I HAVE RESERVATIONS

I have reservations.

No, wait…I have no reservations.

But I have reservations.

OK, I have hotel & albergue reservations AND no reservations about the camino this year 😉

Last year at this time despite having had to cancel a trip to see Lady Gaga perform and a trip to Paris and England to visit my cousin and friend from the camino 2019, I was fully confident that this Covid crisis would be over in a few weeks and I would be traveling to Spain to walk the Camino on my own. As you all know from your own disappointments it was not to be.

So this past year became a different kind of camino. I kept the camino alive by cooking the dishes I so enjoyed eating in Spain. I found a good recipe for Santiago cake and to my delight it became a hit with my family and friends. I looked for recipes that mirrored the meals we most enjoyed on the camino…red peppers stuffed with cod, empanadas, tortilla (which is a potato/egg tart). We experimented with Spanish wines and remembered the good times we had at the end of the day sharing a glass with other pilgrims along the way. One thing I do recall about the meals in Spain is that I rarely found pepper on the table and I like a good sprinkling of black pepper on my food. However the pandemic afforded me an opportunity to solve that problem. When we did eat out this past year if I asked for pepper the server would frequently bring a dozen or so packets of pepper. Since I know that these must be thrown away if not used I simply took them home. Now I have my own small stash of pepper.

I listened to a lot of podcasts. I relished in Dave Whitson’s Camino Podcast and Dan Mullins’ My Camino – The Podcast. Dave talks to a lot of professionals who discuss topics like the history of the Camino Frances, the Biblical foundation for the stories of St. James, how to avoid blisters and all are generously sprinkled with with colorful stories experienced along the way. Dan interviews people from all over the world who have walked the camino and share their stories of the experience. I feel close to these people as their stories compare and contrast with my own. Dan also frequently speaks with restaurant and albergue proprietors who tell their stories of how covid has impacted their lives an d business. I feel comforted knowing that my exile from the Camino Frances is shared by those who live there. And I am reminded that that exile is only physical. It does not rob me of my memories and it does not prevent me from continuing a spiritual camino.

Finally I talk about the camino…a lot. OK, really a lot. Yes, people who know me well frequently roll their eyes as they indulge me in yet another comparison of life to the camino. I purchased a stack of cards with this blog address on it and I’m not shy about telling complete strangers about the camino and handing them a card. My husband would say I’m never shy about talking to strangers. A trip to the grocery is often extended by half an hour chatting with people I haven’t seen in a while and others I’ve never met before.

Many if not most stories of pilgrims include the question, “What did you do when you finished the camino?” And the answer is frequently, “Well you never really finish the Camino. It keeps going, doesn’t it?” Yes it does. The camino has become a part of me in the same way that I am a mother and grandmother (5 little ones now). And just as I yearn to be with them I also yearn to be on camino.

As I continue to prepare for this camino if you have questions please ask them. I may not have the definitive answer, or even the answer that fits best for you, but I can share my own experience.

Buen Camino

LOS HOMBRES!

Whenever I do laundry I invariably think about the young couple who ran the hotel we stayed in in Melide, Spain. They were in their thirties and if they had children I never saw any evidence of it. He welcomed us graciously to the hotel and asked us to sit in the breakfast area while he explained the details of the hotel. While we were talking his wife came out with some drinks and snacks. It was a wonderful experience to be greeted with such hospitality. She took us upstairs to our room and even though she spoke no English and I barely had 50 words in Spanish under my belt she uttered a word that filled me with happiness…lavadoro (washing machine)

Every day on the camino when we arrived at our nightly destination we would wash out our clothes and then shower, put on clean clothes, an go explore the town. But washing one’s clothes in a sink is a bit dicey. Do you have soap? Sometimes the shower will contain a packet about the size of a sugar packet and it will be labeled body wash and shampoo. I don’t want to share my washing up liquids with my t-shirt. Sometimes the sink is a little dodgy. The seal might not be sufficient to keep the water in the sink for washing. And then there’s the question of where to hang the clothes. So when I found out there was a washing machine I was beside myself. I quickly showered and went in search of this magical gift.

I found the washing machine in the courtyard next door to the hotel. And la Senora was there to show me how to use the machine. As I was pulling the dirty clothes out of my bag I pulled out one of Glen’s shirts. The sleeve was all wadded up inside of itself. As I was shaking the shirt to turn the sleeve out I saw she was looking at me so I gave out a sigh and said “Los Hombres”. Men! She nodded and said “Si, los hombres.” It was a moment of connection. Here we were two women and we shared a common understanding about shaking out a wadded up sleeve before washing it.

Hombre who wads up his sleeves and socks

Now this wadded up sleeve is not a rare occurrence. And usually most of the socks are wadded up too. So now every time I encounter this washing irritations I remember la Senora and I think, “Los Hombres”.

“Si, los hombres”.

Buen Camino

GRIEF

There’s a story that I’ve told to friends about prayer and God and my youngest daughter. It goes something like this…

After giving birth to my two older daughters I had a strong sense that our family was not quite complete. I wanted just one more child. And I had a bit of a deadline. I was in my 30’s and I didn’t want a gap of more than 5 years between my children. I had been trying for 2 years and even though my two girls were 3 and 4 years old it felt like I was running out of time.

My constant prayer was, “God, I want a baby.” That’s it. I figured God already knew the details, I just needed to express the prayer. But after 2 years of telling God I wanted a baby I was starting to get the impression that God’s answer might be “no”.

I felt that I was being a little greedy to want one more child. I already had two bright beautiful girls. But I knew I was going to be devastated and that my family wouldn’t be complete. Still I had to come to grips with a reality that might not include one more baby. And that was when my prayer changed.

God, you know that I want another baby more than anything. And I know that this might not happen. If this baby is not to be God then I want you to grieve this baby with me.

It was a startling concept to me that God would grieve with me in my sadness. But it was such a strong revelation that I count it among the few definitive things I can say about God without question. God does not leave us alone in our grief. God grieves with us.

Well like all revelations of God over time we tend to forget just how big and enduring those truths are. I have been grieving for nearly a year the loss of walking the Camino de Santiago in 2020. I not only didn’t think God was grieving with me, I was pretty sure that God was punishing me. Maybe I was making the Camino more important than God. I must have made an idol of my walk. I know the Camino has become very central to my life.

I held out hope up until 3 weeks before I was supposed to leave on Camino last year. At that point I had to tell myself I wasn’t going to be able to travel to Europe. I wasn’t going to see my cousins in France and one has died since then of Parkinson’s with complications from Covid. And I was not going to be walking in Spain. So I cancelled my reservations and set my sights on 2021.

My Girls!

Those of you who know me know that I do have 3 daughters. My oldest two were 4 and 5 when our third daughter joined us. My family is complete and still growing with 5 grandchildren to add to the count. The youngest was born just 6 weeks ago.

Do I still want to walk the Camino? More than ever. Will I be disappointed if it doesn’t happen this year? Absolutely!

God, you know that I want to walk the Camino de Santiago again more than anything. And I know that this might not happen. If this Camino is not to be God then I want you to grieve this loss with me.

Buen Camino

Addendum: I just got my first covid vaccination and am scheduled to get the second one on April 1st. Gee I hope that won’t turn out to be an April Fool’s Joke 😮

I’M GOING TO WALK THE CAMIO DE SANTIAGO

February 2019

I’m going to walk the Camino de Santiago and today I’m starting my blog about it.  Actually I started this blog in my head about six month ago, but today I am finally putting words to paper (screen?).

How did I decide to do this?  Most people answer this question by saying they saw the movie The Way and they decided to walk the Camino.  Well I saw the movie when it first came out.  I though it was a great story, excellent acting, beautiful scenery.  I got all the symbolism of the story and it really impacted me.  I’ve have recommended The Way many times when someone asks about a good movie.  But somehow I missed that the Camino de Santiago was a real thing.

Two years ago I was at a spiritual retreat in Georgia called The Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation.  One of the guys in my covenant group told us he was going to walk the Camino and that’s when I learned it really is a thing people do, but I didn’t think about doing it myself.

The six months ago I was at another spiritual retreat, The Two Year Academy for Spiritual Formation (because five days wasn’t enough). My roommate next door had invited a friend to attend one of the weeks and that’s when I met Sarah. Sarah had walked the Camino and shared with me all about her experience. Over lunch with others the topic of the Camino came up again and a little seed was planted. I spent that whole week asking questions about the camino and that little seed grew.

When I came home I told my husband about the Camino and his response was, “That’s a great idea.  We should do that.”  And I thought why doesn’t he ever show that kind of enthusiasm when I suggest couples’ pedicures?  So we talked about it.  And talked about it.  And talked some more about it.  It’s all we talked about for two weeks.  What would we need? When would we go?  How long would it take?  How would we manage the time off?  It was “all Camino, all the time”!

The talking eventually slowed down but it never came to a stop.  After two months I asked, “Are we really going to do this?”  The answer?  

“I think we are.”

I’M GOING TO WALK THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

February 2019

I’m going to walk the Camino de Santiago and today I’m starting my blog about it. Actually I started this blog in my head about six month ago, but today I am finally putting words to paper (screen?).

How did I decide to do this? Most people answer this question by saying they saw the movie The Way and they decided to walk the Camino. Well I saw the movie when it first came out. I though it was a great story, excellent acting, beautiful scenery. I got all the symbolism of the story and it really impacted me. I’ve have recommended The Way many times when someone asks about a good movie. But somehow I missed that the Camino de Santiago was a real thing.

Two years ago I was at a spiritual retreat in Georgia called The Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. One of the guys in my covenant group told us he was going to walk the Camino and that’s when I learned it really is a thing people do, but I didn’t think about doing it myself.

The six months ago I was a t another spiritual retreat, The Two Year Academy for Spiritual Formation (because five days wasn’t enough). My roommate next door had invited a friend to attend one of the weeks and that’s when I met Sarah. Sarah had walked the Camino and shared with me all about her experience. Over lunch with others the topic of the Camino came up again and a little seed was planted. I spent that whole week asking questions about the camino and that little seed grew.

A Pilgrim on the Camino

When I came home I told my husband about the Camino and his response was, “That’s a great idea. We should do that.” And I thought why doesn’t he ever show that kind of enthusiasm when I suggest couples’ pedicures? So we talked about it. And talked about it. And talked some more about it. It’s all we talked about for two weeks. What would we need? When would we go? How long would it take? How would we manage the time off? It was “all Camino, all the time”!

The talking eventually slowed down but it never came to a stop. After two months I asked, “Are we really going to do this?” The answer?

“I think we are.”

I LOVE YOU, THANK YOU, AND A CURSE WORD

My cousin Charles died last Sunday. Charles was in his 80’s and had health issues so this was not a total surprise. He was in the hospital in December and came home on December 31st with hospice care. On the morning he died my cousin Janet came to take away his breakfast tray and Charles told her he loved her. When she returned a few minutes later he had passed. What a lovely and gentle way to exit this world and enter into the Kingdom.

At the funeral I learned a lot of things about Charles. You see even though I met him over 50 years ago when he and my cousin Janet got married and though we have seen each other many many times over the years, I never really knew Janet and Charles. They’re deaf. And I never learned sign language. It got a little better over the years as some of my second cousins learned to sign and could translate for us. I speak more French, Spanish, and Italian than I can sign. I can even passably ask for coffee with hot milk in German. The only sign language I know is I love you, thank you, and a curse word. I won’t say which one.

I’ve been thinking about Charles all week and every time he comes to mind I think of these three expressions and I feel ashamed for not trying harder to learn sign language. But a few days ago a new thought presented itself to me. If I could only learn 3 expressions in any language I’d be hard pressed to find three more useful phrases.

What if every conversation started with “I love you”? That would be amazing! I love you. I Love You! I LOVE YOU! Right away the conversation would affirm that each person is lovable and beloved. So many conversations would be more pleasant. It’s hard to be ugly and ill-mannered when someone says, “I love you” to you. It’s hard to mistake the meaning of I love you.

And what if every conversation ended with the words “thank you”? Thank you for talking with me. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for spending this time with me.

And who among us has not found it useful from time to time to employ a curse word? Sometimes only an expletive can express a thought or feeling adequately. And for those who abhor the use of swear words I will quote one of my favorite philosophers, George Carlin, who said, “Shoot is just s**t with 2 O’s!”

So maybe I didn’t know that Charles loved to fish or that he was a diehard Bengals fan. I think at the least Charles and I expressed the most important things to each other.

I love you

Thank you

No curse word necessary 😉

Buen Camino Charles

DO YOU REMEMBER…?

Tonight over dinner we talked about the Camino. We played a game I call “Do you remember…?

Do you remember the town where we had dinner with Wynn & Roberta?

Do you remember the young man who fell and screamed a 4 letter word and how I ran to help him?

Do you remember the place we ate where I had that wonderful chorizo stew that the restaurant called “soup”?

Do you remember the blind Frenchman I walked with while you walked with the Australian mechanical engineer?

I have to tell you that I think about the camino every single day. I should thank the ladies I had lunch with at the Two Year Academy for Spiritual Formation who told me stories of the Camino and who suggested that I walk the camino as my second year “project”. I’ve never really thought of myself as being able to produce a document or “project” of any real substance. So I thought…all I have to do is walk. I can walk. Five hundred miles?! Ah, so I might not finish :-}. What the heck, I’ll do it. Easy peasy! Little did I know.

I remember a lot of hard days walking and I remember some easier days. I remember one day that my body was really in the zone and I was striding up hills. I remember some women calling out to me, “Hey you’re not supposed to walk that fast.” Another day I remember getting to the hotel before Glen and falling across the bed unable to move, but unable to sleep either. I was so tired. I did walk the Camino Frances. OK I did take a cab or bus 3 days of the walk. I had a rule of thumb that if my foot (I have a janky ankle, yes, “janky” is a medical term) kept me awake at night I would rest it the next day and catch a ride to the next town. All the rest of it I did walk. What I didn’t know is that the camino would tether itself to my heart in this way. I didn’t know the camino was calling me then, but I sure feel it calling me every day since.

When I wake up in the night and can’t sleep I often think about the camino and it hurts sometimes. I pray that I will again feel the wind on my face, the sun and rain on my back, and that I will walk a new walk with God by my side.

Buen Camino

WHY ARE THEY CALLED PILGRIMS?

This question began its infestation in my brain shortly before Halloween. What I’m about to say is sacrilege but I don’t really like Halloween. I’m uncomfortable wearing costumes and while I love the little kids who come to trick or treat, the older ones…you know who I’m talking about…the teenagers dressed as a hobo or a dead cheerleader carrying a large pillow case begging for candy…not so much.

Our granddaughter Vivien was born on October 30th last year so for her first birthday party it was a costume party and I was told in no uncertain terms that I must be in costume. You can imagine how thrilled I was. So I spent a lot of time obsessing over this costume and then I had a brilliant idea…I would go to this party as a Pilgrim. What a great costume! I’ll find the hat, the cape, the boots, and the staff, even the little gourd to hold my vino tinto 🍷. So I went online and searched Pilgrim costume and what I found was not exactly what I was thinking of. You see the camino has come to be so much a part of me that when I think of pilgrims I think of St. James, not the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Pilgrims

And this got me to thinking, “Why do we call them ‘pilgrims’?”

I did a little research and this is what I found…

Roman Catholicism was the official religion until Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife who couldn’t manage to provide a male heir. So he wanted a divorce in order to try his luck with another woman, but the Pope said that was a no no. So Henry declared The Church of England to be the official religion instead of Roman Catholicism and the king, Henry himself, would be the head of the church. Easy peasy, declare yourself the head of the church, give yourself a her-fault divorce and move on to the runner-up. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church were essentially the same in theology and worship except for that whole Pope thing. Over time though small changes began to creep in. A group tried to separate themselves from the Church of England to worship in their own fashion but that was illegal. This group eventually split into 2 factions. One group, known as Puritans because they wanted to “purify” the Church of England stayed in England to work on reformation. The other group went to Holland where they thought it would be easier to worship the way they wanted to.

Eventually the group in Holland became dissatisfied. They were discriminated against economically as the best work went to the local protestant Hollanders. There were signs that the Jamestown Colony in America was more open to allowing people to worship as they wished. So the Holland group went back to England and made arrangements to sail for Jamestown. The Puritans heard about this and some of them decided to join the party and make way for the new world.

Here’s where I’m getting to the “pilgrim” part. According to Wikipedia (that endless depository of digital information)…

“A pilgrim (from the Latin peregrinus) is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system. In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

So with their pilgrim passports in their hearts they left their homes (In England and Holland) and got on the Mayflower and headed for Jamestown. Along the way they veered a bit to the right and ended up at Plymouth Rock and decided to go ahead and settle there. William Bradford documented the journey and was the first to ascribe the name “pilgrim” to them. They left Leiden, he said,…

that goodly & pleasante citie which had been their resting place for near 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.”

And to put a biblical seal on the claim of being pilgrims…

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners (KJV calls these pilgrims) on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16

And that is how these puritans and reformers came to be known as pilgrims. And to seal the deal William and Susannah White gave birth to the first child from this group, a boy, and they named him Peregrine which means one who comes from afar and also Pilgrim.

To read more details check out How the Pilgrims Got Their Name by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Buen Camino Pilgrims

STONE STACKING 101

Lately I’ve been reading about how rock stacking or stone stacking is becoming more prevalent and how it is damaging to the environment. I’ve included a link to an article in The New Yorker which appeared in December 2018 on how our national parks are being harmed by this practice.

I must confess that I have in some ways contributed to this practice. In 1982 I filled a baby food jar with dirt from a small town in the southwest of France called Besseges. It’s the town where my grandmother was born and raised and most of her family is buried. When I gave it to her she made a face and said there wasn’t even enough dirt to plant a bean. I also took a small bucket of rocks from beside a river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to bring home to polish. In Italy I took three stones from the beach at Cinque Terres on the west coast just because they were pretty, small, and smooth, and I wanted something tangible to remind me of the wonderful day I spent there. However I’ve never tried stone stacking.

I’ve seen several of these stacked stones over the years. I think of them as the altar from the story of Jacob in Genesis 28:10-22. The crux of the story is that Jacob is on the lam because his father Isaac blessed him instead of his older brother Esau. It’s actually worse than just receiving the blessing meant for Esau. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, conspired with Jacob to fool Isaac into giving him the blessing. Esau is pissed about having his blessing stolen and he’s planning a smack down where Esau does the smacking and Jacob does the downing. Jacob runs off and using a stone for a pillow falls asleep and dreams of angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven. Then God speaks to Jacob in this dream promising to him the land upon which he is sleeping and that his descendants will be numerous and all families will be blessed by Jacob and his offspring. When Jacob awakens he declares that this spot is the Gate of Heaven and the stone he slept upon is God’s House.

Before I left on Camino in 2019 I wrote about some stones I found stacked by the dam at the metro park. It touched my heart and reminded me of other stacked stones I had encountered. While some may see them as a threat to the environment to me they are an artistic rendering of something meditative. The artist may not think of his/her stones as the Gate to Heaven, but there is certainly a spiritual aura for me the visitor to this delicate structure.

I have one more story to relate about stone stacking. Before I left on Camino I returned to the altar at the metro park with my granddaughters. I took with me one of the rocks that we collected on our trip to Zanesville to find some authentic Ohio flint to place at the Cruz de Ferro. My granddaughters also wanted to add a rock to our local altar. Maybe I should have a “shame on me” for encouraging this stone stacking behavior, but I won’t do that because it warmed my heart to see them want to participate in something so important to me.

This year has been tough for me since I have had to cancel my 2020 camino and even as I make plans for 2021 there seem to be so many barriers. But even with this frustration I found a small spark of joy. Unbeknownst to me my little girls gathered up the Ohio flint that I had to decorate my fireplace and made an altar. So when I feel sad or frustrated or just missing the Camino I have my own little gate to Heaven.

Buen Camino

SIX DAYS TO SANTIAGO

Ok, it’s really only 5 days to the one year anniversary of my arrival in Santiago de Compostela. I had the idea to write this post yesterday and I liked the title and thought that it fit the topic. OK and I‘m a big fan of alliteration.

It’s hard to explain how much the Camino de Santiago has changed me. I view almost everything through the lenses of Camino. There is the fear and anxiety of beginning, the difficulty in starting the uphill climb, the smell of accomplishment when the summit is reached, the unique friends met along the way, the new way of thinking and feeling, the camaraderie, the loneliness, the questioning, the joy, the doubts, and always the walking and walking and walking. And then…

Several things have happened to me over the last couple of weeks and those things have come together to form a bittersweet cloud that is with me wherever I go. I started listening to The Camino Podcast, from there I learned about a new book called Into the Thin by Stephen Drew which I am currently reading. Then I came across a blog written by a young Canadian woman who is currently on the camino and writes the details of her days. Finally my friend Viv from the camino has been sharing her memories of the camino.

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA…I arrived!

I feel as though I am remembering the Camino, on the Camino, and anticipating the Camino simultaneously. Hermoine Granger is giving me a big thumbs up because I have more emotional depth than a teaspoon.

The book and the stories all remind me of my travels through Irache, Viana, Molinaseca, and more as I made my way to Santiago. I often think about Bertrand the blind Frenchman that I walked with for a short time and wonder if he made it to Santiago. I think a lot about the cafe we had breakfast in and how we totally forgot to pay and just walked out. Three miles later (at second breakfast) we discovered what we did and that night I wrote a postcard and sent 20 €. I am anxious to return and see if they got the money. And then I recall the feeling of standing atop a mountain seeing the valleys laid out before me and hearing the clanging of the cow and sheep bells.

I am on a pilgrimage that seems to transcend time and space. It is as though the camino is not bound by yesterday, today, and tomorrow, rather camino exists here, now, and always. Camino lives in a spiritual realm and I carry it with me constantly.

So in 5 days I will be celebrating the anniversary of my physical arrival in Santiago de Compostela. I will also (hopefully) learn the sex of our new grandchild who is, but has not yet arrived. Perhaps we will even learn if our granddaughter Lissa will receive a new treatment for her Spinal Muscular Atrophy, one that will be a daily oral dose rather than an invasive spinal infusion every 4 months. I will hold all those things together on my camino.

Buen Camino