Saturday, November 7, 2009

Meeting The Locals

One of the little pleasures of the Camino, and an oppotrunity to take a break from walking, was when I had a chance to meet the locals.

It wasn't always possible when passing through the cities, as it seems cities all over the world, even in the timeless medieval cities of Spain, people are busy. But it was a joy when we went through Viana and they were celebrating their Patron Saint with a fiesta, complete with parades and a traditional running of the bulls. We could not stop long enough to enjoy a whole day of festivities, but did have lunch at a sidewalk cafe right in the heart of the activities.

In the rural countryside, in the small villages and tiny hamlets, where they live at a more leisurely pace, there were many days when I had an opportunity to talk to local folk, on their farms, in their gardens, or just relaxing in the sun by the side of the road.
I found that they have a great respect for Pilgrims and are warm and friendly, curious about foriegners and open to conversation.
It was a small part of my day that I remember often. One of those little gifts of the Camino that is still very much alive; that I can turn around in my mind, hold up and enjoy; and savor them as special moments in a never ending journey.

I wish you peace, love and laughter

PS-click on photos to enlarge

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Following The Signs

The tomb of  Santiago (Saint James) is most assuredly the most sign posted location in the world. With thousands of kilometers of paths from all over Europe, there are more signs and yellow arrows than one could ever count. I wonder if anyone has tried.

The signs range from large signs that can be easily seen to small and obscure, to faded yellow arrows that can be elusive to the eye.

They can be anywhere.

On a rock in the middle of a grape vineyard.

 On a sidewalk.

On a tree or stonewall leading into the forest.

In the middle of the road.

Just about anywhere that a yellow arrow can be painted.

And when there are no signs, Pilgrims make their own, just so the next person won't get lost.

It is easy to lose the way, by chatting, daydreaming, not paying attention, or paying too much attention to beautiful scenery.

One must be vigilant about looking for signs, and it is particularly important to look carefully for signs when walking in the dark.

Being attentive and looking for signs while walking the Camino,  again made me realize how true it is that the Camino de Santiago becomes that metaphor for life. Every day we must be attentive and look for "signs". The signs that keep us on the right path, that help us find our way when we have strayed, that keep us moving in a forward direction, that keep is mindful, helpful, generous and kind.

Call it what you will, intuition, gut feeling, grace. There is always that little "sign", that magic moment when we have a choice to act in a certain way to be more loving, more giving, more appreciative of the things around us, more attentive and more caring of our fellow human beings.

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

There are opportunities to realize the truth of the above statement every day of our lives, we just have to be silent, watch, feel, and look for the signs.

I wish you peace, love and laughter

note: You may have to click on the photo to enlarge to see where the yellow arrows are.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Continuing on the Path

We have been home for a few days now but I cannot funtcion. I can't get the Camino out of my mind. It seems unnatural to just get back in the old routine of every day life.

I can feel the effects of the long journey physically, through the stiffness throughout my body, especially my legs.

But mostly the emotions of the journey are whirling through my mind. There is so much to digest from what we experienced that I can't let it go. I had so many profound lessons and peak moments that I have to sit with and think about. I need to make room to work on the things I have gleaned from the journey.

It wouldn't make sense to take such an arduous journey and then just let it go as if it were just another trip.
A very select group have the privilege, the desire and the ability of making such a trip. In my case it was more of a "calling". So I think that call was for a reason. That is the part I am still trying to figure out.

I do believe that the Camino is a methaphor for life. There are constantly lessons for us to learn from each other and teach each other in the course of our every day life.

Although I am still in the dark, I have faith that my messages and lessons will be revealed to me as I continue to walk this journey that we call life.

Blessings to all

Friday, October 16, 2009

Embracing Saint James

We spent our last 3 days in Santiago, exploring the streets of the medieval old town, and generally relaxing and enjoying good food, good friends and the city sights.
I spent a lot of time going back to the cathedral, the Pilgrim's office and the giant plaza, looking for friends and other Pilgrims and sharing the pleasure of their arrivals. And I loved going to the cathedral early in the morning and sitting quietly and having Saint James to myself.

One of the traditions is to go behind the altar in the cathedral and give Saint James an embrace. It was a special Camino moment for me, to finally greet the Saint that I had walked so far for.

I made sure I was early to attend the Pilgrims Mass, so that I could get a good seat in the cathedral.
The Pilgrim's Mass is overflowing each day with 800 to 1,000 including Pilgrims, other worshipers and tourists.
It was quite a thrill to see that even during the Mass the tradition of hugging Saint James continued and every now and them my attention was drawn to the rear of the huge gold and silver altar to see Pilgrims giving Saint James an embrace.

Another tradition is to walk or take a bus to Finesterre, which was believed to be the end of the world during medieval times. My journey was complete when I reached Saint James, so I had no desire to go any further. I did hear from fellow Pilgrims who made the journey that it did not have the same feeling as being on the  Camino; that it was not a the pilgrimage, but just a beautiful walk to the ocean.
I think that leaving Santiago de Compostela was more emotional than arriving, if that's possible. I felt like I needed more time to absorb and reflect on my experience before returning home. But when it came time, I was happy to return home to my family. I will have plenty of time to sit and contemplate the messages and lessons I received from the Camino.

I wish you peace, love, and laughter

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saint James

Day 33-Santiago

Even though we have arrived and the long trek is done, I was up early and anxious to go.
I walked to the cathedral, only 2 or 3 minutes away. To my surprise it was open.
Even better, I had it all to myself, except a very few other early risers.
I surprised myself. Instead of going directly to Saint James, whom I traveled so far to greet, I went to the Virgen Mary. I thanked her for her prayers along my journey. I think I said more Hail Marys while walking the Camino than I've said all my life.
Then I went to Jesus and thanked him for walking with me as my Savior and my brother.
When I finally sat down in front of the gorgeous gold and silver and bejeweled altar with Saint James in front of me I was awestruck.
No tears, no sound, no thoughts, just me and James.
We looked at each other for what seemed like eternity.
Silence, pure, gorgeous, beautiful silence.
Then I wondered...who had more for the Saint?...or the Saint for me?...and I recalled that the gospel tells us that James, son of Zebadee, was in his boat mending fishing nets when Jesus summoned him saying "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men". James and his brother followed Jesus.
And if one considers that 100,000 people a year make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to visit his burial place, it would seem that James is still a "fisher of men" more than 2000 years later.
I smiled at the thought and it seemed like old Jimmy smiled back, and that is when the tears started to flow.

Peace and Love to all
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, October 9, 2009

Santiago de Compostela

Day 32-Pedrouza-Santiago de Compostela
6 hours 30 minutes-21.2 km

We were all up at 5AM. I think the excitement of reaching Santiago today was somewhat like a child that can't sleep on Christmas morning.
We were walking by 6AM. It was still dark when we reached the Santiago airport.
We climbed our last hill Monte Gozo (Mount Joy), so named because atop the hill the Pilgrim gets the first joyful glimpse at the spires of the cathedral of the Saint they have walked so far to see.
Unfortunately for us the day was rainy and overcast so we couldn't see much through the fog and mist.
When we got to the outskirts of Santiago, the walk seemed interminable. Then about 5 km before arrival Heidi started getting severe hip and leg problems. I gave here my trekking poles to help and she hobbled slowly and painfully into the city and on to the cathedral.
I wept tears of joy when I came around the corner and there was the grand cathedral looming in front of me. I walked up the stairs weeping, and entered, but the Mass had already started and Heidi needed to get to our lodgings.
Once the girls got settled in, I went back to Praza do Obradoiro, the "golden square" in front of the cathedral where throngs of Pilgrims gather. The square was filled with excitement.
I saw many Pilgrim friends. We embraced and took many photos and even shed a few tears with some that had been with us from the beginning.
It has been a very exciting and emotional day.
My head is still spinning.
Blessings to all
(The photo only shows a portion of the magnificent cathedral.)
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mixed Feelings

Day 31-Arzua-Pedrouza
6 hours 32 minutes-21 km

A very relaxing walk today. The girls and Ron were out late last night, one of the drawbacks of staying at a hotel(or one of the bonuses, depending on how you look at it).
We got a late start, and actually started walking in daylight for the first time.
A delightful walk. Heidi and Ellen like to stop at every coffee shop!
Although the rain held off all day, it felt like walking through a rain forest. The air was heavy and thick with moisture.
The landscape is still lush and green and we passed through more eucalyptus forests, but now we have tropical climate and plants. There are palm trees, banana trees and even cactus.
And as always along the Camino the ancient medieval villages that time has passed by.
Most of the villages grew out of the need of serving the pilgrims and have changed little over time.
We went out for dinner tonight and had our best Pilgrim meal.
It has been an emotional day for me.
Tomorrow I walk into Santiago. I have mixed feelings.
It will be the end of a long hard journey....or will it?
How will I feel when I enter the city? Or when I finally greet the Saint that I journeyed so far for?
What are the lessons I have learned?
What does all the pain and suffering and struggle and perserverance signify?

Peace, love and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry