Signage on the Camino and in Life

yellow arrow, Najera

yellow arrow, Najera

The Camino is very well-marked. Much of it, in fact, is an exclusive use path through the countryside, and all along the entirety of Camino, yellow arrows and the familiar blue and yellow shell signs point Pilgrims ever forward towards Santiago.

But sometimes the Way plays Peekaboo with its Peregrinos.

Descending through the forest to Roncevalles early on, the path dwindles into a muddy clearing. Passing through the city of Logrono, the Camino appears to stop at a busy roundabout. Sometimes even out in the open countryside when the Camino is an actual path, a fork appears that looks just like the path you’re on.

Camino shell in pavement, Burgos

Camino shell in pavement, Burgos

"fork" in the Camino

“fork” in the Camino

“Where is the Camino? Or better, in Spanish:

“Donde esta el Camino?”

That question made me stop, and look with fresh eyes at the scene around me, and comb the environment for clues. Invariably, something would pop out of the landscape, like seeing Waldo in a “Where’s Waldo?” picture book.

There! I see a yellow arrow on a tree, or on a curb a block ahead. There! I see a bronze shell imbedded in the pavement. There! I see a blue and yellow Camino symbol up on the side of a building.

For a few days I took photos of yellow arrows, shells, and signage in general, which changed with each town and region. Some villages even painted a yellow stripe on the pavement through town to make it abundantly clear where the Camino was.

The Camino made me understand that I like knowing where I’m going. I already knew this, but the Camino made me understand it in a kinesthetic way. (I also learned, late in life, that I’m more of a kinesthetic learner than I realized.)

The Camino also taught me some valuable skills about finding my way forward when life brings you to a crossroads, or when the path you’re on forks, becomes muddled, muddy, or leads you to what seems like a never-ending roundabout you can’t seem to exit.

roundabout in Logrono

roundabout in Logrono

Here’s what I learned:

Stop. Take a sip of water. Pray. Consult the literature. Talk to your fellow pilgrims. Look up. Scan the landscape for markers, arrows, street signs, graffiti or kairns of stones left by others. If necessary, remove your boots and socks, and sit down. Push away the desire to know right away. Pray. Have a snack. Ask the locals. Pray some more. Then look again. The Camino is there. Walk.

Bridal Shoot and yellow arrows

Camino arrows leading Pilgrims out of Leon from the Parador and Bridal photo shoot

Camino sign in Leon

Inconspicuous Camino sign in center of Leon

Categories: Camino, Reflections, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Signage on the Camino and in Life

  1. Melindaland

    Super idea for a post, I’m looking forward to it!


  2. Melindaland

    Love the newest header on the blog, been wanting to ask about that piece of sculpture since it first showed up! Are they pilgrims, reconquistadores, Roland & Co or …. ?


    • That is a sculpture on top of the ridge outside of Pamplona. There are huge windmills up there, too. It represents a group of medieval pilgrims along the Way. I think it’s made out of iron; it’s rusty red in places. It is in the movie, “the Way,” so it was exciting to see it up close. This was the epic day in the rain and mud. Been thinking about doing a post on art along the Camino.


  3. Sally Damsen

    Beth, Thank you for sharing the signs along the Camino. Life does bring us to crossroads, many times which we can’t anticipate. Prayer can give us the strength to accept and manage the decisions that we need to make to move onward.


    • Thanks, Sally! Moving onward, managing new challenges, being in the moment, were all part of my experience on the Camino that enriched my prayer life.


  4. George

    Beth: Have you compared your search for the pelegrino’s arrows with Hale’s experience searching for timber lines for H.D. Foote Lumber Co.? The HDF lines were painted in slashes on the sides of pine trees with yellow paint that, like the Camino signs, faded from bright French’s to Grey Poupon over the years. It was crucial to go from one mark to the next, and heartening whenever one turned up to be refreshed. He had literature, in the form of a worn and folded USGS map, with our father’s hand-scribbled notes and squiggles promising that the corner of the 40 acres was right there, but not mentioning the briar patch or new pasture land cleared out by some rogue farmer. Hale was handicapped by having to look for marks that I had painted some years before, because, mea culpa, I did not make them with any religious fervor. Then Edward may have later added some creativity to the woods, what with his greater interest in shooting than painting. And your advice to the wanderer is sound, but I am sure that whatever Hale whispered when he could not find the next mark invoked the Divine in a less appropriate way than you did. Glad you both made it home safely. George


    • Hi George—yes, the famous painting of the lines! I think Hale had just finished that job when we met in Canterbury, so I heard a lot about it, and also, that other Foote brother gig: his job in Texas in the corn fields. it seemed so exotic! Funny how the yellow paint of the Camino is so similar to the official Foote lumber company color, although it was mostly French’s on the Camino. It became most confusing when each town decided to be fancy and make up their own distinctive Camino signage, and shells imbedded in the street which sometimes became tripping hazards. Hope to see you in person sometime.


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