Posts Tagged With: Pilgrimage

My last day of walking the Camino: The Long Story

Setting out on my last day walking the Camino from Mansilla de las Mulas.

Setting out on my last day walking the Camino from Mansilla de las Mulas.

I walked the Camino Frances in three trips. Camino 1.0 was from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Burgos, in June, 2013. Camino 2.0 was from Leon to Santiago, in October 2013. That left the section in the middle from Burgos to Leon for my Camino 3.0, in April, 2015.

That’s the short story of why I was walking into Leon on April 19th, 2015.

After 10 days of walking from Burgos,  I was in Mansillas de las Mulas, only 18 kilometers away from Leon. Here’s the long story of what that day was like.

The night before I walked into Leon I was seriously thinking of taking a taxi because one of my ankles was hurting and when I talked with my husband on the phone, it seemed like the logical thing to do. The walk into Leon was known to be tedious, and lots of pilgrims bussed through it. When I began my second Camino, in October 2013, from Leon, I took a taxi out past the suburbs, and I didn’t regret it.

But when I got up the next morning to head out from Mansilla de los Mulas towards Leon, I felt I needed to walk at least part of the way. I decided I’d see how I felt as the day unfolded.

I had mixed feelings about finishing my Camino 3.0, and finishing the whole Camino in general.

Sign just outside Mansilla de las Mulas

Sign just outside Mansilla de las Mulas

The April trip was empowering. I totally enjoyed the walking, the solitude, and the conversations along the way. Every day I felt physically challenged and spiritually fulfilled. The Camino was as magical as it had been before. Each of my three trips had its own flavor, its own season (summer, fall, and now spring) and each trip took me deeper into the spirituality of walking solo. Camino 3.0, across the Meseta, had been more contemplative than the other two trips, more like a retreat.

There was something very attractive about the sureness of following the yellow arrows on the Camino.  But now the adventure was about to end, and I found myself feeling of sad and wrestling with the feelings of “what’s next?”  I didn’t want Camino 3.0 to end.

When I was a kid I had the habit of saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” My Mom used to respond with, “No, everything matters,” which would make me angry. I realize now that I used to say “It doesn’t matter,”  when I couldn’t express my feelings very well, and that my Mom said “No, everything matters,” to help me.  But she didn’t quite know how to get me to open up and share what was going on inside.  As an adult, and a Mom myself, I realized how frustrating it must have been for her to try and help me process my feelings.

I still struggle with that feeling of emotional ambiguity as an adult, and I was in one of those frustrating “Oh it doesn’t matter” kind of moods as I left Mansilla de las Mulas, and I spent a lot of the day debating whether I should call a taxi or not.

Even on the last day of walking, the Camino had something to teach me.

In the morning, I prayed for strong ankles, and to be open to what the Spirit wanted me to learn. I ate a late breakfast at my beautiful little hotel in Mansilla de las Mulas with the group of Irish women walking together I’d met the night before.

Javier saying

Javier saying “Buen Camino!”

Javier, the owner of the hotel, said “Buen Camino,” and waved me onto the Camino.   He was one of the many gems of hospitality I’d met along the Way.

The 18 kilometers to Leon were not scenic, or beautifully empty, like the Meseta. But there were memorable moments.

Hill fort where the ancient Asturians lost their battle against the Romans.

Hill fort where the ancient Asturians lost their last battle with the Romans.

There was the hill fort at kilometer 3 where the ancient Asturians lost their struggle with the Romans. Right in front of it was a gas station.  I love the juxtapositions of eras along the Camino!  There was a long, medieval bridge at kilometer 6 that was still used by cars. A modern pedestrian bridge had been built alongside it for the pilgrim traffic.

The 20 span Puente Ingente over rio Moro

The 20 span Puente Ingente over rio Moro

I ducked into a village church in Villamorros in the middle of a Mass, and was happy to see a young girl assisting the priest at the altar.  At about kilometer 9, my left ankle began to hurt again. It was midday, and it was hot for April. The Camino was shunted under highway overpasses, and ran next to junkyards.

The Camino meets billboards for the Macy's of Spain

The Camino meets billboards for the Macy’s of Spain

Junkyard Dog outside of Leon

Junkyard Dog outside of Leon

That was the low point.  For the first time since I’d left home, I wondered about how safe it was to be walking alone. Why was I doing this again?

The guidebook said there was an albergue and café just up ahead in Arcahueja. Maybe that’s where I would call my taxi.  When I got to the cafe, I found the five nice Irish women I’d met in Mansilla hanging out. They looked pretty out of sorts, too. We said, “hello” and complained a little about the heat.

Cafe/Bar La Torre in Arcahueja

Cafe/Bar La Torre in Arcahueja

I asked the bartender how far it was to Leon. He said it was only 11K, and “there’s a beautiful view of the city just up ahead.” (I’m sure he tells everyone that!) I asked if a bus stopped in the village or if they had a taxi. “No” he said. Hmmm.

I ordered a slice of tortilla, two deviled eggs, and a café con leche. What should I do? I felt bone tired and was so tempted to call a taxi. My food arrived, and I realized I was ravenous.

Once the protein in the eggs and the tortilla  kicked in, it became clear to me that I really needed to walk the entire way into Leon, and make Camino 3.0 a Cathedral to Cathedral affair.  As my Mom would have said, “it mattered.”

Once I finally got clarity, I felt the need for some encouragement to make it into Leon.

I had an idea. I turned on my phone and checked into the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook page. It was 4 a.m. in California, and 7:00 a.m. on the East Coast. Someone must be up and reading the page. I posted that I was 11 K out of Leon and was tempted to take a taxi, and needed some support. I posted it on this blog, too.

Immediately, waves of energy started rolling into that little café in Arcahueja through my iPhone! “You can do it! Don’t quit! Feel the burn!” Over a hundred people responded, cheered me on, and sent prayers via the APOC Facebook page. My brother-in-law in Washington, D.C. saw the post on the blog and gave me a big PUSH.

The Camino taught me—again—that sharing my feelings and asking for support is ok. Feeling vulnerable is ok. It’s usually in those moments when God reaches through our stoic armor and touches us.  My unspoken prayers during my morning’s walk were answered.

I said “Buen Camino” to the Irish crew and headed back out on the Camino, now excited to continue. The guy behind the bar had exaggerated just a little though; it was a long time before I saw the view of Leon.

The last hill before I could see the city of Leon

The last hill before I could see the city of Leon

I passed big box stores, and auto dealerships, and medieval churches with storks nesting on top of them.

The funny thing was, my ankle stopped hurting completely. It was amazing.  I picked up the pace.  There seemed to be very few other pilgrims walking that afternoon.

The Camino crossed the Autovia (freeway) on a dedicated pedestrian bridge, and the amount of concrete and apartment buildings reminded me of my long walk into Santiago in the rain, in October of 2013. But weather was good, and I was very thankful.

Out in the distance I could see the Cathedral in Leon, with the snowy mountains behind it. How I wished I could keep walking on to Astorga and beyond. It was a new experience to know what was up ahead on the Camino. That’s when I knew that I had almost finished the whole Camino Frances.

Cathedral at last, but still a long ways off.

The Cathedral in view at last, but still a long ways off.

Walking from the bar in Arcahueja to the Cathedral took about two hours of brisk walking. I felt great, aligned in my purpose. The feelings of sadness about finishing were still there, but I didn’t blow them off by calling a taxi. I walked and felt sadness and joy, and was determined to finish strong.

Once past the newer parts of Leon, passing apartment blocks and crossing roundabouts, The Camino bridged a small stream and led me through the ancient city walls.

It continued into a tangle of medieval streets and spit me out on the grand avenue in front of the building designed by Gaudi. Suddenly, I knew where I was. The Cathedral was just up ahead. And then I was standing in front of it, looking up at its fantastic exterior.

Approaching the Cathedral

Approaching the Cathedral

It was nearly 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and the doors were closed for Siesta.

When the adrenalin subsided, the sad feelings welled up again. No one was there to celebrate my arrival, and I had a wave of homesickness. But Mary was there, up on her pedestal outside, by the locked doors, holding baby Jesus in her arms, and she was smiling.

Mary holding Christ

Mary holding Christ

Thank you for being there, Mary.

Mary greeted me, and sent me off to my hotel to check in and relax. I was grateful for the lessons I’d learned that day. I wasn’t really alone. The Spirit was with me, and I felt blessed by the wave of energy and love from my fellow Pilgrims back in the States that had swept me on, to finish Camino 3.0, and the entire Camino.  Amen.

Categories: April 2015, Camino de Santiago, Leon, Pilgrimage | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Mansilla de las Mulas

My 6 kilometer walk from Reliegos to Mansilla de las Mulas didn’t take very long, even with a limp. It was perfect walking weather:  cool with a breeze, and big, fluffy white clouds sailed in a blue, blue sky.

Almost to Mansilla de las Mulas

Almost to Mansilla de las Mulas

Out in the country I saw this fire burning unattended. It was such an unusual sight for this urban Californian, I had to take a photo.  Way in the background you can see a little fringe of snow on the mountains.

Fire burning in a field, en route to Mansilla de las Mulas

Fire burning in a field, en route to Mansilla de las Mulas

Mansilla still had its medieval walls, and it seemed like it had walled itself off from the 21st century.  The stores on the Plaza Mayor sold fabric and craft supplies, children’s clothing, and toys.  All of them had dusty windows and were closed for siesta. I’m amazed how Spain is largely unspoiled by chain stores or fast food restaurants. Not a Starbucks in sight outside of Madrid!

Tired PIlgrims statue in Mansilla de las Mulas

Tired PIlgrims statue in Mansilla de las Mulas

My friend Nancy had recommended a place to stay in Mansilla called Albergeria del Camino.  I’d sent my big pack there from Reliegos that morning. It turned out to be a cute little hotel with just four rooms.   When I walked in the entryway the owner said, “oh you’re the one who belongs to this pack! I didn’t have a reservation for you, but I have one room left!”  He showed it to me and it was so cozy!  He said, “this is the best bed on the Camino!” It was the Spanish version of a Tempurpedic!  I couldn’t resist.   After a soak in my own tub, and blow-drying my hair for the first time in several days, I went downstairs for a late lunch.  The Ensalada Mixta was a cut above the usual pilgrim menu.  I had definitely kicked it up a notch by staying at the Albergeria.

Fancy Ensalada Mixta

Fancy Ensalada Mixta

Javier, the owner, recommended I visit the Provincial Ethnographic Museum of Leon about five minutes across town after lunch.  Wow!  What a fantastic place!  I wish it had more presence on the web so I could post some links.  It was a Smithsonian quality museum about the history and culture of the people of the Province of Leon placed in a former Monastery.  It had three floors of exhibits of all eras of history going back to before the Romans.  Fashion, furniture, photographs, jewelry, traditional farm equipment, looms, spinning wheels, and other artifacts were all arranged by century and theme.

IMG_5839Visiting the museum was just the right thing to do that afternoon. I’d fallen in love with Spain and I wanted to understand it better.  So many times I’d wondered, “What did this place look like before it began to crumble?  What did the people wear 100 years ago?  What is the terrain like a little off the Camino? What is that mountain range? I wonder what happened here during the Civil War?”   That afternoon in the museum helped me integrate something of what I’d learned and observed along the Camino. And lots of the exhibits were in English.

I wandered back to the hotel taking my time.  It was a luxurious feeling to not be in a hurry. Perhaps that was one of the themes of Camino 3.0.  Taking my time.  I walked out of town a bit, investigated the Camino route for my exit tomorrow.  It crossed another rushing river, and as I looked back, there was a nice view of the walled city.

View of city walls of Mansilla de las Mulas

View of city walls of Mansilla de las Mulas

Back at the hotel, my room faced the church.  The stone glowed in the evening light. I rested on my “best bed on the Camino,” with ice on my ankle and watched the stone of the church change color as the sun went down. One of my stork friends was hanging out on the roof.  Seeing the storks in their nests all across the Meseta was one of the joys of my Springtime Camino.

View from room in Mansilla de las Mulas

View from room in Mansilla de las Mulas

Eating dinner in the dining room I noticed that by staying at the Albergeria, I’d shifted uptown into a more affluent crowd of pilgrims. Lots of people on the Camino ship their luggage every day, and stay only in hotels, or travel in organized groups, but for the most part, I had been hanging out with the backpackers. Among that crowd in the dining room I felt like I was transitioning back into my regular life, and also teetering on the cusp of being a tourist.  It felt very comfortable and it also made me a little sad.

A group of five Irish women sat at the next table. They were very jolly, and we talked over dessert.  They walked together for a week on the Camino every year. That’s more of a European approach—to do it in chunks. Right then I wished I was walking with a group of old friends, too.

I was contemplating whether to walk all the way to Leon in the morning.   It seemed like a prudent thing to get a taxi into town at some point with my sore foot. What did it matter really? It would give me more time in Leon.  I’d finished the missing link of my Camino.  I went to bed feeling conflicted about it. Tomorrow was my last day of walking.  Just 18 kilometers to go.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

Categories: April 2015, Favorite Albergues, Museums on the Camino | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Spring Break on the Meseta

I’m excited.  A little panicked. Excited.  But mostly excited.

I’m beginning Camino 3.0. on Easter Monday!  I’ll be walking from Burgos to Leon, a distance of 112 Miles, or 181 Kilometers.  I have mapped out about 12 days of walking plus getting to and from Madrid.

Why Burgos to Leon?  When I walked in June of 2013, my ankle gave out shortly before Burgos.  Then I bussed across the Meseta, staying in Fromista, Carrion de los Condes, and finally Leon.   My good-bye photo was by the statue of the tired pilgrim at the San Marcos Parador in Leon.

When I went back on my second Camino in October of 2013, I started in Leon, at the same statue in front of the Parador, and walked to Santiago. It was a marvelous feeling to walk out of Leon.  This time, I’m going to have the pleasure of walking into Leon.

That segment across the middle of Spain has been calling to me.  With its wide open spaces, and big skies, it’s known as the third of the Camino for the mind. I’m sure it will be.  Along with being for the mind,  I see this trip as an Eastertide Retreat, a time to walk and meditate, and pray.  And an opportunity to feel that mind/body/spirit alignment again as a Pilgrim.

Since the Meseta is very hot during the summer, walking it in the springtime sounded more and more appealing.  It will be green and there should be wildflowers!

I’ll be flying into Madrid and taking a bus from the airport to Burgos, where I’ll spend the night. I’m taking  a jet lag day in Burgos and then heading out on the Camino the next morning. Burgos is a beautiful city, and I am looking forward to seeing the Cathedral again, and heading out onto the Meseta!

In the meantime, I’m training!   I’m working out with the trainer at the gym, and I’ve been walking around Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland with my full pack on, which is fun.  I can make it around the 5.5 K lake in an hour with no blisters and minimal fatigue.

Halfway around the Lake today someone stopped me and said, “are you getting ready for the Camino?”  Turns out she had walked it twice.

It was great to hear someone say, “Buen Camino!” again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: April 2015, Return to Camino | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 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

Post Camino thoughts: I Live in a Body

Commuting

Rush Hour Traffic

Six months ago, I flew home from Madrid to San Francisco after finishing the second half of my Camino.  It feels like time to share some of my thoughts about what I learned from walking the Camino.

Lesson #1: “I live in a Body.”

On the Camino you walk places.  And keep walking to the next place, and the next. I covered about 10-15 miles a day at about 3 miles per hour.

During my years as a commuter, I covered 70 miles a day, often in bumper to bumper traffic, or at 70 mph.,  but my body was sitting in a padded driver’s seat.  Walking the Camino made me see how much I drove and how bad it was for my body.

Walking to Najera

Walking to Najera

During my first Camino in June my body struggled to move from being a commuter into being a pilgrim.  I was not used to that level of movement,  and I expected too much out of my body, hence the ankle injury.  When I returned in October, my body was more prepared, I took my time, and I began to experience being in my body in a new way.

There was unique physical pleasure in walking the Camino.  It went beyond the usual pleasures of day hiking, even in the Sierra, the Rockies, or other scenic places where I’d recently hiked. It was pleasurable to realize I was moving myself across the landscape under my own power. It’s a primal thing that we in the 21st Century never experience.  I felt a bond with people of earlier centuries for whom walking was the only way to travel.

It was pleasurable to feel my body grow stronger day by day.  It was pleasurable to start walking slowly in the morning, and then move into a comfortable pace.  The walking became meditative. My body was working, and my mind was relaxed. It was pleasurable to feel my physical self, my emotional self, and my intellectual self move into alignment.

I learned that my intellectual self is usually in charge, often wrestles with my emotional self, and my physical self usually comes along for the ride. It was a surprise to see what it felt like to do it differently.

At the end of the day it was pleasurable to feel the sensations of being truly hungry and thirsty. My body was happily challenged, and used.  I felt alive in a  physical way I’d never experienced before. Walking 3-5 hours a day felt like what my body was built to do.

On the Camino,  I made friends with my body, instead of using it primarily as my “vehicle” for propelling my “head” around.   I lived more in the moment. God never felt closer than in those days on the Camino.

Becoming a Pilgrim

Becoming a Pilgrim

When I returned home, I was in the best shape I’d ever been in, and I wanted to stay that fit.  But it’s not my natural inclination to work-out for the sake of working-out.  On the Camino, working-out was integrated into the whole journey of discovery. Most of all, I wanted to preserve the feeling of well-being and spirituality that came with it.

Now I see that walking the Camino was good practice for the rest of my life. When I take a hike, or do yoga, or swim, I feel that now familiar sense of alignment between my physical self, my emotional self, and my intellectual self.  It’s more than working out, or building muscle, it’s become a spiritual discipline. In those moments of joy, I feel God is close.

I live in a body, and it is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Camino de Santiago, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What I brought on the Camino

I’ve been home from Spain for a week, and my pack has been sitting at the end of the bed, half-unpacked.  Today I began to put it away in the garage.

Contents of October Camino 2.0

Contents of my pack for the October Camino 2.0

But wait! I know you’ve been dying to know what was in it. So I’ll give you a tour.

Osprey Kyte 36

Osprey Kyte 36

The pack is an Osprey Kyte Woman’s S/M, 36 liters. You can see my Pilgrim’s Shell and my patches for American Pilgrims on the Camino and the Pilgrim Network.

One of the most valuable features of the pack was its waterproof rain cover.  It’s integrated into the pack, and completely covers it, then stuffs back into its own compartment when not needed.  It’s something that I’d probably never use in California, but I used it a lot on the Camino.  Best of all, it kept the body of the pack very dry.

The straps did get wet.  But it was only on my last day when the rain was pouring for hours that the pack itself eventually got soaked.

REI Travel Sack Sleeping Bag

REI Travel Sack Sleeping Bag

My sleeping bag lived at the bottom of the pack.  It was one of the best items on board. I was really glad I had it towards the end of October, when the heat was not turned on in many places I stayed in Galicia.   It was also very comfortable when I was on the beginning of the Camino in June.  It weighs less than l lb.  BTW, it has arm holes so you can wear it around the house!

Keen Targhee Boots

Keen Targhee Boots

On one of my many trips to REI in September, I bought a new pair of boots.  Beware, you’re supposed to break in your boots over a course of months—but these Keen Targhee boots were the best—terrific toe room, and they were comfortable from day one.  I only got one itty bitty blister the first day out, and that was it.  To top it off, they’re waterproof!

Above the boots you can see my three pairs of Darn Tough wool socks from Vermont.  I decided to take three pairs so that I wouldn’t have to do as much laundry, and I was glad I did.  It felt luxurious.

Next to the boots are my Keen sandals.  I brought these in June, and they were fine in October, too.   Many people brought Crocs or flip-flops, which are a lot lighter, but I like my Keens, they protect my toes.

Patagonia Torrent Rain Shell and Decathelon Rain Pants

Patagonia Torrent Rain Shell and Decathalon Rain Pants

It rains a lot in Galicia, and I’m so glad I invested in some real rain gear.  The Patagonia Torrent rain shell kept me fairly dry even in the most wet conditions.  It was amazing!  The rain pants kept me dry, but didn’t breath as much.  Together with the rain cover on the pack, I felt confident walking in the rain.  And it turned out to be fun!

When I walked in June I expected to carry my pack every day.  Then I discovered Jacotrans, and other services that, for a small fee, will transport your pack to a destination you designate, farther along the Camino.

REI Flash 22 Daypack

REI Flash 22 Daypack

In October, I brought a small, lightweight daypack with me  so that I could use the transport service more easily. Even with the transport service, you want to carry your guidebook, water, and whatever else.  I liked how this pack had big cargo pockets on the side for my guidebook and water bottle.

With the wet weather, I ended up off-loading heavier items to the daypack, and carrying my Osprey pack because it had the rain cover.

In an case, I would recommend using the pack transport services.  There are days when the terrain is rough, or you just feel like having a lighter load.  For between 3 and 7 Euros a day, it’s a great deal!

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Here are my “Jesus poles.” I used these Black Diamond trekking poles everyday.  They were great for stability in muddy conditions, going uphill, and especially going downhill on rocks, and slippery terrain.  It took me awhile to realize that there is a left and a right pole, and there’s a correct way to use them.  The straps are there so you can put weight on the poles.

Jesus tape

Jesus tape

I’ll show you a close-up of the Jesus tape on them.  My colleague at Trinity, Menlo Park applied the Jesus tape, and I often thought of how Jesus really was walking with me every step of the way.

Trekking poles cannot go on board an airplane, and mine don’t collapse down to fit into the pack.  So I had to come up with a creative solution.

Lightweight Duffel Bag

Lightweight Duffel Bag

The night before I left, I went to Big 5 and bought this lightweight duffel bag. I checked the pack and the poles together in it.  I thought about mailing it to myself in Santiago, but ended up just carrying it the whole way. No big deal.

In June, I swore by my Camelbak type 2-liter water system.  Hydration is critical when you’re walking a half-marathon a day.

Platapus water bottle

Platapus water bottle

Goldhara McKay, a fellow pilgrim, recommended this kind of collapsible water bottle on the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook page, and I decided to try it instead of the Camelbak type system.  I started out with two of them, but left one at the Molinaseca albergue—I hope someone is using it right now.  They’re terrific!  When empty, you can curl it up into a pocket, and it weighs nothing.

REI high fashion

REI high fashion

What to wear everywhere.  Who knew that REI was such a fashion house?

I wore these convertible grey pants from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, and on to Madrid.  (In the evening I changed into the yoga pants.)

Add a black or vino tinto colored  T-shirt, a Merino wool half-zip, and a Buff or the Camino scarf, and you’ve got an outfit.

Was there anything I wish I’d left behind?  Yes, my zip lock bag of toiletries, which seemed to weigh a ton.  Somehow I collected full size containers of shampoo, toothpaste, and moisturizer, plus foot care supplies like foot cream and blister care items.

But I was glad I had my BB Cream, blush and lipstick to dress it up a bit each morning.

Buen Camino!

Categories: Camino, Camino de Santiago, Camino Logistics, Reflections, Return to Camino, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 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

20131028-223253.jpg

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.

20131028-223057.jpg

20131028-223134.jpg

20131028-223211.jpg

20131028-223346.jpg

20131028-223429.jpg

20131028-223510.jpg

20131028-223601.jpg

20131028-223638.jpg

20131028-223705.jpg

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

Landfall at the 12:00 Pilgrim’s Mass

20131027-113027.jpg

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!

20131027-113120.jpg

20131027-113157.jpg

20131027-113241.jpg

20131027-113306.jpg

20131027-113328.jpg

20131027-113404.jpg

20131027-113437.jpg

20131027-113507.jpg

20131027-113537.jpg

20131027-113615.jpg

20131027-113646.jpg

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: