Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

Category: Spirituality (page 2 of 4)

April 15, 2016 Meeting Pope Francis






Every time I sit down to write about the trip to the Vatican I go quiet. No words do not a writer make nor do double negatives. The thing that does come up is the site of a smiling Pope Francis as he rode out in his Popemobile, the sound of his gentle voice as he spoke to the crowd and the feel of his hand as he shook mine. And, his face: clear, innocent, childlike.

Continue reading

April 8, 2016 The Crawl

A warm day greeted me as I disembarked. The flight to Rome was as smooth as one could hope for, but I must remember to take food on future flights with AA. When my vegetarian meal failed to materialize, the flight attendant offered me a choice between tortellini and chicken. I chose chicken though I do not eat chicken because the plate had a few veggies: overcooked green beans and carrots heaped on mashed potatoes. Apart from the entre, the rest of the meal was made up of white flour carbs, a Velveeta style cheese, and a high sugar brownie. Unappealing and unhealthy! American Airlines, you should be ashamed. Thankfully, the food in Rome is more than making up.

Continue reading

April 6, 2016 April in Paris, Oops, Rome





Today I begin yet another pilgrimage. Surely each day recognizes the same, but this journey leads to a meeting with a remarkable man. Continue reading

January 6, 2016 The Epiphany: Goose, Eggslut, Gjusta, The Rose

IMG_4440 MR

On Christmas I generally cook a goose. That I do may raise the eyebrows of some of you who know my penchant for vegan food, but I cook for non-vegans and the last thing they want, as I found out several years back, is tofurky for Christmas. In the past several years as I mentioned in a previous post, my food intake has gone from veggie to vegan to raw, to pescatarian, back to vegan with a few exceptions, eggs, goat and sheep cheeses among them. Early on in this evolution, I would moralize not necessarily vocally,  but in my thoughts about the benefits of vegetarianism to the health of humans and the planet.

During a night on the desert in Egypt in 2003 a month before the Iraqi war, my internal moralizing was deeply challenged… Continue reading

December 15, 2015 Benu





Is it worth it?

Is what worth it?

That small fortune put out for dinner last night. Continue reading

December 14, 2015 Glimpse of the Day

This is not for everyone, but I send it none-the-less as it may be helpful for some-one. A follow-up to the last post on Fields of Blood, today’s Glimpse is another reflective approach to recent events.


December 7, 2015 Fields of Blood


Following the Thanksgiving rituals and the conclusion of visits from umpteen out of town family members I finally found time to get back to my Portuguese journal. But when I tried to write, I found myself with an unusual case of writer’s block. Poor Portugal. Feeling sick from the recent events in Paris and more senseless killings that followed, I had to put pen aside while I tried to make some sense of it all. There is no excuse for the killings, but I felt I needed to come to some kind of helpful, personal understanding about the events.

A few days into my processing I passed by The Avid Reader, a longstanding Davis, independent bookstore. In the window I noted Fields of Blood, by Karen Armstrong. While I did not find the title appealing, I have found Armstrong’s writings incredibly informative. A Ted prize winner among others, she has been called “one of the greatest writers on religion…” I entered the bookstore, perused her book and purchased it. Shortly, I settled into my favorite reading spot. After reading the introduction, I felt grateful that the book had landed in my path at this particular time. I have never recommended a book on this blog, but in this case I cannot but do so.

Check it out if you wish….

Oct. 22, 2015 Hanging Out With a Saint



In preparing for Portugal, I decided to follow the example of the itinerant pilgrim in The Way….and select a practice that would help me to stay centered through the hustle and bustle of travel. I chose a Tibetan practice I had learned from a monk several years back. And like the “Jesus Prayer,“ it is meant to be done “unceasingly.”

Other than reserving a room at the Art Inn, having made no other plans, I opened myself to wandering the streets with the practice in mind. We began the pilgrimage by hiking the stairs near the Art Inn to Alfama the heart of the old historical district. Continue reading

October 19, 2015 The Art Inn



As we drove into Lisbon towards the Art Inn Hotel in the glossy Mercedes, I began to have second thoughts about my plans for a pilgrimage. Pilgrims let go of normal life; they walk, carry little, face deprivation, and visit sacred sites. Like the pilgrim in The Way of a Pilgrim, I had chosen my mantra and a practice that I planned to use as I made my way around Portugal, but, with my “way” so paved in luxury, could I realistically call it a pilgrimage? With some reflection, I soon realized that I had to let go of my antiquated parameters and allow the tao to unfold. Facing what it brought my way seemed much more in alignment with my intentions. Continue reading

Oct. 13, 2015 Portugal, Pilgrimage, and Jackie Lovato

Dear Friends,

While poking around in my library, a book inadvertently, but not accidentally fell off a shelf. I picked it up, mused over it a bit and noted a quote on the back cover from Jacob Needleman. He called it one of the most influential spiritual books of the 20th century.

The Way of the Pilgrim is the story of a man who made his way across 19th century Russia carrying a Bible, a bit of dried bread and a prayer rope, obviously, a traveler with purpose. As he walked, he focused his mind on an ancient orthodox practice known as The Jesus Prayer. I have witnessed a similar process in India where orange robed sadus walk the country, mala beads and begging bowl in hand, reciting mantras.

If the book is as influential as Needleman pointed out, perhaps it indicates that while most of us may not be called to the life of a wandering sadu or mendicant, the thirst for inner spiritual growth is innate.

For several weeks I had been thinking of a trip to a European country, but for no apparent reason I could not bring myself to make the necessary arrangements to get there. I felt conflicted. Then the migrations from Syria turned to a major issue in my intended destination. With that, I decided that the trip would have to wait until a later date. Fortuitously, the conflict cleared unexpectedly, and “out of the blue” the sound of Portugal entered my mind like the kind of mantra that called me to hyper-loop to Baku in Azerbaijan several months back. On the spot, I decided to go, but having dallied so long and my allotted travel time closing in, I was faced with last minute reservations. Flight schedules and hotels were put together almost as the plane was gliding down the runway. I know so little about Portugal, the customs the ways of its people not to mention the lay of the land, but the omen of the falling book lead me to understand that the trip is metaphor. It is indeed a pilgrimage. As to why Portugal, that will be revealed as I journey.

I write from the plane, a US Airways jet. The recent merger of American Airlines and US Airways created the largest airlines in the world. An agent told me that on Oct. 16 the merger with all changes to planes, flights, etc. would be completed. My pilgrimage begins under the old regime; when I return on American the new will be established.

Yesterday Jackie Lovato  blog consultant and my teacher of all things teckie, changed the opening photo to a shot I took on the Mekong Delta two years ago. It feels far more suitable than the old photo for the pilgrimage I am commencing. Jackie, not only a great photographer, college teacher and web site consultant, she is as her name indicates, a love. Need blog or web help, wedding photographer, fashion shoot, she is your woman. This is my first commercial in a post. Just cannot help but promote such a wonderful person.

If you follow the pilgrimage I would welcome your comments.

From the air and the airport in Philly,


Older posts Newer posts