Bill’s Blog Journal

Two years later

Sitting in the beach in the dark after a late September swim. Watching the lights on the marker buoys in the distance signaling their position. I am overtaken with sensory recollections of my nights sailing singlehanded. The tranquility mixed with a little uncertainty, and fear brought on by lack of confidence in my navigation.

My thoughts segue to the Camino and navigational doubts. This time I’m on foot following red and white markers on unknown trails and the yellow markers across Spain. Two years ago on this date I walked in to St Jean Pied du Port after a week hiking through the foothills of the Pyrenees. I was beginning to learn trust. The Universe provided me with everything I needed. I was blessed to have people appear just when I needed them. They became my guides and mentors preparing me for the Francais portion of the Camino du Santiago.

The irony of my beach visit is that it is in part therapy for my hip. I have a tear which prevents me from walking the Camino Português this fall. The pendulum of Doubt returns. I question the future rather than trusting the Universe to provide. Will I be able to walk 15 miles, play squash, sail etc?

I know that I have to just do what is in front of me each day and trust the results. Tomorrow a cortisone shot and continuing PT, exercises, etc and trust the outcome. One step at a time as they say…👣

We can only do something for the first time, once!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to the annual Gathering of the American Pilgrims of the Camino in Black Mountain, NC. Interestingly I accompanied, Steve, who I only met after following his blog, during his 2016 Camino, which was responsible for my 2017 Pilgrimage. We are now best of friends.

This was only my second Gathering but I have to note that the YMCA facility hosting this years event, is a huge step up. The location, in the mountains, just outside Asheville is stunning. It was fun to see friends from two years ago and a few from my Camino.

It was interesting to notice a few contrasts between my 1st and the 2nd. I can clearly remember walking into the 2017 Gathering in Atlanta very nervous as I did not know one person, plus this Camino business was a huge departure for me. I had so many questions about food, equipment, blisters….. My main concern was how to survive walking 1000 kilometers without getting hurt or lost.

The most notable change, for me, was a new depth of conversations. Clearly people are changed by Pilgrimage.

My recurring thought was about firsts. Notably that – you can only do something for the first time once. What will my second Camino be like? Will I be able to find the energy and motivation to accomplish all that is necessary to make it a reality?

Many of the presentations made me nostalgic to return. I know I can never go back to that first experience. I will never regain my virginity.

Perhaps my most important lesson from the weekend was the reminder to “say yes to the Universe” and trust that if I find myself led to another Camino, it too will present new joys, pains, people, and lasting memories. It will become my 1st 2nd Camino.

Stay tuned…

Buen Camino 👣

A Very Merry Christmas & Blessed New Year!

As I am sure I’ve said before “my life has been transformed by the Camino” making for an interesting year, to say the least. I am in the Netherlands for Christmas with Charlotte and her family. And I may well be staying until March. What I have not posted here before is that on October 25th we visited the Cathedral in Chartres France. We walked the 800 year old labyrinth. When we reached the center I proposed and she said YES!

We have decided to wait a year before planning the wedding date and deciding where we will live. I am sure that there are many challenges ahead. Fortunately, the Camino helps one learn to meet each challenge as it comes and to not worry so much about the future.

I have spent a large portion of the year working on a new book, A Field Guide to Labyrinths of Connecticut and Rhode Island.  So I bought a drone and visited 60+ labyrinths over the summer/fall photographing and walking each one. Now comes the hard part of creating the text and layout. Stay tuned… My hope is that the book will make people aware of the number that are available to them nearby.  I know that they have transformed by life in the past two years, since I walked my first labyrinth.

During my time here I expect to restart work on another book, Love Stories from the Camino de Santiago. I already have a number of other’s stories and hope to add others throughout the year. I believe that this will prove to be a wonderful book. (If you know of any stories please let me know or have the people contact me). I we be attending the American Pilgrim of the Camino annual Gathering in March which may provide a few additions. With luck it won’t be too long before I have the opportunity to walk in Spain once again.

One more wish for the New Year is that our paths will cross so we may visit and share our stopover a cup of coffee. Till then… Buen Camino 👣💕👣

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