....To Santiago

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The blog that went silent

Even with the best of intentions, it turned out to be impossible to blog on this site while I was walking the Camino.  The best I could manage was to post some of my photos on FaceBook, so I will try to fill in the gaps and post photos later.
The walk took 11 days with one rest day on the 7th day (funny how the Sabbath insists on being honored.) we averaged 15-20 kms per day with somewhat challenging elevations and cobblestones through the entire Portugal segment.  Cobblestones are very tiring underfoot, but beautiful to look at as they curved gracefully ahead of us through the lush and elegant landscape.
Aside from the physical challenges of cramps and blisters and walking through pouring for entire days, the emotional challenges dwarfed them during the second week when I received the news that my mother passed away on May 11, just three days before Mothers Day.  My mother always scoffed at Mothers Day, disparaging it as a "Hallmark holiday". But she could not escape the piignancy of our family feeling as we poured our hearts out on social media, seeking solace.
I just kept walking, knowing that this was where I was called to be at this very sad moment.  And I was grateful for the chance to be left alone for long hours of walking and absorbing my surroundings, reflecting on this turn in the road in our family life.  My sister let me virtually "visit" my mother's bedside as she was fading, and we shared our grief.
So I walked into Santiago where I lit a candle for her and for others I was praying for in the Sepulcher of the Cathedral.  And my Camino family, including Stuart, comforted me and kept me company until the time of return from our pilgrimage.  Now we are back and the way forward still awaits.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Camino Stride

This is our third day of walking in Portugal and we are just beginning to get our Camino legs. Today was tough, 20 km with a big climb, on and off rain all day, but we sent our packs ahead of us which helped with speed and blisters.
More importantly we have begun to form a Camino family with a mother and son from the U.K.  We met them at the start of the second day as we were leaving the village of Rates.  We bonded almost instantly and are helping each other along the road.  We all sense that we are brought together for reasons that only the Camino itself knows.
There are signs that my personal pilgrimage has started with intensity:  I woke up the second day in Vila do Conde with a bout of self-pity which needed an immediate remedy.  As I was slinging my pack on for the first walk of the day in front of a small church, I stabbed my finger badly on the sprung safety pin that fastened my pilgrim scallop shell to the pack.  I cried out and called to Stuart to help me get a bandaid out of the first aid kit. As I stood nursing my bleeding finger, a gentleman walked across the square and approached me swiftly.  He spoke a few soothing words in a language I could not understand but his intention was clearly to offer kindnesss.  He extended his right hand towards me and I took his hand with my uninjured left hand and after a quick squeeze and a soft look into my eyes, he was gone.
I bandaged my finger and as I began to walk, the thought came to me that I had just encountered Santiago himself, who wanted me to know that I was in his care here on the Camino.  The next thought that arrived was that I was now to be prepared for whatever work or grace is destined to come my way as I walk the Way. I was deep in a prayerful inner dialogue when we met our first Camino friends, so now it begins.
We are at the famous Casa de Fernanda albergue this evening, having finished a communal dinner with eighteen pilgrims at one table, ending with rousing song and dance, and much rich conversation with pilgrims from around the world.  The Camino magic has begun!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day 1: Arriving in Porto

It has been a grueling day and night of travel: We left yesterday morning and trained to Boston Logan, flew to Philly, then all night to Lisbon.  Once in Lisbon we took a train to Porto and wandered around getting a meal and our pilgrim credencial stamped at the Cathedral Se to begin our Camino formally.  Then a final trudge through the old city to our hostel and holding on as long as possible to synchronize with the new time zone.  Stuart has a hard time with foreign trace and this time is no exception:  I hope he feels better tomorrow and ready to walk.  I seem to be blessed with an iron constitution for travel and for that I am grateful.
Wearing the pilgrims scallop shell evokes many a conversation about pilgrimage with strangers.  Met a Catholic priest from Kentucky at the airport who was on his way with his flock on pilgrimage to Ireland; a young woman chased me down to ask about the Camino because she hopes to walk it soon;  a German man sitting next to us on the train to Porto shared his pilgrim experience with on the Norte route to Santiago.  If you are pilgrims it is always an immediate bond when meeting.
I am in the gathering darkness on the roof of this hostel listening to the sounds of pigeons cooing, dogs barking, cats chasing each other on the tin rooftops and seagulls calling.  It barely sounds like a city, more like a farm yard.  But Porto is very lively and full of beautiful blue and white tile murals, lovely Romanesque buildings, river scenes, and a warm vibe.  The Portugese are as wonderful as I have always heard, so friendly and helpful!
I will try to post photos later.
Off to bed at long last.