Saturday, September 29, 2012

Santiago and beyond

Hello from some tiny village in Spain who´s name I can´t currently remember!!

It´s now day 12 (I think) on the Camino and what an insane 13 days it has been!!

I´ve walked through rain, sun and many blisters...made many friends, walked up and down and up and down countless hills, valleys, fields etc...and had probably gallons of wine at this point.

Oy vey!

It is so hard to try and encapsulate this insane journey but I´ll try.

I guess the most important thing of note is that I made it to the destination point of most pilgrims: Santiago de Compostella!! It was a glorious day walking into the city, after having walked through at least 3 days of rain. You can´t imagine the elation walking up to a cloudless brilliant day, knowing I was entering Santiago. It ended up to be an amazing reunion of so many of the pilgrims I had met and lost rack of over the previous was like a giant pilgrim celebration and it seemed like everywhere I turned I bumped into someone I had travelled with. It was truly amazing.

The days leading up to the entrance into Santiago were suddenly packed with pilgrims as 3 main routes converged. After many days of walking with just a few, it was suddenly a party of walkers and every bar along the way was basically standing room only!! the air was full of anticipation and it was an exiting time leading up to the big day.

After an incredible day in Santiago saying hello´s and goodbyes to so many I am into my second day travelling to ´´Finisterre´´ which was once the end of the known world. It is, essentially, the post-script, of the Camino that not too many do. It was my original intention to do only this part of the Camino so it is great to be starting it now. Hopefully tomorrow at some point I will see the ocean...and man...I can´t wait. I am currently travelling with three Slovenians and a Brit and am having an amazing time with them. And of course there are the countless others who are walking who I also feel like I know. It´s a little international village of nomads here. Its hard to put into words what it is like.

Today I walked about 37 K. It´s the longest day so far, but it is amazing how your feet start to adapt. (Athough I am nursing a few blisters)I think the Camino is one of the only places on earth where it is completely socially acceptable to shove your nasty blister covered foot in someones face, and compare injuries. It´s hilarious. Many hours are spent together taking care of random foot problems. Just this afternoon myself and Dan (the Brit) were soaking our toes in buckets of salt water. How´s that for a snapshot of the Camino!

Although the journey is largely about the people you meet, it is also an interior one, and a physical one. The two seem to go together well, and it is such a gift to be walking through some of the most beautiful landscapes i have ever seen without seeing anyone in front or behind me.

It is a truly delicious kind of alone-ness, and a feeling I'm sure will be hard to replicate when this is over. So I am relishing every moment.

Obviously there is so much more I could write but it is WAY past my bed time.

Hopefully I´ll be able to update soonish?? Who knows.

Much Love from the way.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Miles to go before I sleep...

Hola everyone!

Welcome to my first post from the Camino. I am right now in a teeny tiny little village in Galatia (Spain) called ´´Barbadello´´ . I have walked approximately 20K today and my feet are feeling it big time!

It is hard to know what to say and where to start as there is soooo much that has happened here already. I feel as if I´ve lived a lifetime in the 5 days I´ve been here. I guess I´ll start by letting you know that when I arrived at this little ´´auberge´´ today, the first three people that I met were from OTTAWA! I almost fell over from pure shock! And none of the three knew each other before now! Unreal!

I have walked between 15 and 20 K each day so far...give or take a few here and there. I wish I could adequately describe the beauty of this is impossible. Each day I climb mountains, walk through fields, forests, tiny ancient towns that, if I were to try and describe them you probably wouldn't believe me. As many of you know I have been to Europe quite a few times and seen a whole lot...but there is nothing that has compared to this experience.

There are pilgrims here from every corner of the world and I meet new people every day. It is fascinating...and astonishing how some of the 60 to 80 year olds are kicking my ass in terms of their supreme  ´´walking´´ abilities! I kid you not.

So far I have acquired a couple of blisters, feet that are beyond sore...and other physical discomforts, but the advantages to walking ´¨the way´´ far outweigh the pain. And I am slowly coming to realize that the discomfort is all a part of the experience. I am actually appreciating learning to walk through the pain. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with that.

OK - so since it is impossible for me to say all that I want to say here are some highlights:

  • First night, Anton, Spanish bar owner personally driving me to find a hotel as everything in the tiny place I was starting at was full. He took me to a fresh spring to fill my water.
  • My first 2 days literally in the mountains of Galatia in the morning of my first day on the Camino walking through clouds. 
  • Having Octopus bought for me on the house by random Spanish stranger at a Tapas bar...and fresh cheese that had been made that day. Wow.
  • Last night staying in one of the oldest monasteries in the western hemisphere!
  • Meeting 2 amazing semi retired Canadian women and laughing till we cried talking about their adventures on the Camino. Hilarious.
  • Going to a mass in an ancient church where the priest played a rousing Spanish song with the refrain ´´Ole, Ole, Ole!!!!´´ during the Eucharist!! While passing the peace he forced us all the hug each other - which was especially awkward for the German pilgrims! Ha!
  • Stopping for ´´Cafe con leche´´ every 5 K! Best coffee ever in the universe. Seriously.
  • Realizing that I can actually speak pretty decent Spanish! Who knew? (Thank you April and Tony!)
  • Drinking wine with strangers every single night. There is not a night that has gone by where I haven't consumed a whole lot if it. Dirt cheap here. I love this land.
  • Tonight's one yet.
  • Watching a soccer match on TV with a bunch of Spaniards. You havent lived till you´ve seen this. 
  • Reaching the top of a 12k climb straight uphill. Euphoria. There have been many moments like this. 
  • Feeling suddenly part of a transient world family. Its amazing how close to people you are without even really knowing them. I have had so many amazing encounters with strangers. 
  • The amazing feeling of walking through the mountains and feeling like you are the only one there. I´ve never in my life had this feeling before.
  • Knowing that every single day is a brand new adventure. Literally. 
OK ' I could go on and on but I need to go wash my clothes and hang them and drink wine and eat dinner with the Ottawa contingent! Craziness!

Much love to ya´ll from ´´El Camino´´.

Friday, September 14, 2012

before i go.

A new depth of sadness rose up in me the other day
as I walked down the street I thought it was choking me.
An unguarded moment that slipped past.
So sneaky
that my eyes clouded over.
I imagined a smaller version of myself curling up like a little ball on the sidewalk
knees to chest.
But I only paused briefly, clenched my fists, kept walking.

It is in this way that you enter, silently, into my days.
Disrupting my futile attempts at control.

Last week i dreamt I had been tied to a chair in a room
and gagged.
I looked out of the small window of the room and saw you walking by.
I tried to yell, but you didn't hear me -
      My mouth full of cloth.

Daily I try, in my way, to die to this.
To kill whatever it is that needs to be killed
Inside of me.

But there are the days I forget why.
So instead i'll struggle to remember what your voice sounded like
or the quiet way that it cleared a space in me.

The confusion chips away at your image
Your face fades though I try to reconstruct it
piece by piece
with my fingertips.


So now I'm like a leafless tree in late fall.
and waiting for the cold



Friday, September 07, 2012

Rain in Spain

 Spain bound

Hi all! 

So seven days from today I'll be boarding a plane bound for Madrid with nothing but a backpack and a whole lot of hope in my somewhat exhausted heart.

The goal is to walk a portion of the 'Camino De Santiago', an ancient pilgrimage also known as 'The way of St. James' which stretches across northern Spain. For some info on it check here. It's been a long held desire to embark on 'the way', and I wasn't expecting it to come so soon...but due to life events and some serendipity it's pretty obvious that now is the time. I just hope my body (and my feet!) will hold up. I also hope some of my Spanish will magically come back to me.

BTW - Many thanks to former pilgrims (Ruth, Kate - you guys rock!) who have inspired me and reminded me of the light at the end of the current tunnel I'm in, which of course include loads of Spanish wine and life changing encounters on 'the road'.

Transition is the name of the game for me right now, which is part of why the camino fits in so many ways. As I write this I am in Guelph up to my eyeballs in boxes boxes and more boxes. The accumulation of 36 years of my life is now lying in boxes, crates, bags of various sizes awaiting transport. It definitely doesn't look like much from where I sit right now! Anyway, life for the past week has been a packing marathon (and yes - I am right now procrastinating). Tomorrow the marathon will continue as I load up a van, head to the hammer to store stuff, head to Ottawa to drop the rest off, head back to Toronto 2 days later for an oncology follow up app (!!), pick up my passport , pack my backpack, and head to Spain. 


My head is spinning from all of the planning, organizing, emotional and literal upheaval, and the burgeoning of massive life change that is now commencing. A tidal wave of feelings is always on the verge of washing over me - sadness, excitement, fear, apprehension, hope, name it - I'm probably feeling it. It's some juicy stuff, I tell you! I'm not gonna lie though - as 'educational'  and 'character building' as the whole  'starting over' experience is, I look forward to when its over.

So, due to my insatiable love of quotes, here is the latest I am clinging to right now....coming 'atcha from a brilliant Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. It reminds me of why I'm embarking on pilgrimage at this stage in life:

"When we approach life as an experiment we're willing to try it this way and that way, because either way we have nothing to lose...if it's time for something to flourish - it will. If it's not time - it won't. We can just step forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead."

One more step along the path...Camino, here I come.