I wish all of you a very Happy Easter and a wonderful Spring season.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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……
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.
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!!!
September 12th I walked out of my house with my backpack and walking sticks headed to the commuter train to begin my Camino. As they say, I left a walker and returned a pilgrim. I headed into the unknown. I did not know a single soul where I was going, each day every step would be, for me, on new ground. I was forced to abandon all fear of the unknown and trust that everything would work out one step at a time. I did my best to suppress all expectations and remain open to what unfolded.
For those readers who have followed from the beginning of this journey you know that that is exactly what transpired. I truly feel I have been guided from the day, one year ago, that I answered “yes” to the call of the Camino and made the commitment to walk the Camino de Santiago.
A most significant part of the journey was the people I met along the way. Deni, An & Meike guided me from the start teaching me much about life as a pilgrim. Barry was perfect company to share the final 2 weeks walk to Santiago. Many: Linn, Angel, Janine, Jamie, and others will always have a special place in my heart for sharing a portion of their journey and also sharing personal stories. The time I walked alone led me to a much better understanding of Bill and helped me to open my soul to others.
I have not before written here about Charlotte, a beautiful woman from The Netherlands I met in the exact middle of my walk. Our souls seemed to connect when we walked a labyrinth together. We were only together for 48 hours, enough time to realize that our souls were indeed connected in a special way.
After completing my promised “hat trick” visit to Fatima I flew to Holland to spend time with Charlotte. Later she came to Branford for Thanksgiving week. Remarkably our lives look very similar from our brick houses to our career choices.
So it is from 40,000 feet over the Atlantic that I am writing on my way back to Holland for Christmas & New Years. Sorry but I’ll not speculate here about the future. You will just have to stay in touch and stay tuned….
I am very pleased to be able to note that the OI Foundation recently reported having received almost $5,000 in donations via Spiritual Hat Trick! I know that in addition to the money we were also able to raise awareness about OI and the important work the Foundation does providing support to those with the OI gene and their families. Your continued support is welcome and you may still donate directly to the Foundation through the http://www.spiritualhattrick.com website link.
In the end I was 47 days on the Camino and covered 1,000 kilometers over 42 days of walking averaging about 15 miles each day. As 2017 comes to a close I can attest that The Camino does indeed continue. Much has changed and more lays ahead. My plan is to continue putting one foot in front on the other and to say YES to whatever the Universe presents. More will be revealed….
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year & Buen Camino
Porto is a perfect holiday town for anyone. Lots of history, entertainment, food, and if you like Port it’s the worlds capital.
I was welcomed to town by the Sunday Marathon and a huge bird market that went on for a couple of blocks. Once again I was surprised by the runners who noticed my backpack and greeted me with a Buen Camino. The majority of activities are along the waterfront on both shores of this divided city. So when I came upon a Boat/Hotel I could not resist. I booked two nights. Not only was it elegant and perfectly located it was more reasonable than the other options and included a wonderful breakfast. And a pretty good view too! No sooner had I checked when I got a message that my Irish friend Timothy had just arrive in town too. But he had walked from Santiago! That boy is fast. I first met him on the airport bus in Lourdes September 13th.
Porto has a myriad of transportation options. I took a water taxi to the south shore where the Port producers have their caves for aging the wine as well as lots of outlets and restaurants. I then too a gondola to the upper level of the bridge designed my Eiffel and walked across the upper level back to the north shore. One could the have the option to walk down a few hundred stairs or take the funicular back to the wharf level.
I rented a car at the airport for my drive to Lourdes (as the pilgrim way of life begins fading to memories). Almost two months since I was in a car. I also had to remember how to drive a stick shift! That very American sense of freedom of getting behind the wheel had not left. The highway system is impressive and the countryside lovely. I dove past many miles of charred forests from the recent fires. Though it was impossible to tell the extent of the damage from this limited vantage point.
I arrived in Fatima on another sunny afternoon in time to tour around and attend a mass in English at the shrine, which was welcome after so many Spanish services on the Camino. After mass I spoke with one of the attendants and showed him the copy of the October 1947 letter I was carrying from Sister Lucy to my uncle Joe. He had written to her asking for prayers for himself and his wife. He said that they would be interested in having it so I left it with him alone by with my contact info.
Fatima was the last of the 3 goals on my Spiritual Hat Trick Pilgrimage. Am very grateful to have had the opportunity to make this journey and for all the support I have received from family and friends. I once again prayed for all those who sent names for my prayer list and lit candles.
I wanted to visit this seaside resort town west of Lisbon because my parents one visited there in the early 1960’s. They went with my Aunt Helen. As soon as I arrived I knew who had chosen the destination. Helen loved to gamble….The was too much of a city for my taste and “in season” must be a zoo. However the waterfront walkway was magnificent and appeared to be a surfing hotspot. It was soothing just to hear the sounds of the surf after so much time inland.
Todays main activities included laundry, shopping, return the car to the airport and a stop at the hospital. The last due to the cold I developed which doesn’t want to go away. My visit to the emergency room lasted about an hour, was quite a contrast to Yale New Haven Hospital and the US Healthcare system in general. I was very well taken care of in a first class facility. The entire ER bill was 90 euros. I was given prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestant, 600mg Ibuprofen which I took to a local pharmacy. The bill was 19 euros!! Total.
My original plan had been to enjoy whatever excess time I had after walking the Camino relaxing by the water here in Portugal. However the Camino had other plans for me. Tomorrow I am off to Holland to visit a lovely lady I walked with for a couple of magical days halfway across Spain. After which I’ll be off to Toulouse France to visit Deni, who I met my first day walking from Lourdes, and his family. Stay tuned….
My last night in Santiago was perfect though bittersweet. I made plans with Linn to meet at my hotel then go have Chocolate & Chirros together. Of course she knew many of the people hanging out in the hotel lounge so we enjoyed a bit of unscheduled festivities. We were able to break away and enjoyed some private time to catchup on each other’s stories as we wandered about town in search of the right place.
Soon we were joined by a young South African man, who lives in Holland, we each had met while walking. We invited him to join us for dinner, which was to be in a very cozy little cafe on the other side of town. Linn also invited her friends “The Lithuanians” to join us. She often spoke of the so it was nice to finally meet. It was an emotional and teary farewell apre dinner but Linn broke the mood with a push-up challenge! (The young Lithuanian man had become known for his goal of doing 100 push-ups each day of his Camino) So they had a head to head contest right there on the sidewalk much to the consternation of passers by. We were all winners!!
Train to Porto Portugal-November 5th
On an early morning train to Portugal, thus ending the walking only portion, to reach the final goal of my “hat trick”, Fatima. A bit surreal to sit and watch the scenery fly by. I am taking this time to reflect a bit on the first two ” goals”.
More than anything else, people have had the greatest impact on me at every level, emotionally and spiritually. The sharing, love and support not only from other pilgrims but from shopkeepers and people on the streets, virtually everyone. There was a prevailing sense of hope and optimism as well as respect of everything Camino related.
I met people of all ages from dozens of countries, some spoke at least a little English, others none. However we were all able to communicate to some degree. There was endless support and very little judging. We walk west, together, separately, we shared food & drink, we cried & we laughed, we shared equipment, sleeping quarters, colds & flu. We shared a way of life that defies explanation, it has to be experienced.
When we leave behind the city of Santiago we leave, changed in many ways. I believe it will take time on our continuing Camino of life for those changes to be revealed.