next pub. He took our picture again I said I felt like a lush and his girlfriend laughed and said “Of course you do, your in Ireland”.

Grace and I explored a couple of castles way out in the countryside and on the way home we stopped at a little country pub near the farm she use to live on. She is friends with Maggie, the owner. There had been a funeral that morning so Maggie served us left over sandwiches as we drank Jameson Whiskey by the fire. The pub was dark and candles burned everywhere. We were the only people in the pub but Maggie lives upstairs so the doors are open even when it’s likely to stay empty. She had been a midwife in London years ago so we had a lot to talk about.

Every week Grace meets up with a friend at another little country pub just next to a cemetery filled with high crosses and surrounded by seemingly endless fields and sheep. We park at the cemetery. The night is cold and clear and very dark out here away from it all. When Grace walks away I crouch down low, nearly lying on the ground, so that when I look up I can see the outline of the crosses and a million stars above me. I feel a little surprised at how peaceful I feel, alone with the darkness and the dead.

Graces friend is an interesting, sweet woman who is also a titled “lady”. Direct relation to Lord Waterford she visits her family at the castle. Had I not been told I would never know. She wore jeans, drank beer and said fuck, but in that nice Irish way.

The story came on the news about the race horse that was recently cloned in Ireland. We talked about how terrifying that is and I’m not entirely sure I made many friends in that pub after I said “The scientist in me finds it fascinating”. And while I do find it terrifying that a select few will have the sort of ultimate power to create a clone army or a master race or manufacture perfect horses or sheep or whatever, I do think that medically, if we were able to maintain some level of morality we could possibly reverse or repair some of the damage we have done as people. The “Lady” said it was interesting viewing it from a scientific perspective rather than religious. I explained that my brain is a somewhat messy combination scientist, artist, believer and skeptic. We agreed it was wonderful to meet, we hugged and said goodbye and I finished my whiskey.

Kyteler’s Inn is the former home to Dame Alice who was the first woman in Ireland prosecuted as a witch and sentenced to burn. She had friends who assisted her out of Ireland to disappear somewhere in England, never to be heard from again. They have been serving food in her former home since the 1300’s. The walls are stone and there are fireplaces in every dining room. Above the fireplace in the bar is what at first glance appears to be a painted portrait of James Smithwick, the beer guru. He is easy to ignore until just at the end of my second pint, in total Harry Potter fashion he starts to move. It doesn’t matter where I move his eyes follow me. He shows me a map of the brewery and does a card trick and winks and laughs. The girl at the table next to me says “your not hallucinating” which was actually a bit of a relief. James Smithwick on the wall in the witches house is delightfully creepy.

I have spent a fair amount of time alone writing in pubs while here and each one of them had a happy fat bartender and a warm fire. I could get use to this whole vacation thing….

#5-Spreading the Dead-Again

St. Mary’s cathedral and cemetery grounds which more than likely is home to the Fulton family dust is under construction and surrounded by a tall fence and cameras. It sits right downtown Kilkenny Ireland, surrounded by pubs and shops. Sheila, the woman I met at the visitors center, after hearing my story and helping me research the family said that if she was me, she’d probably jump the fence. Usually after 30, 35 most people abandon those sorts of ideas, hell, I don’t know, maybe most people abandon those ideas at 20 but that is something I do, jump fences, even now. She looked to be my age and might be the only other 40+ woman I know who would still sneak into a landmark graveyard with a bag of ashes and a bottle of Scotch. I liked her instantly but was relieved she lived nowhere near me. I told her that before I left my brother had said he wouldn’t bail me out if I got arrested which I think pretty much jinxed me. She agreed but also said that St. Mary’s is the most likely place to find what I was looking for.

Jumping the fence was clearly a bad idea so I had a beer instead and decided that every single other thing in life is working out just how it is suppose to so I would wait. Apparently Dad or one or all of the others in my tupperware box didn’t want to be left at St. Mary’s and until something, someone or someplace inspired me I would keep packing them around in my bag.

As we walked over the bridge toward home, a giant Guinness sign on one side and Kilkenny Castle on the other I suggested the castle and Grace said if I put them in the river they could just go with the flow and since St. Mary’s was closed that sounded perfect.

Last summer we decided to have a reunion and spread the ashes of my grandmother who died about 30 years ago, my grand father who died about 15 years ago and my aunt who died three weeks before my Dad, two years ago. Gramps and Grandma Betty had been pulled out of the back of the closet and set on the table on Christmas at my aunts house long enough.

Because this family is not shy about being inappropriate I named the event the “Pyle Family Spread the Dead 2014”. My brother called it the “The Great Bone Chuck”. The cousins, aunts and uncles all came and we ate and drank and visited at a park on the river. My aunt Lea had packaged up little bags full of the combined closet ashes and at the chosen time we all went down to the river with our own bags and set them free. Those of us who could, walked way out into the water and released them into a set of small rapids but the rest tossed them into the still water at the shore. The dust floated and the bigger pieces sank. The once brown sand in the 8 or 10 inches of water nearest the shore was now white. The film over the water just hung out there sticking to your hand if you tried to swirl it up a bit. Almost three human bodies worth of ash just floating like a strange white oil paint on the barely moving water, the bigger chunks of bone visible in the sand. I suppose one of us could have put out more effort into dispersing them but we didn’t.

We went back to the picnic tables where we were drumming, playing poi, drinking and visiting and not one of us could, or would, do anything to stop the group of kids who ran down the little hill at the shore and threw themselves into the water of the Willamette river which we immediately renamed “The River Styx”. They had to have been covered in ashes but it was a hot day and they were little boys splashing in the river. They were oblivious, we were all a combination of mortified and immensely entertained. One or two of them had to have gulped down some water which we decided is one way for the dead to live on….

The ashes I have been packing around, in addition to Dad, were the two leftover bags from that day.


Grace, her daughter Kiah and I walked through the castle grounds to a path along the river Nore that runs through town. Kiah took us to her favorite skinnydipping spot beyond a fence, the castle behind us. There was a shallow area not to different from where we had placed the ashes at the Spread the Dead Bone Chuck reunion over the summer. I told them the story as we walked there.

Down at the waters edge I poured the ashes into the river and they floated like before. The three of us stood watching them in what was very briefly a somber moment or to be exact, about thirty seconds, when out of nowhere a little dog bolted over the knoll behind us and ran straight into the floating ashes and started drinking the water.

He was shoulder deep wagging his tail and lapping up my family. He never even looked at us, just drank his fill and ran off covered in wet ash. Some people pray or cry or say something profound or thoughtful when laying their loved ones to rest.

My thoughtful words were “Seriously? What….the…..fuck?” and we all agreed that it was perfect, and a good thing St. Mary’s was under construction.

When Dad was alive he said it would be cool to mix him with chum and toss him into Odell lake so the fish would eat him. The eagles would eat the fish and he would then fly and swim forever. I guess instead, little boys in Springfield Oregon and dogs in Kilkenny Ireland will have to be his vehicles for world exploration.

I had a couple of handfuls left to leave on the grounds so we put them in part of the rose garden facing the castle and buried them. I told Kiah I was so glad she was there. I felt like I was in the middle of a perfect circle. I was there when she came into the world. I was holding her head at birth. I was holding Dad’s head at death. I heard one of her first heartbeats in this world and I heard my dads last, with the very same stethescope and here we were together.

I recently decided to let my dreams and intuition guide me which is why I am here in the first place. Over the winter I had two important dreams, one was traveling here with little to no plan. I remember living that way before. It’s how I was able to be a midwife, a life usher for both for the birthing and the dying, a mom, and survive cancer, but over the years I forgot a little. I got caught up in doing what I was suppose to do and getting through the day. I forgot to trust. Sure, I trusted a little here and there but I also usually plan, and reason and fix and figure it all out. I didn’t just trust to the point of surrendering. Religious people do that. I don’t have religion but I do have faith and this trip has reconfirmed and redifined that for me.

The spreading of the ashes was transformative as I knew it would be.   And both times I felt good, surrounded by love both old and new. Kathy and Trevor are recent additions to my wonderful life.  Grace and Kaih are not, they are part of an almost forgotten past. In the middle of  it all is now and Now is pretty damn perfect. I think I will stay awile.


4-Getting to Ireland

Twenty years ago I assisted Grace with Kiahs birth. We haven’t seen each other for maybe fifteen years but when she read on Facebook that I was traveling she invited me to stay with her in Kilkenny. Ironically Kilkenny is exactly where my grandmothers family, the Futons owned land for three centuries.

Kilkenny is a medieval town in southeast Ireland. They call it the sunny southeast but I’ve yet to see more than a few minutes of sun. They also say is the ninth friendliest place in the world as well as the the gay Capitol of Ireland. I wonder if one has anything to do with the other.

When I switched from the ferry to the bus I bought coffee at the station and spent my time talking with the man who owned the cart. His name was Muhammed from Pakistan. He said he and his wife had always wanted to visit America and he asked me question after question about different parts of the country and how friendly they are or are not to Muslims. He asked why we elected George W. and about our corrupt congress that created a world economic crisis. I said I didn’t vote for Bush, either one and he said “well, no, of course not you…I don’t mean you.”

Those of us who really had very little to do with the fact that Brits now pay tuition in London and there is no socialized medicine in Ireland should get to wear some kind of patch on our bag or something. In London Cash told me that the Brits can’t stand Americans because we lie and cheat and steal from the rest of the world. How sad.

Mohammad and I talked until my bus arrived and I gave him a US quarter and I told him to save it until they make it to America. I said that alone it wouldn’t actually buy him anything but I’ve heard its good luck to carry a coin from where you are traveling to. He said it would be his good luck coin and he would carry it in his pocket until they made it to New York. I said no….west coast. It’s nicer there, we talk to strangers and pick up hitch hikers and make better beer- and we didn’t all vote for Bush.

I arrived in Kilkenny after only sleeping for an hour or so on the ferry floor and none on the hour long bus ride from the terminal. I was beat and hungry but I quickly found a place to get breakfast and tea and called Grace for directions to here house. She suggested taking a cab but I had been traveling overnight and thought a walk would be nice.

I remember hiking up the South Sister with a backpack full of camping gear a couple of years ago and about four hours in feeling like I might literally die on the trail as I was dripping sweat and every muscle in my body was either aching or burning. I knew if I sat down at all I’d still be sitting there weeks later when the first snow fell. This walk through town after ten hours travel and an hour of curling up on the ferry floor with my down jacket as both a pillow and a blanket was a little like that. A little, minus the sweat, plus the cold and rain. I was cursing the chocolate bars and the yoga mat and the extra shoes and the flapjacks and every unnecessary thing in my pack down to the chap stick and extra socks and my book that I was feeling quite sure I could live without at this point. I packed light but 40 or so pounds is still 40 or so pounds. I decided then that I’m either not as bad-ass as I thought I was or far more so simply because I didn’t actually die on the roadside.

A short nap and three pints of Guinness with my old friend in front of the fire in a dark pub was good medicine. That coupled with coming back to the house and reading the note on the fridge that says “At the end of the day ask yourself, has your life brought joy to you? Has your life brought joy to others?” I soon forgot my aching back and sleepless night and thought only of how much joy I really do have in my life.


The countryside here looks so much like Oregon I feel quite at home. When I arrived in Lampeter Trevor met me at the bus stop. We hugged like old friends and walked toward their house just down the street. It was dark and cold but felt great compared to the inside of trains and busses. At the house Kathy and I hugged, of course, also like old friends. I’m pretty sure we all knew each other in some past life. Instantly I knew I could stay here a while, or come back.

Kathy had made chicken stew. The best chicken stew I’ve ever had. With dumplings. She taught me how she makes them so the next day I made my very own Welsh dumplings. We stayed up and talked until one or two and drank Merlin which is a bit like Irish cream the Welsh way. They don’t work anymore so they stay up late playing music from Trevor’s huge vinyl collection and Kathy knits. She showed me photos of the amazing sweaters she has made and a pair of fingerless gloves. I told her I loved them so she immediately started knitting me a pair. Out of llama wool.

They had lunch plans so I wrote and relaxed in their beautiful 100 year old house with a glass conservatory and a back yard full of wring neck doves coming and going. Eventually I made my way around town which didn’t take long. Lampeter is tiny. I bought a lamb and potato pastie and ate it while I walked by the sheep that live right in town just a block from the university. I have a life long habit of gobbling at wild turkeys and bleating at sheep when I pass them. It just happens. I can usually control it when I really need to, at least from coming out of my mouth, never in my head, but hell, I’m 46, I figure at this point I can bleat at sheep if I want to so naturally, I did. They all looked at me like sheep do and I realized I had the pastie in my hand and lamb breath. As much as I hate wasting food I threw the last two bites away, the former vegetarian in me feeling a little ashamed of myself. Back at the house I stuffed myself with more stew and dumplings and tea and flapjacks. The Welsh blood in me was definitely guiding my appetite.

Kathy finished my mitts and they taught me to play “Settlers of Catan” which was wonderful with whiskey and flapjacks.

That night I slept for ten hours. I’m not sure if it was the dumplings or the fact that I wore my llama mitts to bed but 10 hours is two or sometimes three nights worth of sleep for me in my normal insomniatic life so I’m going to keep eating dumplings and wearing my mitts to bed.

The next day after coffee and Barleycup we headed of to Carreg Cennen Castle which has caves in the cliffs beneath the castle. There is a foreboding doorway that leads to steep stairs descending down into the caves/dungeons. It definitely requires a torch. It’s dark and wet and creepy. I know for certain that it’s creepy because two men came up as we were coming down. One was carrying their unhappy looking tiny dog who wore a knitted sweater, the other said “be careful….it’s creepy down there”.

I was fine as we made our way down until Trevor said “it’s like Shelobs lair”. Only moments later I steadied myself by putting my hand on a huge rock and my fingertips brushed the edge of a massive spider web shaking the enormous spider inside. When I turned to look the shadow cast by the light of my headlamp made her look like she had been there, growing, for several hundred years. Never mind the fact that she was undoubtedly blinded by our lights, if you know me, you know that was exactly when I was ready to turn around.

It was interesting to think that the people who lived in that castle were not all that much different than us. On a fundamental level. They cooked food, they had jobs to do, they slept and had dreams, they held hands, they made love, they got sick the got well, they birthed and died and were happy and sad and angry and disappointed and hopeful. They sang and danced and drank beer and mead and some wrote while some told jokes and some fought and some prayed. Some built and some destroyed. They said good morning and good night and I love you you and fuck you, or some equivalent there of.

They did not have Internet and video games and washers and dryers or grocery stores or electricity or paid sick leave or mascara or SUV’s but they survived. Had they not, the rest of us would not be here now. That’s something to think about while walking through the ruins of history.

In the parking lot I insisted we take a selfie which I hate doing. Teenage girls with their duck faces taking pictures of themselves doing absolutely nothing important in no place special have totally ruined the selfie for the rest of us but we did it non the less and I am so glad we did. It’s a great photo that captures a moment in a great day.

From Carreg Cennen we went to Pyle which is my Fathers name, to spread some ashes. As we drove into town we saw immediately an old cemetery and Parrish. I said I need scotch to drink if I was to be spreading ashes so we went a couple of blocks up to the co-op. On the way down the hill back to the cemetery although it was not yet becoming dark, the cross on top of the church lit up as if to say “I’m over here”. We all agreed it just felt like the right place to be.

I looked at graves but many of them were far to old and damaged to read. I met two old women there. One was visiting her husband who died a week earlier. She was very old and told me she wouldn’t be far behind him. They had gone to that church together for 50 years. I asked her if there were other old cemeteries because I was looking for some Pyle grave sites. She asked my name and I said Kimby Pyle and she said, “no your name”. I said my Father was Terry Pyle and my grandfather was George Pyle and so on. She put both of her hands on my arm and kept saying, “oh my your name is really Pyle”. She told me that the records there were hard to find and the minister was new and hadn’t had time to try to sort all of that out. She said it would be difficult to find out much in a short amount of time but she loved it that I was a Pyle and offered to take me to the ministers house and help me research. If I had a few days there I would have done it. But instead we said our goodbyes. I told her I was very sorry that she lost her husband and she told me she very happy to meet a Pyle.

I decided to put some ashes along the back wall of the Parrish, took a couple swigs of scotch, said good bye to those family particles and we headed home by way of the tallest building in in Wales, in Swansea where we detoured for a quick drink and a breathtaking view of the harbor and the sea.

We stayed close to home the next day. We ate dried fig with award winning cheese on crackers, Indian food, fish and chips and mushy peas, flapjacks, Trevor’s enchiladas, cup after cup of Barleycup and local beer. I arrived in Wales late Monday and left midnight Thursday and I’m pretty sure that in addition to getting more sleep than usual I ate more than usual too. The Welsh eat well, especially Kathy and Trevor I think.

They have been together for 40 years. They have lived in that house since the 70’s. They are happy together and in life. It was refreshing to be around that. They are generous and open. We talked about everything. Raising kids, health, relationships, aspirations, the past, the future, politics, the differences in our countries and much more including music and culture. They hadn’t realized that Eugene was the second home of the Grateful Dead, the pranksters and Kesey. They loved it that downtown square is now Kesey square.

I introduced them to Country Fair and they remembered when the Dead played there to raise money for the Creamery. We got online so I could show them Faire pictures and as we flipped through I was explaining…”that’s main stage, that’s the dragon, and there’s some boobs, and more boobs, and little kids with painted faces, and painted boobs, and the tree people on stilts, and really huge boobs, and there are some booths, and another picture of a stage, the fire dancers, and an old lady fairy and her boobs, and this one is the sauna, and oh yep, more boobs”….. I didn’t realize that if you google image search the Oregon Country Fair pictures of boobs come up more than anything.

Everyone I met in Lampeter was friendly and warm. Every single person. The lady at the bank and people in the shops I went to, Kathy and Trevor’s friends and the builders who were building a new gate on the back fence. Their names are Both Alan and are probably in their 60’s. The talkative Alan has been Kathy and Trevor’s builder for 20 years.

They drove me to a town about 40 minutes away to catch the midnight bus to the ferry that would drop me in Ireland at about sunrise. In the car waiting for the bus we talked about how awkward saying goodbye is. How you wait in the car trying not to talk about saying goodbye, in our case since the bus was late, for about 40 minutes, then as soon as the bus arrives it’s a frantic rush to hug and say what you need to say and gather your things and get aboard before the bus drives off leaving you standing in the rain. Saying good bye didn’t feel awkward. Just sad.

On the bus I drank my water bottle full of scotch and elderflower cordial, ate flapjacks and read Neil Gaiman, American Gods until getting on the ferry where the scotch worked its magic and I fell asleep thinking about how much I will miss my new friends even after only just meeting them.

iechyd da-

#2- London Bridge is falling Down.

The first thing I notice is that London is dirty. Especially compared to Reykjavik. The woman at the hostile had told me there were several beds available but when I went to make a reservation all 4 hostels were full so I put out couchsurf requests. I woman answered immediatly. They live in Rumford which is 30-40 minutes by train from central London so I learned the train system well and quickly but I must say that riding the underground and the busses at 10 pm is not loads of fun. Before I went on this adventure I never thought I’d say this but I was missing Iceland.

I arrived at their house late and stayed up talking with them-Cash and Stacey. He is from Pakistan and she is from London. They are both in their late 20’s. He like to talk about religion.

I woke up for my full day in London and bussed and trained to the center of town which was packed, even on the off season. I walked toward the houses of Parliment, Scotland Yard, Westminster Abbey and the other main sights I wanted to see. I decided not to get a map because I wanted to just wander but I could see Big Ben and The Eye in the distance so I walked that direction down a main street. Before long the streets started to fill. It was as if people just appeared out of nowhere. In about two minutes it went from a little crowded to shoulder to shoulder and most were Muslim and most looked angry and rushed. I could hear a mans voice shouting over a megaphone and saw speckles of bright yellow vests of the police scattering and lining the streets. The crowd was thick with mostly muslim men and some obvious tourists, all couples or young european looking men with expensive cameras around their necks. I didn’t see any other women alone so I started to turn around because while I might be borderline crazy for traveling around Europe alone, I am not actually crazy for real, but it was like country fair during the sweep or Disneyland on spring break and there was no turning around so I kept going.
There were men holding signs that said “I love Mohammed more than I love my life” and they were shouting “today is the day, the time is now”. All I could think of was get me the fuck out of here, preferably now. The streets and sidewalks were packed with protesters for several blocks but eventually the crowd started to thin and I started to breath again. I’m pretty sure I have never ever wanted to leave a place more.

I saw parliament and the Abbey and walked the Thames river path to London Bridge and saw the Tower and drank bad coffee. I didn’t talk to anyone all day except a little girl who asked me what I was doing as a sat writing on my Ipad.

Back at the house we watched the news coverage of the protest. They said it was 10,000 strong and Stacey said she had never heard of anything like it in London. She said I was lucky to see it. Hmmm? I was glad to be back at the house. You can check it out here.

London was a big city with a lot to see. I walked the White Chapel neighborhood and by the bar the Jack the Ripper frequented. And Fleet Street and went to the Tate Modern for a few minutes. I saw a lot in my full day of walking but honestly, it’s pretty much like any big city, you know, that has a house of parliament , mad amounts of history, 10,000 person protests in the street and tea and biscuits on every corner.

Cash did make me British pancakes before I left. Basically lemon crepes. They were amazing.

I left Paddington station at 11:00 the next day headed to Wales. I saw a lot of country side and small towns. The station I needed to switch in was small. I was the only person in the deli. I ordered an amazing Brie, bacon and cranberry sandwich and wine. I asked the woman working there where I was. “Oh honey, you’re in a deli in a train station in Wales…if ya don’t know that I’m not sure you should be ordering wine”. She was great. Showed me a map and told me about some of the cities I would pass through on my way to Carmarthen.

It was sunny on the platform and there were only three other people minding their own business so I kicked off my boots and unrolled my yoga mat and did the first yoga I had done since leaving home. After about fifteen minutes a very old man sat on the bench near me and was laughing and smiling and he said…”now I’ve seem everything, a barefoot American doing yoga on a platform.” He kept laughing and saying “yoga, yoga, yoga”.

I asked him how he knew I was American without talking to me and he said “yoga on the platform”. Everyone else however, ignored me completely.

I’m glad I saw London but Wales…… Ahhh….

#1-The land of the midnight sun.

Today I am traveling with what’s left of my Dad, his sister and their parents to Europe beginning in Iceland. Birgir and I will meet in a few hours but I like him already.He seems kind and thoughtful and smart.

I was feeling anxious this morning as I was leaving Seattle, a nagging what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking kind of feeling gnawing at me but the bus driver with a nice smile made me feel so much better. Noting my backpack with a down jacket and a yoga mat strapped to the side he asked where I was adventuring. Not where I was going but where I was adventuring. I told him I was couchsurfing Europe and delivering the ashes of my family to the mother soil. I said it in my best overly-dramatic voice. He laughed at my drama which was good because I can’t take anything to seriously these days. Life is to perfect.

I told him that I would drink scotch with my dad one last time and toss pieces of him into the sea that his relatives sailed between Scotland and Ireland, I will leave bits of him in Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He would love to be here and there, even if in pieces. Everyone in the front of the bus joined the conversation-a woman who is traveling to Belize soon and another who said she would be terrified and an old Greek man who called me sweetie, touched my arm and said “many blessing are coming to you.”

He is right.
The screens aren’t working on the airplane. The woman next to me has been complaining about it incessantly. Seems like such a waste of energy. Is it not enough that we are flying….in the air? Traveling, in only hours, to destinations that before would have taken us weeks by boat? People want more. We have 141 channels and complain that there is nothing to watch. We have a closet full of clothes yet have nothing to wear, we have a beautiful wife or an amazing husband yet we keep looking, we are flying across the ocean at 850 km per hour but are unhappy, or actually angry that we can’t watch the latest Ben Stiller movie. So many people are so angry and petty. She reminds of why I am going away. Why I packed practically nothing and left, alone. I never want to be like her and this is one way to ensure I wont. I am finding peace and calm and remembering to always treat people gently as if they are all family.

In the past I felt anxious during landing and take off. Not now. Now everything just feels good.

I spent yesterday in Iceland and could not understand a word but I drank a beer with a few hundred computer techies at a conference. I learned to say cheers in Icelandic and realized that we are all the same. There are good people and less good people- there are liars and there are truth tellers. We are all just living. Most of us in the best way we can. The others, well, I am no longer concerned with them.

Birgir met me at the bus stop. It was dark and wet and I didn’t mind at all. I knew he would find me. Although we had only met on I hugged him because I do that. We stopped at the music hall in Reykjavik so he could pick up his program for A conference later that day. We ran into some of his friends. Birgir introduced me to his master yogi friend whose wife is a yoga teacher. We ate tiny sandwiches and drank coffee. It was by now 1:30 am my time but the day, although still dark was just beginning here.

Sometimes I like the feeling of sleep deprivation. The calm. This was one of those times.

We went to Birgirs apartment where he made me an omelet and told me about Icelandic culture. I was lucky to arrive on the first day of the winter festivals. In Iceland there are festivals to keep the people from pulling out their hair, or the hair of their children during the winter months when it is dark most of the time. And wet. And in the case of today, snowy with winds blowing so hard your eyes can’t help but water.

Birgir was attending an afternoon conference so he dropped me downtown where I walked until my chapped lips hurt and my fingers lost the ability to grip.

In the pub I order a whiskey and sat alone with my computer until a man asked to take a seat at the end of the table. He asked if I was from America. When I go out or travel I wear a ring on my left finger so men will think I am married. A practice I will continue until I might actually have a wedding ring on that finger again. If a man thinks your married he will talk to you like a human, not a potential lover. It is far easier to meet people and have authentic conversations if you remove that element. He looked at my finger and nodded politely so I listened as he told me about Iceland and the elves and the fairies and the forrest girls. This, I realized was why I came to Iceland. Birgir later took me to an elf hill where the elves live underground. I took a picture of us there. We also went to a geiser where the ghost of a woman still “lives” today.

For the winter festival the kindergarteners of Reykjavik drew colorful pictures that were projected onto the entire front of the largest Catholic Church in Iceland. In the freezing darkness the church front was lit with children’s drawings in every color imaginable. It was to cloudy to see the northern lights but I saw inside the minds of the Icelandic five year olds so that works.

Birgirs family ,until last month owned a half block property in downtown. They sold it to avoid family conflict when his father died suddenly. Family is important here. Every Icelander can trace his heritage. It’s wonderful.

At the family house I saw the hidden passageway through a bookshelf to a secret room.

Birgir’s sister, her friend and I talked for an hour about family history. Their grandmother bought the house and was a Taylor. She started with nothing. She had no money and no man. She worked hard and provided financial security for at least three generations. When I slipped through the hidden door in the bookcase I thought again, this is why I am here. She was afraid of nothing. She lost all of her money twice and worked her ass off to rebuild.
She is dead but very, very much alive in her family.

Birgir was kind and quiet. A former cook he made me wonderful food and shared Icelandic culture with me. Here they eat dried fish, lamb, horse, whale, rotten shark and puffin. He made me lamb. He said he has no woman because this way, he has no one to lose. He said it’s easier that way. I understood him when he said that, very much so yet as he spoke I thought to myself that I am so glad I abandoned that idea. His mother asked me if I was afraid to travel alone and I thought “no, I’m afraid to be afraid”.

I am not afraid to travel alone. We attract what we put out. I have made friends in Birgir and his family and I hope one day to repay his kindness.

I am not afraid to love. It is worth the risk. And as I carry my dead dads ashes I know also that although I was, I am not afraid to die.
I am only three days into my travels and know that I needed this to live a full and fearless life.