For those of you who are reading my blog for the first time I would encourage you to start with the archived blogs beginning in March. If you go to the menu on the website and click on “blogs” you will find them all and can start at the beginning and read them in order to get a better understanding of this experience. Thank you so much and Buen Camino!
I have been taking my notes after each day’s walk and for several days I have be stuck as to how to write this blog. These last few days have been wonderful and very enjoyable. We have had great weather, healthy feet, amazing walks and peaceful moments on the trail. As I walk I think a lot. Sometimes about deep issues like spirituality vs. religion, growing up Jewish and walking here as a “pilgrim” and how it seems so many people are not here on a catholic pilgrimage but a spiritual one that is deeper than religion. I also think about the respect I have for those who are here for their catholic faith and that this is their special way of connecting. I wonder how they feel about all of us who are modern pilgrims without the catholic connection. I think about how I want to share about the types of pilgrims I see and the way they all choose different ways to walk the same path. I want to speak about the scenery, the Spanish culture and the fact that I continuously day dream about what kind of puppy I want in my life. But somehow I can’t put all of those ideas together and I have different pages of notes scattered around on my iPhone. It is funny how I can imagine these notes on pieces of paper cluttering up my desk but it is all virtual as I travel. I have had so many different thoughts that I want to convey but I can’t seem to get them organized. Here are my thoughts about why I can’t organize my thoughts (haha).
* I am putting pressure on myself to make this blog “successful” and that is actually inhibiting me rather than helping me.
* Some of the things I want to write about show my vulnerability about religion and spirituality – but in the effort to be truly authentic I want to bring these issues up. It is challenging to write in a way that makes sense.
* So much is happening each day, yet nothing huge is happening at all. There is a complexity is conveying the simple.
So with all of that in mind, I am just going to use my notes and write what comes up. It may not be in order, it may seem a bit scattered or raw but it will be real and hopefully interesting. The truth is I don’t know why I decided to write a blog and show my vulnerability, but I think it is as simple as I enjoy writing. The act of writing helps me to learn about myself and the world and I love connecting with all of you who are reading along and experiencing this with me.
So here goes.., the past several days all mixed up in a blog post that is more of a mosaic than a written article.
Tuesday 4/24. Cruz de Ferro
It was a beautiful walk this morning- starting in Rabamal del Camino and heading to Molinaseca.
I sent my bag ahead again and it helped a lot. The blisters are on the mend. I also remembered to stop, to stretch and let my feet and soul breathe and that was a nice time for a short meditation.
There is something special about walking these trails without having read too much about it before hand. There are some interesting surprises along the way that others are prepared for and looking forward to. Some may call it a sign of my ignorance, but right now it is a pleasure having no goals, plans or expectations. Today we came to a special place that I had no idea existed. Cruz de Ferro. As we approached it looked simply like a mound of rocks and token items with a large post and a cross. When I saw it from a distance and noticed all of the people gathered around it I said to Colin, “I bet this is some place that people recognize from all of the movies about the way”. There were even tour buses full of people. When we got there we realized that it was a significant site.
As some of you may know I can often notice and feel the intensity of the energy around me. I have begun to learn more about this and acknowledge this and my work with Reiki as a legitimate thing. That was no small thing for me to accept as it seems like a strange phenomenon but recently I have had some very validating experiences working with Reiki.
When we first set foot at this site I felt fairly neutral but as I stood there I began to feel some very strong emotions and feel the powerful energy of this place. Maybe it was all of the messages and stones left by people in a large mound at the top of this hill. Whatever it was it inspired me to take a reflective moment and place two stones. One for my family members (those who have died over the past couple of years and I also sent some love to those who are currently dealing with an illness) and another for the cancer patients who have died as well as the survivors, family members and wonderful staff at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. Both stones were placed with the intention of sending loving energy.
I had some trepidation about placing the stone there for my family members (my father, uncle Aaron and aunt Shirley) since this was traditionally a catholic pilgrimage and they were Jewish, but I felt that this was a spiritual place and it did not feel exclusively catholic to me. It was with good intention in any case.
Interestingly by my sending positive messages to my family I was led to reflect about my spirituality, religion and also my own authenticity in writing this blog. I began to feel out of balance and realized I felt I was somehow denying a part of me by not mentioning in this blog that I am a Jewish woman who is walking on a traditionally Catholic pilgrimage. It is as if I am hiding something without knowing why.
I started thinking about this as I walked away from that mound of rocks. I remembered when, as a young woman about to travel abroad, my mother told me never to tell anyone I was Jewish. She had grown up with her older brothers fighting the Nazis in WWII and had some fears about how I would be treated. At the time I thought she was ridiculous and although I took some precautions I wasn’t too worried. But recently, over the past year, I have seen a frightening hatefulness in my own country and an increase in anti-semitism (even on my daughter’s college campus and in my ultra liberal community), and I think I have been unusually cautious about talking about religion.
After that reflective experience I looked up what Cruz de Ferro was. It seems that traditionally people may say a prayer, ask for forgiveness or unburden themselves of something in their lives that is a challenge for them. Perhaps visiting Cruz de Ferro did help me unburden something troubling me in my daily life after all.
As far as I can tell no one is asking each other what religion they are as they walk on this trail. I am sure there are millions of non-Catholics (and non-Christians)who walk this route. I am not a religious person but culturally I celebrate most Jewish traditions with joy. Spiritually I believe that we are all connected in some way and thinking about “reawakening my spirit” has nothing to do with religion for me but with truly allowing myself to be who I am. I want my actions, my words, my beliefs and my spirit to be in balance. For me this is about being true to myself. For me writing this blog is part of that. So thanks for reading.
On to the next unrelated topic. So many pilgrims. So many ways to walk
I know this type of experience isn’t for everyone. We all find our joy and growth from different experiences. That being said I also know that many of you have thought about walking the Camino de Santiago over the years. Several of you mentioned that this is significant enough for you to make it onto your bucket lists. I know that it seems intimidating to find a way to make this happen for you but I am here to tell you that there are so many more ways to do this and make it yours than you may know.
Let me tell you about some of the people I have met and about how they are taking this walk. all experiencing this journey in their own special way and based on their individual needs.
* The lone- first time Peregrino.
* Those doing this in stages and taking 1-2 weeks for several years.
* Those here for the second Camino on his same path. Some who have some sense that they didn’t do it the way they wanted. Others who were not feeling ready to be finished with the Camino and some who just loved it and wanted more.
* Those here on one of several Camino routes – there are many routes that all lead to Santiago.
* Those who started in groups but ended alone: some were going at different speeds, some had injuries.
* Those who start in locations that require less time. There are several options as late as starting 4 days from Santiago in Sarria.
* Those who are derailed by injury and decide to improvise possibly taking trains or buses and several rest days.
* Those who have a mission to do this as fast as possible (some of them have been side lined by injury actually). Many going as much as 30 miles a day.
* Those here for religious purposes.
* Those here for fun or adventure.
* Those here for other mindful spiritual goals.
* Families: all sorts. Cousins, siblings, parents with their young adult children. (I have met a few who altered their plans as the pace and ultimate goals varied – or there was an injury of the parent on a couple of occasions)
* Those who say they needed to get off the couch, their health was an issue and they needed a change in their lives.
* As we get closer to Santiago we also see those who are here on bus tours. Some do a tour and walk each day. Others travel with the bus all the time. They all seem to be very happy and enjoying their experience. They often have jobs, responsibilities or other challenges that allow them limited time or ability to walk the distances.
In all of these cases people are doing this their way. There is no right or wrong. There is no judgement. And although not everyone would want to do this if you are one who has this on your bucket list I am here to tell you that there is a way for you. Your Camino will be your own way if you chose to pursue it.
Wednesday 4/25 – Saturday 4/28
We are truly enjoying this journey. These past few days were fabulous and all were beautiful walks. We started getting out a little earlier because we like the cooler temperatures of the morning. But towards the last two days we have been in Galicia and the climate is cooler. We have been stopping after about 20-24 km and planned this so we could enjoy the time and the big climb we had on Friday (which was lovely)
At some point during these few days I told Colin, in my hippy like way, “I am being mindful of enjoying where I am, almost to the next town and not thinking about when we will be there.” He said, in his practical way, “ So, is that the same as I will keep walking until I get there?” I said, “Yes! I guess it is.” And here you have it the yin/yang of our beautiful dance together.
This brings me back to the topic of enjoying this journey. A friend recently sent me a message and said something about how 20 days of walking might not be the way he would choose joy. I can see his point but I do need to say that this trip is full of joy. We did (or I should say I) have had our share of blisters and challenges but there is so much joy too. There is something about having this time away from our usual lives to reflect and only concern ourselves with the walk that is extremely wonderful. We navigate daily weather, terrain and ailments but that is a simple thing compared the intricacies of our modern lives. There is a freedom that comes with having everything you need with you in your backpack, not worrying about where you will sleep or eat and having no bigger concerns than how to take care of your feet each day. There is a simplicity in sharing this experience with Colin and also with so many others – many that we can’t even communicate with. It’s interesting because I can’t tell (and I don’t care)what someone’s politics or values are and it doesn’t matter. They are all showing kindness and camaraderie in the moments and that is what I see. Often I can only smile, say “Buen Camino” and appreciate that they are on this journey at the same moment for their own unique purpose. It is a great reminder that we are all here on this earth together and if we just keep caring (I mean truly caring) about how each other is doing on this life journey we will all be enriched. There is a simple pleasure in realizing that I am doing this by choice. Perhaps this feeling will be hard to replicate when I get back to the states, but I feel joy and gratitude to be experiencing this here and now.