Spirituality

Reliegos

New Albergue in Religios

New Albergue in Religios

In the post, “Signs of New Life,” I wrote about the insights that arose for me as I walked and rested along the Camino from El Burgo Ranero to Reliegos. Because my foot was hurting, I had to go slowly, and that made be more open to the Spirit.  Here’s a little more about the end of that day, and my next day of walking to Mansilla de las Mulas.

The new albergue where I’d sent my daypack was at the entrance to Reliegos, and I was relieved to see it come up so quickly because I was limping.  It was only about 2:00, early to stop, but it felt like the right thing to do. I had the whole place to myself. The beds were all regular beds, not bunk beds, and there were plugs next to every bed!   I asked for some ice at the bar, and went back upstairs to ice and elevate my foot. The bedroom was a nice spare place to relax and stretch out.

Bar Elvis in all its glory

Bar Elvis in all its glory

Then I did some laundry, hung it out to dry, and walked a little farther into Religos to see if Bar Elvis was open. It was one of those famous Camino spots and it was briefly featured in the movie, “The Way.”  Of course, it was closed for siesta time, so I didn’t go in.  The graffiti all over the outside was wonderful, though. I really liked this advice:

Good Advice for Life

Good Advice for Life

 

When I got back to the albergue,  a friendly young Peregrina arrived and claimed another bed.  Her name was Alice, from South Africa. She was a divinity student at Oxford!  Alice had just started her Camino in Sahagun, so this was her first night on the Camino. We became acquainted over dinner.  She was so smart and wise beyond her years.   We were the only ones in the dining room, and half way through dinner, I noticed that I was bending her ear.  I must have been feeling a little isolated not having talked to a native English speaker for several days.   Among other things, we talked about our call to ministry and her experience as a female divinity student at Oxford.

When I told her about my sore foot, she said, “why don’t you send your big pack tomorrow, and give yourself a Sabbath?”  She said it with such disarming kindness that I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ll do that!”

An Italian guy showed up later that evening and took another bed across the room.  We greeted each other and got into our sleeping bags, said “good-night.”  Once again I was thankful for the company of pilgrims, and for the trust we had in each other.  It was one of the best sleeps of the trip.

Big Sky heading towards Mansilla de las Mulas

Big Sky heading towards Mansilla de las Mulas

The next morning I followed Alice’s advice and left my big backpack in the vestibule for Jacotrans to pick up, and just carried my daypack.  We walked together to the end of the village.  I was limping, and she was full of energy and ready to conquer the world. I wanted to walk with her but she was way faster than I was.  So we said good-bye.  She was headed to Leon and the mountains beyond, without a poncho or a coat.  I hushed myself and refrained from going into “Mom” mode.  She could take care of herself.  I was glad to have met her. She was someone truly called to ministry.

Trees along the Camino

Trees along the Camino

Later that morning when I stopped to rest, and picked up my daypack to put it on again, I was shocked by how light it was.  I felt like I was floating down the Camino!  What was going on?   I felt like a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders.  It had, of course; the extra 15 lbs. were with Jacotrans.  But there was something more to it.  Alice giving me permission to leave the heavy pack behind was rather profound.  It’s what I needed to hear.  It was an absolution.

Like the day before, when everything in the landscape seemed to speak to me of God’s presence, that slow 6 kilometers to Mansilla de las Mulas carrying just the daypack spoke to me of God’s forgiveness, and how light it feels to live without the baggage I usually carry around.  I walked slowly and with joy to Mansilla de las Mulas.  Thanks be to God, and bless you, dear Alice!

La Virgen Peregrina

La Virgen Peregrina

Categories: April 2015, Conversations on the Camino, Favorite Albergues, Return to Camino, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post Camino thoughts: What a blessing!

Preaching on Pentecost 2013

Preaching on Pentecost 2013

Just over a year ago we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost at Trinity, Menlo Park.  After nearly seven years of serving in the parish, I was moving on, and I was moved by the experience of saying good-bye to a place and community that I loved.  At the same time, I was excited about going on vacation with my husband in France, and making our way to St. Jean Pied-de-Port, the jumping off point for my Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It was a beautiful leave-taking.

In the Episcopal Church—and in other denominations, too, I’m sure— there’s a tradition of blessing members and clergy on their last Sunday at the parish.  As we were planning the Pentecost liturgy last spring, I found this Blessing of the Pilgrims online, and we personalized it for my last service:

Blessing of the Pilgrims

O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over your servant Beth, who for the love of your name, walks to Santiago de Compostela.

Be her companion on the walk,

Her guide at the crossroads,

Her breath in her weariness,

Her protection in danger,

Her shelter on the Camino,

Her shade in the heat,

Her light in the darkness,

Her consolation in her discouragements,

And her strength in her intentions.

So that with your guidance she may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road,

And, enriched with grace and virtue, return safely to her home, filled with joy.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Near the end of the liturgy, the dear people of Trinity encircled me, and the whole community was connected by the laying on of hands as I received the blessing.  My heart was full, and overflowing with love. The Holy Spirit was there with us.

Community Blessing on my last Sunday at Trinity

Community Blessing on my last Sunday at Trinity

Two weeks later I walked the Camino over the Pyrennes to Roncevalles, the first stop in Spain. I went to the Pilgrim’s Mass at the 13th Century Royal Collegiate Church that night with several hundred of my new best Pilgrim friends from around the world.

At the end of the Pilgrim’s Mass, the priest blessed the gathered Pilgrims in Spanish—with the same blessing we’d used at Trinity on my last Sunday!

Pilgrim's Mass at Roncevalles

Pilgrim’s Mass at Roncevalles

It was my first experience on the Camino of bawling my eyes out because something had touched me so deeply and so unexpectedly. I came to recognize these surprising experiences of joy as Holy Spirit moments. There were more to come.

It’s only in retrospect that I can now appreciate the power of that Blessing by the Trinity Community on Pentecost.

When I read the Blessing now, a year later, each phrase calls to mind a specific experience on the Camino where I felt God’s presence.

It marked a transition in my ministry, and the beginning of my Camino. In that moment, I received the grace and courage to become a Pilgrim, and to walk with a wholehearted sense of purpose: to learn to live into a new sense of joy, and a deeper faith.

What a blessing!

As we approach Pentecost 2014, I give thanks for my time at Trinity, for my colleagues there, and for all the people of the Trinity community. I give thanks for my year of discovery, on the Camino, and afterwards, and for a renewed sense of call.

I give thanks, too, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. She continues to blow through our lives with unexpected joys, filling us with her power. She leads us ever onwards, to new experiences, new connections, new life.

My Camino begins

My Camino begins

Categories: Camino, Camino de Santiago, Pilgrim's Mass, Reflections, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Thin Places” on the Camino; a Reflection on All Saints

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.

Walking alone through ancient forests in Galicia

Walking alone through ancient forests in Galicifall.

In the Celtic tradition, this sequence of days at the turning of the seasons is considered a “thin place” when the veil between our everyday world and the world of the divine is especially thin.

I found the whole Camino to be a series of thin places, as if All Saints was stretched out over the north of Spain for the month of October. I had a series of unexpected moments when I was touched by the beauty of nature, history, art, and fellow pilgrims.  I also had several mysterious encounters that brought me close to loved ones who had died.

When I was resting and icing my ankle in the Albergue in Astorga, a Scandinavian man about  my age checked-in, and visited with me for a few minutes. He was a quiet person whom I later saw contemplating chess moves in the common room.

He seemed familiar, but I knew I hadn’t met him before.  Then it dawned on me that he looked just like my cousin from Sweden, who had died in the 1980’s.  If he had lived into his 50’s he would look a lot like this man at the Albergue.  I realized that I had not thought of my cousin in any serious way for many years.  Seeing his “double,” made me remember him with fondness.

A similar thing happened when I was walking one day, and noticed that my companion reminded me of someone.  She was forthright, and very down to earth.  We had a fun day together.  Later, I realized she reminded me of a relative who had passed away suddenly last year.

She and I had been close, but never seemed to make time to see each other.  I regretted now that we had only seen each other for holidays.  Spending the day with my Camino friend was like having some of that unstructured time I’d missed with my dear relative.

In 1996 my brother, my only sibling, died at 35 under sad circumstances.  There was mental illness and alcoholism involved.  By the time he died, we had not seen each other for a long time.

Tom Petty lyrics on the outskirts of Santiago

Tom Petty lyrics on the outskirts of Santiago

All along the Camino someone had posted Tom Petty lyrics on the backs of traffic signs, and on mileage markers.  It made me laugh because my brother had been a Tom Petty fan.  It made me remember a good memory of my brother as an adult.  There were times as I was walking alone that I felt a closeness to him, that he’s in a much better place.  Happy.

These experiences brought me to tears.  They were tears of sadness, and loss.    Perhaps I had not really grieved for these dear people? But also tears of joy and awe.  Maybe the Camino presented me with enough time to have an open heart so that I could feel more deeply, and could remember my loved ones in a fresh way.

Tears of amazement, too.  On the other side of the veil, my loved ones are alive in the Lord—I saw their reflection briefly in my fellow pilgrims.

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

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

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There are no stained glass windows in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. Well, there’s one, of St. James, over the Holy Door, which will be opened in 2021, the next Holy Year, when St. James’s day, July 25, falls on a Sunday.

The Cathedral is ancient, finished in the 1100’s, a solid Romanesque beauty.

It was built over an even older structure that sheltered the remains of St. James, which were discovered in 800. Pilgrims began arriving soon after that, and they’ve been coming ever since. And the spirit of the Camino permeates the place today.

I love Cathedrals: Chartres, Canterbury, and Grace are close to my heart. But I think Santiago takes the cake. It’s historic, ancient, and has a deep spirituality; it’s a place of living faith.

Along the Camino, there are numerous Cathedrals. Pamplona, Burgos and Astorga had beautifully artistic cathedrals, but they felt deflated and preserved. You needed a ticket to enter. In Santiago, the door was open to all from 7:00 am to 11:00 at night.

Santiago feels alive, busy with pilgrim traffic, and every Pilgrim mass was full to overflowing with Peregrinos in their hiking clothes, sandals and socks.

Most of all, it is the endpoint of the Camino, and the burial place of the Apostol, James.

In the movie, “the Way” The characters enter the Cathedral through the front door and encounter the Portico of Glory, carved by Maestro Mateo in the 12th Century. There, James greets the pilgrim atop a pilar carved into an exquisite Tree of Jesse, that links Christ back to Adam.

The traditional pilgrim ritual was: touch your hand to the Tree of Jesse, and then enter the cathedral, venerate the tomb of St. James, and climb the stairs behind the altar and hug the jewel-encrusted statue of the Saint. Quite a multi-sensory experience when you add in the flying of the Butafumiero!

These days, the front door is closed and the Portico of Glory is being restored. It’s behind a fence that requires a museum ticket.

About 5 years ago they stopped allowing pilgrims to touch their hands to the Tree of Jesse, to preserve it. The spot where pilgrims put their hands for 800 years wore 5 deep finger holes into the stone, like the grip in a bowling ball. Not being able to place my hand there was my only disappointment in Santiago.

But I completed the other rituals: hugging the statue of St. James, praying at his tomb, and attending the pilgrim mass and seeing the Butafumiero fly.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Cathedral was remodeled in the Baroque style. A giant decorative structure, reminiscent of St. Peter’s in Rome, was erected over the altar. It’s upheld by a crew of massive baby angels with strong arms, one of my favorite features within the space. There’s an amazing amount of gold. Towers, and a new facade changed the outer profile in the 18th Century. Now it all looks unified by the overgrowth of lichen and ferns on the damp stone.

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Categories: Cathedral de Santiago de Compostella, October 2013, Santiago de Compostela, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Landfall at the 12:00 Pilgrim’s Mass

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Friday morning I woke up in my “garret SRO” room and knew I had to move house. My pack and boots were still sopping wet and they told me at the reception desk that the heat was off until November 1st. OK.

I went on Booking.com, then went out in the neighborhood looking for the hotels on the site. I asked a jewelry store owner for directions and she suggested a hotel a little further on. They were super friendly when I arrived, more like my favorite albergues, and they have radiators that are in use!

After checking in with all my wet worldly goods, I headed back to the Cathedral where I planned to spend most of the day: the 12:00 mass, (the Butafumiero, the giant incense burner, was scheduled to swing) and then the museum and roof tour. I still felt keyed up.

At 11:30 I was fortunate to find a seat on the aisle in the transept, and waited for the 12:00 Pilgrim’s Mass to begin.

The Butafumiero is a giant incense burner made of silver that hangs from a rope attached to a pulley system above the altar. It takes a crew of men to make the Butafumiero fly. You can see the knot of ropes attached to a pillar at the crossing when it is set up for the Mass.

I felt regret that I had not arrived right then, before the Mass, like many people around sitting near me. One of my tasks of the journey is to let go of regrets, and be less hard on myself for things, for not doing things perfectly. I let it go. Like the rest of the journey, this was my Camino, with twists and particularity. It was ok.

A nun led us in singing the responses before the Mass began. There were announcements in multiple languages for silence, and that NO PHOTOS or MOBILE use during the service.

The Mass began, all in Spanish of course, but I found, through familiarity with the liturgy, and perhaps a new comprehension of Spanish that I understood a lot of it.

There was a familiar and touching moment when one of the priests moved into place to read the Gospel and he was pulled back by another priest to allow a Deacon to proclaim it. At that moment, I wanted to be with them, at the altar. But I let that thought go, too, because it felt like I was where I was supposed to be, receiving.

Then there was a Sermon. A real 20 minute sermon! And I swear I understood most of it. It was about the power of the Camino to transform us into the image of Christ. He is not an idea in our heads we’re supposed to “believe” in, but a person who is there with us. The trials and joys, the friendships of the Camino are a metaphor for life. Through them we can know Christ.

St. James knew Jesus and took the Gospel here to Galicia, and we are called to take the message back into our lives.

At the end of your Camino here in Santiago you may take home souvenirs, but the the most important one is being closer to Christ.

I looked around and noticed that I saw at least 6 or 7 people I’d walked with. Tears. People in flip flops and sandals with socks. Pilgrims. Were here together in Santiago. More tears.

At that moment, I arrived.

I felt such weepy joy shuffling shoulder to shoulder with the crowds of pilgrims to receive Communion.

I have never seen a church, let alone a cathedral, so full. It was standing room only. Like an unwashed Easter.

After the Blessing, the Butafumiero crew came out in their maroon cassocks and untied the massive ropes, and it was lowered so the incense and coals could go in. Then the “captain” of the crew signaled for it to go up above his head, he grasped the bottom of it and gave it a mighty swing towards us.

The men yanked the rope down and up, and it began to fly higher and higher over our heads and then back across the other side of the transept. Each time it swung away from us I could see the red hot coals glowing through the slots in its side. It almost touched the ceiling above my head!

Joy, pure joy, awe, amazement. So this is why I came. Not to see this spectacle, but to feel this warm opening in my heart, and the Spirit moving among the people, and within me, such love.

Of course, the crowd (me, too) whipped out their phones and took photos, but that seemed authentic to our time, as much as the extreme stinkiness (which was the origin of the Burafumiero) of our medieval friends must have been. Like them, we’re a little uncouth and worn around the edges. And that’s one of the fruits of the Camino. We’re more real.

The Butafumiero took its last pendulum swing and the “captain” caught it, and pivoted around with it on his heel, a fine Spanish flourish, like he was the Matador and the incense burner was the bull. Massive waves of applause!

As the baroque organ played, we began to move, waves of people, towards the opposite side door on the Plaza de Quintana.

Suddenly I saw Lisa and Harold, from Quebec! Lisa and fell into each other’s arms and sobbed. She was someone who I’d talked with for hours on the Camino, very quiet and unassuming, from a tiny town in Quebec.

She said, “so this is what it’s all about, at the end of our lives it’s going to be like this, it’s all going to make sense, our crazy lives, and it will be so beautiful!!”

Yes. It will.

We met Eric and Vi, from Bristol, Linda from Hong Kong, and her Austrian friend, on the Plaza, and found a “free buffet” of 9e for a spontaneous lunch. And there was a salad bar and broccoli!

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Categories: Camino, Cathedral de Santiago de Compostella, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013, Pilgrim's Mass, Santiago de Compostela, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Last full day on the Camino

My thoughts throughout the day:

It began like all the other days this week, having coffee before the sun came up at 8:45 and waiting for a break in the rain; setting out, letting the feet and ankles warm up; leaving last night’s stop behind and moving forward towards the next one.

I realized once again how I would never go outside on a rainy day like today at home, let alone walk along a busy highway in the rain and then follow a path into dark woods.

But now it feels normal and I relish the sense of being out in the elements, and noticing how the weather changes from minute to minute.

I have a feeling I may be taking rainy day walks when I get home. Sadly, I would not feel safe walking by myself in the forests of the East Bay hills, which feel so much like these Eucalyptus woods.

I haven’t met many Bay Area pilgrims, but yesterday, I met women from Orinda, Redwood City, and San Francisco. Charlene, from the City, lives in the same apartment building as my cousin. We’re going to have dinner in Santiago.

Spent a fun couple of hours last night in the Albergue bar visiting with several nice guys from the U.K. and Ireland. One was in his late 60’s and had grown up in Liverpool. He saw the Stones and the Hollies at the Cavern club. Had fun talking about British Invasion musicians and sharing photos from the Camino.

One of the joys of the journey at this point is looking back and talking about specific places on the Way and comparing experiences. Did you stay at Orisson on the first night? What’s your pace been? Did you stay with the nuns in Carrion de Los Condes?

I decided to walk 18k today and then have a shorter 8k walk into Santiago tomorrow, and carry the full pack into Santiago instead of transporting the daypack like I have been for the last week.

Last night the rain was non-stop, and the gale force winds and rain lashing the stone house kept me awake. It was my only episode of insomnia on the Camino. I’ve usually been zonked out from all the exercise.

My mind was swirling with questions and uncertainties about what I should do after Santiago with my 5 free days before my flight home, and processing the fact that I’m nearing the end of the journey.

I will greatly miss the walking, and the combination of the meditative and the physical. I’ll miss the unfolding of the countryside, one village at a time, and so much more that can’t be immediately quantified.

The walk today brought me by the Santiago airport, and into the old suburbs on the hill above the city. Up, down, zigs and zags. I checked into a Casa Rural and met up with some of the same folks as the night before.

Today, as I walked, I wondered what does Santiago mean to me? I’m sure that was swirling around in the night of insomnia as well.

It’s an icon, and like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, it’s glittered out in the distance for a long time.

I know I will enjoy it. I’ve loved Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon.

There’s more to it, of course. The mileage markers on the Camino have been counting down for days. It’s the end of the pilgrimage.

At the heart of what Santiago means to me as a Christian, and from the more Protestant angle, is the tradition that James, one of Jesus’ beloved disciples is buried there.

What does that mean? I’m still meditating on that. I don’t have the medieval belief in the cult of the saints, and the modern sense of the saints as intercessors isn’t part of my belief system. Certainly the mystery draws me. I want to experience the Holy. As a priest, there is a depth of
Church history, theology, and faith embedded in the city that I feel drawn to experience.

And the sense of being swept along in this river of pilgrims that’s flowed this direction for centuries has been inestimable.

Tomorrow I’m going to take my time and savor the experience of swimming in that river of pilgrims. And arriving. As my dear friend, a sailor, commented, it’s a major landfall.

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Categories: Camino, October 2013, Santiago de Compostela, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

A Mindful and Blustery Day

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This morning in Castenada, it was pouring. At the bar where I had desayuno, the TV news showed flooded streets in Santiago. It’s supposed to be the first big storm of autumn. So I hung out for an extra hour at the bar in hopes that there would be a break in the storm.

Right then I saw on the Spanish news that there’d been another mass shooting at a school in Nevada. The bar person asked if I was American, and shook her head. It was one of those moments when you see your own country from an outside perspective.

That’s when Walter walked in. He sat down at my table and we began talking. He’s from Tasmania, and has traveled all over the world. He’s about my age. There were the usual questions, “when and where did you start the Camino?” and then he told me how his friend in Tasmania had just been diagnosed with cancer, and began to cry.

We bonded over how the Camino has made us cry every day, for seemingly no reason.

Sometimes at random moments it’s clear to me that we’re walking a path that people have walked for 1,000 years. People have suffered and loved and left something of themselves along the Way. And I can feel their vibrations sometimes, it’s a mysterious thing. And also, the Camino brings you to heartbreakingly beautiful places you would never see otherwise. And you meet people from all over the world.

I think all the exercise and the new people you meet break down your defences, too. The whole experience is cathartic.

The sun broke through briefly around 9:30, and we began to walk. He’d told me he had diabetes, and then said he also had cystic fibrosis, and was very long-lived for having the disease. He periodically had to stop and cough, which was difficult to witness.

We ended up walking most of the day together.

It was a mindful day for me, where I wanted to walk alone some of the time and process where I am at this point on the pilgrimage.

In many ways, he was just the right companion. The fact that he was walking the Camino was inspiring, and he had many life insights from his living with CF and doing amazing things like climbing mountains in Borneo, being a guide in Australia, long-distance biking.

Somehow there were enough periods of sun that I didn’t get too wet, and there also were times of blasting wind, thunder, and downpours. I put my rain gear on and off about 15 times during the day.

The Camino led us mostly through a canopy of ancient trees that met over the top of the trail, provided shelter. It was like a long, long nave in a way.

A couple of times we looked back and saw clusters of big box stores and the highway–but on the Camino we were in a protected, timeless tunnel of green.

Walter continued on past the Albergue I’d reserved. I hope to see him in Santiago.

Tonight I’m staying at an Albergue/hotel combination and I’m sharing a room with a Hungarian woman. It reminds me of my week sharing rooms with Monika.

My hair is like a fright wig, I’m sick of my clothes, and I’m treasuring this night of sitting in the bar trading pilgrim tales with Irish folk, and South Africans.

A good day. I’m glad I have one more day to walk slowly and take my time. I’m not quite ready for this epic journey by foot to end.

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Categories: Camino, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

I am the Vine, you are the branches.

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I’ve seen grapevines all my life in Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma Counties.  But walking through the Wine Region of Rioja in Spain was a different experience.  We were not whizzing by in a car.  I could reach out and touch those vines, feel the texture of the leaves. I stepped on the same soil they were growing in.  It was much more real.

We often saw workers in the vineyards trimming and pruning the vines by hand.  It reminded me of this passage in John’s Gospel.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[ by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  John 15: 1-6

Entering into the rhythm of the Camino, “abiding” in it,  brought me joy and meaning. As I walked, I felt an unspoken connection with other Pilgrims walking with me towards a common goal. I also walked in the joy of the present moment.  With each step, I felt very much like a branch connected to the Vine of life, being nourished and encouraged to grow spiritually and physically.

I walked by ancient grapevines, twisted and rough. Bright green, pliant vines were bursting out of their knarled fists of bark.

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One day we passed a pile of grapevines that had been pulled out, and stacked by the side of the Camino.  Their fruitful life had ended.  New grapevines were being planted in their place.  That, too, was a symbol of Resurrection, and gave me new insight into Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John.

Categories: Camino, Gospel of John, Reflections, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Doors along the Camino

For several days I took photos of the beautifully weathered doors I saw as we passed through villages and towns. It’s interesting that modern Spanish buildings favor automatic glass doors.

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Categories: Camino, Spirituality | Tags: , | 8 Comments

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