Camino 11 - 2015


Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.
........Marcus Aurelius

From 2004 through 2014 I have walked the Camino Frances in its entirety ten times. The path may have been the same but actual realities varied greatly. Each Camino began with both anticipation and trepidation as I wondered
how it would go, yet each pilgrimage developed its own rich mix of friends old and new, fickleness of weather, stamina and health and, of course, philosophical musings and personal thanksgiving for each day lived and for my life with Bill which enables such a journey.

Subsequently providing information about the Camino has become an additional pleasure whether talking on route with another pilgrim or writing for an unknown reader. Since November 2009 participating in the unique Camino de Santiago Forum has been part of my daily life and providing information on-line for unknown readers has become a distinct pleasure. When asked about the Camino answering what I know is a personal obligation . Such mutual sharing is such a large part of the camino spirit; besides being informative for future pilgrims it keeps my memories current while recalling past journeys anew.       

Walking tests my strength; 'slow, but dependable’ could be my motto. Trusting providence as well as my simple gear, tenacity and ability to endure I try to take it as it comes enjoying the good and bearing the bad. Always it is a great pleasure to arrive at a welcoming albergue, sit and remove my pack, take a HOT shower, chat with other pilgrims and collapse in clean comfort on a bottom bunk ever thankful for the continued strength to experience the extraordinary joy of another camino day. Bliss!

Why do I do this? My laconic answer is from Pascal's Pensées "le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas/ the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."  Additional philosophic and spiritual reasons are cited in this profile .

Although age and time will eventually take their toll, hopefully my memories will endure. Physically I may not be able to be there, but sentimentally I will always wear my pilgrim shell. Now before circumstance might force me to stop, hope still springs eternal!

Thus, thankful, respectful and humble, but still curious and with an ever
eager heart I will walk again the Camino Frances starting October 13.

At 76 what matters most is to continue.


.....Later in Comments

.......John wrote.. Embrace the joy of being able to do what calls you so clearly. Have another wonderful journey down the camino. Ultreia!

.......Thomas remarked..Wonderful news. Can't wait to read of your adventures again! Buen Camino!

.......Richo noted..I am so looking forward to your posts and to walking the Camino Frances vicariously, with you once more.

.......Laurie remarked..Oh, so happy to see this! This will be a very new experience for you, a fall rather than winter camino, no? Wishing you a very wonderful camino, I am so looking forward to following you from afar and wishing I were there. Abrazos and Buen camino!

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October 14, 2015

A Special Threshold

For me the Camino Frances could ONLY begin at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the picturesque Basque mountain town in the French Pyrenees. As always excitement built up yesterday while riding there on the local train/bus combo from Bayonne; the dozen other pilgrims in aboard were also beaming in anticipation. For all a long-dreamed journey was about to begin.

After hoisting my pack, walking uphill and through the old fortress walls to the 39 rue de La Citadelle pilgrim office of the welcoming Amis du Chemin de St Jacques to obtain a Credential I walked on. Nearby at 55 the famous red door of the municipal albergue with its welcoming shell was ajar. Crossing that special threshold symbolically always begins my new Camino adventure in the same way that the children in Narnia move from one world to anther through a bedroom wardrobe. That small dark space behind the red door at 55 is my magical entrance to another way of life, the Camino way.

Mme Jeannine, the tireless hospitalera who had served pilgrims for so many years is once again in charge at the Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port municipal albergue. She greeted me happily with a big hug, fond recollections and many kind wishes. Thus serendipity prevailed as that special threshold was crossed. 

.....Later in Comments

........Kialoa said.. Perfect....just perfect!

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October 17, 2015

Change and Consistency

Although my journey has only just begun at the early stops I have often heard repeated a new current fear of many changes coming soon to the Camino Frances. Hospitaleros, restauranteurs, bariestas and regular pilgrims all are concerned with what has and will develop for the summer crowds and especially those expected during the next Holy Year in 2021.

Worries include the ecologic impact on the land from the pounding of more and more feet as well as architectural change especially to rural villages and historic urban centers with the infusion of lodging for the anticipated throngs. Greatest is the fear of losing the special spirit of the camino where pilgrims are simply grateful for what they find to that of a callous demand for what new crowds might consider to be their rightful due. All of these are intense concerns regarding the immediate future along this beloved path.

Nevertheless thankfully the strong old camino traditions still do remain. Many, many local people wish pilgrims "Buen camino" as we walk through their villages as do the bicyclists who pass us on route. Shopkeepers and hospitaleros seem pleased to see us. Most importantly the religious traditions continue to be meaningful and consistent.

At Roncesvalles Thursday evening Vespers service pilgrims from more than forty-five nations clustered at the monastery altar beneath the silver sculpture of the Virgin to receive the special benediction for protection on our ways...Thus we stood as pilgrims before us have stood for centuries and hopefully will continue to stand forevermore.

.....Later in Comments

.......John wrote..All things in this world change. How they change whether for the better or for the worse we cannot control. We only sense that we have been called to the way and to the light that leads us home. Walk well wise pilgrim and embrace your peace. Ultreia.

.......Mike V. noted..Thank you for all your posts and comments over the various years you have walked. It was your blog that inspired me to walk in winter for the first time.

.......Thomas F. stated..Thank you so much for sharing all of your adventures with us. I look forward to all of the updates and progress reports as you progress. You have been a true inspiration to all of us.Thank you again and again!

.......Randi mentioned..I have enjoyed following your blog for some years and hoped you would be writing this year too. You make me long for a wintercamino, so maybe next year.

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October 23, 2015

In Sync Again

A week ago continuing down from Roncesvalles monastery wasn't easy; my pack felt unbalanced and heavier than 6.5 kilos; I felt unbalanced and often out of breath; all seemed a bit TOO difficult than the past years had been.

Nevertheless perseverance ruled. I met in person some digital friends, talked with many eager pilgrims and re-stayed with gracious hospitaleros from earlier years. Recalling the immense importance of being well hydrated I systematically drank lots of water at the end of each walk and before sleep every night.

Determined to re-get the hang of my pack the way it should be I emptied it, opened all the tabs, re-pulled them very tight and re-packed the layers always pushing down. Eureka! Now the pack feels compact and close with the weight carried by my hips and not hanging from the shoulders.

Perhap most important, however, is the fact that I took a day off doing nil but relaxing at Uterga in the wonderful private albergue, Camino de Perdon where the kind staff always greets me by name with big smiles and hugs. All is impecable and very comfortable; each albergue bunk has it's own light and electric socket while the food copious and delicious. It was such a GREAT choice for my needed R and R! Ever since I've felt in sync while walking the camino path. Long may it last!

.....Later in Comments

.......John remarked.. And so it shall; well done, indeed!

.......Cejanus mentioned..As you walk know that I walk with you in spirit! I have read every post in your blogs over the years. Truly inspiring! Thanks and Buen Camino!

.......Barb wrote..I see you are off again on another marvellous adventure. You were a great help and comfort to me as I planned my first camino last year. I'll never forget your kindness. I'm wishing you great joy on your journey and will be following your blog.

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October 26, 2015

Strangers No More

When Europe went on winter time early Sunday morning, all gained an extra hour of sleep as dawn arrived at 8 am. From now until late December however it will be dark earlier every evening. I had stopped once again at the new private albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin which is VERY comfy as well as a great bargain at 15 euros for bunk and breakfast. Several small dorms hold a maximum of 20 but we were only 6. Thus I had the luxury of a 3 bunk/6 place dorm and adjacent loo/shower for myself !! Nestled in my sleeping bag plus a toasty albergue blanket I slept like a clean pampered baby. In the dawn after a self-served breakfast which included hot drinks, toasts, juice, jam and fresh fruit refreshed and refilled I set off.

The glorious autumn Sunday was cool, clear and crisp; it was perfect for following the camino path across endless fields of recently harvested grapes. What joy it was to feel strong and to stride easily compared with my shaky exhaustion just one week ago. With birdsong and the continual crunch of my boots the only sounds the early solitude was a delight.

Slowly from the distant horizon appeared a figure walking towards me; tall, tanned, wearing a beret and bearing packs on both his chest and back he strode smoothly along. When I said "Hola" he graciously greeted me in several languages and explained that early in summer he had walked from his home in Germany down to Saint Jean Pied de Port and on to Santiago. Now he was walking back towards southern France, Italy and eventually Rome. What an itinerary! What determination!

After a short pause sitting on a rock while sharing a few cookies as well as several camino confidences we shook hands and sincerely wished each other Ultreia and Adieu. Each of us moved towards our different horizons but strangers no more.

.....Later in Comments

.......John said..Strong of body and spirit, as always. Good luck in the days ahead. You are doing just fine.

.......Mike V wrote..Thank you for all your posts and comments over the various years you have walked. It was your blog that inspired me to walk in winter for the first time. 

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October 29, 2015

Sharing Seats

Entering Rioja a few mornings ago all was misty and dim; since heavy rain was forecast it was hard to see the way ahead. Pooped I desperately wanted to sit and rest. Unfortunately not a rock, log or bench was in sight as I trudged along the familiar path.

Far in the distance two forms appeared which at first I erroneously assumed to be recent sculpture since I remembered none along that stretch. Furthermore since those distant figures appeared to be wearing long aprons I wondered if this was new advertising for the joys of Rioja wine.

Imagine my surprise when the figures warmly greeted me in Spanish, French and English while stating that they were members of a local Christian brotherhood which assisted pilgrims and the local poor! They graciously asked if I wished any water, coffee, or fruit. Declining their offer I asked if I might please sit down on a chair! They laughed and I sat with great relief.

Next came a Korean pilgrim with whom I had been casually walking/chatting the past few days. He, too, was tired, spotted my 'borrowed' chair and asked if he could use the other one! We four then intensely discussed how helping others is both a human and humane necessity. Before we left the Brothers asked us what passing pilgrims might most desire -- hot chocolate, cookies or cake? Both the Korean pilgrim and I replied "More seats would be great!"

.....Later in Comments

.......Gary Smith wrote..Thank goodness a place for you to rest for a bit. I agree the odd seat here and there to rest the weary bones and aching hips is surely needed. Travel well. As I age gracefully I find that if I sit on the ground it is always and effort to get up!

.......John noted..Sometimes something as simple as a chair is all that is required. So happy that could be provided.

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November 2, 2015

At the End of My Trail

Due to injury I must cease this camino for I am no longer able to easily stand or walk. Greatly saddened I know that tonight will be my last in a pilgrim albergue. Now unfortunately the time has come to stop....

Sincerely grateful for all the happiness that I have found and shared along the way during these past years I wish only the best for the future of this beloved route. Might all who walk find fulfillment; may at least my precious memories endure as long as I. Physically I may not be walking, but sentimentally I will always wear my pilgrim shell. ... Thank you for reading my blog and offering your many comments. Ultreia!

 "This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well, which thou must leave ere long." 
                                      Shakespeare, Sonnet LXXIII

.....Later in Comments

.......Mike and Elona wrote.. It has been quite a journey, Meredith, or several journeys. We have greatly enjoyed your sharing them with us, and will miss your stories. But who knows the future? You may walk again! You are tough, among the toughest we have ever known. You will prevail, we are sure. Ultreia!

.......Mike S. noted.. I'm saddened to hear this Margaret and wish you all the best. I do hope things work out for you as you may be entering the next phase of your life camino. As always you are in my thoughts and prayers.

.......Claire sent.. Best wishes for tranquil healing!I am sorry that I won't see you again this year. Thanks for all the advice you have given - over 3 years ago you provided some encouraging information that helped me start my first Camino.

.......Richo mentioned.. That's very disappointing Margaret. I hope you recover quickly. I've enjoyed your blogs and who knows? - Maybe next year after all

.......Anne noted.. I'm so sorry to read this, Margaret. I can only imagine how disappointed you must feel. Who knows, maybe, sometime in the future, you might be able to walk the Camino again! All my very best wishes to,you for a speedy recovery.

.......John S remarked.. I am saddened to learn of your injury and that it will mean the end of your Camino for this year. Please take care of yourself, heal quickly and well, and sit by the fireside with good books through the winter. Spring and new thoughts will come in due course. The very best.

.......Kialoa commented.. What a shock to read of your injury. I share your sadness in this transitional moment. I hope you find solace in the realization that you have brought light and hope into so many lives. Well done indeed. We will look forward to many more years of your sage advice. Thank you.

.......Fiona remarked.. Your blog was also my inspiration to walk in the winter of 2013. I found your packing list absolutely perfect. Made the mistake of not taking the immersion heater! So very sorry to hear of your injury. I hope that your blog will remain available for future pilgrims to consult.

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1 comment:

Philip Busone said...

We have stayed at your wonderful B&B and have been inspired by your Camino adventures. Peace, love and all the best to you and Bill....Philip Busone

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