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 👣

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 Walking has been replaced by air travel having covered 30,000 plus miles.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.

Epilogue

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

Day 15 – Los Arcos – Day 16 Viana

Day 15- The simple life. Eat, walk, sleep and along the way talk with people from around the world. Walked this morning with a few Swedes, lunch with a mother & daughter from Quebec, then sisters from Austria, and later Marco from Brazil. 

Some conversations are brief some longer and personal. All are honest and are filled with love. There is a line in one of the pilgrim prayers which states that “we come to find ourselves in each other.” 

The mornings walk was a mix of  farmland, city, & industrial with moody weather. 

The village Irache offers a unique attraction. A free wine faucet! A must stop for most regardless the time of day. I took advantage of the free agua faucet. 
We soon walked passed a monastery which appeared closed. Once passed I was stopped by an elderly woman walking in the opposite direction. She asked in very broken English if I had visited the cloisters and suggested that I should. As she seemed to single me out I felt compelled to follow her lead. I discovered the building in the process of restoration and happy I listened.  I am learning to say yes to what the Camino presents…..

My Swedish friends were not feeling well so we parted ways at Monjardin. The albergue they chose was run my an American. Just their luck, they ended up trading one chatty American for another.

 

Finally the terrain became gentle rolling hills, vineyards, olives, etc. This area, Riojo, is well known for its wine. 

My day’s destination was Los Arcos were I’d been offered a private bedroom by fellow pilgrim from Alaska who had booked a 3 bedroom house thinking they had booked only an apartment. My luck. It was a treat not to share a bedroom or a bathroom. 

We wandered to the main square in search of dinner and were treated to the ringing of the massive bells in the church tower (sorry for the sideways video). After dinner we had an additional treat of an illuminated vision of the same church. 

Day 16 –  Another UN day. chatted with people from Austria, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, USA, and of course, Pepe of Spain giving his blessing to passing pilgrims and providing nourishment as well. 

I walked most of the day with Marco from Brazil before deciding listen to my feet and stop early today.

I treated myself to a night in a real hotel. Fortunately the bathroom came equipped with a pilgrim clothes washer. …

The main square was busy with locals enjoying a social Sunday visiting at the cafes.  I greeted a few fellow pilgrims and stopped to chat with a table that sounded American. A father and two daughters said they were from San Francisco. When I told them I was from Connecticut one of the girls said she had attended Yale and now works & lives in New Haven! Small world. 

Time for some rest. Buen Camino my friends. 

Day 13 – Pamplona to Uterga

Walking Solo — Sad morning having to say goodbye to my 24/7 companions for the past 10 days. Mieke & An have become dear old friends in a short time. I will miss their beautiful spirits as I continue my walk. 

 The walk through town was a huge change from the last 2 weeks. Nevertheless it is a beautiful city. I had to make a stop at the cell phone shop which took me a bit off the Camino route. It was wonderful that people would stop me to wish me a Buen Camino and try to direct me back to the path. 

Once out of the city it was quickly farmland but now, post harvest, stark and barren. It was interesting to see the fields recently plowed and all the rocks! Looks worse than the fields of New England.  

I was joined for the long uphill treck by Rene a nice young man from New Jersey. Since I had a late departure from the city we had to endure the hot afternoon sun with little shade. 

We both enjoyed the distraction of each other’s company as we walked in the heat trying to image people doing this in the summer. The distant windmills grew larger as our assent progressed. 

Reaching the peak we were rewarded with a great view back to Pamplona. 

Additionally we, who have watched the movie The Way, had to take turns posing with the pilgrim silhouettes. 

The steep rocky desent was a challenge for many. One was Gerta and another Dutch woman. Her legs were covered with bandages and braces. After much debate she elected to walk rather than call for a taxi. I kept her company until the next village where we stopped for some refreshments. The place we stopped was so pleasant I decided to remain the night. She still had a 2 hour walk ahead in order to catch up to her backpack which she had sent ahead. 

We had a small international collection at dinner I joined 2 young men from Ireland for a great meal. At the next table  Bill, from Texas, was celebrating his birthday with his wife.  Lastly a lovely family from Sweden. 

Day 14 – to Villaturta

Today was once again a bit hot & sunny with only occasional shade. The new landscape offered many plowed fields, vineyards, and groves of olive trees. 

I walked the day with 3 people from Sweden I’d met at dinner last evening. We stopped early for a delicious bargain breakfast. 

We came across a few interesting sights along the way….up, down, and in between. The last is of snails 🐌 which were along one section of the walk by the millions! 

One of the most wonderful people to keep popping up on the Camino has been a tiny Korean woman. We first met in SJPP and she is the most joyful individual I’ve ever come across…. she loves everyone often displaying crossed thumb & index finger. A Korean symbol for love ❤️ 

After a long hot day ( 8-5) we arrived at Casa Magica, a Pilgrims oasis. I enjoyed a fantastic massage, wonderful dinner, and did a little laundry.