A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

La Vall de Laguart IV: The Baldwins, HelpX Volunteers, and Visitors

Phil and Jo Baldwin met while studying Russian at Oxford University; they later visited Spain and decided to stay. They are both musical actors, having starred in musicals like 'The Sound of Music' and 'Guys and Dolls'. Jo works full time raising five children; Sebastian, Oliver, Abigail, dominic and Natasha. Phil is a languages teacher, and works on the homestead, milking the goats, planting in the garden and doing whatever else needs to be done. All in all, the Baldwins seemed to be a combination of the Swiss Family Robinson, the Vonn Trapp Family, and the Weasley family from Harry Potter. The family evening meal was especially important with the Baldwins, and we always sang a beautiful universalist, all-inclusive grace before dinner: 'A blessing on the meal, a blessing on the meal, fill us with love and joy and peace, and bless our every meal'. I enjoyed every moment with them.
 They have had several HelpX volunteers over the years, but when I was there, there were just three of us. Daniella, from Santa Cruz, California, has been there the longest, while Aldis, from Latvia, had arrived a week before I did.
Just a few days before I was to leave, we had a visitor, Wijnand Boon, fellow Masterpeace pilgrim who inspired my own pilgrimage. We are just a few days apart at this point, and I'm sure our paths will cross many times all the way to Egypt.
Eldest son Sebastian gives Wijnand Boon , pilgrim journalist, a lesson on unicycle riding. Wijnand ultimately decided to continue his pilgrimage on foot.

Wijnand's visit prompted a night of music. Wijnand was vocalist and lead guitar.

Phil Baldwin, Pater Familia, on acoustic bass.

Little Natasha and I enjoying the festivities.

Sebastian, unicyclist and drummer.

Dominic and Natasha lend a hand.

Oliver takes a turn on the bass.

Sebastian relaxes between sets while Jo, his mother, works hard at preparing dinner.

Dinner is served. In the foreground, HelpX volunteers Aldis and Daniella on the left, visitor Wijnand on the right. To Daniella's left is Abigail Baldwin, then Jo, Natasha, Phil... Oliver is not visible, Sebastian can be seen peeking round Wijnand, and the blue hat is on Dominic's head, who is also not visible.

Masterpeace Alchemist Alive pilgrims

Natasha, Oliver and Dominic playing a friendly game of soccer... er, football.

Daniella, from California, bright and cheery in the morning.

Former HelpX volunteer Claire paying a visit. Claire's solo adventuring in places like Iran and India humbled me.

Jo, mother of five, and smiling.

La Vall de Laguart III: The Farm

The Baldwin's farm in La Vall de Laguart consists of  a large vegetable garden, a paddock with two horses, a donkey and several goats, and a cherry orchard. While I was there, there were three HelpX volunteers, including myself. Daniella, from California, had been there the longest; four months or so. She did a lot of very good cooking, she watched over the kids at times, looked after the dogs and milked the goats. Aldis, from Latvia, got there a week before I did. He was a general handyman and looked after the animals in the paddock. Aldis is a tough, New Age mystic pilgrim; he travels penniless most of the time, and almost always sleeps in the open. His destination was the vicinity of Granada, where he hopes to find a community to live among. As for me, the not so tough, Quaker pilgrim, with a host more often than not these days, and usually at least a little money, and a tent and a sleeping bag for the nights when I have no host, my job was digging the garden. I was a human tiller, which I enjoyed. I found it meditative, and I liked seeing the slow but sure results. Phil Baldwin taught me the basics of milking goats, and I managed to get about half of what  he or Daniella got out of them, but I never felt comfortable milking the goats, and they didn't feel comfortable with me either. One goat in particular, Scruffy, though I tried to bribe her with choice weeds dug from the garden, had it out for me. She routinely bit me or butted me with her head. I found digging easier. The ground may have been hard at times, but it never pushed me around.

The meditation house, which became my house for most of the time I was at the Baldwin's farm.

The view out my front door

The main house and caravans

The paddock

A friendly goat

Philip Baldwin milking a goat. Phil milked goats the wu wei Way, then made curds and whey, though when asked couldn't say how much the curds and whey he made weighed.

Linda, the donkey

The garden, ready for planting.

Scruffy, the goat who bit me. I did not milk her the wu wei Way.

Wijnand Boon, the pilgrim journalist who inspired my own pilgrimage,  pulling weeds.

Me, posing... I mean digging.

Aldis, fellow HelpX volunteer, getting ready to feed the critters.

La Vall de Laguart II: Vistas

La Vall de Laguart I: The Way Up

While I was in Elx, my daughter Olivia, worried about the knee I am always complaining about, initiated conversation with a HelpX farm high in the mountains, in La Vall de Laguart. I subsequently arranged to sojourn there for a week or two, working in the garden in exchange for food and lodging. Though I would be working, I would also be resting, as I would be stationary for a bit, eating three wholesome meals a day. The farm is owned by the Baldwin family, consisting of Philip and Jo, who are Oxford graduates in Russian as well as accomplished musical actors, and their five children; Sebastian, Oliver, Abigail, Dominic, and Natasha.
I began my walk to La Vall de Laguart from Pedreguer. About a third of the way there, a kind lady named Alice, from the Czech Republic offered a ride; she was afraid I wouldn't make it to the Baldwins before nightfall. I declined, but gave her my backpack to deliver to a café in Fleix, one of the villages that make up La Vall de Laguart. Without the backpack, my ascent was relatively easy and enjoyable, giving me an opportunity to enjoy the view of the distant Mediterranean rather than plodding along with my eyes to the ground in front of me, which is the norm when climbing with a load. I quickly got through Campell, then Fleix, where I picked up my backpack, then went another two kilometers to Benimaurell, where I expected to find the Baldwin farm. I met Jo there, who was passing by in the van to pick up her kids from school; she told me to keep going up. I asked someone for directions and was told to go to the last house on the left before rounding the top of the mountain. Benimaurell, then, was not the end of the line. Now struggling a bit, I walked another three kilometers or so, and the mountain seemed to grow higher as I walked. I stopped at one farm where I was told the Baldwins were mas arriba. When I started to descend down the other side, I knew I'd gone too far. I backtracked a bit and found the wooden house I'd been directed to, and I was greeted by barking dogs and two HelpX volunteers, Daniella, from California, and Aldis, from Latvia. For the next two weeks I would remain in this mountain retreat at 800 meters above the Mediterranean, allowing God to restore my soul.
Loins girded for the climb
The road to La Vall de Laguart

The village of Campell

Javea and the Mediterranean in the distance

Upward through Benimaurell

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alicante to Pedreguer

Laure from Belgium, my host in El Campello. Laure is a cancer survivor who scuba dives and travels the world.

Luis, my host in Vilajoiosa; restaurant manager at University of Alicante.

 A street in Vilajoiosa.

The beachfront; Vilajoiosa.

Benidorm hotels.

A friendly Dutchman in Benidorm who bought me a cup of coffee.

My host in Altea, Patrick, on the left. Patrick is going to Poland, but wants to go to China in the future.

Looking north from Altea.

On the road north of Altea.

A fellow pilgrim, Salah Sawey, from Cairo, Egypt! He was on the way to Malaga.

The road towards Pedreguer.

I walked past my host's house in Pedreguer; he came to get me on his trike.

Christiano, from Germany, my host in Pedreguer. A former investment banker, Christiano is now an expert on nutrition.