The best plans don’t always work out

well life happens and even the best laid plans don’t always work out. I am very disappointed to have to cut short my current Camino plans due to a health issue I must address at this time.

I don’t want to go into details other than the fact that all will be ok AND I will be back to resume my Camino in honor of my sister at some point in the next few years. The Camino will always be there!

My biggest disappointment and heartfelt regret is that I will not be able to fulfill my volunteering in both Moratinos with my good friend Bruno and in Santiago with my good friend Daniel.

If any of you have extra time and were considering volunteering either during the period of June 9-30th on the meseta or July 1-7 in Santiago, please let me know.

I am sad that I must change my plans but I do want to give a shout out to the great folks in Burgos who took care of me. I want to let folks know that I still stand by my original statement shared back during my first Camino in 2011 – so many people in Spain really care for us pilgrims in so many ways.

I WILL be back, healthy and able to continue my pilgrim trek.
I have lots of gratitude in my heart…

The smallest of gift can be the best of gifts

pinIt never ceases to amaze me how many gifts we receive on the Camino. The gifts range from the intangible, such as a feeling of well being, a sense of a higher presence, a calmness in a busy day, a glimpse of the past, and an appreciation of what is ahead.

The gifts can also be tangible such as a piece of chocolate when you are hungry, a glass of water when you are thirsty, a direction when you are lost. Yesterday, at kilometer 21 of 23.5, on a side road, I saw a van driving slowly towards me. As it got closer, the driver handed me a bottle of water, and told me this was from an albergue down the road. This came at the most appropriate time as I had finished all my water a few kilometers earlier.

Likely my most amazing gift came in the evening, when I explained to my newest pilgrim friends from Quebec that I had a slight unfortunate happening earlier in the morning. Although I´ve only been walking a week now, I did notice that my appetite had lessened and I had to cinch my backpack strap a wee bit. That morning, I was reaching for something in the overhead bunk and my pants slipped down… yes, to my knees!

This is something I look forward to experiencing; typically my treking pants have elastic sides that adjust as my weight changes. In this case, my pants are not with elastics, and although they fit losely beforehand, that morning, they just didn´t stay up. “Whohoo” was my first thought, and “Oh my!” was my second. I actually would have to buy a belt or at the very least, a rope! I still have lots of walking to do!

After a few smiles, my pilgrim friend Rene reached into his pocket and handed me a blue top pin, but not just any pin. “This one” he explained “will not open and end up causing you some issues” and he showed me the locking tip.
Doesn´t sound like a big deal to most, but at that moment, it was exactly what I needed.

The gifts of the Camino are endless, and at times, may seem so trivial, but as I have learned over the last few Caminos, each and every one of them come to us at the EXACT time we need them.
Ah, the magic of the Camino!
Cheers

Too many mice in the cage

In college I completed a two year introductory program in Psychology. Among the many classes I took, one delt specifically on the sociological aspects and behaviors of people. I recall the teacher stating ¨when too many mice are in a cage, their behaviors turn towards aggression.¨

I have felt, over the past few days, that the Camino has become the cage with too many mice. Those who know me know that I have a great respect for the Camino and what it brought to me over the past few years. I looked forward to spending this Camino time really reflecting on my sister Denise´s life with us. I have experienced amazing moments of true compassion and support, but I must admit I have seen more negative behaviors that lead me to believe the overcrowding of pilgrims on the Camino has become detrimental to a peaceful journey…

I speak solely of the Camino Frances, and this comes as no surprise to those who have traveled this road in the past years. Incrementally we have seen the journey of walking and connecting and discussing become slowly more of a race to the next bed. I am aware that the current infrastructure is not enough to address all the current needs. Perhaps this is only an issue during the months most popular such as May and June in the summer, and September in the fall.

Last year I noticed a large increase in the number of pilgrims on the road and in the albergues. However, most times there was still a sense of respect for the individual, understanding of the conditions and patience shown by all.

I have only been walking for 4 days now, and in this short period I have seen behaviors that would, in the past, solicit from my parents a hard time out and loss of priviledges. Awful outbursts of anger and impatience at subtle small things, not just the lack of spaces in albergues.

Yesterday morning, EARLY morning, a pilgrim got up and started to go through her many groceries and plastic bags (the ones that really make noise) and upon multiple requests of pilgrims asking her to stop and move her items below in the foyer, she flew into a range and cursed at many of us. In passing, it was 5:05 in the morning!!

A few days ago, a pilgrim and I arrived by foot in a small village with only two small cafes to provide food and drinks. Parked beside one of the cafe was a huge bus full of tourists who were having a snack break. There must have been at least 30 of them, lined up in both small cafes. We stood in line for more than 20 minutes when we realized we no longer could wait for the crowds to dissipate. One of the pilgrims asked me how far I was walking that day, and I responded about 20 km. He then let me know that this group of pilgrims walk 2 hours per day, then retire to the local hotel. I have no issues with tourists being on the Camino, but in these cases, perhaps there could be measures taken to ensure the stops are in villages that CAN accomodate larger groups at once… leaving the smaller ones to be available to those who are walking most of the day.

And probably the most shocking behavior yesterday was seen in this beautiful church in Logrono. A group of 4 pilgrims were visibly upset and almost shouted at the small and timid nun. They were complaining about the fact the church had been closed in the afternoon, and they were quite strongly stating that this resulted in them having to return downtown to visit the church at a later time, which apparently was quite the inconvenience to them.

I was shocked and taken aback. I approached the nun and thanked her for being there to answer questions, and apologized for the previous group´s awful behavior. She noded and actually said she has noticed a change in attitude over the past few years.

Have this Camino become the proverbial overcrowded mice cage? It seems to me that we are all aware of this new challenge, but where does this allow for bad behavior? We are all tired by the time to get to our albergues or abodes. We are all a bit frustrated when faced with full albergues, limited room on the clotheslines and line ups for registrations. BUT let´s not become so impatient that the beauty of the Camino is lost…

I wonder if this will be the norm from this point on, until the masses travel through and we can see a lower number of pilgrims wandering the Camino? I am holding back on any conclusions, but for my short 4 days of experience, what I am seeing is not pleasant…
I will focus on the beauty there is here, on the kindness of others and try to ignore the nasty… if this is at all possible…

This Camino is too amazing to let this happen and perhaps with some open and frank discussions, we can turn this around…
I have hope…

Unspoken compassion and understanding

I knew this Camino would be an emotional rollercoaster but I really didn’t know the extent of even the first few days. I personally have a very strong belief that life on earth is but a step in a longer journey. This is not everyone’s belief and I appreciate this as I always try to revalidate my thinking every so often.
On the Camino, I don’t question my belief as I constantly feel many
things that tend to reaffirm my belief. Whether this is the ultimate truth or not, it is the truth that I need in my life. I also believe that everyone has the freedom to their beliefs and I will always respect this.

This morning I set out for my first “official” walk day. I was looking forward to reaching the challenging climb leading to Alto del Perdon, an iconic set of metal cutouts Representing various pilgrims. When I arrived there, I took off my pack and pulled out the fabric case that holds some of Denise’s ashes. This was her first stop. With strong emotions and tears running down my face, I said a prayer and released some to the wind. I stood there silently for a few minutes, oblivious to the sound of the incredibly strong wind and the wind turbines near by. I turned around to see 4 pilgrims standing there with their heads bowed down.

alto del perdon 1
Seeing me walked towards them to get to my backpack all four of them walked to me and one by one hugged me. Not a word was spoken, nor were any needed. They then proceeded to offer to take my picture with my camera and then, and only then did they ask in whose memory was I walking my Camino.

Those kind gestures will likely be one of the most impactful memory of this Camino. This was a true sign of compassion and empathy!what a way to start this journey!
Cheers from the Camino
alto del perdon 2