Monthly Archives: November 2013

What I brought on the Camino

I’ve been home from Spain for a week, and my pack has been sitting at the end of the bed, half-unpacked.  Today I began to put it away in the garage.

Contents of October Camino 2.0

Contents of my pack for the October Camino 2.0

But wait! I know you’ve been dying to know what was in it. So I’ll give you a tour.

Osprey Kyte 36

Osprey Kyte 36

The pack is an Osprey Kyte Woman’s S/M, 36 liters. You can see my Pilgrim’s Shell and my patches for American Pilgrims on the Camino and the Pilgrim Network.

One of the most valuable features of the pack was its waterproof rain cover.  It’s integrated into the pack, and completely covers it, then stuffs back into its own compartment when not needed.  It’s something that I’d probably never use in California, but I used it a lot on the Camino.  Best of all, it kept the body of the pack very dry.

The straps did get wet.  But it was only on my last day when the rain was pouring for hours that the pack itself eventually got soaked.

REI Travel Sack Sleeping Bag

REI Travel Sack Sleeping Bag

My sleeping bag lived at the bottom of the pack.  It was one of the best items on board. I was really glad I had it towards the end of October, when the heat was not turned on in many places I stayed in Galicia.   It was also very comfortable when I was on the beginning of the Camino in June.  It weighs less than l lb.  BTW, it has arm holes so you can wear it around the house!

Keen Targhee Boots

Keen Targhee Boots

On one of my many trips to REI in September, I bought a new pair of boots.  Beware, you’re supposed to break in your boots over a course of months—but these Keen Targhee boots were the best—terrific toe room, and they were comfortable from day one.  I only got one itty bitty blister the first day out, and that was it.  To top it off, they’re waterproof!

Above the boots you can see my three pairs of Darn Tough wool socks from Vermont.  I decided to take three pairs so that I wouldn’t have to do as much laundry, and I was glad I did.  It felt luxurious.

Next to the boots are my Keen sandals.  I brought these in June, and they were fine in October, too.   Many people brought Crocs or flip-flops, which are a lot lighter, but I like my Keens, they protect my toes.

Patagonia Torrent Rain Shell and Decathelon Rain Pants

Patagonia Torrent Rain Shell and Decathalon Rain Pants

It rains a lot in Galicia, and I’m so glad I invested in some real rain gear.  The Patagonia Torrent rain shell kept me fairly dry even in the most wet conditions.  It was amazing!  The rain pants kept me dry, but didn’t breath as much.  Together with the rain cover on the pack, I felt confident walking in the rain.  And it turned out to be fun!

When I walked in June I expected to carry my pack every day.  Then I discovered Jacotrans, and other services that, for a small fee, will transport your pack to a destination you designate, farther along the Camino.

REI Flash 22 Daypack

REI Flash 22 Daypack

In October, I brought a small, lightweight daypack with me  so that I could use the transport service more easily. Even with the transport service, you want to carry your guidebook, water, and whatever else.  I liked how this pack had big cargo pockets on the side for my guidebook and water bottle.

With the wet weather, I ended up off-loading heavier items to the daypack, and carrying my Osprey pack because it had the rain cover.

In an case, I would recommend using the pack transport services.  There are days when the terrain is rough, or you just feel like having a lighter load.  For between 3 and 7 Euros a day, it’s a great deal!

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Here are my “Jesus poles.” I used these Black Diamond trekking poles everyday.  They were great for stability in muddy conditions, going uphill, and especially going downhill on rocks, and slippery terrain.  It took me awhile to realize that there is a left and a right pole, and there’s a correct way to use them.  The straps are there so you can put weight on the poles.

Jesus tape

Jesus tape

I’ll show you a close-up of the Jesus tape on them.  My colleague at Trinity, Menlo Park applied the Jesus tape, and I often thought of how Jesus really was walking with me every step of the way.

Trekking poles cannot go on board an airplane, and mine don’t collapse down to fit into the pack.  So I had to come up with a creative solution.

Lightweight Duffel Bag

Lightweight Duffel Bag

The night before I left, I went to Big 5 and bought this lightweight duffel bag. I checked the pack and the poles together in it.  I thought about mailing it to myself in Santiago, but ended up just carrying it the whole way. No big deal.

In June, I swore by my Camelbak type 2-liter water system.  Hydration is critical when you’re walking a half-marathon a day.

Platapus water bottle

Platapus water bottle

Goldhara McKay, a fellow pilgrim, recommended this kind of collapsible water bottle on the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook page, and I decided to try it instead of the Camelbak type system.  I started out with two of them, but left one at the Molinaseca albergue—I hope someone is using it right now.  They’re terrific!  When empty, you can curl it up into a pocket, and it weighs nothing.

REI high fashion

REI high fashion

What to wear everywhere.  Who knew that REI was such a fashion house?

I wore these convertible grey pants from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, and on to Madrid.  (In the evening I changed into the yoga pants.)

Add a black or vino tinto colored  T-shirt, a Merino wool half-zip, and a Buff or the Camino scarf, and you’ve got an outfit.

Was there anything I wish I’d left behind?  Yes, my zip lock bag of toiletries, which seemed to weigh a ton.  Somehow I collected full size containers of shampoo, toothpaste, and moisturizer, plus foot care supplies like foot cream and blister care items.

But I was glad I had my BB Cream, blush and lipstick to dress it up a bit each morning.

Buen Camino!

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Categories: Camino, Camino de Santiago, Camino Logistics, Reflections, Return to Camino, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

“Thin Places” on the Camino; a Reflection on Halloween, All Saints & All Souls

Grave along the Camino

Grave along the Camino

I love the convergence of Halloween, All Saints and All Souls this time of year, as summer moves into fall, and the days grow shorter.

Walking alone through ancient forests in Galicia

Walking alone through ancient forests in Galicia.

The Celtic tradition considers this sequence of days a “thin place” where the veil between our everyday world and the world of the divine becomes more permeable.

When I returned to the Camino in October of 2013, I found that much of my journey was a series of thin places. Over and over, I was touched by the beauty of nature, history, art, and fellow pilgrims.  And I had several mysterious encounters that brought me close to loved ones who had died.

Once when I was hanging out at the the Albergue in Astorga, I saw a Scandinavian man about my age check into the albergue.

He seemed familiar, but I knew I hadn’t met him before.  Then it dawned on me that he looked just like my Swedish cousin who had died in his thirties, many years ago.  If he had lived into his 50’s he would look a lot like my fellow pilgrim at the Albergue contemplating chess moves by himself at the large chessboard in the common room. It was as if a door opened in my heart that I had shut a long time ago. I realized that I had not thought of my him for many years.  Seeing his “double,” made me remember him with fondness, and say a prayer for him.

Another day I noticed that the pilgrim walking with me reminded me of someone but I couldn’t quite put my finger on who it was.  We were having so much fun walking and talking that I forgot about the hunch for the rest of the day.  She was funny, forthright, and down to earth. She made me laugh at myself in a “cut the bullshit” kind of way. Later on, I made the connection.  She reminded me of my in-law who was about my age when she passed away from a swift-moving cancer.

She and I had never made enough time to see each other.  I had regrets about that now.  But somehow spending the day with my new Camino friend was like having some of that unstructured time I’d missed with her. It was a healing experience.

In 1996 my brother, my only sibling, died at 35 under sad circumstances.  By the time he died, we had not seen each other for a long time, and I had many regrets about our estrangement.  Could I have been a better sister? Could we have helped him find his way through addiction and mental illness?

Tom Petty lyrics on the outskirts of Santiago

Tom Petty lyrics on the outskirts of Santiago

Along the second half of the Camino someone had written Tom Petty lyrics on the backs of traffic signs and mileage markers.  Every time I came upon one of these signs I laughed because it was so random:  Tom Petty on Spanish traffic signs! Then I remembered that my brother had been a big Tom Petty fan, and he would have laughed with me.

Seeing those Tom Petty lyrics gave me an unexpected positive memory of my brother as an adult.  We didn’t have many of them, and, I realized that some of that had been my fault.  I remembered him in a negative way.

As I  walked alone and laughed about the randomness of the Tom Petty lyrics, I felt a sense of comfort surround my troubled relationship with my brother.  We had a laugh together that seemed to heal a long held grudge against him that was so tough to live with.  I had wanted to let go of it, but I didn’t know how to.

This was one of the grace-filled moments of the Camino.  I felt like my brother was reaching out to me through those silly signs, making me laugh, and that he wanted me to know that he had forgiven me. It makes me cry to think about it again.

These experiences of “thin places” along the Camino were full of tears, and it felt good to cry.  I cried as I walked, and cried some more, and as the tears flowed, I felt lighter and freer. I sometimes wondered why I was crying: Perhaps I had not really grieved for these dear people in my life? I think that was part of it.  Our culture doesn’t honor grief; we just soldier on.

It’s funny, but The Camino requires soldiering on, too.  It’s hard to walk that far everyday and one of the mysteries of walking day after day is that hard physical work allowed some hard emotional and spiritual work to happen at the same time. Maybe my sedentary life had locked in those emotions?  The body must hold difficult memories and emotions.  I do believe that now.

The unexpected tears were also tears of joy and awe. I remembered each of these beautiful people as I walked the meditative rhythm of the Camino.  I felt tears of thankfulness and joy and felt the grace of forgiveness and God’s love surrounding us in beauty and mystery.

All along the Camino I saw my loved one’s reflection in my fellow pilgrims, and our common humanity.  I understood in an almost visceral way that, just beyond this “thin place,”our loved ones are alive in the Lord, and that we are all members of the “Communion of Saints.”

Categories: Camino, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013, Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Roof Tour photos

Here are more photos from the roof tour of the Cathedral in Santiago.

In the middle of the bell tower stands the figure of St. James as a pilgrim.

You can just make out another tour group behind us on the roof.

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20131031-220148.jpgAnd there’s the green cross that somehow made its way to the roof. There were many of them in Santiago during the medieval period. Pilgrims left their filthy clothes there to be burnt at the end of their pilgrimage.

Categories: Camino, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostella, October 2013, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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