Wednesday, July 30, 2008

El Camino de Santiago - and my life journey

Earlier this evening, I talked to my daughter about El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that begins in southern France and ends in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. For hundreds of years, travelers have walked this 30-day trek through the mountains, towns, hills, and valleys of northern Spain. All along the way, inns and shops, markets and farmers welcome the walkers, providing sustenance and places to sleep.

Some people begin and end the journey with a group of family or friends previously known to them.

Many begin the journey alone, and end the journey with new "family" members and friends previously unknown to them.

Every night, beside beds, sleeping bags, and tent poles, weary walkers remove bloodied boots from aching feet.

And every morning, they replace those boots, repack their meager belongings, and get back out onto the road. To continue the camino.

Some days great distances are covered on the walk.
Some days only a few kilometers pass.

Together they walk, eat, drink, rest, and ponder the wonder of the way.
Alone they ponder their lives, their loves, and the future that they cannot know.

A dear friend of mine walked the Camino a few years ago and regaled me with stories of his experiences. I laughed. I cried. I asked dozens of questions. He took me to a few of the towns he had walked through. He introduced me to the owners of one of the free hostels available to the walkers. I sat with a few of them and drank tea on a drizzly afternoon a few years ago.

El Camino de Santiago. The Pilgrimage of St. James.
El Camino de La Vida. The Pilgrimage of Life.

As I talked to Kristiana tonight, I recognized how similar El Camino de Santiago is to my life.

The starting point: birth.
The ending point: death.

Friends and family that I know began the journey and
walked the earliest stages with me.

I have made new friends and adopted family members,
some of whom still walk with me
while others have left me at various points along the way.

There are rest stops, welcoming hosts, and breathtaking vistas.
There are blisters, headaches, and crying jags.

Some days ooze with energy and excitement.
Others enervate me, sapping already waning supplies of strength.

There is joy on this journey.
There are victories and triumphs.
There are co-travelers that encourage me along my journey,
that carry my burdens,
and that bind my wounds when I injure myself.
I am grateful that I have had many, many loving companions
who have carried me through so many stages of my camino.

There is also deep sorrow along the way.
Loneliness and fear threaten to keep me from embarking on the journey somedays.
There are thieves and marauders,
attackers whose only goal is to derail me, discourage me,
and belittle me for attempting to undertake the journey
with intentionality and faith.
Fortunately, I have run into few attackers.

El Camino de Santiago ends at the door of the magnificent cathedral in the ancient city of Santiago de Compostela. Backpacks are laid aside. Hugs are exchanged. Tears are shed. Songs are sung. Stories are shared.

El Camino de Mi Vida will end at the portal of death. I hope that before I cross that threshold, I will lay aside some of the burdens that I am carrying. There are some hugs being saved for upcoming reunions; I long to give them to their rightful owners. Tears are shed daily. Songs sung and danced to with my children, friends, and fellow Bloghers. Stories are being told, written, shared as often as possible; that's why I'm here.

Someday I hope to walk the Camino de Santiago.
In the meantime, I will walk this camino.
Right here. Right now.

All of the photos on this post were taken in Northern Spain in January 2007.
In the company of one of my dearest friends, the one who walked El Camino de Santiago.


Amawalker said...

Gail - just do it.

Lisa said...

Beautiful words and photos. Thank you for expressing what so many of us are feeling and struggling with.

Virginia said...

This is the year I walk the Camino and it will be a pilgrimage of gratitude for a life filled with joy and blessings. As soon as I committed to the walk, everything else began to fall into place; the details like money, transportation, time, etc...alll those things that could be so daunting are falling away. I walk in May 2009 - for now my mind is pregnant with the thoughts....

In Sunny Santa Fe