One Year Ago….

I feel compelled to write today as it was exactly one year ago that I arrived in Lourdes France to begin my Camino. Even then I had come to realize that the Camino begins before it begins. Now I understand how it also continues after it’s finished.

I remember clearly how daunting was the prospect of walking 1,300,000 Steps each one, to me, new ground. Not to mention facing 10 weeks traveling in France, Spain, and, Portugal only speaking English, and American at that!

I met my first Camino buddy, Timothy from Ireland, on the bus to town from the airport in Lourdes. He just dropped by one week ago to visit me at my home.

Yesterday I was surprised to receive an email from Denis, from Toulouse, who I met my first day walking GR 78. He gave me invaluable instruction on how to navigate the trail. I not only ran into him later on but enjoyed a wonderful visit with he and his family in Toulouse just before I returned to the States.

Happily I still have occasional communication with others I met along the Way. Of course, An & Meike, who were my guides and amazing companions for 9 days. Barry from Canada who walked together with me the last two weeks. I was blessed to meet Linn from Germany who always managed to appear at the right time, when a friend was most needed. And for cooking a special dinner for me on my birthday.

There were so many other wonderful people I was blessed to meet. Too many to mention but I am very grateful for our time together.

From the perspective of a year past I see now that I was called to walk the Camino exactly when I was in order to meet Charlotte. 💕 Our relationship has grown with each visit across the “pond”. While I expect I’ll spend much of this winter in the Netherlands we are both refraining from projecting too far into the future. We are putting to use one of the valuable lessons from the Camino – just taking each day as it comes.

Thus the Camino continues to provide. And with good fortune we will be able to return to walk again before too long.

Thank you all for your friendship and support. Buen Camino 👣

“How is it possible?”

I’m sitting at JFK waiting to board my flight to Amsterdam which will be my 4th flight there since November. When I made my plans last year to walk the Camino de Santiago I fully expected that would be the extent of my travel for sometime. I had not been out of the country in many years and certainly had no future plans. Instead the gates have opened to new worlds.

Meeting Charlotte in Spain has been transformative. I am enjoying getting to know her and her two boys Wout, and Mace. Also learning a bit about the very interesting history of the Netherlands and of Dutch culture.

We have discovered ourselves in an improbable and geographically challenging relationship. The day we met we both sensed that we already knew the other. Charlotte often remarks “how is it possible?” From a former life? Destiny? We may never know. Does it really matter?

There are many coincidences. The three Charlotte’s in my life. Our homes, interests, lifestyle and especially our sense of humor. I think is is best not to question only accept the reality of our happiness.

I have been feeling called to return to the Camino. I miss the walking, people and the time alone with my thoughts. I found a connection with life I only remember glimpses of as a child. A life to be lived in the present without fear.

I am tentatively planning to return to Holland in October to celebrate Charlotte birthday and our one year anniversary the following day. Then I will travel to begin my Camino from Porto Portugal to Santiago de Compestella. With luck Charlotte will join me in Santiago to celebrate my 70th birthday and to walk for a week to Finnesterra and Muxia. (This is a difficult request because it means she will miss celebrating Wout’s birthday which is the same day as mine!)

I will once again dedicated my Camino to raise money for OI, Osteogenesis Imperfecta and the other Charlotte in my life. Due to the efforts of this organization and researchers my grandniece Charlotte has begun to walk!

So please stay tuned for info on another fun fundraiser this Fall. (And thank you all for your generosity last year)

Update.

UPDATE: sorry for not posting regularly about the progress of the Love Stories from the Camino book. I have been very busy with my own Love Story and pulling together a labyrinth book.

I’m happy to report that the Love Story is moving forward nicely. A number of stories are in and others are in the works. I welcome additional submissions especially stories of siblings or parent/child adventures on the Camino. Buen Camino

Please contact me at bill@hotchkisspublishing.com

Guided by Our Lady of Lourdes..

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“I am discovering that I am being guided by Our Lady of Lourdes.”  Now that is something I would never have imagined myself saying!  So what is going on you might ask?

Spring of 2016 I found myself being drawn to the Camino de Santiago and was well on my way making plans to walk the French Way starting in Saint Jean Pied du Port just as my new friend and Camino mentor, Steve, had done that spring.  However, my plans took a turn one day when Steve, after lunch in Litchfield, CT., took me to meet his good friend Father Bill at the Montfort Retreat Center . It was here that I discovered the beautiful Lourdes of Litchfield Shrine featuring a wonderful reproduction of the Grotto of Lourdes, France.

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This triggered childhood memories of learning about the many miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary and the water from the springs in Lourdes.  And of course the classic film “Song of Bernadette”.  When I got home I consulted a map to see just where in France Lourdes was located.  It was only about 2 1/2 inches (150K) from SJPP so I made the decision on the spot to begin my pilgrimage walk from there.  Little did I know that this would be both the most beautiful portion of the trip but also the seven days walking through the Pyrenees would be the perfect training ground for the next 800K of the Camino.

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As many of of you know that halfway through my Camino I met a wonderful woman from Holland.  I am now on my third visit with in her home village of Dongen.  A week ago we discovered that there are historical plaques about town on the Broederpad (Brothers Path), a 7K walk through the village commemorating the good work of the Brothers of Our Lady of Lourdes.  During their 130 years in the town they helped the disabled and homeless.  The last of the the Order left in 2009.  The plaques also pictured many of the buildings which once stood at the various sites, most have been replaced with apartment buildings.  One plaque showed a reproduction of the Grotto shrine built by the Brothers.  We assumed that it too had been torn down and we could find no record of its existence online. Yesterday while walking a part of the route we investigated behind an old chapel and discovered the remains of the original Grotto still intact and undergoing renovation!  How is this possible we asked ourselves with big smiles on our faces.

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A few Google searches revealed that there are many replicas of the Grotto throughout the world.  We even found one a few days ago on our visit to The Hague.  A church there had a meditation chapel which featured an indoor version of the Grotto.  Is this all coincidence?  You may decide for yourselves.

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I am looking forward to warmer weather when I will return to complete this circle with a visit to Lourdes of Litchfield.  I will attend the same Sunday mass at the Grotto which began my journey last fall with a very special Pilgrims Blessing from Father Bill……

 

 

 

Camino continues….

It’s a little more than 3 months since I arrived in Santiago de Compestella. It feels like s lifetime ago plus all the weight I’d lost on the Camino has found its way back to me. Walking has been replaced by air travel having covered 30,000 plus miles. Three transatlantic plus one trans American roundtrips, and a few of shorter flights in Europe.

Today I’m in Holland to visit Charlotte for three weeks. I expect that this will almost feel settled down. I am blessed that I can work wherever I travel these days. I’m looking forward to a few undistracted days at the local library (which has a coffee shop!) to work on one of two new books I plan to publish this year. You may not be too surprised that this book will be Love Stories from The Camino.

I am beginning to collect some wonderful stories of Camino pilgrims from around the world (if you have a story or know of one please contact me). This promises to be a a beautiful book.

Happy New Year

A first post to kick off the New Year and to say thank you all who have followed Spiritual Hat Trick for your friendship and support during 2017. It was a remarkable year in many ways. 2018 is shaping up as another year for travel adventures beginning New Year’s Day with my return flight home from The Netherlands. Quickly followed mid-January by a weekend stop in Bismarck ND on my way to San Diego. I can’t wait to see how much Charlotte Grace, my grandniece, has grown in the past year. Two weeks in SoCal with my brother and family seems long overdue. I’ve missed them with all my travels this year taking me to points east rather than west.

It is my hope that Hotchkiss Publishing will bring out 2-3 new books in the coming year. I plan to work on two myself. One a collection of Camino stories and one on Labyrinth’s in New England. (Contributions to either are welcome).

Personal goals include returning to Holland, participating in the Hammerfest Tri in September and, 2-3 weeks walking one of the various Camino routes in Portugal & Spain for my 70th birthday next October. We will just have to see what the Universe has in store…

I wish you a new year filled with Love & Joy.

Happy New Year – 2018!!!

Bill