Cherries, cherries, cherries

I can’t believe that each single day brings on such different experiences. Today I had the pleasure to spend most of the day, as was yesterday, with Nestor the adorable donkey and its three owners, Daniele, John and Stephane.

Diets off Nestor is simply adorable! He is very friendly and funny. He’s easy to lead (we actually walked together he and I for quite a while. Only once did he. Do as he wanted when he smelled and saw a mare!

The new pleasure of today was the plethora of cherry trees! Right there, dozen and dozen within a few steps length. Bing cherries, yellow cherries, multi-colored ones… All wanting to be picked.

I have NEVER seen cherry trees before! I couldn’t believe how big they can be! Apparently, the labour cost to pick those is high so many go unpicked!

Well not those on the Camino! I think every pilgrim today enjoyed many cherries on the way!

As well I have made a connection with Nestor’s owners. They are such genuine people and we’ve had the pleasure of many hours of really insightful conversation. We might end up doing the rest of the trek together if I can keep up to Nestor!!!!

The nose knows

When I left this morning the clouds were still low and misty. Being so high up in the mountains everything is moist. At least 6 km were completed by walking through large areas of wild lavender and something similar to eucalyptus.

Given the misty air and those incredible smells I almost felt as if I was at the Spa… Well except for watching every step to ensure I didn’t sprain an ankle on those rocky patches.

It’s amazing when deprived of noise and distractions how other senses take over.

I’ve been given a strong sense of smell. Walking through these paths of herbs and flowers has been a truly delightful opportunity to pay attention to all the various smells.

I’ve always had a penchant for lavender and from this point on, its smell will now remind me of this part of the Camino… And of Chef Tim’s lavender cookies!!!

A very challenging day…

This day has been the most challenging day so far. Both in the sense of the emotional side as well as physical.

We had to trek over 8 km of ascent to get the Iron Cross. I spent about an hour there, doing a lot of remembering, a lot of prayers to honor those who have left us.
I wanted to pick a special, less likely to be found area amongst the hundreds of thousands of rocks, tockens and other items left by other pilgrims.

It was very interesting to walk around and see all the things that people had left. From baby booties, to photos, from candles to personal items. Most of the immense mound is made of rocks… Rocks that were left from a variety of locations. Some had names, some had dates, some even had painted scenes or pictures; true art pieces.

Less than one kilometer past the Cruz, spelled in rocks was a strong message ¨Leave it behind¨. Interesting as to the location of that message because it was about then that the old ¨water tap¨came on strong…

The physical side of the day was hard enough climbing up to the cross, but oh – – the walk down was so difficult. Mostly very unyielding road with loads of rocks and a difficult incline. Match that with a cold wind and drizzle, it just was truly challenging.

I thanked my boots many times when I knew that if it wasn´t for the stability my boots offered, my ankles would be a lot worse for wear. My knees feel like they are on fire, and my glutes are not far behind (not pun intended).
I wonder if the placement of the cross wasn´t purposely chosen to make pilgrims truly feel not only emotional but physical challenges!

But all is well… I have time to rest tonight, WIFI at the albergue so I don´t have to go anywhere… I can´t download any of my camera pics, so those will have to wait, but all in all, the most difficult day but I am still happier than ever to be on this journey.

La Cruz de Ferro

I am only 8 km from the ‘iron cross” a very important location on the Camino. It is at the highest point of the Camino Frances, and is almost 1.5 km above sea level, a great hike.

At this location pilgrims take the time to leave something they might have brought as a symbol. A symbol of honor for ones who have passed, a token of one’s family or friends, a rock or item from one’s home.

It is also a symbolic gesture of letting go. Letting go of pain, of unfinished business, of anger, of mourning or other things that may way heavy in one’s life.

I’ve been very blessed in my life that I don’t really have any unfinished business with anyone. I try to live my life as if it was my last day because one day it will be

What I am bringing to the cross is two fold. I want to honor my parents and Marjorie, Steve’s mom and my mother-in-law. I will also pause for a special moment to honor Louis who played the role of second father to me during my teenage years and beyond.

These people are no longer in this physical world but still have a strong presence in my heart.

The one thing I want to symbolically leave at the cross is my need to be in control; to advise, guide, at times direct… Keep in mind this was my job for most of my career as a consultant! I let this flow into my every day life, and now I want to leave this behind.

This is not to say I won’t help others when asked, but I won’t assume this is what everyone wants. I feel the need to now “let go”. I feel the desire to let things happen on their own, to relinquish this need to lead, drive, decide, advise ..

I think starting at the “Cruz de ferro” is a perfect point…

The Games I Play

Today was the start of many many hills and valleys… and the uphill climbs are sometimes substantial. So I have a few games I play to keep me focused on my steps and not the uphill part – – –

I sing a specific song, and slow down the pace but still keep on singing the song. I don´t look up until the song is over… and then repeat the same song… I pick it early in the walk, and the picking is easy – – I look around and just let the song come to me… sometimes it´s in spanish, english even french. Today´s song was by Michael Jackson You are not Alone…

I go through the alphabet and think of someone whose name starts with the letter of choice – – and I don´t repeat names… it´s amazing what names pop in my head! People I have not heard of or seen in many decades! Funny thing, there is only one person who fits the ¨Q¨letter, and it´s a someone who was part of my Cincinnati group with her Facebook nickname starting with that letter! YOU know who you are, and now you know you are part of my game all the time! (smile)

I count with my steps… one fish, two fish, red fish and then substitute the color BLUE (blue fish) with whatever color I think of, in the order of the alphabet… I don´t look up until the entire alphabet has been completed…
So. one fish, two fish, red fish, Auburn fish, one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, one fish, two fish, red fish, coral fish etc… The Q and X are tough but I make it work…..

Funny silly games needed otherwise just looking ahead to the big hills is just overwhelming… and this way, I can focus on my steps (and avoid the many snails), odd big rock and holes…. and it´s fun!! Keeps my mind focused on simple things…

The other thing I have done is asked for guidance from those who have left us. I have for example, asked for help with my feet, and my good friend Chetan came to mind, so Chetan is in charge of my feet! Every morning, I go through the various areas I´ve asked for support, and thank the associated person…. Sort of puts them in mind a lot, and the ones who come to my mind are often surprising… as my list grows, so does my morning ritual to thank them all.

Ah the games we play – but it´s all wonderful and help me through my journey!

When on the Camino do as the Romans

As I was reading more about the history of the Camino I was humbled in knowing that at times, my feet were on the same path that Augustus himself took.

We´re not talking philosophically, but historically. There are so many different paths that lead to Santiago but the one I am on, the Camino Frances offers options to follow the way of the Romans.

Sayagun has a very visible Roman presence and many of the bridges were built as in rome and its areas.

Given America is so young, the Camino´s visible history is quite remarkable. What moves me even more is to know that I am taking steps where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have taken theirs, with a common final destination.

It is said that no one walks the Camino without at least one specific intention or reason. For many, they are at crossroads in life; completion of their studies, a divorce, a retirement or hundreds of other reasons.

We ask, and we are often asked… over and over again. A few give a ¨personal reason¨type of answer, but most feel quite comfortable going into many details.

We all become linked somehow by doing the Camino and friendships are formed by self disclosures. This is a big part of the Camino experience.

A snail´s pace

I bet you think I am going to write about MY pace. right? Not at all, but I will talk about snails.

Not one, not twenty but hundreds… They all are on the Caminnno early early mornings. A first from afar I thought they were little round rocks until I got closer and realized they were snails. Just a few, here and there, then more more and more!

They ALL were going in the same direction – at the rate they were heading, it is going to be a long trek.

On the subject of insects I have to share with you that often were are accompanied by beautiful dragonflies.

One of those stayed with me for quite a long time. I wish I could tell you how long but time becomes very difficult pinpoint without any watch or such. I don´t really want to know the time since it´s no longer relevant to me.

therefore my special dragonfly friend stayed with me for much longer than any of the other ones. It was a dark shade of blue and just as the others, preceeded me by a walking stick length. when I slowed down, it slowed down, when I sped up, it sped up.

Dragonflies are much different than butterflies – butterflies gly around us for shorter timeframes than those of dragonflies. but they come much closer to us.

i haven´t seen any fireflies yet, either because they aren´t any here or I go to bed too early!

You may wonder how often I´ve given so much thoughts to dragonflies, butterflies and snails? Easy answer: never until this Camino! Isn´t it wonderful!!

A few statistics and challenges with uploading my ipod updates

I´ve been adding updates to my ipod, but for some reason my ipod won´t connect to any WiFi for any lengths of time. Since I don´t want to retype my updates, here are a few thoughts until i can figure out the issue with my little ipod…

– The walking has become easier now, and my pack is part of me. I feel naked walking with it!
– I´ve stayed back a half a day so now I have one same pilgrim from the first week or so, and a whole new bunch – – we tend to walk in batches, so we get to see each other at the point of rest….
– Statisically, I´ve met more Germans than any others, and only 1 Austrian, Japanese and British pilgrim. The rest are mostly Italian, French and Spanish
– I´ve only met 4 Canadians! two were from Montreal, others from out West
– French pilgrims often call me ¨counsin¨and my many patches on my backpack serve as a great opener for conversation!

I´m not tired of eating paella, drinking 43 or sleeping in Albergues
I wish I had my 35mm camera to take better pictures, but I appreciate it would be TOO heavy
I want to come back to the Camino
My Spanish is good and it´s comfortable to be where I learned it!

I sleep very well at night
I only have one lasting blister
I forgot one of my shirts at one Albergue but got a new one here in Leon
It´s very hot now
I have no idea what is going on in the world, and that´s OK!!

I can´t tell time, nor do I care to, except when it´s to figure out if a cathedral is open (very limited hours)
I love to smell the morning flowers, and the earth! I hadn´t really taken the time to smell ¨earth¨before…. or moist hay!
I saw my first cows today
Regular body soap doesn´t work well as shampoo
I prefer top bunks to lower bunks due to feeling a bit claustrophobic on the bottom bunk
Women snore as much as men
I´ve been walking with a dried chorizo for almost a week – it can keep up to 4 months so that´s good!
Olives are VERY cheap here and a great snack
I love my CROCS – they are a great walking sandal when I take off my boots
I´ve learned to loosen my laces mid day, and that helps the feet get to the end of the day´s walk

I am always amazed at how much red dust comes out in the wash
I´ve only been bitten once by a mosquito
Buen Camino is the standard greeting not only pilgrim to pilgrim, but Spaniard to pilgrim
Many Spaniards know where Ottawa is!! whohoo!! and that it´s our Capital!
I´ve been asked at least 4 times how the Queen fits into our running of the country

That´s all for now…
Hasta luego (from Leon)

A long learning day

I think I learned more Camino trekking today than all past week combined.

I never quite understood the Siesta concept but I sure do now. My first “what did I learn” to quote my sweetie, was to leave past 8 this morning.

Given this was going to be a long stretch with only one stop (hence SHADE) I should have started earlier in the day. Even if it was overcast when I left Sayagun, I shouldn’t have expected the day to go on that way.

My second “what did I learn” was to recheck the distance in the guide book. For some reason I seemed surprised when I arrived so soon in Bercianos, and that’s because I had mixed up my distances. Rather than feel a bit cocky I walked so quickly I should have know that was WAY too quick to be right.

All this lead me to walk a really long way at peek hot time in zero shade… And even with three applications of sunscreen and Steve’s Tilley hat, I still couldn’t keep the sweat from running down over every inch of my body.

Not to worry, I had plenty of warm water as nothing was staying cool (including my dark chocolate bar!). It’s amazing just how much the body slows down when it’s so hot.

What didn’t help was seeing a cross memorializing a pilgrim who passed away – by that point I was sure it was of heat stroke…
By the time I saw the first signs of Burgo Ranero I was tired, hot and grumpy not to mention a bit distracted. I continued to walk along the same dirt road even through the construction area only to pop up a few mms away from the entrance to the city.

I walked on the highway to a large service area and walked in to get cold water and some fruit. The waiter looked at his coworker and said in Spanish “there’s another one who missed the sign”

By the time I finally got to the allergies all were full, as well as the two hostals . The owner of the hostels offered me a room in her building so all ended well. I walked into the room and over the bed is a picture of “La Liseuse” a painting that Mom had done in needlepoint years ago. I feel protected and safe!

Many lessons learned today! Life is great!

The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees

It’s 9:30 pm, Friday evening and I feel as if I am in a Hitchcock movie! There must be more than a hundred little birds flying around the old buildings.
I am sitting on the balcony overlooking this old church and between the pigeons coming in for the night through the holes in the walls and the others birds swooping everywhere, all I am waiting for is Mr Hitchcock to say “Good eeeeevening”…

Both stork parents are now in the nest and I can occasionally see the little bird’ head. Storks’ nests are a common site here, especially perched high over church towers and peaks. I have to admit this is the first time I ever see these.

The same can be said for many other birds I encounter while walking. I’ve come to recognize the approximate time of day based on the birds I see. Their songs are very distinct and it’s a true joy to actually find some familiarity after a week of walking from early morning on.

I’m sure my bird watching friends could tell which is which, but I am content to simply recognize the difference between them. The same can be said for the flowers and plants.

From Burgos to now Sahagun I am noticing the changes not only in the flora itself but also the rocks, brush and ground colors. The poppies were in great abundance early last week and now I see more of the bright yellow ones.

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Just like those in the picture. With so much time walking I really am enjoying looking around at everything I see.

In fact, some of my pictures may just be the inspiration for some art quilts I will design and make in the future.

This week has been a week of so many new sights and sounds and as predicted by others who have done this Camino, the newness of it all is keeping my mind very busy.

I am relishing each moment and I can’t even imagine what awaits me tomorrow, next week or next month!