Taking the plunge!

Cork – St Jean Pied de Port

In the weeks leading up to my departure, even though I longed for what I hoped the experience would bring, I was filled with fear about travelling alone, and if my flight had not already been booked, I might have backed out. Each night before bed, as I completed my routine with a variety of potions and creams, I thought about how few of them I could take with me and how little control I would have over my daily life. How was I going to deal with the loss of all the small, almost unnoticeable, comforts and crutches I relied on each day and settle for not much more than a sleeping bag and a toothbrush?

When the day came I took the first flight out of Cork to London Stansted to get a connecting flight to Biarritz and an overnight stay at the airport hotel there. The following morning after a hot, restless night, I took a bus from outside the airport to the train station in Bayonne and boarded a train for the relatively short journey to St Jean. When I arrived less than an hour later, I followed the rucksack-bearing crowd to the Camino office to complete the formalities. One of the volunteers, a lovely man with a little English, helped me, and although I didn’t understand much of what he said, I figured I knew enough to get started. With my details recorded, I was given my Credencial (Camino Passport), which meant that I could stay in the pilgrim-only hostels (albergues) along the route. His advice was that in the morning I should take Route Napoléon, the harder, higher and more spectacular of the two routes out of St Jean, to my first overnight stop at Roncesvalles, twenty-five kilometres away.

With the preliminaries completed, the same volunteer led me and two other pilgrims to the nearby albergue and we were shown to a basement dorm with three bunk beds. Standing inside the little sparsely furnished room without a soft furnishing in sight, the impact and reality of pilgrim hostel life began to sink in. Checking the ticket number I held in my hand, I identified which of the blue tubular-framed bunks was mine, before I tentatively laid out my sleeping bag for the first time. Then I placed the items I thought I would need later – my earplugs, torch and toiletries – at the bottom of the bunk. Actually I could have emptied out the entire contents of my rucksack for I was carrying only what was absolutely necessary. As the three of us unpacked, we exchanged information in response to questions that would be repeated again and again over the coming weeks: where are you from? Have you walked the Camino before? The most obvious question – why are you doing the Camino? – was one I asked sparingly. For me, the answer was very personal and I imagined it might be so for others too.

As well as being the official starting point for the Camino Francés, St Jean is a significant tourist town. But I wasn’t a tourist and I wasn’t really interested in exploring; I was only pretending as I filled the hours until I could leave. Over coffee I looked at my guide book and maps, although I felt unable to absorb the enormity of what I was beginning to realise was ahead of me. Oh my God, five weeks! At that moment, five weeks felt like a lifetime.

Back in the albergue dorm, I made my first novice pilgrim error when I began talking to one of my room-mates in the semi-darkness without noticing that someone else was trying to sleep. Oops! I was to learn in the weeks ahead to enter dormitories quietly, as pilgrims sleep at all times of the day and night. That night I slept better than I expected, and I was very surprised to find when I got upstairs to the dining room the next morning that the adjoining dormitory was completely empty at 7 a.m. I wondered what the hurry was, and at the same time I began to feel I was running behind before I had even started.

Day 33; Ribadiso – Lavacolla – 32 km

I set out knowing I was on schedule to arrive in Santiago the following day with just forty-two kilometres remaining. What I really wanted was to arrive in time for pilgrim Mass at midday. It was important to me that I arrive in my walking clothes with my rucksack straight from the Camino to take my place as a pilgrim before God. That would make my pilgrimage complete. However, the albergues were spread out in such a way as to make that wish impossible. No matter how I calculated the possibilities, I didn’t see how I could arrive in Santiago in time for midday Mass.

With so many pilgrims now within two days of reaching their target, the route had become particularly busy in places, so I decided to let people go ahead while I crossed the road to a café to consider my unresolved dilemma. As I was removing my rucksack I heard my name being called and I looked around to see Frank, Jill and Brett. It transpired that the three of them were planning a long day’s walk to Lavacolla, which would get them within ten kilometres of Santiago. I had stayed in a hotel in Lavacolla the previous year, so I was aware that it was nicely placed for reaching Santiago in time for midday Mass. I had considered it as a possibility myself but dismissed it as I knew the village didn’t have an albergue. Jill and Frank were intending to make a hotel reservation and Jill asked to borrow my phone. She spoke Spanish sufficiently well to make such enquiries whereas I didn’t, and until then I hadn’t considered a hotel a viable or cost effective option. I had anticipated both a lack of availability and a prohibitive cost, given that the hotels were within striking distance of Santiago. However, I was amazed to discover that I could indeed get a hotel room for just €30. Not only that, Brett was staying in the same hotel so I had a dinner date too, while Frank and Jill found an alternative source of accommodation. Synchronicity at it’s best! My decision to cross the road at that moment brought about the resolution to my dilemma.

My perspective on the day was completely changed as I set off again. It would be a long one; thirty two kilometres is no joke, but well worth it in the circumstances. I couldn’t have been happier. I felt as free as a bird as I walked between the eucalyptus trees on my way to Lavacolla. When I reached the hotel and discovered it was real; there was actually a room booked in my name, I felt so relieved. There had been a little worry at the back of my mind that it might not materialise. It was a tiny space but nevertheless a palace in my eyes. I had made it! I could taste it. Ten kilometres from Santiago, something that seemed almost unattainable five weeks earlier. It was a moment to celebrate. I switched on my phone for only the second or third time since I had left home. My Camino was a very internal experience and I had kept it to myself but now I wanted to share my joy with my friends.

In the hotel foyer later as I waited to meet Brett, I noticed my nervousness. It wasn’t really a date, so why was I nervous? I think because of his ministry. Sometimes, I can view people who choose religious life as something other; maybe not entirely relatable. That misperception is probably leftover from childhood and a time when Priests were more revered as high moral authority figures, while the rest of us were the sinners! At the same time I was fascinated by his vocation, and how his partner fitted into his life of ministry. Partnership or marriage isn’t allowed within the Catholic Church so my interest was piqued about Brett’s life of ministry and how it was intertwined with an intimate relationship.

Brett quickly showed me that concerns about his relatability were misplaced. I enjoyed his company very much and he took as much interest in me as I in him. We talked so easily, openly and freely. He was ordinary, approachable and full of good humour. I felt nourished by the encounter and the opportunity to share what gives meaning to me in my life.

I really liked him.

Day 29; Triacastella – Sarria – 25 km

I wasn’t the only pilgrim to sleep well. The hospitalero had to wake up the whole dorm at 7 a.m., which was when we made the collective discovery that it was pouring with rain, and I mean really pouring. While I was still mentally adapting to the sight of such rainfall, I became aware of a heated exchange between some agitated pilgrims and the hospitalero. He was being confronted with suspicions that there were bedbugs, which featured high up on the list of ills a pilgrim might face. Some marks on the bed above mine were being pointed to as evidence, along with suggestions that they might have fallen into my sleeping bag. But there was no certainty that we had bedbugs at all, so I shrugged off the fuss and hoped, as I packed my sleeping bag back into my rucksack, that I was not also taking some unwanted companions with me.

Breakfast was a non-event – I hadn’t been able to make it to the supermarket the day before. A very sweet cappuccino from the vending machine had to do while I applied extra padding to my blistered feet before departure. The dining room was busy with pilgrims, taking longer than necessary, it seemed, to don their waterproof ponchos before venturing out into the pouring rain. With my waterproof leggings on for the first time, I went back upstairs to tell Branu I was leaving. ‘How can you say that!’ he exclaimed. His surprise that I could just leave when I was ready to go was evident. Feeling a bit guilty then, I told Kirsten I would text her after I found a café for breakfast. Truthfully, that was to soften the blow that I was leaving without them. Although we sometimes walked together, I didn’t feel obliged to do so. I wanted the freedom to make the choice that was right for me on any given day.

The rain was still falling as I headed towards the main street, and I discovered that the restaurant we had dined in the night before was open for breakfast. However, when I went inside I realised I didn’t actually want breakfast at all; what I wanted was to walk. Although I remembered what I had said to Kirsten, the bother of removing my rucksack to search and text in the dark and the rain was something I couldn’t face, so I just kept going. As I walked through town, I saw other pilgrims spill out onto the street in the half light of the early morning, and I felt there was already something different about the day, without being quite sure what it was.

Most pilgrims were heading for Sarria, the town where many pilgrims begin to walk the last one hundred kilometres to Santiago. There were two routes: one shorter and more direct, the other route was longer because it looped around to include the village of Samos, the site of an abbey and Benedictine monastery. As I hoped to walk a little further than Sarria, I intended to take the shorter route and initially I thought I had succeeded – that is, until I could no longer deny the fact that the road signs indicated I was en route to Sarria via Samos. Just like that, any realistic possibility that I would get beyond Sarria that day was gone. We had had lots of discussion the previous evening about whether or not to visit Samos, and although it had not been my plan, it was seemingly on my path.

As I looked at the poncho-wearing group along the road ahead of me, I observed for the first time a pilgrimage before my eyes. It was a scene I hadn’t witnessed previously. There was a mystical quality to the sight of poncho-wearing, slow-moving pilgrims with sticks in one or both hands. It was striking in its simplicity and reverence. People were talking quietly, if at all, and there was something much more devotional about the procession than usual.

The arrival of the rain seemed to bring a lightness and freshness to the experience. I remember in particular walking through a small wood where the branches intertwined overhead to give shelter from the rain. This brought me into very close contact with the beauty and perfection of the raindrops as they sat on the leaves in their simple Buddha-like poses. Coming out of the woods, Samos soon opened up and I saw the monastery stand imposingly on my right at the entrance to the village.

Earlier I had met Mike and Jackie, a couple from Limerick, for the first time. Initially I stuck up conversation with Jackie before falling into step with Mike while Jackie walked behind with Marlene from Belgium. Mike referred to himself as a passionate Christian and we quickly got to talking about life and, of course, God. I enjoyed his company very much; he had an open, inclusive way of interacting with the world. When we reached Samos, Mike and I were ahead of the others and as we were longing for breakfast, we headed straight for a café.

Afterwards, we approached the abbey and were advised by someone on the steps to be quick as it was about to close. When we got inside, a young monk came towards us, making a key-locking gesture with his hands. In the brief time we were there, I took in the tranquil holy atmosphere within the abbey; I would have loved to attend Mass. I considered waiting in the village for the next Mass, but people outside were talking about different Mass times. Some said Mass would be another hour while others said two hours, and as I knew Sarria would be busy with pilgrims, I didn’t want to get there too late. Faced with such uncertainty, I decided to continue my walk and return another day to Samos.

On leaving the village I pulled away from the others, as I wanted to walk alone for a while. I wanted to reflect on what meeting Richard had meant to me. As I walked, I wept with gratitude for the feelings he awoke in me. I felt alive, excited and playful, and I knew he had touched my soul. The whole experience felt like heart medicine, and I decided that if we met in Sarria I would let him know how he impacted me.

In the afternoon, although much of the route followed the road, it was really peaceful, uninterrupted by traffic except for a tractor. Walking along quiet, winding country roads felt completely different to walking on busy main roads, and for most of the day I didn’t meet another living soul – that is, until I heard Dave from New Zealand walking behind me. We introduced ourselves and talked only briefly before he powered on ahead of me.

Close to Sarria I rejoined the Limerick couple, and as we arrived in town we followed Javier and Leo, two pilgrims they knew, into the municipal albergue. As we settled in, Jackie asked me if I would like to join them for dinner later and I said I would, although in truth I wasn’t in much of a social mood by then. I needed some time alone and headed out with my journal to find a bar and a beer. Failing to find a bar nearby, I opted for a lovely Italian café and a glass of wine. There, I talked to the Italian man who was the café owner and he told me about setting up his new business with his Spanish wife. Then while he swept the wet leaves from the floor, the most beautiful furry kitten appeared to play with the leaves and the sweeping brush. She was thoroughly irresistible and when I picked her up, the owner asked if I wanted to take her with me. Ha ha! She had strayed into their lives a few weeks earlier and had taken up residence with them. Later, he asked if I would like to come back the following summer to give his wife a break – in the kitchen!

As I sat in the café I longed for a connection with someone who really knew me, someone with whom I could bear my soul. The people I felt closest to were gone and I was starting over again. During the day I had discovered that Branu and Kirsten were staying in Samos, and although I had said I would join Mike, Jackie and the others for dinner, I wanted to stay where I was. The owner came over to me as the café filled. ‘You tell me if and when you want your dinner here,’ he said. I felt really touched that he was taking care of me and tears flowed down my cheeks. The full power of the Camino experience happens in the most unexpected ways and circumstances; the connection I longed for came from an unexpected source. It had been a day of abundance: meeting Mike and Jackie, Samos, walking, feeling my connection with Richard and then the café owner.

While I was having dinner, Richard came in with Jim, an Alaskan man I had met briefly earlier in the day. Seeing me, Richard came over, expressing his surprise, for he had expected me to have gone further. I told him about my unexpected detour to Samos, which had been absolutely worth it. He asked if I wanted to join them and I declined. I knew it was time to move on. Then as I was leaving, I went across to where they were sitting and told Richard that I had really enjoyed meeting him and that he had touched my heart.

Back at the albergue and ready for bed, I took out my book to read while I waited for the others to return. When they did, I was informed that they had come back to look for me a few times during the evening. I apologised and told them where I had been. They didn’t mind; they weren’t offended. Javier asked me what I was reading and I exposed the cover so he could see Conversations with God. ‘What are you reading that stuff for,’ the Spaniards chimed, before recommending their own reading material. I just laughed, feeling pleased that I didn’t need to hide my book cover.

Before lights out, Mike came over and sat on the edge of my bunk with his bible in his hand and took out photographs of his daughters to show me. It was a lovely gesture of welcome and inclusion.

Day 20; Calzadilla de los Hermanillos – Mansilla de las Mulas

As I stood in the hallway putting the final touches to my departure preparations, the hospitalero came over and thanked me for staying while he hugged me goodbye. This was an unusual occurrence. Then he pointed me towards the much anticipated seventeen-kilometre section ahead without café or shelter of any kind. Thankfully my visit to the local shop the previous evening had provided me with the necessary sustenance for such an adventure.

Although it was dark at first, in the distance I could see Sergio, a lovely Italian man who had left a few minutes before me. He had very little English, but still we had bonded. We had both received the individual blessing in Carrión de los Condes, and later when we spoke about it, the memory brought tears to our eyes. Sergio was a very purposeful walker so I didn’t catch up with him, nor did I try to; I was happy to walk alone.

Although the red soil felt soft underfoot, it didn’t support any trees for shade and respite from the hot day. Yet I enjoyed walking and felt an extraordinary peace throughout. In some ways the landscape became my playground and I found myself talking to what was around me. The small creatures and the low-level prickly bushes became my companions. Looking ahead and around, everything appeared exactly the same; without anything to distract my eye, there was infinite nothingness, and in that there was everything. It was the most perfect spiritual container, spiritual in the sense that it was so pure: just me and the Camino. It felt like an encounter with God: on the one hand vast and infinite, and on the other so very intimate.

After walking alone for five hours, I stopped at the first opportunity – a bar situated at what was more or less a crossroads. Eugene and Heather were already there when I arrived, as they had powered past me earlier. I felt relaxed in myself and had an easier conversation with Eugene than on any previous occasion. ‘This is the happiest I’ve seen you. You’re shining,’ he said. Almost immediately a discomfort arose in me. Even though he had said something nice, I felt uneasy. After lunch we left together, but I was unable to regain my earlier ease and I wondered what had happened.

At the albergue in Mansilla, the party was in full swing and I felt happy to be there. In the dorms we were packed in like sardines, while outside in the courtyard everyone seemed to be on holiday and I felt my spirit rise. With my return to joy, I began to see the road I had travelled since my Camino began. In particular, I reflected on what Eugene had said to me a week earlier about taking it all too seriously. As I looked back, I saw that my lightness had gone and with it, my light had been all but extinguished. By way of contrast, I thought of Diane, the singing nun from Peru, and how much joy she carried in her soul. What struck me most clearly was the realisation that despite all the people I had met, no one knew me. For the first time I saw how closed I had been to others. So often I had wanted people to move away quickly or I would move myself. I didn’t want anyone to really see me, preferring to be among strangers than people I knew. In hindsight, I could piece together my story and accept without judgement that I wasn’t able to be any other way.

Many times over the previous three weeks, I had thought about a man and a relationship that had ended, but it wasn’t until that day in Mansilla de las Mulas that I acknowledged I was still mending a broken heart. No one knew that; in some ways not even I knew that. I didn’t want my Camino to be about him or about my broken heart; I wanted to be past that and on to another chapter. What I didn’t realise was that I had to go deeper into the pain before I could be free of it; only then could I let go of the hurt, anger and resentment that I was projecting onto the world. Wanting is one thing, being ready is quite another.

Day 3; Zubiri – Pamplona

I was awake at about 6 a.m., and while it was still dark I crossed the yard to the dining room, where breakfast for me consisted of a humble banana and coffee. Deborah, (Walking for love of God) was up early too and already tucking into a big bowl of fresh fruit, while a man I didn’t know kept a watchful eye on a small stove as he heated milk for his cereal. Observing the importance they had given their breakfast, I wished I too had planned ahead for the nourishment my journey required. Not just in terms of something more substantial to eat, though that was part of it, it was more about the sacredness of their morning ritual. It symbolised to me, patience, self care and apparent ease with themselves. In contrast, I couldn’t wait to be off.

Packed and ready to go, I waited impatiently outside for daylight to appear so I could be reunited with the yellow arrows that would lead me out of town – and to greater ease, I hoped. However, I soon realised that I could not get away from what I was feeling inside and I knew it was going to be a repeat of the day before. The Camino I was experiencing was not the one I had imagined. I had misjudged it completely. Before leaving home, I thought I would love walking in expectation that I would get lost in the peace and beauty of it all. How wrong I was!

During the morning I crossed paths with Sue and Manoel for the first time, while they had met a couple of days earlier in St Jean. Sue, a South African in her early fifties, had begun the Camino with her father, but they had separated soon afterwards to walk at a pace that suited them individually. Manoel, a sixty-something Brazilian, fell into step behind, while Sue and I talked, Sue every so often relaying to him the substance of our conversation and throwing in the few words of Portuguese he had been teaching her.

After a while I walked on ahead of them as I found it challenging to be around people for any real length of time. The pain I was carrying inside felt like a dead weight and made it difficult for me to speak and connect with others. It was as though we were orbiting different planets and what I really wanted was to scream and lash out at the world I felt locked within, but instead of screaming I remained silent.

My utter disbelief at how awful my experience felt didn’t get any easier to accept as the hours rolled by. In fact, it was further compounded by the struggle between my need for rest and my desire to run for the hills as I faced the challenge presented by the first opportunity to stop for coffee. Facing people I knew was difficult. I couldn’t say how I was feeling, so I knew I would have to pretend I was fine and I found that incredibly hard.

At a busy outdoor tavern an array of brightly coloured rucksacks stood lined up against the wall while their owners sat at the many outdoor tables, chatting and having fun. I noticed the chatty young South African woman with her Dutch companion from the previous day, and while I stood at the bar waiting for my coffee, I scanned the environment for other seating possibilities. Seeing no alternative, I steeled myself to go and join the faces I recognised and although I tried to participate in conversation it was a huge effort for me. Then as soon as I finished my coffee, I fled. I had to get away to recommence my walk; I had to be alone. When I was with others, it amplified the painful depth of my disconnection from the world, and although I felt compelled to be alone, I also felt the pain and isolation of aloneness. I felt as though I was a small island adrift from the mainland, without the means to return home but I also know that even if I had been sent a life raft, I would not have taken it.

Another, less crowded, opportunity to stop presented itself about an hour from Pamplona. There I was joined by Christian, a young German man I had met at the outdoor tavern earlier. As we talked he became the first person to ask why I was doing the Camino. On hearing his question, initially I felt stumped. While it sounds like a small, simple question, it’s actually quite big and I didn’t know whether I wanted to answer it sincerely or say something general that would deflect him. I was aware that a sincere response would feel exposing for me but I decided to take the risk. In hindsight I see that answering sincerely was more for my benefit than for his. As I began to find the words, tears came. ‘I’ve come to meet, and be alone with, myself,’ I said. In response, Christian wondered if that was not something I could do at home and I said ‘not in the way I want to experience it’. Actually I had come in the hope of experiencing a deep encounter with my soul. I wanted to be close to God, although I didn’t say so. I noticed my reluctance to name God and soul. Even on the Camino, where I might have assumed pilgrims were accepting and open about their spirituality, I felt vulnerable and reluctant to reveal mine.

When I arrived in Pamplona in the blazing heat of the early afternoon, I found myself standing outside a homely and inviting two-storey stone house that advertised itself as an albergue and I decided to check it out. Inside it looked and felt just like a family home, and once the preliminaries were completed, I was shown to my bunk in one of the upstairs rooms. It was a complete contrast to the night before – more like staying in a bed and breakfast, where breakfast was offered for an extra €2.50. I found a little more of myself there, as the hospitaleros, two German men in their fifties, offered a more caring experience, in contrast with the no care experience of the previous night.

In the evening, I was partly filling time and partly hoping to have a spiritual encounter that would connect me with God and myself so I joined a small local community for rosary in the Cathedral. Just when I though the rosary had reached an uneventful conclusion, I noticed the congregation joining the priest to walk in procession around the large, almost empty, church, while they were accompanied by what sounded like a choir of angels. Immediately, I felt moved to join them but I hesitated, telling myself I didn’t know where they were going! However, I felt drawn as if by magnet to the procession, and I put aside any reticence I felt about my spirit being so visible. While I walked slowly around the church, something within me melted as I sank deeper into connection. Then when I came into line with the choir I stopped to digest the experience fully, taking in the ordinariness of the group of men in front of me. As they sang, they channelled pure love and I felt transported to another world. The one I had inhabited earlier in the day had dissolved into a puddle.

To witness the coming together of the local community to honour their connection with God, with themselves and each other touched me deeply. It was the apparent ease with which they took their place in honour of their God that affected me most, and I realised my struggle lay in the tension between my longing to satisfy the needs of my soul and my resistance to its fulfilment.

Despite the uplifting experience in the Cathedral, once I returned to the albergue, I noticed myself withdraw. I didn’t have it in me to go and join the group in the garden for a drink, even though I had regained more of myself that day. As I lay down on my bunk I could hear laughter downstairs, and I wished I had a buddy to make my experience easier. I seemed to need someone to open the door for me, so most of the time I felt as if I was on the outside looking in, wanting what others had while I stayed in the shadows.

Taking the plunge!

Cork – St Jean Pied de Port

In the weeks leading up to my departure, even though I longed for what I hoped the experience would bring, I was filled with fear about travelling alone, and if my flight had not already been booked, I might have backed out. Each night before bed, as I completed my routine with a variety of potions and creams, I thought about how few of them I could take with me and how little control I would have over my daily life. How was I going to deal with the loss of all the small, almost unnoticeable, comforts and crutches I relied on each day and settle for not much more than a sleeping bag and a toothbrush?

When the day came I took the first flight out of Cork to London Stansted to get a connecting flight to Biarritz and an overnight stay at the airport hotel there. The following morning after a hot, restless night, I took a bus from outside the airport to the train station in Bayonne and boarded a train for the relatively short journey to St Jean. When I arrived less than an hour later, I followed the rucksack-bearing crowd to the Camino office to complete the formalities. One of the volunteers, a lovely man with a little English, helped me, and although I didn’t understand much of what he said, I figured I knew enough to get started. With my details recorded, I was given my Credencial (Camino Passport), which meant that I could stay in the pilgrim-only hostels (albergues) along the route. His advice was that in the morning I should take Route Napoléon, the harder, higher and more spectacular of the two routes out of St Jean, to my first overnight stop at Roncesvalles, twenty-five kilometres away.

With the preliminaries completed, the same volunteer led me and two other pilgrims to the nearby albergue and we were shown to a basement dorm with three bunk beds. Standing inside the little sparsely furnished room without a soft furnishing in sight, the impact and reality of pilgrim hostel life began to sink in. Checking the ticket number I held in my hand, I identified which of the blue tubular-framed bunks was mine, before I tentatively laid out my sleeping bag for the first time. Then I placed the items I thought I would need later – my earplugs, torch and toiletries – at the bottom of the bunk. Actually I could have emptied out the entire contents of my rucksack for I was carrying only what was absolutely necessary. As the three of us unpacked, we exchanged information in response to questions that would be repeated again and again over the coming weeks: where are you from? Have you walked the Camino before? The most obvious question – why are you doing the Camino? – was one I asked sparingly. For me, the answer was very personal and I imagined it might be so for others too.

As well as being the official starting point for the Camino Francés, St Jean is a significant tourist town. But I wasn’t a tourist and I wasn’t really interested in exploring; I was only pretending as I filled the hours until I could leave. Over coffee I looked at my guide book and maps, although I felt unable to absorb the enormity of what I was beginning to realise was ahead of me. Oh my God, five weeks! At that moment, five weeks felt like a lifetime.

Back in the albergue dorm, I made my first novice pilgrim error when I began talking to one of my room-mates in the semi-darkness without noticing that someone else was trying to sleep. Oops! I was to learn in the weeks ahead to enter dormitories quietly, as pilgrims sleep at all times of the day and night. That night I slept better than I expected, and I was very surprised to find when I got upstairs to the dining room the next morning that the adjoining dormitory was completely empty at 7 a.m. I wondered what the hurry was, and at the same time I began to feel I was running behind before I had even started.

Stepping into the Ring

I’m departing today from the stories that come directly from the Camino as a more personally compelling one has emerged.

Since my last post on risking vulnerability I have had something of a writers block as I lost all sense of why I am blogging at all.  I have learned that this….writing the story of my Camino…. is all about risking vulnerability as I still struggle to publicly acknowledge how important God is in my life.  This is my current lesson from the Camino of life, to let go of the fear that holds me back from declaring my commitment and deep love of God.

My god is a god of love, of compassion, of forgiveness and of non judgement and this is the God that flows in me when I allow it…Sometimes, I question why I need to do this, why can’t I keep this to myself, do I really have to say these things, do I really have to reveal so much and make myself feel so vulnerable? And for some reason the answer is, yes I do.  I do it because I know it’s what I am meant to do. It’s the only way I will really have peace, I have to be willing to step into the ring and say this is who I am.  I do it because it breaks my heart not to and for me this is what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

As I see it all life lessons are about surrendering to God’s guidance, that deep spiritual knowing that is within all of us.