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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Camino - Three Years Out

It's hard to believe that it's been almost three years since I walked the Camino. There are times that I find myself saying, "Oh! It was just last Fall." No. It was 2012. 

Yet, it has taken all this time to answer the question, "Why would anyone want to walk it repeatedly?" There are people that actually walk it on a yearly basis and others will return within a few years to "do it one more time." 

Looking back from 2015, I believe it's the rush of the goal

Everyday, a person rises and readies themselves for 14-20 miles. Everyday, one only needs to concentrate finding the next yellow arrow or the next bronze shell. Keep walking; keep moving. And we did it through pain and sometimes, adversity.

At the end of the morning or afternoon, we had accomplished a major goal. This continues daily for 30 to 40 days. Imagine! 40 days of major accomplishments. It's a rush!

That's not reality for most peoples' lives. We take weeks, months, and  years to accomplish major goals. On the Camino, it's a daily event. Thus, the stimulation. 

I have lived three years since returning from Spain, yet I find myself now longing to do it one more time. I can't say I would go back to the Way of Saint Francis, but I find myself dreaming of the Camino in Italy, the trails across Iceland, or even the Appalachian Trail of the United States. Will I get there? No clue, but The Rush continues to call me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Universal Understandings

Universal understandings are absolutely necessary in this world when communication fails and separates us from each other.

In Granen, Spain, (a place I was advised not to stay in), about 25 women stood around the walls trying to figure out what to do next while awaiting supper in this 15th century church. We waited in line for the only shower, smiled appropriately at others who could not speak our language, and tried to figure out what to do next. Seating was almost non-existent and we listened for hints of people speaking the same language. This was the only place I stayed in whereby the hospitaleros did their best to bring us together as a group. When language once again created another barrier, the young man from Italy did his best to pantomime what he needed and it took only about 10 seconds for the action to begin. Even with his poor pantomiming, suddenly women from 15+ countries became just that - deep down inside, we were just women. With a rush of enthusiasm, we grabbed tables, chairs, and set about to accomplish the task he worked so hard to convey - setting the table.

At that point, there was no barrier that kept us apart as we all bustled about the room accomplishing the task. We didn't need language to pass the forks or make sure all the glasses were on the right side, or to count place settings. We just watched each other and picked up the pieces some may have missed. And the one thing that brought subtle smiles to our faces is that no matter the generation, no matter the country, we all set the table the same. (Patton, Finding Home, 2012)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Walking on Rocks

There are two ways to walk out of Sahagun, Spain - on the new camino that was created for faster traveling, comfort, and more speed, and by the old original Roman Road that Charlemagne led his troops over. Me? I'm taking the road less traveled (the Roman Road). Before I even announced that I would, others were warning me about the rocks and how much slower it was, but how could one travel to Spain and not want to walk where 1,000+ years of Pilgrims and our ancestors walked? I have to do it.

It is humorous to watch those gearing up to start walking contemplate what should have been obvious to begin with. Yes, we're going to do this outside - you didn't know that? Yes, it rains - prepare for it. You didn't know you were walking? What part of that didn't you get? Ok, so I went on overkill and started practicing almost a year ago. I don't like surprises and I think I've encountered most (not all) of the scenarios I could run into when it comes to walking terrain. It gave me time to figure out what I will do should there be no one around. And it created a lot, no, too much concentration time and getting myself worked up. Some of it was good, but sometimes too much is too much.

Right now, I feel like I'm walking on rocks. It's one step at a time; it's 5 minutes at a time. Sometimes I forget that living is easier if I live without believing that there is any type of life past the next 5 minutes. Stress is so much easier to manage if we believe we will ascend into the afterlife 5 minutes from now. It's a game, but it works. No more stress, no more worry, no more decision making, no more hassles. But the key is to run it for the entire 5 minutes. Just sit in anticipation of calmness, peacefulness - sit back and have another cup of tea. There is nothing past 5 minutes from now. Ommmmmm..........

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Feeling the Fear; Doing it Anyway

Someone once wrote, "Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway." That sounds really good when you don't have to be the participant. But it's also a great philosophy and many people have utilized it successfully. I'm one. When I decided to walk the Camino, the agenda was a bit different than it is today, but it also paralleled my life. You see, in order to do anything in life, I generally have had to do it alone.

I was raised among adults - older adults. And the one trait I continually saw as I grew was the one whereby they would sit in rockers on the front porch and lament in the evenings about the things they never did. Sometimes people have the idea,

"I'll do it some day." 
Those days rarely arrive. 

"I'll do it when I have more money." 
The money will always be allocated for something else. 

"When I retire....." 
and then sometimes an illness or limitation sets in and we don't get to do it. 
Or as my grandmother said for years, 

"When my [parent] passes away, then I'll do all the things I've always wanted to do." 

But at a possible 65-75 years of age, most people will not START to live life. They've already given up to the "just be" category, retire to their chairs, and begin the "I wish I had..." I learned when I was younger, that I didn't want to be one of them. 

Don't get me wrong, it took awhile before I discovered that if I just sat waiting for someone, ANYone else to do something with me, it would never happen. And the older I get, the more I realize this. The world is becoming so isolated among itself, and age does NOT improve our sense of adventure, folks! Most of my generation is happy to sit and wait for death. People take it that I'm courageous, and adventuresome - that I feel no fear. Well, let me tell you how I feel right now with about 8 days until flight time.

For weeks, I've woke up scared to death at about 2:30am every morning. I don't go back to sleep. Instead, I get up, work off the fear, and sometimes I cry while cleaning the bathtub, or vacuuming. I'm going alone to a country (no, a continent) that I've never been to, I speak Spanish like an 18 month old, I'm in a back brace (yes, I will walk the 600 miles in a back brace and God help if I lose it), and I have no clue if there will be any money in the ATMs on a Sunday after how many flights arriving? I need Euros, not US dollars, to get back up into France, not to mention eating and sleeping. I've tried to prepare for all types of scenarios and believe it or not, the US Consulate is in my list of contacts on my phone as a last resort. There is no one back in the US who can bail my butt out if I run into problems. I don't know that the morning I start out from Saint Jean Pied du Port that there will be anyone else to walk that first day with me and though the highways don't bother me, walking the woods alone does. But, I'm going anyway. The experience is teaching me to pray - trust me.

There is a whole group of women on one of the Camino forum boards embarking on the same type of journey (not the same day as me) and most of them feel the same in one way or another. In some small way, that is moral support and I'm grateful for it. We rarely discuss it, but it's there. We all receive a barrage of comments from "You're a Nutter" to "Oh, you'll be just fine", a phrase that is wasted on me and generally offered by those who have never done anything on their own in their lives. You don't know that. Let me show you a photo on my computer of a day where I was supposed to be "just fine". You're talking to the wrong person. Save it. Those who have been on these journeys generally offer "I understand. I've been there."

But...I'm going anyway because more than my fear of being alone and isolation (and not knowing if I can get euros on a Sunday), is the fear of ending up on the front porch one day, rocking in a chair, and realizing that this life had been "nothing special." And if I wait for someone else to make it special, it will never happen. I have to make it happen.

Buen Camino!

(photo: Roncevalles, Spain, first day walking destination)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You Were Destined To Go On This Journey

As I now count down the days until I embark on the last of my journey (the actual walking), I've stopped to look over where I was a year ago and what the agenda has been.

Why am I going? 
To seek a medical miracle. To seek a personal miracle. The first I have shared with no one. The second I've shared with only a very few. I'm willing to walk 600 miles to find both.

What issues have I had to face ahead of time?
Relationship issues (personal, friendships, business). Where have I been? What has absolutely not worked in my life? What do I need to let go of? Who do I need to let go of? I've done a lot of walking since November of 2011. It's during these walks that I've been forced to look at me and all the avenues in life that have posed challenges. What are my reruns? And why do I keep wanting to return to watch them? You know what doesn't work, Cheryl. You've played every single one of those avenues out.

I've had to look at my work and what I wish to do when I grow up. For some of us, the world doesn't stay the same. We don't get to work at the same thing for 40 years, get the gold watch at the end, and retire to home and hearth. And for me, the wheel is spinning one more time. I've felt it for some time now, but it won't be until I get over there that I'll discover what it is. The clues come readily now. My dreams more precise. Unfortunately, I wake up not actually remembering the details. Let me tell you, I am really working in my dreams and I believe that Spain will be filled with those Deja vu moments. They won't be really. I'll just finally see the dream in rerun mode. This happened one other time of my life - 1984-85. It's happening again, so I need to buckle up. Part of what I do will always be involved, but it's time to expand.

My friend Jayme said it best when she said, "You're going to go find the pieces." So many pieces are missing from my puzzle board and I have the right to claim them. Dick Sutphin speaks of soul fragments - pieces of our souls lost through trauma, or other types of situations. They're not exactly the same thing, but in some respects, they are to me. I'm going to walk over the Pyrenees and across Spain seeking those fragments that blew away years and years ago. I want them back. It's time to be one piece.

In the early winter, I sat and asked only those I see, "Am I supposed to go on this journey?" And the answer returned to me in a flash, "You were destined to go on this journey." Wow - that's a strong word. It got my attention.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lessons in Keeping My Back To The Traffic

When was the last time you read in the paper,  

137 Pedestrians Run Over By Vehicles This Week
Man interviewed states that he would have been able to keep his vehicle on the road if the pedestrian had been facing him

"I absolutely had no control once my truck saw that old lady with her back to me on the side of the road. My truck was off like a flash to run her down!"

Several have asked what the most difficult part of my training has been for the Camino. Was it the hours of walking in all types of weather? Was it the hill climbing? Was it staying on a schedule for this past year to make sure I walked almost every day? No. It was walking with my back to the traffic along the highway. In order to desensitize myself for the time I will be entering cities such as Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Lyon, and Santiago, I walked the highway out front to get used to sharing a small area with vehicles traveling at 55mph. The first day, I thought for sure I was going to die. This was the end! But why? I would have been just as nervous facing the traffic, but I was not. I had my back to the oncoming traffic, much the same way it will be for many of my Camino experiences.

As children we were taught, "Face the Traffic!" usually in a voice that guaranteed our certain doom if we did not. We were told that we could get out of the way "to save our lives" if need be. Do you really think so? If you think about it, if a driver was hell-bent on running you down, they would not start honking their horn and waving a banner that tells you of their intentions a quarter of a mile in advance. They're going to wait until they're about 10 feet from you and take a real sharp swerve! At 55mph, what are your chances of surviving? Probably none. And again, do you believe they want to hit you? How many people have you hit this week, month, or year? There's a really good chance that it's none. You don't want to hit anyone anymore than they want to be hit.

Life events are a lot like the passing motorists. We think we if know everything that's coming, we won't make mistakes. It makes it easier. There won't be any surprises. That's not true. We can't account for all the little details that may occur at the last minute or how others' instant decisions will impact ours. Whether we know everything that can occur or whether we're allowing it to come up from behind us, we can be guaranteed that those lessons we are meant to endure will happen regardless of whether we're facing it or allowing it to come up from behind. Why ask for undue analytical stress that need not be there?

The second hardest thing in getting ready was roadkill, particularly if it was a skunk. But we'll keep that for another time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

We've Never Been So Isolated

When listening to the commentary on the movie "The Way" (Estevez, 2011), Producer David Alexanian talked about how distant we have all become. In 2000 when Shirley MacLaine walked the Camino, I don't recall reference to cell phones, iPads, wi-fi, or computer cafes. Now, pilgrims are walking with ear plugs attached to their iPods, answering email on breaks, and blogging in the evenings. A few unfortunate individuals have even claimed to have carried a notebook so they could continue office work in the albergues at night. Even with all these communication devices and radio waves zipping back and forth on The Way, as Alexanian announced, "yet in reality, we've never been so far apart".

I am planning on taking an iPhone on the Camino Frances. Why? To blog my experience to my listeners. I'm not going overboard by hopping into a computer zone every night, but I'll communicate when I'm in a wi-fi location. (I'll also use it for photo storage). Even John Brierley's "A Pilgrim's Guide To The Camino de Santiago" (Brierley, 2011), now lists which albergues, pensions, and hostels include wi-fi. And included in all the backpacks that will grace the Camino, will be a Spanish adapter for the numerous chargers. Once again, fingers will be flying in the evenings answering emails, texting home, texting between albergues, and in my case, blogging my experience on Blogger.

You would think that with thousands upon thousands of words flying from that 500 mile stretch of road, communication would be at an all time high. But it won't be. If we are all pushing buttons on miniscule keyboards, we are not interacting with each other. If we're walking 16-20 miles a day with ear plugs in our ears, we've pushed away a priceless conversation with another pilgrim we may never see again. And perhaps with that missed opportunity, we forfeit the experience of someone's wisdom, a passing word of advice, or a valuable friendship. If Aerosmith is banging out "Come Together" against our eardrums, we've missed a smile, a blessing, and the time it takes to address our goals, dreams, and demons.

Why are we going? Is it to experience more seclusion and isolation that people have complained and grieved over these past years? Can we throw away the addictive devices we have integrated into our daily living? Can we still sit in the quiet evening and converse with each other? It will be interesting to discover.

Twenty years ago I would not have delighted in this phrase, but I will be one of the oldest women on the Camino. This is actually going to be to my advantage, as my iPhone will be a luxury and not a necessity for hourly existence. I recall the 50-60s when parents entertained an unannounced visitor. We shared stories, laughed, ate, drank coffee and Kool-aid, and the kids played in the bedrooms. Personally, I have been waiting for this opportunity for more years than I can count.

Buen Camino!