THERE’S A LITTLE BLACK SPOT ON THE MAP TODAY

There’s a little back spot on the sun today. It’s the same old thing as yesterday. The Police 1983

Now that I’ve let go of my camino this year and mourned it for the last month I am ready to re-enter life as a Pilgrim. Now I can begin to look to the future and plan my camino for 2021.

In many ways this is a good thing. 2021 is a holy year on the camino. What this means is that the Feast of St. James, July 25th, falls on a Sunday. So roughly every 7 years is a holy year for pilgrims. My own feast day is September 29th for Saint Michel or Saint Michael whose holy year will next fall in 2024. Plenty of time for me to plan the party right?!

A lot of pilgrims are very excited to walking during a holy year. On my first camino in 2019 I didn’t even think about whether or not it was a holy year. In fact it didn’t even bother me too much that I would not have a chance to attend the pilgrims’ mass in the Cathedral of Santiago because they were doing interior renovations. When I planned my now postponed 2020 camino I realized I had scheduled myself to arrive in Santiago on a Sunday well after the noon time of the mass. I was only moderately disappointed, but since I had already made all my reservations what else could I do? Cancelling the camino opened up the possibility of doing things differently in 2021.

I bought a new map of 🇪🇸 Spain and made myself some “dots” to mark my path and stuck the first dot on Santiago de Compostela. Then I got my calendar and decided to arrive on Saturday, October 9th. Coincidently I arrived in Santiago on October 9th on my first camino. Serendipitous

I will arrive in plenty of time to attend mass on Sunday and with any luck I will also get to experience the botafumeiro, the incense burner used at the pilgrims’ mass. Botafumeiro is the Galician word for the incense expeller or for those of you with high church backgrounds, the thurible. Actually it’s more than just a thurible, it’s a thurible on steroids. A typical thurible is about 12 inches tall. The botafumeiro, in contrast, weighs 176 pounds and is 5.2 feet tall. Click here to see a video.

I am resolved that this will not just be a repeat of last year. This will be an opportunity to test my spirit as I travel by myself. I can return to favorite places and check out new points along the camino. I can take as long as I want to arrive in Santiago because last year I learned that Santiago will be waiting for me.

Buen Camino

ELIZABETH GILBERT TOLD ME TO POST THIS

Well she didn’t exactly tell me to post this in person. Or even by email or text. And she didn’t appear to me in a vision telling me to post this. I did, however, read her book Big Magic. Actually I read it three times 😮.

The topic of this book is living a creative life. As I read it I thought that one could almost substitute “spiritual” for “creative”, or even “creative spirituality”. In the book Elizabeth Gilbert talks about ideas as disembodied entities who’s sole desire is to be made manifest and humans are the conduit through which this happens. She says, The idea will organize coincidences and portents to tumble across your path, to keep your interest keen. You will start to notice all sorts of signs pointing you toward the idea. Everything you see and touch and do will remind you of the idea. The idea will wake you up in the middle of the night and distract you from your everyday routine. The idea will not leave you alone until it has your fullest attention. And then, in a quiet moment, it will ask, “Do you want to work with me?”

Does this sound familiar? Don’t we talk about God’s prevenient Grace as pursuing us? Seeking us out? Yearning for us?

This is the camino related part of this post. The remainder is something I wrote a few weeks ago. Is not great writing and certainly not an inspiring topic but I had fun writing it and even though I wanted to delete it, it has been in the recesses of my mind. So I’m going to put it out there. As Liz says, “Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes—but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.” Here it is. You can read it or not. Just remember that you are a creative/spiritual person and God’s Grace is continually seeking you out. And if that Grace gifts you with some idea, who are you to say no?

P MAILS

People have routines and it seems that one routine a lot of folks have is to check their emails and respond when they first arrive at work. I kind of like to take my little dog Pico out for a walk after breakfast because it’s a little cooler and since he’s a little dog he gets hot and tired later on the day.

As we go out for our morning constitutional Pico behaves in that way that all other dogs do. Our walk is a series of stops and starts. He sniffs and the inevitable leg stretch happens and the sniffed upon area is thusly watered. It dawned on me that he’s not just marking his territory, he’s checking and answering his “P” mail.

He’s not just marking his territory because his spots are so specific. Same area on the shrub in front of our house. Yes, he’s checking his “P” mail and leaving a reply.

He has a lot of friends so it can take quite a while to complete our walk.

Now if only those dogs could work out a way to have a chat room where they could all leave messages on a common thread. But wait! They do…

Buen Camino

BE STILL…

…and know that I am God Psalm 46:10

Not everyone walks the camino. Some ride the camino on bicycles and others ride on horseback. I encountered many cyclists during my pilgrimage and while I never saw anyone on horseback I did see the reminders that horses had passed by on the trail.

I can’t imagine riding my bicycle on the camino. The first day alone is completely uphill with an 8% grade. I was barely able to walk it in to Orisson. Now that I think of it I didn’t see too many cyclists those first few days climbing the Pyrenees. Once we began to descend the mountains get in to more hilly and flat terrains there were more of them. I remember early on some time in the first week I was ascending a rocky path and most bicyclists had to push their bikes. One woman was huffing and puffing her way and I simply took hold of the the handle bars and helped her push. We didn’t have a common language except the look of understanding that only two pilgrims can share.

I’m not really the bicyclist in the family. That role falls mainly to my husband and two younger daughters. Nonetheless I have ridden in the hills around Lexington and the bigger hills in the Finger Lakes region in New York State. And to be honest I prefer the flat bike path near my home. About 5 years ago we rode a cycling vacation sponsored by Trek bicycles. We were told that while the region in Tuscany is hilly we wouldn’t be riding up hills as much as we would be riding “climbs”. A climb is a slow ascent that goes on for several kilometers. I didn’t really enjoy that ride so much as each day was either a long climb or a downhill slope so I was either struggling up or just coasting down. OTOH I really enjoyed the aperol spritzes at the end of the ride.

Bicycling in Italy

But back to the camino…organized rides in the United States mostly have a set of rules or expected behavior for the cyclists. It is a curtesy when passing to call out “on your left”. Because there is nothing “organized” about a pilgrimage and there are so many different languages spoken this curtesy is moot. Often times I could not even hear a cyclists until s/he was right behind me. The first time this happened I stepped to the right so the cyclist could pass on my left. Bad move (literally) as the cyclist had moved to the right also and almost ran over me. He rode past me and waved his hand calling out a hearty Buen Camino greeting.

These photos were taken by my friend Gaye Grable Jordan. You can see how narrow the path can be. The metal signpost in the middle indicates a bike route. The picture on the right shows two walking pilgrims ahead of the cycling pilgrim.
These photos were taken by Sarah B. Dorrance. The sign in the center indicates bicyclists should take the path to the right and walkers to the left. Sarah’s book One Pilgrim of Many on the Camino de Santiago is available on Amazon.com

I continued this maneuver with varying success. Then I realized that the cyclist can see me and knows exactly where I am. If I just stop then s/he can simply go around me. No more guessing which way to move. DON’T MOVE

So be still…

…and you’ll be less likely to get run over 🚲

My kind of bicycling! 😉

Buen Camino

I AM SAD

We have been in quarantine since about the end of March. At first it was really hard to imagine not being able to be free to leave the house. I was OK with that though. I had things in my life coming up that I was looking forward to. Little did I know that COVID-19 would ravage through my world like a tornado. Some damage will be rebuilt, but some things and people are gone forever.

This pandemic has totally caught me off guard. I had plans, contingency plans, I was ready for whatever life was going to send my way. And now all those plans are gone. No wedding to go to. No birthday party for my granddaughter. No Lady Gaga concert. No visiting my cousins in Paris and when I do go, there is only one cousin left to visit now. The thing I still have hope for is my plan to return to the Camino Frances to walk it again.

Spain will be opening it’s borders to visitors again beginning July 1st, but only visitors from other EU countries. Every day I hang on hoping that Europe will begin allowing Americans and other foreigners in to the country. I hope to visit my cousin in Paris for a few days before I make my way to St. Jean Pied de Port to start walking to Santiago. She and I will go to the gravesite of her sister where we will say our farewells because none of that was allowed at the time of her death. All my hotel and albergue reservations are made. All I need is to reserve my airline ticket. I don’t even have to pay for my ticket as I have credit from two cancelled trips, Las Vegas and Paris.

And now even the camino is gone from me. I have delayed cancelling my reservations trying to be so hopeful that travel will suddenly open up. I know there is no point in holding on to that hope as I have begun to receive emails from the hotels I have booked. They say that since foreigners from out the European Union are not permitted to enter Spain they are supposing I need to cancel my reservations. And so three days ago I sat down and one by one cancelled all my bookings. I am sad :-/

Nonetheless I may have found a small glimmer of hope. One of my reservations is non-refundable. They have offered my the opportunity to reschedule my booking but if I insist on cancelling I will lose about $80 for the room for two nights. Every time I communicate with them I point out that it is not my fault that I need to cancel. The Spanish government will not allow me to enter the country. With each email exchange they continue to point out that I can reschedule. Maybe this is a sign that even though the Camino Frances is out of my reach for now, it will still be there next year.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to start planning my camino for next year. 2021 is a jubilee year in celebration of St. James. By then all the internal and external reservations on the cathedral will be done. If I plan my camino backwards I can arrange to arrive in Santiago on a Saturday and be refreshed and ready to attend the Pilgrims’ Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral. I can even arrange for a little deviation from the Camino to visit Bilbao, a town in the Basque region of Spain known for its art, architecture, and amazing food. OK, I’m not gonna lie I fell in love with the idea of visiting Bilbao after reading Dan Brown’s thriller Origin.

My mask

Maybe I can even still have some sort of Camino here. I know all the places I will be staying. I know the distances from door to door. I have my backpack and all my gear. Could I somehow walk my own camino here? Sure my hotel room will look the same every night. In fact it’ll look exactly like my bedroom. It’s one thing to be in Spain and know that I must get to my destination because that’s the only place for me to stay. Sure it won’t be as difficult as climbing the Pyrenees. But do I have what it takes to stick to it? I’ll admit it’s been oppressively hot here and I have not gotten out to walk. Nor have I gone to the gym because that carries a high risk of contracting the virus. But for now I can hold on to this thought and I can still plan. Hope is not completely gone

Buen Camino!

I HAVE COVID-15 😮

Nobody panic!

No, COVID-15 is not a new strain of the COVID-19 flu.

COVID-15 is the 15 pounds gained during the quarantine.

All that gourmet cooking that I learned to do, all the wine pairings I attempted (several times), and all those Quarantinis 🍸 that I experimented with, and all that time I spent watching Netflix (yes, I watched The Tiger King); it all added up to a bad case of COVID-15.

I was trying to prepare for the Camino in August by walking as much as possible and that seemed to stave off the pounds. However as the quarantine lingered and countries were unable to open their borders to foreigners traveling my enthusiam waned and so did my steps.

I had myself tested to see if I had this dreaded derivative of COVID-19. How do my pants and shirts fit? Last week it seemed I tested positive as my “fat” jeans are too snug. However I still have some blousy tops and some skirts with elastic waists. Nonetheless the signs are there and there is no vaccine for this malady.

All this added up for a numerical shock that was neatly lined up between my feet this morning.

So I’m going to have to buckle down in more ways during this quarantine. That phrase “buckle down” is going to have to apply to what hole I can attach my belt buckle in. Calories must be cut, exercise minutes must increase, and portions must get smaller.

Do you want to know what the kicker is?

I made homemade ice cream this morning 😦

THE BREAD OF LIFE

While I’ve been on this sort of QuaranCamino I’ve been thinking a lot about the Camino I walked last year. Bits and pieces come back to me and make me smile. These thoughts remind me that although this QuaranCamino is not the one I would have chosen, nonetheless it’s the one I’m on.

One of the things I have been remembering is the food…paella, octopus, mussels, peppers stuffed with cod, and so much more.

Lunchtime was often a simpler fare, a sandwich and some fries. It’s the bread that makes the sandwiches so good. A thick crusty bread much like a French baguette with slices of Iberian ham or salami, maybe some cheese, and a scraping of unsalted butter. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. That bread, that warm, fragrant, chewy bread. And other pilgrims who would talk about the food was say the same thing…”and the bread is wonderful”. Though after a week or so I started hearing, “I’m getting a little tired of the bread.”

This quarantine seems to be bringing out the baker in many of us. My friend Michelle particularly inspired me as she and her daughters baked croissants. I once considered making croissants but when I found out it takes three days I said “the heck with that”! Well when one is in quarantine it’s easy to find three days to make them. Actually most of those three days is spent sitting around waiting for the dough to rise.

I made my list and headed off to the essential business known as the grocery store and I was stunned by what I saw. There has been some serious hoarding going on.

The toilet paper aisle was completely barren. Not only that people have been stocking up on paper towels, alcohol, meat, and baking supplies including…yeast! There are a bunch of faux Martha Stewarts out there consuming all the baking necessities!

I became consumed with finding these simple ingredients to make my QuaranCamino into more than just watching Netflix. I was determined to better myself and become more productive. It became like a scavenger hunt. Flour in one store, sugar in another, but the yeast proved to be the most elusive of all. Finally I found a few loose packets on the top shelf in a grocery store.

Armed with my ingredients and my trusty Kitchenaid stand mixer and dough hook I dove in. The initial results were not the prettiest, but they sure tasted good. And over time I got better at it. These are my offerings up to the Camino I’m walking in this time of quarantine.

From left to right…Parmesan rolls, French baguettes, Italian loaf, Almond & Chocolate Croissants

There is one finally thing I want to share with you all. Remember those pilgrims who said they were tired of the bread…I was never one of them 🥖

Buen Camino

WHO WALKS WITH YOU ON THE CAMINO?

There’s a website with an accompanying Facebook page called “Sad Jesus”. Sad Jesus has a lot of followers on Facebook including many of my friends. Sad Jesus proclaims that…

Saddened by the ever encroaching darkness, Sad Jesus seeks to bring light, name darkness, comfort the broken, and afflict the comfortable who think they have all the answers!! I take for my name, the one I seek to emulate, though sadly, I will always fall short. I trust that Love and Grace will see me through

Who is sad in this statement?  This group (or these groups) names Jesus as “saddened by the ever encroaching darkness” and “I” as the sad one presumably because “I” is a sinner and will always fall short.

I (me), personally am sad. Sad because I don’t hear about Hopeful Jesus, Delighted Jesus, Amused Jesus and more. I believe that God’s Creation is good. Genesis tells us that each day of Creation by God is good and it culminates in Genesis 1:31. After God has created humanity, the text tells us “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” NRSV

Is the world any darker today than it was when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or when Cain killed his brother Abel? It seems to me that the world only seems darker because there are more of us to sin, not that we are intrinsically more sinful.

But if we focus on Jesus’ sadness combined with humanity’s inherent sinfulness we are pretty much set up to fail. What is it exactly that we’re supposed to be doing in order not to fall short? Where is the Jesus of love and compassion who accepts us just as we are, warts and all”? Does Sad Jesus have a list of chores for us to do in order to be accepted? Or does Jesus simply yearn for us to be in relationship?

I have never felt closer to God than when I walked the Camino.  The footsteps of the pilgrims who had walked it for thousands of years before I got there (yes, the Camino pre-dates Christianity) carried me along.  And the other pilgrims I encountered along the way showed me what the love and grace of God looks like in human form. Some of those pilgrims are still part of my life today even though we are thousands of miles apart.

In 1994 I attended my first Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. I was truly a beginner on that journey — a journey that brought me into contact with some of the most inspiring, humble, and compassionate people I have ever met. It was a life-changing time.

In the lobby of the retreat house was a reproduction of a painting of Jesus. This picture of Jesus was unlike any I had ever seen. It was Jesus with his head thrown back laughing. Yes, Laughing Jesus! Jesus filled with joy and laughter, reveling in something beautiful, funny, delightful. I’ll take that Jesus any day over Sad Jesus.

Buen Camino

A FABULOUS RESTAURANT NEAR BY

Last night we ate at this fabulous little restaurant near by. We’ve actually eaten there quite a bit since this quarantine began. It’s called The Dining Room. The menu is limited but still very good. There are two chefs and they both do the serving. The lasagna and the fettuccine Alfredo are the best I’ve ever had and one of the chefs makes her own egg noodle pasta and homemade raviolis. And if you like risotto…well let me just say it’s yummy. They also make some wonderful French cuisine such as coq au vin.

One of the chefs has recently begun adding pastries to the menu…croissants, pain au chocolat, and almond croissants.The Dining Room features a different menu each night and once or twice a week they offer a buffet called Leftovers. Sometimes if the meal is a casual one they open up the media room so one can enjoy dinner while watching a movie. Music is also provided during the meals and the selection is unlimited. Everything from classical to jazz to Joni Mitchell to Imagine Dragons.

If you want to relax a little before dinner there is a small bar next door called The Family Room. The wine and cocktail list is small but it’s still a good selection along with some snacks. And if one chooses after dinner a little digestif can be had. And the very best part about The Dining Room is that like so many European restaurants and cafes you are welcome to bring your furry companions along for the meal.

QuaranCamino

I have been thinking of how the quarantine is like the camino. This is a journey. A journey like no other. An opportunity, a struggle, a seemingly impossible task. Sometimes you are alone on your walk. Sometimes you are with others. Always whether alone or not you are on this journey with a host of travelers…those who have gone before you, those on the path with you, and those who are yet to come.

The Camino was hard and long at times. I like to think about the good parts of each day. The company, the solitude, the sunshine, and at the end of the day…the glass of sangria 🍷😊 combined with good fellowship.

This is one of the most difficult things you will do in your life. But remember others have gone before you and others will come after. You walk in the company of a great many saints who will guide you, strengthen you, and love you.

Buen Camino my Friends