Pilgrim Cafe

Continuing Conversations on the Human Spirit


“I study up on countries that I plan to visit,” responds a boarding passenger. Toting a stack of books. He appears slightly out of his element. He sits quietly in the seat directly behind me. I’ve come go know him as Bob, we remain on first name basis. He daily boards for a brief trip to the library, then home. The Pubic Library is the computer source for many of my riders, seeing Bob board with books under his arm is a relatively rare occurrence sight, since most simply surf the internet or check their email.

Bob, a gentleman of distinguished older age, usually sits quietly half way back as to not invite conversation from the driver. Having, at one time, also been a bus driver, he knows how distracting a simple conversation can be along a busy route. Mine is one of the busiest. Today, however, the bus relatively empty, and the traffic less complex, Bob decides to talk. He re-positions himself within earshot.

Usually wearing a baseball cap, gentleman’s khaki shorts and calf length athletic socks, Bob appears to be more sophiticated than most. I see him daily boarding from the library or the university travelling to a stop that serves small appartments and prebuilt homes.

“In the fall you would call this ‘Indian Summer’,” he offers.

“Certainly unseasonably warm,” I affirm. “Not like February.”


“What country you researching now?” getting back to his books in hand.

“France. Going to Paris in April … spend a month.”

“Wow,” short response being best. I do have to drive.

“Been to Rome, Vietnam, Thailand, and India.”

“You researched each?”

“Yes, gives me a project and makes the experience richer. Vietnam was the country I have liked best so far … spectacular country, everything is so green … lush.”

I have been Bob’s driver for two years, and have learned that he has been a baseball scout in the minor league, and in more recent years a tour bus driver before settling in Grand Junction. He is an avid reader (over 100 plus books a year, if you can believe it), has completed two novels but not attempted publication. Bob is single and lives alone, does not own a car, does not dine out. He has no local family and draws a meager retirement income which he saves to invest in travel.

Don’t expect to see Bob on your expensive group tour to Paris. He will travel frugally, baseball cap and Bermuda shorts, investing only in those things that will create the experience he desires. He will be finding an apartment off the beaten path in the center of the historic city. He will be the tourist you meet standing quitely in museums for hours actually reading the exhibits and displays. Should you be fortunate enough to encounter him, a simply smile and a cheerful “hello” may illicit a thoughtful round of questions that will happily embellish your appreciation of what you experience. He will then turn and vanish into the crowd having contributed a few moments of delight in your busy itinerary.

Do I sound enamoured with Bob’s approach to life, well maybe a little. His focus on simplicity has enabled him to experience moments deeply. I would more accurately say, I resonate with Bob in many ways, but my interest is really a celebration of the array of passengers that people my life daily. I don’t have time to sit at length with a cappuccino or linger over a latte, but I appreciate the repeated brief encounters and how they enrich the lingering moments of each day.


One day in early September Bob boarded late in the day. The bus was empty and he sat close behind me. “They have found Pancreatic Cancer,” he announced. “I’m considering the options for treatment,” he continued in sober direct tone.
“What are they offering,” I asked.
“The usual,” he replied,

“Radiation or Chemo.”
“What are your chances for full recovery?”
“It may extend my life a few months, but they will make me sick and miserable for much of it.”
“Lot to think about, huh.”

Not long after, Bob boarded a busy bus. He ran his pass and confided, “Not going to take the treatment. Checked myself in to Hospice Palliative Care. I’ll live until I die!”
“Big decision Bob.” I replied.
” good with it,” he went to his seat.
Fall months flowed slowly. Bob would board now and again. Some days he would be waiting for another bus and would cast a knowing glance my direction. Others, he would wave me on waiting for the next bus. As the weather changed he seemed more susceptible to cold and wet. I found him shivering on a bench waiting for another on more than one occasion. His face gradually began to betray weight loss gradually growing more gaunt with each passing day. He, however continued living life much as he had. Ever the sports enthusiast, he would join into conversations about the Mavericks, or the Broncos. Well versed in professional sports, since his years as a baseball scout, others listened to his well studied opinions. Boarding with a hand load of books or his familiar folded Daily Sentinel tucked under his arm, he never flagged in interest of national and world events.
One day, however, in late November, he boarded asking where my bus went. He seemed confused and disoriented. Since that moment his acuity ebbed and flowed. Then, like a great oak falling deep in the forest unnoticed by most hurrying to workday appointments, he no longer came to board.

Brother, I’ve seen some


Cultutes Collide

Harvey Leakey, writer for the Canyon Country Zephyr, a great grandson of John and Louisa Wetherill, white traders and friends to the Navajo residents of the Four Corners area, wrote the attached thought provoking article

Slim Woman of Kayenta…by Harvey Leake | Canyon Country Zephyr

Anthropologist Harvey Leake researches his family myths.


I recently completed a Pilgrimage to Monument Valley in Southern Utah. This region of the Colorado Plateau, characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, is between 5,000 & 6,000 feet above sea level. The desertine valley shares the boundary between Arizona and Utah on the northern edge of the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Continuing my interest in the lives of Women Adventurers, I recently read the story of Louisa and John Wetherill of Kayenta, the first white traders to settle the area and I wanted to visit their original trading post at Oljato, if it could be found. After a few initial

You will have to leave,” the Navajo leader, Hoskininni Begay (Hashké Neiniihí Biye’: Son of Giving Out Anger), ordered John Wetherill on March 17, 1906 when he rode up to the water hole known to the local people as Oljato (Ooljéé’tó: Moonlight Water).

wrong turns, we eventually found the right road. Drove ten miles west of the Golding Lodge only to have the pavement end. From there a gravel wash board beckoned us. We continued but when the gravel turned to red powder and our wheels began sinking, we concluded the location of the post would forever remain a mystery.We turned around to start home unfulfilled and yet trying to convince ourselves all had not been in vane when, gleeming before us, on a distant hillside announced white letters spelling Oljato. Just to the left of the sign, actually naming a small service community for park workers, stood quietly in Cottonwoods, the remains of the Wetherill Trading Post covered by red clay silt from a small cross roads. This was the ancient Spring of Moonlight Water. No signs or depictions that this was the fruition of John Wetherill’s pilgrimage seeking the mythic location, or simply the first site established by a white trader to the area. It was a quiet intimate moment. Pilgrimage complete.



Fall trip to Four Corners area through which I was attempting to connect with my recent reading about the lives of the Wetherill family and their relationship with the Navajo people near Kayenta, AZ.

We spent two nights at Canyonlands Ranch north of Blanding. Walking the night trails under infinite galaxies sprawled overhead, we came upon this amazing tipi. What an incredible scene.

WEST | The Jennings Papers

It is 1849 and the California Gold Rush is underway. Johnathan Jennings, a merchant from Pittsburgh decides to take his family to San Francisco to relocate his business. That will be the first of many decisions he makes that will doom many in his family, and it worsens when he leaves his daughter Sarah behind to die. The entire story is told through “found” journals and letters.

The reader is enchanted by the plain brown cover emulating a personal journal. One wonders how a journal might hold the attention given the often meandering style of such personal writing. A quick glance inside, however, captures one in the family circle and causes the reader to imediately in the family dream of new life in the west.

The Mystic’s Daughter

A fresh account of the life of Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, musician, children’s author, British WWII spy and daughter of Hazrat Inayat Kahn, Sufi Mystic and musician is to be released in fall 2019. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Five written by Arthur Magida.

An earlier account by Shrabani Basu is currently available.

From Chapter Five

The Khan’s had planned to take a train from Paris to the coast [in June 1940] and, from there, cross the Channel on any ship they could find. But after hearing news of the tumult in almost every train station in France, they decided to drive from Paris and board a train in a station that was reasonably calm. The only way to get to that possibly mythical destination was in her brother, Vilayat’s, MG — a great car for a picnic in the countryside, but not for a flight to safety during a war. With Vilayat and his mother up front and Noor and her sister, Claire, in the jump seat, they began driving the 148 miles to Tours, where they hoped a train would take them to the coast. They quickly learned that everything they had heard on the radio was true: the roads were filled with broken-down cars and broken-down people; and with French infantrymen, humiliated by their rout; and dead horses lying in ditches and thousands of people on bicycles, weaving in and out of the rabble… Everywhere you looked, mattresses were lashed to the tops of Renaults and Citroens and Mercedes. On the top of one car the body of a grandmother who had died en route was tied to a mattress because her son could not bear to leave her alongside the road.

All Noor could do was look directly from her perch in the MG into the eyes of the young and the old, the fit and the lame: all walking onward, feet swollen, shoulders slumped: a multitude of the weary. After years of spiritual pursuits at Fazal Manzil, Noor was not prepared for such sorrow.

Vilayat left the MG with one of his father’s Sufi disciples in Tours. Finding their way to the train station, the Khan’s found seats on a westbound train. Their coach was noisy and crowded, filled, as Noor observed, with “frantic young mothers with tear-stained eyes carrying their sleeping youngsters. They knew not where, just running toward freedom if freedom was to be found. Where were their men? It was useless to even wonder.Noor and Clair had taken a Red Cross course so they could nurse wounded French troops. In their scramble to leave, they had forgotten their Red Cross certificates. Leaving their mother and brother in Le Verdon, Noor and Claire boarded a bus, hoping to find a Red Cross office in a close-by town that could issue certificates to them. The landscape they passed through was a combat zone. Some towns had been bombed. Others strafed. The worst was Saint-Nazaire. The day before, a German bomber had sunk a British ship. Too deep to enter Saint-Nazaire’s harbor, the Lancastria waited offshore as 9,000 passengers were ferried to it… Around 4 p.m. on June 17, a Nazi pilot scored four direct hits on the Lancastria. Men who could not swim clung to the hull until the ship sank 20 minutes later. Enemy planes strafed thousands of survivors who were floating in the water; others drowned or choked on the thick, glutinous waves of oil spilling from the ship’s tanks… The Lancastria suffered over 6,000 fatalities – the worst loss of life in British maritime history and more than the combined losses of the Lusitania and the Titanic.

In Saint-Nazaire, Noor wrote, “Noises ceased. Movement stopped. The town was stunned stiff… Throats were choked… A silent rage stirred the crowd.” A seasoned fisherman was crying. A few Englishmen tried to console themselves by repeating that old bromide that had somehow comforted millions of their countrymen — “There’ll always be an England.” Maybe so. That was consolation for another day. For now, the Nazis were in Paris and that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – France’s sacred memorial to its dead from the last war with Germany – was, as Noor wrote, being “guarded by the enemy. God! It was worse than death!

Noor and Claire headed back to Le Verdon. That took almost 24 hours. Bombs had made many roads unpassable and German strafing had wrecked many of the buses that were still operating. At night, all was black; the blackness gave Noor and Claire cover from German planes and snipers. Upon their return, Vilayat was furious they had been gone for so long. With great effort, he had found space for everyone on a Belgian cargo ship. If Noor and Clair had returned any later, they would have been stuck: France would be handed over to the Germans in a few hours.

The Khan’s boarded the Kasongo on June 19 — a battered freighter infested with beetles. The day was clear and blue, with calm, dazzling water and a few other ships visible in the distance: a liner that had been pressed into service; a yellow ship with a yellow cross; a destroyer whose presence cheered everyone. At night, the Kasongo’s deck was covered with bodies wrapped in coats and blankets. In the moonlight, they looked like corpses, moving only occasionally to pour tea from thermos flasks. The Khans didn’t care about the discomfort or about the beetles. They were out of France.Three days later, the Khans reached Falmouth, a picture-perfect English town. Lovely as it was, there was no time for repose or reflection. The docks were almost as crammed as those in France and fear of a German attack was palpable and not unreasonable. A bus drove the Kasongo’s passengers to a large building where officials processed the newcomers’ papers with British order and tidiness. The refugees were then ushered into a garden where ladies in green/gray Harris tweed uniforms offered lemonade and sandwiches. Without a single extra thread of clothing, the Khans boarded a train to Oxford. Vilayat was familiar with the town after attending the university there. A bed and breakfast took them in – four tired, hungry refugees who had no idea what to do next.

Noor Inayat Khan – Wikipedia

The story of Noor Inayat Khan is that of a heroine who claimed an enigmatic role to serve The Allies and her faith family during WWII. Her’s was a dramatic self sacrigicial life. She was a children’s author who gave herself for the ideas she espoused.

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