‘Notes’ are some of my observations, thoughts and experiences during my seven weeks walking The Camino de Frances, one of the routes of The Camino de Santiago, also known as 'The Way'. Each day is overflowing with experience and it is my intent to reflect the (my) rhythm and feel of each day rather than to write a travelogue. As I said in my ‘preparing’ posts; I am not a detail person, if you are looking for ‘just how much was that elevation gain’ or other details, the internet is full of information for every step. (Here is a good place to begin). You are also welcome to follow me on Facebook for more photos and experiences.
My ‘miles per day’ includes everything. Walking into a town for mid-morning, cafe’ con leche’, going down a side path to a perfect picnic spot or even climbing up 3 flights to the top floor in an albergue (pilgrim hostel). It will differ from the ‘official’ miles between towns, yet perhaps better reflect an actual day, on your feet, on The Camino.
Also of note… This is my Camino. My Way. If you are considering ‘talking a long walk’… It will be different. I invite you to make it your own!
My night in Puente la Reina brought dreams of the past and while not quite nightmares, I woke feeling ‘why is that following me here’. Of course, ‘there’ is always ‘here’ because it all resides within me.
The morning was crisp, perfect for walking when I left town by walking over the beautiful bridge. It was built in the 11th century to ease the journey of and make safer for, the pilgrims walking on The Way. This morning as I walked over it, I saw a rainbow in the distance. It felt like a blessing.
Interestingly as I paused and stood on top of the bridge, I could sense within myself the ‘its morning… time to GO’. I continue to become increasingly aware of how strong the ‘GO’ impulse is within my being. As this was just the beginning of my second week on The Camino, I simply observed it and leaned away from analyzing.
This day also bought me to another ‘ghost bridge’. As I was already stirred up from my dreams the night before, it was easy to recognize. When I arrived, 6-7 other pilgrims were there, eating lunch and resting. I felt a strong draw to the place. None of the other pilgrims had english as a primary language so it was easy to just sit and feel the place. The draw was deep enough I stayed until everyone else left. I had some whispers to hear there.
(‘Ghost bridges/paths’ is a follow up or deepening of my exploration last year with Shadow Dancing. It is turning into a central experience of walking The Camino and I will write much more when the words move to the surface. Now, I observe, experience and feel.)
This part of The Camino continues to transition from mountains to the rolling hills of farms. Now increasingly including wine grapes and wineries. Beautiful expansive vistas with the path stretching into the distance.
Like I experienced the first day out of Pamplona, there is something about these expansive spaces that accentuate my sense of ‘alone’. It is a bit of an internal paradox that I recognize. I actually love being alone with space all around me… I recognize the ‘one’ that is beyond words. The Divine is easily felt… Yet also present, is the slight ache to share the wonder ‘with’…
I will probably have to repeat this multiple times in these ‘notes’. It is hard to talk about other people, especially in a public blog without the following caveat: When I facilitate workshops and retreats I often tell participants that there are people there who you need to meet… I also say it is the people you are most drawn to, and the people who ‘rub you wrong’. Especially is they elicit a reaction. They are mirrors full of information. I follow this ‘teaching’ myself. So now and anytime I share uncomfortable situations with people, I know it is ultimately not about them. They are offering me a mirror. A way to see myself or the circumstance in a new or deeper way.
The Camino is full of mirrors. Both people I am drawn to and people I react to. With reaction, it is my intent to keep it internal and observe my reaction for what it has to teach me.
Facebook and Camino Forums are a great way to learn from and meet other pilgrims before walking. I knew of many people who would be walking about the same time.
This day on My Way I met another person who I had only interacted with on Facebook. We have a great deal in common and thus she was someone I was looking forward to meeting in person. After I met her and the person she was walking with, I made the choice to walk with them, anticipating a conversation. We walked together for a bit and I began to realize the conversation was quite one-sided. I asked her about herself yet no questions about me were returned. We probably walked together for about 20 minutes and when I slowed down for a short downhill stretch (my knee) at the bottom she was long gone. Not even a parting word.
The hills spoke to my knee and spasms stopped me at Vilamayor de Monjardin. A sweet, sweet little town and an alburgue with stunning views. hOMe for a night, once again…
It could have been a response to my sense of ‘alone’ and/or simple timing but these two days I also found myself with a core group of pilgrims. While I still walked by/with myself, often at break stops on The Way and every evening I was with the same people. Several small groups that combined into a larger group.
I did enjoy these evenings. Sharing stories, laughing, eating and drinking together. Nice people, some of whom I had first met many days back. When I got to Logrono I stayed in an alburgue outside of the central part of the city where most of the pilgrim alburgue’s were.
On arrival into Logrono, I found myself feeling and being cranky. I was feeling this underlying irritability. When I first arrived at the alburgue, the hospitalalero (host), with almost no english and my little Spanish, saw my knee brace, sat me down, gave me water and a cookie (such a lovely gesture when tired) yet she went a bit further, she went to the freezer and gave me a bag of peas for my knee. Heaven. I decided I would stay a day in Logrono, figure out what was next, and see if I could let go of the irritability. And again, while it had nothing to do with the lovely people of ‘the tribe’ I was simply ready to step out of the party.
Day thirteen was a day of wonder and delight. I found the new rhythm of my physical stride. On the way into Navarrete, a wonderful place called to me. Part of tending my body is to stop, take my shoes off and do some yoga. I came to the ruins of a ‘pilgrim hospital’ founded in 1185. The ruins have been well preserved and are surrounded with flower filled grass. I know these ‘hospitals’ were run by the women, most likely nuns. I sat on the stones and had a sense of them. It has long been my practice to ‘greet’ the ancestors of a place. They felt very present here. I addressed them and spoke my recognition and gratitude. I let them know they are not forgotten. I walked all around the rocks barefoot and it felt wonderful. A massage for my feet. I also humbly asked for a bit of healing for my knee. It was a lovely, sacred hour or so.
Soon after, came the perfect validation for non-plans. I arrived in Navarrete and since my knee was feeling good, considered going another 3-4 miles to the next town. But that town was a bit off The Camino and only one albergue. It was about 2 in the afternoon and I considered the potential of it being full. I looked around the sweet town and thought... I will just stay here.
At that moment, I was literally standing next to an alburgue so I walked in. It turned out to be an alburgue attached to a nice hotel. It is a small, beautiful, sweet apartment with 8 beds, it looked out directly onto the town square and a Mary Cathedral. The best part was only 4 of us shared it and I had perhaps the best conversation I have had since being on The Way. A woman who is definitely a sista' (daughter) of the Heart & Spirit and her sweet man plus a radiant man from Chicago. Sharing making dinner in the kitchen, with great music playing. A sweet, lovely Heart flowing connection.
I continued to deepen my comfort with my knee. Even with the most gentle decline, I always needed to make the choice to slow down, step carefully and pay attention. I naturally have a long and fairly fast walk. Long legs move that way. What my knee asks for downhill is smaller steps with full range of motion. That ‘GO’ tendency showed up again, I was able to play with it and let it talk to me.
If you allow it… The Way offers challenges and mirrors. Not always comfortable or pretty… Although… Flowing with insight and wisdom!
Only the end of week two… Wow, just getting started!