REFLECTIONS OF YESTERDAY

Day one of the Camino Frances

Yesterday was my first day walking. I did the upward climb from st. Jean Pied de Port. I don’t know the exact elevation but you can see from this map it’s nearly straight up. Only 5 miles but very hard especially when one has not trained.

The bottom is St. Jean Pied de Port and I walked to Orisson. Note the incline.

At one point a woman I was walking with dropped her bottle and water spilled all over the road. I shared mine with her but then later on I ran out and a young man shared his with me.

I didn’t hike with what I called “the walking wounded” two years ago. We were more like “the crawling breathless”. And yet we stuck together and encouraged each other on until finally we rounded a corner and there was the Auberge Orisson.

Refuge Orisson

There were people there waiting to serve us. They showed us to our rooms, gave us our tokens for the shower, and when we ordered food they brought it to us at the beautiful veranda overlooking the valley. We were truly welcomed and made to feel comfortable.

Another interesting note to the day…as I was leaving St. Jean Pied de Port I met 4 Americans starting out on the camino.

Me: Are you American?

Them: Yes

Me: Where are you from

One of them: Ohio

Me: Me too. Which town?

One of them: Dayton

Me: No way! I’m from Dayton

It turns out we all live with 20 miles of each other. Two were from Dayton and the other two were from Montana and Colorado.

It is truly a small world

Buen Camino

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

So I was going to wax on about whether I’m starting my camino or just continuing my camino from two years ago or whether my Camino started at birth. Then I thought…who gives a tahoodle about that?

I had a difficult time getting out of the US and my time in England with my friend Viv was cut short as was my time in Paris with my cousin Henriette.

Right now after a 5 1/2 train ride I have arrived in St. Jean Pied de Port in France. Tomorrow I will begin walking the Camino Frances. To carry the last sentiment forward…I am grateful.

I have a bed in a gîte in a room I share with 6 other people and yet it seems private. We are all women (although it is made clear this is a mixed dormitory) and it seems very cozy.

I am in/near French Basque country. Basque food is amazing! Bonus… I found the basque restaurant Glen and I ate in two years ago. I had an amazing lamb stew with little fried potatoes that seem like puffed up pillows. I must learn how to make them. Or return often to eat them 😉

Yes that’s rice, the potatoes are out of shot.

The basque cake is similar to the Santiago cake. It’s made with almond flour and has an almond cream filling instead of the Santiago cake’s lemon/orange zest flavoring. I must learn how to make this.

Bref…(that means “to get to the point” because sometimes only the French will do for me)…I am having a very visceral AND spiritual time returning to my past in my present and thoroughly enjoying it.

Yes there is chaos in the world. However on the whole I believe that that chaos is only a small part of the world and we allow it to be amplified. That’s not to downplay the chaos, but rather to say, look again…see the good in the world. And rejoice in it.

I am grateful

Buen Camino

GRATITUDE

I have begun my second camino and I am grateful.

I was supposed to leave on my trip on Sunday and was unable to fly because my covid test results came after the 48 hour deadline. I ended up getting 2 covid tests and both are negative. I’m so grateful.

My flight to Washington DC was delayed 2 days in a row which meant that I wouldn’t make my connection to London. I got to spend extra time with my family especially a big cuddle time with our newest grandchild, Teddy. I’m so grateful.

I decided to fly to DC even though I would miss my connection. It’s taking an extra day but I got to spend last night in a very nice hotel. I am grateful.

I arrived at midnight and none of our flight’s baggage was coming up on the assigned carousel. I spent an hour trying to find my bag. Finally I saw my bag circling on a carousel that was supposed to have luggage from flights from Nashville and Charlotte. I have my suitcase. I am grateful.

I found a table in a sunny spot to have my breakfast. I am grateful.

And if you remember from my last camino I had a hard time finding pepper to season my food.
If you remember on my first camino I had trouble finding pepper to season my food. I am grateful.

I have a reservation on the shuttle to go to the airport at 2:00 pm and the hotel has told me I can stay in my room until 1:00 pm. It’s a nice room with a pretty view. I am grateful.

Today I’m hopeful that I will fly to England to visit a friend that I met on the camino two years ago. I’ll arrive 4 days late, but I will get to see her. I am grateful.

AN UPDATE

I have really been out of touch for several months now. The reason is because we have been doing a major renovation in our house. Our home isn’t huge (1700 sq ft) but no room will be untouched by this project. Like almost everything else in my life I try to view it through the lens of the camino. I thought this reno would be a journey. It wasn’t. So here are a few of the differences I noticed.

The camino is all about Walk, Wash, Eat, Sleep.

The renovation is all about Work, Wash, Eat, Sleep.

The camino is meant to be taken at your own pace.

A renovation is constantly constrained by shifting timelines.

On camino one’s mind is relaxed to allow thoughts and meditations to come and go.

A renovation wakes you in the middle of the night with a list of dozens of things that need tending to imminently.

These are just of few of the ways that a camino and a renovation differ. All in all I’d much rather walk the camino than do a renovation. Although I suppose there is one thing about doing a renovation that is better than walking a camino. On a camino you don’t get to use a nail gun 😮😁

Mid-Century Condemned

Mid-Century Construction

A finished part

Buen Camino!

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