Tag Archives: book review

Reviewing The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

Mileage post

I’m going on another Camino next year, so I felt the need to read Pilgrimage (Plus) by Paulo Coelho. I’ve avoided books on spirituality because I’m far from being spiritual. Even information about Catholicism make more sense to me, though I’m not Catholic either.

Coelho’s purpose for walking the Camino is to find a sword that he lost somehow. To find the sword, he has to walk the Way. At St. Jean Pied to Port, he meets his guide, Petrus. Is this another example of a made-up companion to make the book more interesting?

Petrus shows Coelho the true path to wisdom. It involves Agape – love that consumes – from the ancient Greek. Coelho mentions the word, Agape, many times. Wisdom also has practical applications to your life.

Petrus convinces Coelho that wisdom is a path that can be followed by anyone, like the road to Santiago. It’s similar to my motto: No place is too far to walk if you have the time.

Santiago cake

Petrus also inducts Coelho in an Catholic organization, Regnus Agnus Mundi (RAM), which is either an obscure Catholic sect or a figment of the writer’s imagination, depending on what you read. But RAM created physical exercises that you must do on the Camino; they are eerily similar to yoga and meditation exercises. The first one, the seed exercise, is a variation of child’s pose.

I was not surprised to learn that yogis have appropriated the RAM exercises as poses. Now yoga poses I can understand. This is just one example of description of these poses at  http://findandlove.blogspot.com/2012/07/ram-practices-pilgrimage-by-paulo.html

Split in trail

Why the guide? Was Petrus a spiritual guide or a trail guide? Why not follow the yellow arrows on the Camino? When you write about a linear journey, a guide or companion is a handy tool to have. Otherwise you’re just talking in your head or to random people you meet and will never see again.

Think Don Quixote and Sancho Panza or Katz in A Walk in the Woods.

Coelho sprinkles the book with wise sayings that were worth writing down

  • Human beings are the only ones in nature that are aware that they will die.
  • I was more frightened by the way in which I would die than death itself.
  • The most important is to enjoy life fully.
Sign to Muxia

Coelho, who is Brazilian, mentions the Falkland Wars and claims that the conflict between the Argentinians and Falkland Islanders was predicted two months before the invasion. Since I’m going to the Falkland Islands next month, that got my attention. He explained the reasons as an astral level for the conflict. I don’t think Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister at the time (1982), would have bought the argument.

A real organization, The Order of the Knights Templars, watched over pilgrims on their way to Santiago. It was trans-national military-religious order which spanned two centuries of the High Middle Ages, from the Order’s founding in the early 12th century to its suppression early in the 14th century.

The UK Guardian, who reviewed the book, said it best:
Coelho is widely acclaimed as a powerful storyteller and his legions of fans credit his books as “life-changing”. Critics, while acknowledging the power of his fables, have been less convinced of his literary worth, arguing that the simplicity of his tales represents no more than pandering to the lowest common denominator of new age gullibility.

Did you read the book? What did you think?

Cemeteries of the Smokies

Cemeteries of the Smokies

Ever since I got really involved in hiking and supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its park partners, I’ve heard of “the cemetery book.”

When I joined the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), Steve Kemp, editor and publisher for GSMA, now retired, said that the book was “coming along”.

Now Cemeteries of the Smokies by Gail Palmer is here!

Flipping through its 704 pages – yes, 704 pages – I can understand why it took Dr. Gail Palmer two decades to finish it.

If you’ve walked almost anywhere in the Smokies, you’ve encountered cemeteries – the Woody cemetery in Deep Creek, the cemetery outside the Little Cataloochee Baptist church, the ones on the Cades Cove drive.

But Palmer found 152 cemeteries. For each site, she provides in-depth histories alongside a complete listing of burials and dates, kinship links and epitaphs.  The author has collected this infomation in one place, displayed with color photographs, detailed lists, charts and an index of local family names.

Dr. Gail Palmer has a doctorate in cultural studies from the University of Tennessee. She’s written novels set in the Smokies and understands mountain life. Members of her mother’s family has lived and died in areas that are now in the national park.

Wiggins Graves

“While finishing my doctoral degree in cultural studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I decided I wanted to write a book about the Smokies,” Palmer said.

‘“I knew many of the cemeteries were hidden away from view in beautiful locations, sometimes only a few steps from a roadway or well-traveled trail.” She received help from many people and spent hours searching archival material and locating cemeteries.

As a hiker, I want to know that the trail directions are clear and correct. I tested them on the Hoyle cemetery, a four-grave cemetery that I found only with the help of my companions at a Decoration Day years ago. The directions in the book were spot on. Maybe I’ll create a new hiking challenge – find all the cemeteries in the Smokies, as described by this book.

Buy this book from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, a park partner that donates money to the park.

The Details
Cemeteries of the Smokies by Dr. Gail Palmer, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2017. ISBN 978-0-937207-92-5. Price $29.95.

Choose Gifts with Expertly Chosen

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to think about now is buying more gifts. But what if your sister has a birthday next week? If she’s an expert foodie, you don’t want to get her a gift card for her local supermarket. How about a mushroom growing kit or a rolling pin with embossed dinosaurs rolling pin?

Trust me! I didn’t think of these gifts but Expertly Chosen did.

With the Expertly Chosen website, users select a range of interests and personality traits for their recipient. They also choose a price range. The website then collates gift ideas from experts in each of these areas, resulting in a list of suggestions unique to that recipient. Again it avoids that desperate all-purpose gift card.

The owners asked me to look at their website and pick something to review. Their main categories run the gamut from Entertainment to Travel and Adventure. From the latter, I chose Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. It’s a hefty book, not a book to take on a trip, but a fantastic book to plan your travels. I tested the book out just as I would test out a pair of boots.

Where am I going next, I thought? Tucson for some spring hiking and culture. Atlas Obscura  (AO) suggested the Titan Missile Museum, which displays the remnants of cold war missiles. Never heard of it – one point for AO.

Next, I think I know North Carolina well. What did they suggest? Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden in Wilmington full of pitcher plants and Venus flytraps.

This book reminds me of a travel Dream Book. It’s $18 on the Expertly Chosen site and $21 on the supposed cheap giant online book site. How do they do it? Of course, I could have gotten the book in other places but I didn’t know about it until I saw it on ExpertlyChosen.

Subject matter experts choose the gifts. I keep looking at their York bamboo trekking poles and wonder if they need testing as well.

Expertly Chosen is a useful site and fun to browse as well.