MERRY CHRISTMAS

•December 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Hello Friends

I pray you are all having a blessed day.

I am having a wonderful and quiet day. Last night was filled with family, food, laughter, presents and just the right amount of wine. But there was one present today for me. No one else would call this a present, but I do šŸ˜‰

As many of you know my daughter Melissa has been on a hiking adventure herself. She and a friend flew to Chile and hiked to Patagonia. The bottom of the world! šŸŒŽ She is truly an adventurous woman and I am proud of her. Part of my support for her was to let her borrow as much of my Camino equipment so she could save money.

Yesterday Melissa and her husband arrived in the afternoon to begin the holiday festivities. I’m not going to lie I have been anxiously awaiting the return of my backpack and when I saw it in the trunk I had to restrain myself from grabbing it and hugging it. Really! I had an internal reaction like being reunited with an old friend. Her husband insisted on carrying in all the luggage (including my backpack) and he put everything in their bedroom. My daughter Danielle and her family arrived then so I didn’t have a chance to ask for my backpack back…pack back? You know what I’m saying.

This morning we got up and had some coffee before Melissa and her husband took off to spend the day visiting his family. I went upstairs and their door was open just a bit so I went in and there in the corner my backpack was propped up. Honestly I couldn’t help myself; I picked it up and gave it a hug. I felt so happy holding it in my arms. I thought, “Now I can go back to the Camino.” Then I unpacked all my equipment and greeted each piece like the friend that it is. All of these items were with me for the entire walk and helped me to make it to Santiago.

Me and my friend

It was a very good reunion šŸ˜Š

Buen Camino

Ultreia

Merry Christmas

POST CAMINO REFLECTION #7

•December 9, 2019 • 2 Comments

Today I am out of the house and “working” at the library. It’s all fine and well to cocoon at home, but the time has come for me to emerge and return to the world. I can still bring the camino with me.

It’s also time for me to stop avoiding this blog community, all of you who have journeyed with me, kept me company, prayed for me, lifted my spirits, and encouraged me. I wasn’t sure where this blog was going to go after I left Santiago. Where does Michelle go after Michelle Walks The Camino? I’ve been very reluctant to face that question. But now I know.

You can take the woman off of the Camino, but you can’t take the Camino out of the woman. At least not this woman. Every day is filled with memories of people, places, impressions, tastes, smells, and the way my heart is stirred by the Camino. The Camino is in me and it has shaped me in to a new person. So the only place to go is back to the Camino.

This time I will walk the Camino Frances alone. I don’t know if I will carry my backpack all the way again. There’s no pressure to adhere to the dictates of the Camino to receive a Compostela. I will give myself a longer time to walk this camino so I can stop and soak in more of the sights along the way. Walking every day, even if it was only 6 miles took a lot out of me and more than anything at the end of the day I just wanted to be clean, get something to eat, and go to bed. If I’m tired or in too much pain I will try to adjust in order to take time to rest and heal.

I hope you will continue with me as this camino ain’t over yet.

Post Camino reflection #6

•December 3, 2019 • 2 Comments

Today I am out of the house, in my workout clothes (including my Camino trail runners), and am about to begin walking the track.

This is a big deal for me. For so long I have sequestered myself in the house venturing out only when absolutely necessary. It’s not as though I have become an agoraphobic. Rather it is that I have immersed myself in the small domesticities of tidying and cooking. Don’t worry it’s not as though I’ve become maniacal in cleaning. šŸ˜‰

On the Camino my world was large but very slow and deliberate. Now my world seems large and fast paced. There are so many people at the grocery and so many things to choose from.

At home I feel very Benedictine as I fold the laundry or stir a white wine sauce to serve over homemade pasta. It has become my sanctuary with candles burning. My music is my hymnal…sometimes modern, sometimes country, sometimes taize.

And I think about my life.

I’ve been re-reading Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor’s book, Traveling with Pomegranates. I read this about 6 years ago and I was so taken by this memoir written by a mother and daughter that I bought copies for my own daughters. I know my oldest read it but I doubt the other two did since the oldest described it as a “cry-fest”. Nonetheless I still find words to cling to that sadden me and yet illuminate the possibility for hope.

It almost bereaves me to think of unrealized potentials dying inside, the small miscarriages of self.

Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling with Pomegranates. Page 100

POST CAMINO REFLECTION #5

•November 13, 2019 • 4 Comments

Tomorrow will be the one month anniversary of my return to my home. I’m in much the same spot I was one month before I left for the Camino. I rarely leave the house unless there is a really compelling reason like seeing our new granddaughter or going to the grocery because cereal for dinner is not a good option.

Meet Miss Vivien Grace

A Camino friend recommended a book, RETURNING FROM CAMINO by Alexander John Shaia. I thought this would be of tremendous help to me in understanding what is going on inside of me.

Unfortunately it isn’t as helpful as I had hoped. Shaia spends a lot of time talking about preparing for your return before you leave. Since I didn’t do any preparation for the return, I feel like I totally failed my Camino. I didn’t write myself a letter to my post-Camino self, nor did I find a mentor to pray for me during my Camino. Although I know I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people who prayed me along the way without my even asking.

I have tickets to see Elton John tomorrow night in Pittsburgh and while I’m very excited about this, part of me says, “Eh, I could just stay home and listen to my old albums.”

So what is wrong with me?

I think I have an idea. I think when I leave the house the world is too fast for me. In the car things fly by so quickly that I can’t process what I’m seeing. If I go out for coffee with friends the conversation seems to spin so fast that I can’t keep up with what’s being said. And don’t even get me started on the grocery store. I had a mini meltdown because I couldn’t find the jars of olives. When I did find them it took me almost five minutes to decide which one I wanted.

And just to make things a little more weird…I want to walk, but I can’t seem to get myself out of the house. The world just seems too big and complicated to confront. Truth be told my house even seems too big and filled with too much stuff.

I have to learn how to function in this world, but I don’t want to lose the peace and simplicity I found on the Camino. So I will go to the concert tomorrow and it’ll be great. I hope I don’t get too overwhelmed in the crowd. I’m just going to have to take a deep breath, center my chi, and enjoy the show.

POST CAMINO REFLECTION #4

•November 3, 2019 • 5 Comments

WHO AM I AGAIN?

Today I received an email from a dear college friend. He’s not just a college friend; we were part of a group that traveled to France to study at the Institut de Touraine in Tours, France. I remember this as a very happy time. We were Americans struggling to become French. Our love of the language, the country, the history, and yes…the wine bound us together in a way we could not on our college campus. My friend has diligently kept track of us. This is what he said…

I am writing you in celebration of the memory of our 40th Anniversary of studying abroad in France. Every year when the Feast of All Saints arrives (Nov. 1st), I think of that weekend in 1979 when we all got to take our first independent trip. In my case, I went to Paris for mass at Notre Dame. Maybe Iā€™m getting old, but those are very happy memories for me, and I hope the same is true for you.

I too remember that weekend. I took the train to Paris to spend the weekend with my cousin Henriette. He then catches us up on his life and invites us to share and to invite others, whose addresses he may not have, into the group.

This feels less like “catch up” and more like a spiritual exercise. I suppose I could reply with what I’m “doing” but that seems trivial. And if I am to respond with who I am…am I version michelle1.0 or version michelle61.0? Am I the sum of the children I’ve produced coupled with their accomplishments and the children they’ve produced? Or maybe I could list the degrees and certificates I’ve attained.

I’m no longer employed since I left my job to train for the Camino. And while I’ve never had a high level job I’m sure that I use my business degree and seminary degree every day…mostly in conflict resolution, scheduling, and praying for Divine guidance.

I know the Camino changed my body. My clothes fit differently and I have planters fasciitis in both feet. And I have pushed my body to attain geographical heights and distances I did not think possible.

I know that my heart and soul have been changed but I cannot describe those changes in words.

Here’s what I do know…

I am not fully who I was and certainly not fully who I am becoming.

…and I learned to make a tasty Santiago cake šŸ˜‰

DAY 3 POST CAMINO

•October 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday I drove to Pittsburgh to visit my daughter. She’s borrowing my backpack and in a couple of weeks she’s going to hike to Patagonia. It was exciting to talk with her about the Camino and her upcoming adventure.

Today driving home (4.5 hours) I was bombarded by the sight of so many trees along the highway and with the change of colors, bright copper, dark rhubarb, Pinot noir and marigold. But it was overwhelming. It was like a smorgasbord of food and I was going so fast grabbing everything and stuffing my mouth as quickly as possible until I felt sick. I wanted to stop and walk along the path and get close to the trees so I could trace the veins of the leaves. I thought of the buffet and savoring the taste, sight, texture, and smell of everything so that at the end I might be almost full and yet left wanting more.

POST CAMINO 2

•October 20, 2019 • 6 Comments

I’m getting dressed this morning to go to Sunday school and I went to get one of the two tee-shirts I bought in Santiago as a souvenir of my pilgrimage.

I chose these shirts because they aren’t your typical touristy shirts. You know, the kind of shirt that says “I walked 790 km” and has a road sign on it. Plus I really wanted something to wear that wasn’t the blue shirt or the orange shirt.

Back to this morning…I couldn’t wear these shirts. I’m going someplace where people know I walked the Camino and even these shirts seem to scream “tourist” not “pilgrim”. I put on my necklace that I bought at the 100 km mark

and even that I have carefully tucked beneath a scarf.

This feeling seems connected to the fact that all week people have been asking me, “How was your trip?” And I don’t know how to answer. For one thing I feel like I’m still on this pilgrimage. For another the essence of the Camino, for me, cannot be distilled into a 140 character response and to say “the food was great” or “the country is beautiful” seems to reduce the Camino to little more than a “vacation”.

So what should be an easy task (getting dressed) has become for me a small light into a spiritual question.

What did I end up wearing?

It’s orange shirt day.