June 2013

Walking through a Painting

Back home in the Bay Area, bright orange California poppies make a brief appearance in the Spring. I expect poppies to be that distinctive color of our official state flower. In Spain, I was surprised to find poppies of a different color! The Camino led me through fields of green wheat lit with brilliant red poppies. I felt like I was walking through a painting. Where had I seen this before? In Monet, of course!


DSCN0061Monet - Coquelicots - Poppies at Argenteuil - 1873


Categories: Camino, June 2013, Reflections | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

A time to walk and a time to heal

Yesterday I took a taxi to the Universidad de Leon Hospital and limped into the ER to have a medical professional look at my foot. It was a fascinating window into the Spanish medical system. They don’t take your blood pressure or weigh you or make you fill out any forms. They have a “concierge” guy at the door of the ER who directs you where to go, and a very no nonsense triage guy. It’s so much quieter than an American ER, no TV or paging, and the lighting was subdued, not hospital bright.

I can’t believe I did it all in Spanish! Because no one at the hospital spoke English. The female doctor spoke a little. Had an X-ray done, and also tried to pay. I’m supposed to give the documentation to Kaiser.

Her diagnosis was Plantar Fasciatis. She said I should not try to continue the Camino.

The treatment is RICE: rest, ice, elevation, compression and anti-inflammatory drugs.

My Camino friends from Chicago arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, and we sat in their room and I heard about their days of walking and how tired they were. As we talked, I realized that, for me, walking the Camino was over. I could follow along by bus, but that wasn’t really a pilgrimage. I found so much joy in the walking, and talking on the path, and watching for the yellow arrows, and coming into tiny villages—the whole experience.

It made me sad to come to grips with my situation, even though I knew I wasn’t alone. Many people in our “class of Orisson” were going home with injuries.

So I went upstairs and prayed about what to do, and cried. I had to have a destination for the morning. Astorga or Santiago by bus? Madrid and then SFO? Hang out somewhere for 3 weeks? I talked to Hale on Skype. Coming home seemed like the right decision. I called Delta on Skype and was able to change my ticket.

I met Gina and Caroline in the bar and we talked like Camino friends talk, honestly and with love. They are gifts of the Camino; I’ve learned so much from both of them.

We met in the morning for the awesome Parador hotel breakfast buffet. I decided to give Gina my Camelbak and my copy of the Brierley guidebook for the rest of the journey. The Camino has made me more generous. It feels good to know she has them as she moves into Galicia. We posed at the statue outside the Parador, and then it was time for my taxi to the train station.

I’m in Madrid now. I will keep posting my reflections on my experience of the Camino as I move forward, as well as more photos.

I know that it will continue to teach me and inform my ministry.

Today in Madrid I looked up at the cathedral and saw a statue on the roof of St. James with his staff and shell. Later, I had tapas at an outdoor cafe and noticed that we were on Calle Santiago. He is looking out for me, I think.




Categories: Camino, June 2013, Leon, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Pantheon at Basilica de San Isidore

I toured the Museum of St. Isidore today after attending a packed Mass in the Basilica. I’m becoming a major fan of the Romanesque era. This is called the Pantheon, where Spanish royalty from the 12th and 13th siglo are buried. Love the disciple pouring vino tinto. Some things haven’t changed in 1,000 years.





Categories: June 2013, Spirituality | Tags: , | 5 Comments


I feel like Eloise at the Plaza. Or a guest at Hearst Castle. (Spain is where he got all that loot) and I swear I’m the only English speaker in the whole place. Mi Espanol is getting a work-out!





Categories: Camino, June 2013 | 3 Comments

Music and Pilgrim Blessing

You’re greeted in Carrion by a Peregrino Statue with a guitar slug around his neck. He also sports a sign advertising “Concert 7:00!”

I was fortunate enough to stay at the Alburgue run by a small community of young Augustinian nuns, that adjoins the 13th century church.

At 6:00 they gathered everyone into the foyer of the Alburgue, about 50 people sitting on the floor and up the open stairs. One nun played guitar and sang, another had a drum, and they led us in two rousing songs. Everyone sang! Then they invited us to share a song or other talent. They had invited some local teenagers to go first (very smart!). Two girls sang “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” while each one moved and tapped a plastic cup…they were in sync with each other, and it was classic teenage girl stuff. Made me think of youth group at Trinity. Then young Korean guest sang a song, a Spanish guy sitting next to me read a poem, and then a Spanish guy stood up and asked one of the nuns to dance. She said yes, put up here hand and said, “no fotos, no video!” The guitarists played a Spanish folksong, and the nun and the Spanish man danced a classic folk dance with clapping and turning, a little like Flamenco. It was wonderful.

Each of us introduced ourselves and said why we were on the Camino. I was the only American and only English speaker there, but not the only one over 50. I said I was walking to say “thank you for my life,” and everyone nodded. I t was humbling to realize, yet again, that most people speak my language, but I don’t speak theirs.

From there we went next door to the classical guitar concert in the church. Gina met me there. Bach and Brahms on two guitars. It was the perfect pairing with the gold reredos and Romanesque arches.

After a breather in the square, Gina and went back in for Mass, and Pilgrim blessing. The Mass is so beautiful in Espanol. I can’t understand all the words, but I know what’s going on, and as a priest, it’s lovely to experience it in another language.

There were two priests that evening, and they called all the Pilgrims to the front. Our Flamenco dancing nun spoke with an English translation about how each of us is a unique star made by God. The sisters had made paper stars to give to each of us. The priests invited us to come forward for an individual laying on of hands while the nuns played guitar and sang. We were in tears. So beautiful. And they do that every night for the pilgrims passing through.


Categories: June 2013, Spirituality | 2 Comments

And now for the bus portion of our Pilgrimage

There are definitely worse ways to travel. Wi-fi inboard, and it’s very inexpensive. One bus a day goes through Carrion, at 11:45. As the morning went on, a small group of pilgrims gathered at the bar where the bus stops.

All of us had some sort of Camino injury: hips, knees, my ankle, and bad blisters. I had desayuno outside, and the cafe guy was nice enough to fill up my zip lock bag with ice. I got 2 hours of ice and elevation, and shared the ice with a young woman from Orange County, whose knees were hurting.

After I bought the bus ticket to Leon I read in the guidebook that this week is their big Festival and Running of the Bulls. So I am off to Leon with no reservations and entering a possible Mardi Geas situation. I’m kind of excited. Maybe I finally get to see my bullfight.

Here are a couple of shots from the bus stop in Carrion. The elderly lady spoke only Espanol, but hung out with the pilgrims giving us advice and well-wishes.

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Categories: Camino de Santiago, June 2013 | 4 Comments

Carrion de las Condes

I’m having a quiet afternoon in Carrion de Los Condes. (I need to find out what the name of the town means in English, I keep thinking of vultures.) I took a taxi from Fromista to here this morning. It was perfect walking weather, and the Camino went alongside the road, which made me feel frustrated. Such easy, straightforward walking and I can’t do it. The taxi driver was a woman about my age, and she was pedal to the metal , going 120 kph. She spoke about as much English as my Spanish, so we ran through our conversation fairly quickly, but I enjoyed riding with her. She said she transports many Peregrinos who can’t walk.

The Meseta is a wide open plateau area in Spain and about a third of the Camino travels through its small towns. It’s known for being hot. This summer’s wet weather has kept it green and full of wildflowers.

I was delivered to Carrion de Los Condes at 11:00, and found the “official” Albergue, run by nuns, and got in line. There is a guitar concert and communal meal tonight.

The check-in was memorably confused, and personable. The Europeans immediately retired to the kitchen in groups, and made lunch, with bottles of wine. Local farmers had donated crates of tomatoes and cucumbers for “the pilgrims,” and it was tempting to cook.

There’s a very nice vibe here. It’s interesting to be the only American, I think, out of 48 people. Mostly Spanish, French, Italian, and a few Asians.

Since I was early, I have a nice cozy bottom bunk next to a wall. Since I haven’t walked 20 kilometers, like the rest of the pilgrims, I’m not as tired as everyone else, but I need to rest my ankle. Here’s a few photos of the Alburgue.





Categories: Camino, June 2013 | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Ankle update

Back on Tuesday on the 12.2 k to San Juan de Ortega, I did something to my right ankle. It slowly began to hurt as I hiked, and now it’s painful to put weight on it. Ibuprofen and compression bandage sock have been applied; ice is hard to come by. I hobbled around Burgos, and it was feeling better with the compression sock. But it’s nowhere near healed enough to walk 20 k on it.

There was one bus yesterday from Burgos to Fromista, one of the larger towns out in the Meseta. It left at 5:30, so I had all day in Burgos on my own after Monika left. I visited a church nearby–San Lorenzo–and there was Mass, so I stayed. Many well-dressed 70 year old women. Then I had a nice lunch on San Lorenzo street, that winds off the Calle Mayor.

Picked up the pack at the hotel and hobbled over to the bus station. I was definitely the only American there. I had to figure out the ticketing, and then the bus arrived and off we went, out of Burgos into the countryside.

Fromista is about three stages along in the guidebook, and has a landmark Romanesque church, so it seemed like a good choice. Turns out that there aren’t many busses on this part of the Camino.

I got to Fromista and as I was crossing to the church, the French woman from Orisson waved to me! We greeted each other, and then our language skills failed us. But it was great to see her.

The church is very simple, totally different than the usual gold gothic/baroque. 1066! It is the first church I’ve seen that I’d like to celebrate the Eucharist in.

When I came out, someone was jumping up and down across the street. It was Gina from Chicago! She and Kai were sitting outside, and we had dinner together.

The ankle is really disappointing me. I have to recalibrate and not get upset. I will taxi to the next town and perhaps bus to Leon.









Categories: Camino, June 2013 | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Day #15

The Camino turns every town into your college campus; you walk into the central square and you see people you know. It’s the most wonderful feeling.

And there are always surprises. Today I walked around Burgos (slowly, because of my sore ankle) and as I descended the staircase by the Cathedral, I saw Taylor sitting in a cafe.

Taylor was the first person I met on the Camino, climbing up out of San Jean, in France. He is about Colby’s age, wears a straw cowboy hat, and has a prayer shawl, made by his mother, that he uses as a pillow. Sweet guy. I assumed he was way ahead of me with the other 20-somethings. He said he was slowing down to enjoy each place.

We compared notes about where we’d been, and he consulted his staff with the name of every night’s stop carved into it. That was new since I’d last seen him. It’s tempting to buy one of those wooden staves, but I love my trekking poles.

We caught up a bit more and then, instead of plopping down next to him at the table, I sensed that we both wanted to be alone, and said “Buen Camino”, knowing that we will most probably see each other again up ahead.


Categories: Camino, June 2013 | Tags: , , | 10 Comments


My Camino friend Monika finishes her Camino tomorrow and goes back to her work as a surgical nurse in the Cardiac unit at the University hospital in Vienna.

We met back at Orisson on June 5th, so I have known her two weeks. We’ve traveled together for the last week, walking for hours and sharing cheap hotel rooms and claiming neighboring bunks in albergues. I feel like I’ve known her for years.

That’s the way the Camino works. Like college or meeting fellow new parents, you bond with people quickly over a common challenging experience.

We’ve met the Camino in all its richness –cranking up hills, going down muddy ravines, searching for a yellow arrow when the path was unclear. And we’ve shared cafe con leches at all the village bars, explored every village church, and then headed back on the Camino, one step in front of the other. Along the Way, we’ve shared our life stories, bit by bit. We have had so much fun, being silly. I’ve laughed till my stomach hurt.

Monika has done the Camino before, and so, is knowledgable about the route ahead. But she is open to new adventures everyday.

She is a Wise Woman. She always says, “It will be ok,” and “we will see what happens.” Walking through the fields and forests of Spain she’s given me lessons in botany and bird watching. I love the way she draws diagrams in the dirt of the Camino with the point of her trekking pole to make a translation clearer.

Being a nurse, she’s very practical and decisive. Our differences in culture and language make it easier to say, “I’m doing this tonight,” and we do our own thing for the evening.

This morning we both had good news from home, and we celebrated together with a leisurely rainy day lunch.

Our lives at home are very different, but we are friends on the Camino, and, I hope, just plain friends.


Categories: Camino, June 2013 | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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