Posts Tagged With: Camino tears

Memories old and new in Carrion de Los Condes

Carrion was the other place I’d stayed on my “bus tour” through the Meseta in 2013, and like Fromista, I looked forward to seeing it again now, from a new perspective.

When I was in Carrion in 2013, I could barely walk from my ankle tendinitis. I arrived at the Pilgrim Statue

at the entrance to town via taxi.  I made it one block to the plaza Santa Maria by the Albergue Santa Maria, run by the nuns, and waited for it to open at noon. I didn’t see much more of Carrion than that little area. When Gina and Kai arrived, I had dinner with them, and hobbled back to the church for the pilgrim concert, Mass, and blessing. That was one of my most treasured memories of Camino 1.0. Gina and I went to the Mass and Pilgrims blessing in Roncevalles at the very beginning of the Camino, and also shared the experience in Carrion. The nuns made little paper stars for the pilgrims, and the priest laid hands on each of us individually. There were tears, sweet tears.

The next day I hobbled to the bar/bus station and bussed to Leon. There were lots of other injured pilgrims, so I felt ok about going on. But I was beginning to realize that my injury was not going to disappear anytime soon.

Fast forward to 2015. I set out on the short 6k leg to Carrion after the cafe at the Albergue opened at 8:00. I met up with Tami on the road, and we visited as we approached town.

  

We arrived in no time, and stopped at the Cafe Espana, which doubles as the bus station. It brought back memories from 2013. The same nice guy was behind the bar selling bus tickets, beer, and making espresso. The same eclectic mix of Pilgrims, old men playing cards, and policemen were there, drinking coffee, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

  

As Tami and I sat down for “second breakfast,” one of her Camino friends came in. She was Australian, about my age, and she was very friendly. She told us her amazing Camino experience from the night before.

She was the only one staying at an Albergue out in the country, and she and the Dutch man who worked there had a long, soulful conversation. He told her that he had been asked to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple in Holland who were friends with his grown daughter, and now the boy is 4 and calls him father, and the Dutch man’s life has been opened up to a whole new phase by becoming a member of this unexpected extended family.

 

She was teary because back in Australia her 27 year old son had just come out as gay, and she despaired that he would never be a father. But her evening with the guy at the Albergue opened her heart and mind to new possibilities, and that gay couples could have kids, and that her son could be a father.

She marveled that it felt like she was supposed to be there, and that no one else was staying there, so she had the time to talk all evening with the Dutch guy.  That’s the magic of the Camino sometimes. It seems like there are many synchronicity, or maybe as tired Pilgrims, we are more open, and God has an easier time reaching us.

Then I started crying, too, after sharing that our daughter is the same age, gay, and that I’d had similar feelings, but now had faith that all would work out. We laughed and hugged as Moms and Pilgrims, and that was a Camino moment, too.

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Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 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

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

The Journey towards Arriving

Wednesday night the Casa Rural served dinner at 8:00 and guests, pilgrims all, could barely stay awake, even though we knew that tomorrow was Santiago.

I sat with Jonathan and Colin, two brothers in their 60’s. They were from South Africa; Colin has lived in England for decades, and they walked the Camino to reconnect. There were other folks at the table I’d met the night before, a jolly bunch, younger women from Ireland.

Everyone revived when the food arrived. There was lots of vino tinto in jugs , but at this point in the journey, I’m now ordering the local, better wine by the glass. Colin is a wine importer and I enjoyed talking Spanish wine with him.

The conversation was still flowing at 10:00 when it hit me that tomorrow I’m really arriving in Santiago. I said goodbye, and went back to my room to do the pre-pack. Outside, it continued to rain and rain.

At 2:00 I was fully awake. I’d cranked up the radiators to dry my clothes and boots, and the room was stifling. Still raining. I got up and wrote on the blog, trying to unload the torrent of thoughts that was running through my mind.

In the morning I took my time, thinking the rain would follow the pattern of the last week and slow at 9:30. No dice. I watched everyone from the night before launch themselves into the rain.

So I took off with the fully-loaded pack. I did a better packing job, and it didn’t feel so heavy. I used one of the Hefty tall kitchen garbage bags that Jean gave me as an extra weather protection between the pack and the rain fly.

I walked an hour and stopped at the RV park (!) bar. Inside was a funny scene: about 6 Female German pilgrims seeking shelter sitting at tables, and 3 Spanish male taxi drivers hoping for business. They we’re bring complimentary and charming. But all of the pilgrims were determined to walk the last few kilometers into town, and they were a sorry group.

I needed two more stamps for the last day, so got one there and took off again. Pouring.

Water everywhere, burbling in streams along the road, streaming down the asphalt, moving, glowing in abundance. I may have received a new theology of baptism walking in the deluge.

Got to Monte de Goxo, or Mount of Joy, where pilgrims see their first glimpse of the cathedral. No glimpse today.

I was getting worried about my iPhone in my pocket. I’d bought a water-resistant Otter Box, but skipped the military grade one. My pocket was getting soaked. Not many photos of my trip into town.

I crossed over a 10 lane Autovia, and train tracks. Said a prayer for those killed in the terrible train crash.

It takes a long time to enter a city in foot. Finally I got to the medieval, human-sized streets. I kept following the shells in the pavement. There weren’t many other pilgrims.

Then all of a sudden I heard bagpipes, and saw the side of the Cathedral. The Camino goes through a charming tunnel, where street musicians play, and spits you out on the grand plaza in front of the Cathedral. I was there!

Hard to take a photo in the rain, but one of the German women I’d met earlier took my drenched iPhone a snapped a few.

I wandered my way over to the Pilgrim office and presented my credential, and received my Compostella. I felt dazed and all keyed up. I checked into the place I’d reserved, but it didn’t feel right. Too stark and one fluorescent tube light and hard surfaces.

It was only when I checked into the nice hotel the next day and went to the pilgrim Mass at 12:00 that I felt like I’d arrived.

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Categories: Camino, Camino de Santiago, October 2013, Santiago de Compostela, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrival on Thursday

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Categories: Camino, Camino de Santiago, October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Church in Los Arcos

The countryside is punctuated with ancient churches. Today my pilgrim buddy, Caroline and I bussed to Los Arcos from Estella, to give our bodies a break. (20 minutes to cover 22 kilometers vs. about 5 hours at my good pace. We walked into the church, which looked semi-impressive on the outside, and my jaw dropped. Overwhelmingly beautiful. Cloisters attached. Sometimes Spain just brings tears to my eyes. We’re going there for pilgrim Mass this evening, and another pilgrim blessing. There’s St. James again!

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

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