Reflections

CaminoD CaminoA CaminoB CaminoCIt has been one month since I completed the Camino and flew to Paris to reconnect with my wife.  It was so wonderful to see Betsy and again get to hold and hug her and share her welcome and much missed company.  Wow, this transition redefined culture shock.  Moving from the simple life on the trail to the heart of Paris in a few hours time was not easy.  I stumbled around in a daze for a few days truly missing the ease and rhythm of the Camino.  Home life  in Nevada City has been easier but ‘real’ life is so much more complicated than walking for a few hours a day with the only real concerns being sure to have plenty of water and a place to stay at the end of the day.  I loved Paris, my first ever visit there, and plan to go back when my mind is more ready to absorb all the wonders of the City.  We did all the ‘tourist’ things including visiting Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre (Mona was much smaller than anticipated), the Orsay, the Picasso Museum, Notre Dame, the Rodin Museum, etc.  Food was delightfully sinful especially in contrast to my diet of the previous 35 days.  But all the while I was there I was also missing the simple pleasures of walking the Camino de Santiago.

I have had four weeks to contemplate my Camino experiences and what I brought back from the journey.  First of all, life is better lived in the slow lane or, at the very least, out of the fast lane.  There is so much to be said for attempting to live a slower and simpler life.  I am in a semi-retirement mode so it is a little easier for me to espouse this philosophy but when you have choices, take the less stressful path even if it is longer.  Being in the real estate industry for 40 years I have done more than my fair share of worrying, especially needless worrying.  Let go of the things you cannot control (weather being the best example) but do be prepared for whatever might come your way.  Be flexible, rigidity does not serve you well.  If the inn is full, the next one probably has plenty of room and may even have more to offer.  Tread lightly on this planet, it is better for the mind and the body (especially the feet).  Time spent with family, friends and community is the best time spent.  Being alone is healthy and necessary, being lonely is not.  Getting lost is OK.  If you are never lost, you will never be found.  Surrender routine.  Mix it up a bit.  Live life.  Lastly, listen more to your heart and less to your head.  The heart is right most of the time and if it isn’t then the head can probably get you back on course.

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Withdrawal Symptoms

imageBombarded with weird and unsavory feelings and emotions. I should have bought a t-shirt or hat or some other badge screaming “I just walked the entire Camino from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Finisterre.” I am at the airport in Santiago waiting for my flight to Paris and many of the people in the waiting area are obviously pilgrims with their packs, worn-out footwear, and rather grizzly look about them. I, on the other hand, have no pack (I mailed it home so not to have to lug it to Paris), have a face smoother than a baby’s butt, and am wearing my freshly cleaned Ecco sandals. Many of these peregrinos are engaged in animated conversation no doubt yakking about their experiences. I sit by myself knocking out this blog posting sucking down my third caffeine loaded cafe con leche feeling very left out, unrecognized, and ignored. I guess the lesson learned is that, if nothing else, the Camino helped me recognize these feeling so I can address them. Did I walk the Camino for some sort of recognition? Do I need for complete strangers to acknowledge my accomplishment? What’s going on in this scrambled brain of mine? I arose this morning so excited about zooming to Paris and getting together with Betsy but as I rode to the airport I passed lots of hikers looking both worn down and enervated as they trudged the final few kilometers to the Cathedral of Saint James. This is the first morning in 36 days that I haven’t arisen with nothing to worry about except making sure I had plenty of water and didn’t get lost. I miss it already. But now I’m off to Paris more excited than ever. Life is strange for this crazy pilgrim. Time to get out of my head? Finally???

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Decompressing

The wind was blowing quite swiftly when I headed out to walk the final few miles of my pilgrimage but I get the feeling that it is always breezy here. I trekked out to the lighthouse at the end of the Fisterra peninsula and the final monument on the Camino. I don’t know if you can read it in this photo but the kilometer reading is now 0.00. I am wrestling with so many feelings that I really don’t know where to begin.                              Happy. Sad. Proud. Humbled. Strong.                                image imageInsignificant.  Lonely. Fulfilled. Exhilarated. Left a bit of Andy at this final monument so, as he promised, he did finish the Camino with me. Shared a cab ride back to Santiago (the taxi took 65 minutes to cover what took me 3+ days), got a delicious shave, and then sorted out all my gear and made arrangements to ship everything back home except for a few items for my trip to Paris tomorrow morning. For the last 35 days I have gotten up early, thrown my pack on, and started walking. Gonna miss it in the morning but am so excited about seeing and sharing with Betsy again. Five weeks is in some ways a long time but in other ways just a quick walk in the woods. Next chapter starts tomorrow.

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The End of The World

Another gorgeous day on the Camino de Finisterre! I enjoyed a spectacular and leisurely walk from Olveiroa towards Finisterre stopping a few miles short of ‘Lands-end.’ This name derives from when this area was first inhabited by men and women up through the Middle Ages when it was considered the end of the known world. Tomorrow I will officially end the walking part of my journey after I trek to the lighthouse at the image image image image        end of the peninsula. Since I left Jean Pied-de-Port on May 14th I have been walking in a westerly direction but tomorrow I will essentially make a left turn to walk to the southern end of the Finisterre peninsula. Then I will walk back to the city center to catch a bus back to Santiago de Compostela where I will spend the night before catching an early flight the following morning to meet up with Betsy in Paris. Very excited about this, of course, but it is going to be very weird to arise on Thursday morning and not hop onto the trail like I have done for the past 35 days. Guess my days of stuffing my face all day long so as not to lose any more weight are over too. This journey has been all I hoped it would be and I plan to spend some time reflecting on the lessons learned which I will share with you over the next several days. Thanks again to Betsy for giving me the gift of the guilt free time to pursue this dream and to all of you for joining me along ‘The Way.’

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Plans

image image image imageToday I discovered one of the downsides to living a less structured and planned lifestyle. Since there are so many fewer pilgrims on the trail I am walking without a reservation for the night’s stay at an albergue. When I arrived at my planned destination I was told the albergue was “completo.” That is the Galician word for ‘there is no room at the inn’. I now better understand how Mary and Joseph must have felt 2,015 years ago AND I was not even offered any space in a manger in a barn. The next town with possible accommodations was 11 kilometers (that’s almost seven miles and represents about two and one-half hours of walking) away. I had planned on a short and easy day of just 22 kilometers but the full albergue transformed my easy day into a long day. However, the upside to this change in plans is that I am now less than 20 miles from Finisterre with tomorrow and Wednesday to get there. Smooth sailing in perfect seaside weather is on the horizon for this pilgrim. As always seems to happen, the Camino is making sure I have the perfect experience. Tomorrow I plan on staying in Cee, a coastal community about 12 miles from Finisterre, and then Wednesday morning I will complete the journey to ‘the end of the land.’ My friends are all planning on marching all the way to Finisterre tomorrow but I would rather take Betsy’s advice and “enjoy the journey” and not be too concerned with the destination. Betsy and I had a brief conversation earlier…she is now in France so we are in the same time zone. In three days we will reconnect in Paris. Yummy!

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On The Way

imageimageimage imageSaturday in Santiago was lots of fun. It is such an alive city especially when compared with a lot of the towns I have walked through over the last 32 days. Hordes of peregrinos, tourists, and local folks all cruising the streets and alleyways of the old city. Virtually every restaurant and bar has outside seating in front and so you see lots of folks eating, drinking, and having a great time with family and friends. Lots of street entertainment too. My friends and I ate at the Parador (probably the best restaurant in Santiago) last night and the bill for the three of us including drinks and a nice bottle of wine was less than 90 euros. Most everything here but especially food is very inexpensive. This morning I walked the first leg of the journey to Finisterre, an easy 13 miles through the suburbs of Santiago and then into the countryside. It being Sunday morning, a sparsely inhabited area, and very few pilgrims I did not find a place to have my morning coffee and breakfast until after 10:00am. Life can be so harsh sometimes. In addition I am suffering a little postpartum Camino depression although I am very excited to be on the way to the sea. Less than 10% of the pilgrims that make it to Santiago continue on to Finisterre so the trail is quiet and serene. Beautiful trek today in perfect weather. Life here is good.  (Fisterra is the Galician spelling of Finisterre.)

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Santiago

image image imageToday’s walk into Santiago was a joyful and emotional journey. I could not stop thinking about the final few miles I shared with Andy as he completed the PCT. His handsome smile was stretched from ear to ear and his eyes were aglow with happiness and exaltation. As we embraced on that snowy morning there were tears aplenty. He had accomplished something that I thought would not be possible given his health. And now my appreciation of that feat is magnified many times over. He was a stud! Sadly, the cathedral of Saint James is undergoing a substantial renovation and so it is impossible to get a good photo of the exterior. After receiving my Compostela I was able to attend the Pilgrim Mass in the cathedral. Standing room only of more than 1,500 peregrinos and visitors were on hand for the mass which also included the swinging of the censor (which is performed only on special occasions). I was very lucky to be a witness to this. Just another of the many blessings that have flowed my way during the past 31 days. The physical part of this Camino is now complete but I know it will have an impact on the rest of my life. So excited to share the journey with Betsy and all of my family and friends. Hugs to all of you. Tonight I am staying in a hotel near the Cathedral and early tomorrow morning I begin the trek to Finisterre. This is my first hotel stay since Leon on the night of May 31st. So nice to have a little privacy and time just for me. Finisterre is about 55 miles from Santiago and not terribly mountainous so it should be a pretty fun walk. Excited to see the ocean. Welcome to Santiago!

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