Posts Tagged With: Camino joy

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

The Inner Journey

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I’ve been on the move for almost two weeks. I’ve slept in bunk beds and nice hotels. Every morning I’m excited to start the next segment of the journey. I love seeing the yellow arrows pointing me onwards. The Camino has welcomed me back into its embrace.

What about the inner journey? What am I learning along the Way?

I’m a world class worrier. I’ve known that for a long time. But with hours along the Camino I can see more clearly how I seem to have a need to worry about something, no matter how insignificant. What if my pack isn’t delivered or gets lost? What if there’s no where to stay? (Somewhat irrelevant in October.)

I have a talent for seeing the glass as half-empty.

The Camino gently leads me towards the half-full view. Today I came into Samos drenched and coughing, and fell into a tiny coffee bar. The owner greeted me and guided me to a seat. She served me Caldo Gallego, which was made for this drizzly weather: garbonzo beans, peppers, and beef bones. After I finished I asked her how she made it, and she spent some time in the kitchen teaching me how to cook it.

Last night, after walking up, up, up the mountain in the driving rain, I attended Mass in a 9th Century church with people from all over the world and we stood in a circle around the altar as the priest presided in Spanish and English.

Just when I feel depleted, the Camino provides, and fills me with hope.

I’m still praying for clarity on where God is calling me when I return to the Bay Area. Maybe I’m being taught to trust.

For now, I’m heading out each day on the Camino, putting one foot in front of the other. Half an hour on the trail I find myself encountering joy.

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Categories: October 2013, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

What a beautiful day on the Camino.

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Last night I stayed in Foncebedon, a tiny village in the mountains after Astorga. Because I was concerned about my ankles, I decided to taxi up the hill to give myself another rest day but still make some progress. I enjoyed sitting in the front seat conversing (barely) with the taxi driver, who was a Bono lookalike. He very graciously stopped to check that my trekking poles indeed made it in the trunk.

I got to Foncebedon early and hung out all day. It’s a tumble-down village of slate stone. Lots of it has fallen down or is in the process of falling down. It reminded me of the song our son played on the cello from the Suzuki method: “Moon over the Ruined Castle.”

But there are 4 Albergues which are bringing the village back to life. I stayed in Monte Imago, run by a small group of yoga enthusiasts. Their shared paella dinner was fantastic. And there was a cozy vibe. I slept straight through the night and didn’t hear any snoring.

This morning I had my pack transported to Acebo, about 10k away, to be conservative on the mileage. It’s still a little unnerving to hit the trail and know that my pack is sitting there at the place I’ve just left. It’s a good illustration of faith.

The pack transport firm, Jacotrans,hasn’t let me down yet—I put 7E in the envelope and write a destination, and it magically shows up further down the Camino.

So off I went in the fog, towards Cruz de Ferro, one of the landmarks of the Camino. It’s a cross on a tall pole around which pilgrims have left stones and momentos that symbolize what they would like to leave behind on the Camino, or something in memory of loved ones. And many other things in between. People bring stones from home and other small items. The fog

was so thick I didn’t see the Cross until it was right in front of me. I left a stone and said a prayer, though, I confess, the Cruz de Ferro did not move me as much as I expected. It was right on the road, not as isolated as I had pictured it.

The fog and sun made for beautiful light the next few hours. It was totally silent and there was a timeless feeling—I would not have been surprised to see people in medieval garb or even fairies.

I got to Acebo early, and my pack was there, but I wasn’t ready to quit for the day. So I repacked everything in the main pack and went on, another 10k . Ankles are doing well, and I felt so energized by the scenery and the experience of walking today.

The last 5k to Molinoseca were tough—all downhill on rocky ground, but I felt confident about continuing on to Molinaseca..

I’ve picked up a bit of a Camino tribe: the Hungarian sisters, the Finnish woman, Austrslians, and the 70 something siblings are here at the Albergue. I’m getting to like bunk bed life—as long as I get the lower bunk.

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Categories: Camino, Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

First Day on the Camino 2.0

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One of the perks of jet lag is waking up early. So when festival revelers woke me up singing drinking songs in the street at 5:00, I was ready to go. After much internal debate about where to start and how far to go, I did my online morning prayer and came up with the following: walk through Leon to the Parador, where I left the Camino in June, and then call a taxi out if town, skipping the suburbs and sparing my feet on day 1. It always feels good to have a plan.

So I left Hotel Q after desayuno in the dark at 8:00, and walked the Camino route through the medieval city. From all directions there was the tap tap of hiking poles. My fellow pilgrims were also headed out. I have been so consumed with travel arrangements and whittling down the contents of my pack, that had forgotten the impact of common purpose and fellowship between Peregrinos. “Buen Camino!” We said in the dark as we converged on the Way. That was my first tearing up episode. Then, a few minutes later as I paused in the Plaza San Isidore searching for which way to go, a guy standing outside the church pointed the way the Camino exited the irregularly shaped plaza. That was the second tearing up, followed by approaching the Parador, where I had decided to go home after my ankle injury. I asked a fellow pilgrim to take my picture by the statue, then went inside to have them call a taxi. All was the same as June. The taxi came and I started I Virgen del Camino, where the path leaves the suburbs. Suddenly I was back on the Way, and inexpressibly happy. The weather was clear, about 65, beautiful walking weather. A high point of the
day was talking to an old shepherd who had three German Shepherds herding gigantic cattle, in my rudimentary Espanol.

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Categories: Camino de Santiago, October 2013, Return to Camino, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Leon again.

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Yesterday I arrived in Leon by high speed train, pretty knackered from my journey. But Leon gave me a second wind. HotelQ, which I’d booked online, turned out to be one that was full last time when I was hobbling looking for a room in June, so there was a certain sense of closure there. Tons of people out in the evening for a street festival with Bagpipe bands, dancers, and booths set up along the way to St. Isidore’s, people of all ages together, and kids playing everywhere. It felt like coming home to Spanish life. Though reveling went on outside all night, I was able up sleep 7 hours, and feel ready to do some walking this morning to Villar de Mazzarife.

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Categories: Camino, October 2013, Return to Camino | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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

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!

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DSCN0061Monet - Coquelicots - Poppies at Argenteuil - 1873

 

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

Monika

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.

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

Day #1

Hale and I said our farewells at the Porte d’Espagne at the edge of the old town, and then I kept going up the hill, on the Camino. It was hard to leave him after such a good vacation together. He’s been so supportive of my desire to go on the Camino. My first stop was the auberge at Orisson, 8.4 kilometers up the mountain. The path was pleasantly uphill, through pastures. And silence. The only sound was the tapping of my hiking poles and the bells on the cattle down below. A farmer wearing a beret said “Madame” to my bonjour as I passed by. The road kept climbing and then got seriously steep. I met my first pilgrims as I stopped to rest: a young American guy from MA, a guy who works for Twitter in San Francisco (!) , a Dutch couple going to volunteer at the albergue in Roncevalles for two weeks, an Italian woman and an older Irish lady. Then it got seriously steep. I was very glad to have poles. There was no rush to get to Orisson because I had a reservation, so I enjoyed being in the moment and taking my time. When Orisson came into view it was like a mirage, it was so good to finally get there. I had the rest of the afternoon to read and visit with people on the deck, do our wash, and then we had a lovely communal meal with about 75 pilgrims. Wine, soup, meat, and French Basque cake for dessert. The owner of the Inn asked each of us to stand up and say where we were from. It’s a little challenging to return to the hostel life: bunk beds, no privacy, and the worst is the snoring. I looked out the window at 3 am and saw the most amazing stars.

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

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