Signs of New Life


There were many reasons I wanted to walk the Camino this spring. To finish, of course, to fill in the missing piece of the Meseta that I’d bussed through in 2013.

There was also a desire to have some time to reflect and meditate. The Camino gives you many hours walking alone.

I felt like I needed some time to listen for what God wants me to do next in terms of ministry. What is life-giving? How can I offer my gifts?

Some of those questions got muffled by the meeting of people and the physical challenge–and fun–of walking again.

Then the day I left Sahugun I decided to carry everything that I usually shipped in my daypack, and I walked 20k to Burgo Ranero. It felt heavy, but I felt strong enough to carry it. Well, the extra weight really pressed on my weak point, my ankle tendons. My left foot was hurting the next day. One of the lessons of the Camino seems to be that I have to learn some things over and over again.

The next day I had to go slow, and there was grace in that. It was a contemplative day. I saw the beauty of the simple things: the trees planted along the senda pathway, and how they created a rhythm. You could interpret it as monotonous, but that day they were like prayer beads along a string, one after another, predictable, and pulling me along.   


Periodically, along the path,  there were monuments with the Cross of St. James on top. I sat down on one, and no one came by for a long time. I was alone. There were stones left on the ledge. 


and on top. I took my pack off and found a stone or two to add. It felt good to bless each one with a thing I wanted to leave behind.

The flowing streams reminded me of Psalm 42, “as the deer pants for the waterbrooks, so my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.”  

Then I noticed the freshly- plowed fields, and the red earth. 


The Camino was plowing my soul, getting it ready for the new thing that I hope God is planting in my life. There were lots of examples of new life along the Way. 


I spent some time reflecting on what it meant to walk in Eastertide. I was walking in the midst of a beautiful Spring–much more dramatic than at home in my drought-striken Bay Area. It was a long time since I’d experienced a real Spring. 

It made me think of the contrast with all the crucifixes in the churches I’d visited along the Camino, and the tradition of Semana Santa–Holy Week processions–in Spain. There was so much emphasis on Christ’s pain. 

Out here in the campo, the church of the Earth, I felt the overwhelming power of the Resurrection pushing up new life, renewing everything. I could feel the earth humming with energy. Christ was here, on the Camino, renewing us pilgrims, and the whole Earth, giving of himself.

Going slow was a good teacher. Once again, I said “gracias” for all that God, through the Camino, revealed to me, and would reveal to me in the future.



Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela, Spiritual Growth, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Mindful and Blustery Day


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.









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

More Reflections on the Albergue

Sleeping in an Albergue is a lot like taking a long airplane ride. You’re on a shared journey in a confined space. Everyone arrives, gets settled, and has to arrange their stuff just so in the equivalent of the overhead bins: the limited floor space next to your bunk.

I always make kind of mess, emptying my entire backpack on the bed so I can sort through it. Other people seem to have more organized systems, but I do have a bag for dirty clothes, and one for clean stuff, then my zip locks with my jumble of toiletries.

In the Albergue, I always make sure I have my iPhone, glasses, and water bottle within reach from my bunk so I can find them in the middle of the night. I seek out bunks next to plugs so I can charge my iPhone while I sleep. The newer Albergues come with lots of plugs. Medieval buildings do not.

There’s usually a shelf for your boots, and a big container for your hiking poles. Some places are very explicit about food, blister repair, and boots in the dormitory, and that’s usually a good thing.

In the afternoon, lots of people partially unpack and take a nap after the many kilometers on the Camino. In bad weather, everyone’s stuff is spread out to dry.

Then there’s a surge out to eat or drink. Some albergues have fully stocked kitchens, and many Europeans buy groceries and cook. The kitchen is a good place to hang out, share some wine and talk.

Later, around 9:00, pilgrims start returning and by 10:00 everyone is settling in. The “big light” usually goes out at 10:30.

There are always a few snorers. I’ve learned to listen to music, and sometimes I take a Benadryl. For some reason, in October there aren’t as many snorers as when I was walking in June. There have been fewer symphonies and arias.

The morning begins early. Before daybreak, the early risers start packing up, their headlamps flashing. There’s an easy etiquette that we won’t stare when it’s time to change clothes.

Our shared sleeping experience is over, and it’s time to pack all our precious carry on items back up into our backpacks and make sure we know where our passport, iPhone, and wallet are. It’s time for desayuno and to walk.

I’m thankful for these nights of shared sleeping. They have refreshed my trust in others, and I wish that more Americans could experience the easy sense of shared privacy I’ve learned to enjoy.

Some nights I’ve had conversations with the person in the adjoining bunk—sometimes they’re men—but I feel very safe. This trip has allowed me to let go of defenses I didn’t realize I had constructed.

Categories: Camino, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Galicia, Galicia

Last night I felt a bit low. I had a private tour of the Monastery at Samos, which was huge, and impressive, but it left me slightly cold. Such a giant place for 19 monks. The style was baroque and neo-classical; only an archway was left from the 9th century. Although the arch did have a carving of the Jerusalem cross that almost matched the Celtic cross I’ve worn for years. I was just in a grouchy mood.

Also, the rain was getting to me. There’s a reason I don’t live in the Sunset district!

The morning dawned clear and dry. I decided to taxi to Sarria and walk from there, about 10k from Samos. That way I would have a whole day to make progress from Sarria in good weather.

My taxi driver was female, and I enjoyed our 15 minute ride together. Somehow she understood my Spanish, and we had fun conversation.

Sarria is the 100k point from Santiago. If you start there you can receive the official credential for the pilgrimage. There seems to be a shift in the atmosphere; it’s a little more touristy. The menus posted outside the restaurants are in four languages with little flags of Britain, Germany and France.

It was as foggy as the Sunset district when I arrived in Sarria, and as I left. The Camino passes an elementary school, and it was fun to see kids being dropped off—such a big part of my life for so long. But this was 10 a.m. So that’s the secret to small children staying our at restaurants til late at night!

The Camino was magically green and ferny, with massive chestnut trees and oaks. It passed through farm after farm, with stone fences. It looked very British to me. I encountered shepherds guiding sheep, goats, and cows. The pungent smell of dung, and woodsmoke followed me all day. I felt light and energized.

I was able to let go if my worries and my fears, and be totally in the moment.

Tonight I’m staying at another Albergue, new and ultra-modern in design. I’m enjoying the Albergue life, hanging out my laundry, and gathering it in after dinner.

My iPhone refuses to take any more photos so I may have to switch to my camera for awhile.

Sometime today I passed a boundary where I really am going to get to Santiago, and probably earlier than I thought.










Categories: Camino, October 2013, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Astorga Sabbath


Yesterday I took a serious rest day, not unlike a Sabbath.

I’ve been staying at Albergue San Javier a block from the cathedral, in a 300 year old house that’s been converted into an Albergue: two floors of bunk bed rooms, a downstairs common area with an open kitchen, sunken seating area, and a back courtyard with a balcony overlooking it from the second floor. Laundry hangs above the courtyard. The place feels homey.

After Camino 1.0 I am taking the rest thing seriously to keep the ankles happy. Staying “home” slowed me down enough to have conversations with fellow pilgrims from Korea, Spain, Finland, Hungary and Denmark. I went to the grocery store and bought eggs, cheese, good Spanish wine for 2E and made lunch in the kitchen. It’s was a nice break from coffee bar food. I sat in the sun and read, and had a restorative foot massage. In the evening, I had dinner in the kitchen with two sisters from Hungary. At 10:00 I climbed into my cozy lower bunk and slept 8 hours. Truly a Sabbath. Slowing down has brought me deeper in touch with my fellow pilgrims.

This morning I’m eating another omelette and sharing the rest of my groceries with other pilgrim cooks. It feels good to see the rest of the eggs get cooked, and leave the spaghetti for someone else to boil up another day, and to give back to the Camino.

I’m going on up the Camino towards the Cruz de Ferro today, after checking out the ancient hospital where St. Francis stayed on his Camino in 1212!




Categories: Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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