A few years ago, while watching a dvd on celtic dancing there was a five second mention of a 500 mile, 900 year old pilgrimage across north-western Spain – the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. The idea of it instantly captured my imagination.
I love to walk, and once did a 10-day walking tour of the Lake District of England led by my friend Lester. Every morning we got up, climbed a 1000 or so feet, then walked (sprang) across the heather more or less flatly along ridges for amazing views until we descended a 1000 feet or so back to our starting point. I loved every minute of it, in spite of the fact that it rained almost every day. I loved the physical act of walking, being in the fresh air, and moving slowly enough through space that I could absorb and appreciate it.
I have been Volksmarching , a walking tradition that began in Germany and spread to the US via troops once stationed in Europe, for several years now. Washington State has very active groups and almost every weekend there is a 10k walk or walks within driving distance of my home at the southern end of Puget Sound.
But I was intrigued by the idea of getting up in the morning and going.
After a particularly rough year at work, I heard myself tell my boss that I needed to take time off to “do the camino”. This was a surprise because I had thought I would be going to Germany, Poland and Scotland to meet in person some great folks I’ve met over the internet while doing family research.
From the day I made the decision things have fallen into place. “The Camino will take care of you if you let it” former pellagrinos John and Isabelle have repeated over and over. This gave me pause when John first said it and I gave him a quizzical, sceptical look. But things have gone so easily so far, maybe it already is. John and Isabelle have inspired me and guided me, sharing their experiences, suggestions, enthusiasm and even backpack with me. I got the time off from work I wanted to go in fall, my favorite time of year (that gave me almost a year to get others trained for my job). The Saturday after I made my decision I met a professor on a Volksmarch who had been to a lecture on the Camino the Thursday before! He sent me the great literature he had been given. It’s been fun and already friends near and far have shared advice and camino stories. Tips on air fare deals on Orbitz, on hiking, on shoes, on sox, on underwear. My sister Nancy called from her plane to Congo to say the daughter of the person who drove her to the airport had done the walk and been cold. Did I have enough warm clothes? David wrote from London that his sister is publishing a book in October on medieval Camino pilgrims. Wolfgang sent an article (in German) of people walking the camino with their dogs! I have been enveloped by blessings and take this as an omen of what might be ahead ….
As I take my early morning walks each day around my beloved Capitol Lake (now awkwardly carrying a heavy and unfamiliar backpack) I reflect on the possibilities to come. It will be a change to go from scenery I am so familiar with that every small nuanced change jumps out to a world where everything is new everyday. Instead of experiencing change as variations through time it will be change as variations through space.
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