Monday, December 6, 2010

Final leg(s) of the Batona trail!

Well, we did it and before winter really hit!  Yesterday was the last leg of our effort to walk the entire Batona trail.  It took two days to finish the final leg because of multiple commitments amongst the group.  Rich had a 5k to organize and I had to work on Saturday evening, allowing only enough time on Saturday for a 4.8 mile stretch.

Sunday morning broke colder but brighter than Saturday, and we hit the trail by 9:15.  The final leg had surprising bits of "uplands" and lots of tall oaks.  There were also a few lovely stands of holly trees, beautifully decked with red berries.

Our finale was lunch/brunch at a local log cabin restaurant directly across the street from the trail head.  Apanay's has been a fixture out in them thar parts for a long time.  I've only been there twice and have to report the food is very good and amazingly cheap.  We also discovered what the name means!  Apparently it means star in Turkish!  They got a gold star from us for excellent service and good food for a group of seven tired, chilled hikers.  They even gave us the loft dining area to ourselves, so it really was like a private party to mark our completion of the trail.

Now that we've got that out of our systems....what next???

I am finding that my new job in retail, which can mean four plus hours on my feet on a hard floor, has an interesting fringe benefit.  My legs and feet are much more used to the pounding they take when hiking for miles.  On our Saturday excursion we were on the trail for about 2 hours or so, and then I stood at work for another four hours, and felt fine afterwards.  I think this is going to be a help when it comes time to do the Camino and walk on the hard tarmac.  Although whenever there is an option to avoid those hard surfaces, I will!  On our Portuguese Camino, Joe and I would often walk in/on the leaf litter at the side of the road as we found that too helped to cushion the footsteps.

Ahh well enough now...time to call the Doctors office...I've got a raging earache at the moment and need to do something about it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reality check

I am strong, I am woman!  I am....simply walking across the sales floor at my new job when there was this little ping feeling and my back was out of commission!

So, what to do..... well nothing is what I've found works best.  Unfortunately.  Of course that meant loosing some work time to say nothing of what couldn't get done at home!  The end result was 2 and a half days of just lying down, most of it flat on my back.  Drifting in and out of the world in a lovely relaxed haze..oh did I forget to mention the open scrip for muscle relaxants?  Can you tell this is far from my first time ?

The very first time my back went out was on a Thanksgiving day about 28 years ago.  It was a truly humbling moment.  I would inwardly roll my eyes whenever my mother would say something about her back.  She wasn't the only one I knew, but hers seemed spectacular in it's ability to go out of whack, resulting in me having to lift and tote, etc.  I, in my youthful ignorance, thought this was really just a load of crap to get others to do things.  Until...that tiny moment, with about 15 guests coming for dinner, I bent to put a 20 lb. turkey in the oven, and heard/felt that little pop or ping sound.  I nearly went down on my knees!  The rest of the day was spent sitting on a very straight hard chair, giving directions on anything and everything.  It hurt to even pick up a fork to eat!  Hmmmm so they weren't kidding when they complained about a bad back!

Since then the back has been a fairly regular issue, enough so that I truly have an open ended scrip with the pharmacy.  I usually only take it once or so per year, but it's such a relief to know it's there.

SO...this does leave me thinking...what will I do on the Camino??  Guess I'm going to have to build in a few days.  A few just in case days!  And make doubly sure that I take the meds with me.  One small piece of good fortune is that wearing the pack keeps your posture very upright.  I've actually found my acts as a brace of sorts.

Guess this was just a little reality check from the universe...things can go wrong.  Unexpected things can happen at unanticipated moments. What will I do?  Shoulder on I guess! Learn a few more phrases in Spanish to try and deal with it.  And be ready to be humbled.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well, to those in the US... just want to take five seconds to say Happy Thanksgiving!!  For the rest of the world... I'm just thankful to know you! Even if it is only electronically!!  SO thankful for this Thursday, and time off!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Prayers on Pilgrimage

I've thought so much, and so long, about going on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.  The reasons why are as numerous as the people traveling the Milky Way, as it's sometimes known.  Some have questions, some are penitents.  Some do it for others or to pray for health. Some trying to decipher the way forward in their lives.

I guess in some ways I'd always thought mine would be possibly a little of each.  I hadn't really thought of it as a pilgrimage of rejoicing.  I think now this maybe a part of it.  My youngest son and daughter-in-law popped over to the house today, and by the grace of God, I wasn't at work!  They brought the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen, and her name they tell me is Anna Karina.  I blown away by the clarity of todays ultrasounds, and truly feel like I've been able to visit with her already.

I gave her parents a tiny dress I bought thirty odd years ago.  Stranger still, I just remembered, that it was bought on a pilgrimage.  A pilgrimage to St. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, made in 1981.

I'd gone there hugely pregnant with my second child.  Hoping, as we had a boy, that maybe I'd have a girl.  More importantly, praying that this one would be in perfect health.  Our first son Peter, was born with a cleft palate, requiring major facial surgery at five months old.  I was all of 23.  So at the shrine, I prayed simply for the health and well being of my baby.  And a few moments perhaps...wishing for a little girl!  Five weeks later I gave birth to a strapping beautiful healthy screaming ... boy!  Thomas was and is (although I'm sure he'd squirm to hear this) a wonder.  Healthy and hungry for life.  Two years later, Patrick arrived.  Three healthy, sturdy boys. Somedays it was more like having a litter of puppies!  I can not imagine anything other.  They were wonderful. one to wear the tiny pink and white dress with rosebuds on it.

So prayers on pilgrimage do get answered, just not always in the way, or the time frame, we expect.  Oddly enough, Patrick and Adrianne went to Quebec on their honey moon a year ago.  Paris was a little to pricey for them at the time. They stopped at St. Anne de Beaupre, never knowing I'd been there 29 years earlier.

So a tiny hand knit dress, folded in tissue and tucked in a drawer all this time, went home tonight.

St. Anne in Quebec

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feet first!

Feet first should be the golden rule for any Pilgrimage.  At some point you simply have to do it.  Enough planning, enough plotting, talking and discussing.  Just do it!  Put one in front of the other. Repeat. Over and Over!!

Well, I'm not quite there but the second definition of feet first: you have to think of your feet first...and the rest will fall into place.  If the feet ain't happy and well tended too, not much else is going to matter.

Last time I struggled with foot issues, especially my right foot.  The Dr. thought it was perhaps a Mortons the other Dr. in the same office says no, its Metetarsalgia..swelling or inflammation of the metatarsal heads running at the base of the toes, right where you roll across with each step.  When it really flares, it stops me dead in my tracks.  It hurts that much.  Now I'm not a wimp when it comes to pain.  I've had surgeries, fairly major, and never needed any pain killers once at home.  Ditched 'em all.  So that gives a little perspective to how bad this can be.  But I love to walk, hike or just plain get around on foot, so I will find a way.

Right now they've got me on a course of anti-inflammatory drugs.  I'm also working my way thru different hiking shoes, different socks, different methods of making sure I don't get (or minimizing) blisters on my pedes!

These pics were taken on our Camino Portuguese.  I'd slipped into muddy water up to mid shin, and damn near lost my right shoe in it!  So I really did need to find a way to keep the feet not only warm but dry.  As it was raining more that day, my Keen sandals weren't an option.  So a little ingenuity, complete lack of fashion sense and no pride to speak of, I was the Queen of Plastic Bags!!
Drain the shoe!!  Wipe the  mud off the foot!
Ahhh warm dry clean socks!!
Bag 'em! Keep the tootsies fresh on the road!
Become the ultimate Fashion Faux Pas!!

All I can say in my defense the end of that feet were warm and blister free!  I just can't show my face on that part of the Camino for a few years!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Perfect Fall Day!

Funny how often we tend to think of winter as dark and dreary (ok so technically speaking it is still fall!).  Spend a little time outside and you discover that it's not.  So many of my former coworkers in cubicle hell, used to whine and complain about this time of year, when we have that lovely little change of the clocks.  There's this general groan about losing the light and not seeing it again for ages etc.  Well, for me the cure is get OUTSIDE!

Today we headed out for nearly the last section of the Batona Trail.  We still need to add the first leg, but as I've already hiked that several times, it's old territory.  Today's vistas are new, foreign ground, freshly trodden.  This leg began at the Ranger station of Bass River State Park and ended at Evans Bridge.
Pine Barrens...maybe not so barren...

Bridge near the start of the Batona Trail
Deer boot toe in the lower left.

Tracking hikers!

Some where out in the Pines....

What the kids used to call iced tea water.

Kiva trying hard to tell us thru is faster than around!
Mid November picnic!
More cedar water.

Fairy path!

 Final distance for Sunday was around 9.5 miles.  As always longer than we anticipated, but for the views this time..worth every footstep.

There was one picture that failed to come out at all, and that was from the very early part of the morning.  There is apparently a lake down in the vicinity called of all things Pilgrim Lake.  Ironically, another blogging friend had a similar experience this past week end, half a world away.   She went out to walk and stumbled to Pelegrini (aka Pilgrim) Road, some place near that called Spanish Steps, all the while listening to her radio, with a DJ named, Michael Pilgrim!  Wow!

Do you sometimes get that feeling the universe is trying to tell you something?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who knew!

Well I'll be!  Just the shortest of entries here, but an absolute revelation!  Ok so it's not earth shattering and perhaps others have know this for a long time.  Did you know that spider's eyes shine and glitter in the night?  They look for all the world like tiny sequins.

Went for a quick night hike on Tuesday evening.  We started at Ong's hat and worked our way to the rangers office at Brendan Byrne State Forest.  Meet up time was 6pm, and as it turned out it was only Joe and myself,  so off we went.

About a mile down the trail Joe came to an abrupt halt and says "Do you see them?"  Of course I didn't immediately but when he used his trekking pole, there they were...two tiny little sparkles, moving across a leaf.  I knew that larger animals eyes give off a shine and glow when hit with light at night.  But to see it on such a minute scale was just so amazing.

My head lamp wasn't the brightest, so it wasn't as easy to see some of the other things Joe pointed out.  This would include the low and close sets of eyes off to the right.  Too close together to be a deer.  Too low to the ground for the same.  And in a grouping of three...probably coyotes!  They paralleled us briefly and quietly disappeared.  Later a deer crashed thru the woods to the left.  There were even tiny moths that at moments would be in my face, possibly attracted to the lights.

The woods were wonderfully alive at night, and fortunately so was Mayo's Halfway House!  Chicken Corn Chowder was hot and delicious at 9 when we wandered in.  Who knew a 6 mile hike in the dark would be a terrific way to end a work day.  Who knew!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude, plain and simple

Yes I do Facebook!  I consider it something of a cocktail party online.  Light fluff, don't take it too seriously and don't get too caught up spending time on it.  That said, sometimes there are moments of real connection and value.  A friend put out a challenge to post once a day, something you are grateful for,  with the provision that weather can be used only once!  Since Thanksgiving is the big day in November, here in the US, this seemed nice to change the focus from stuffing the bird and stuffing my face.  Game on Gina!

Ok, I've played my weather card (it was a spectacular day, worthy of being noted!)  So I as I'm racking my brain, wanting to really feel what I was saying when I remembered an elderly priest friend, Fr. Max Mandel.  Fr. Max would always, and I mean always answer "God willing" when I said see you later, or see you tomorrow.  He never took for granted that tomorrow was a day he would be there to see.

Sometimes I would walk with him, strolling the local streets, him in his OFM habit and sandals, me in jeans and tshirt.  In bad weather the walks would be inside the church, slowly going around the stations, up and down the aisles.  Sometimes we'd go to the end of the street.  The end of the street was the church cematary.  We'd visit people we'd known, from the fourth grader we'd lost to meningitis to those who'd struggled for years with emphysema.   We'd even visit where Fr. Max himself would be buried, in the small cul de sac with a small stone marker.

So thinking of my lovely, sweet, stern, gentle and firm Fr. Max, I posted early this morning on my Facebook page to be grateful for today, for simply being here and having the gift of this one lovely single day.  Appreciate it, tomorrow may not happen for some of us.

Around noon today, I decided to check the blogging world I enjoy so much to see who out there was writing or chatting today.  I came to Rebekah's beautful and wonderful blog, Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo, which I always jump on, the moment a post appears.  And I read.  And I cried.   A lovely young woman, from this tiny pueblo in the north of Spain, didn't get to finish the journey this day.  She was only 32 and her travels, her pilgrimage here is over.  She could have been my daughter, she's exactly the right age.  So, as I sit here and cry again, for the loss of someone so young & for her family and her mother.  If anyone reads this post, think again, how lucky you are to be alive, today.

And say a prayer for Juli, and for Rebekah and the pueblo of Morotinos.

One step at a time

Ok so it wasn't such a small step.  And then again it really was.  So small.  Finally, it was easy.  I quit.

I've been desperately unhappy at my job for at least a year, generally unhappy for about the 2 years or so prior.  Last week, the straw was finally placed in the basket, the grain sand fell, from the top of the hour glass, and it was over.  And I am totally at peace about it.

Having put it in prayer for a long time, and simply thrown it out to the universe at large, I got my answer.  I've already started another job.  But finally there are options, and some time to think about things and plan.  Time to be able to think about travel, school, other options in life besides sitting in a small padded cubicle surrounded by some seriously unkind, cruel people.

So, yesterday morning began with a 2 hour meeting at the new digs, and then off from high fashion to wearing my hideous hiking pants, and a totally hodgepodge ensemble to slog thru the forest!  Yet that contrast felt smoother and more seamless and connected than the way I've been living for sometime now.    The great irony is where I worked there were nearly 150 folks at times, not a one of which hiked or biked or did a single one of the things near and dear to my heart.  Yesterday, at the end of the meeting a new coworker asked where I was rushing off to, and when I told her, she lit up and said "Oh I've done that trail, it's so pretty this time of year!"  Already I feel more like I belong.  For the first time in ages.


Spent the rest of yesterday out on the trails again doing another leg of the Batona Trail.  We did 10 miles this time. This leg was from Evans Bridge to Batsto Village.   It's been a delight and a joy to watch the progression of fall in the Pine Barrens over the last few weeks.  Sadly, I forgot my camera so I've no pics to share, unless my dear friend Richard will give me one!  The reds of the last few weeks have shifted to deep rusty browns on the oaks, with tinges of yellow here and there.  Always the green of the pines and the laurels.  It's really beautiful out there.

Most interesting was the actual variety of woods within the Barrens.  We hit a large stand of oaks, and not the scrub variety.  Huge tall stately oaks all soldiered together. Then came another of those swampy areas, with an eerie mist hanging over it in the late afternoon light.  Onward into a huge area of laurels (can't wait to do this in the spring when they bloom!).  Funny but it's hard to call 'em mountain laurel when they're only 110 ft above sea level!  The variety of this area never ceases to amaze me.  All those years I simply drove thru, as fast as my lead foot would allow, and never really knew what lay in those hundreds and thousands of acres to my right and to my left.

On the way home from the hike, courtesy of the time change, it was really dark.  Deer were everywhere.  We had no less than five different groups bound across the road on the way back.  Definitely kept you on your toes while driving.  Everyone I know who's had the misfortune to hit one has ended up with a new car.  Not something I want to have to deal with right now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Winding my way thru the woods

Ok, so here's the plan!  Today is going to be busy.  It's already past noon and I've hardly begun my "tasks" for the day.  But somehow the computer keeps calling me back. So, a few words, a few pics and I'm done.  Then on to a few phone calls, a few prayers (for a job interview tomorrow!) and so it goes.

Into the woods thru the boggy areas!

Some of really wet areas along the trail.

Moss and lichens are everywhere in these woods.

Teaberry or American Wintergreen
Chew on the leaves or make tea
and the berries are edible too.
Official name: Gaultheria procumben.
Blue Berries of some a
research project!
Fabulous Fungi!

Learning to photograph fab fungi
from an award winning photographer Rich Lewis!

Getting up close and personal.  

Zooming in.

Gotta get down, way down !

Then there are the high points, Apple Pie Hill at 209 feet above sea level
is the highest point in the Pine Barrens.  The tower adds another 60 feet total.

On really clear days, from the fire tower,
you can see Atlantic City and in perfect weather, some of

Westward home.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stuff ya just gotta do!

Sure I'd rather be curled up under the covers than.....oh, wait I've said that before...but somethings, they never change!  I'd rather be reading one of the new books that Amazon deposited on the front door mat, but, paperwork is also part of the Camino!

Can't believe it's been ten years already, but one look at that picture and I know it's true!  Funny thing is I think, oh hell I know, I look (and feel) younger now, than that woman staring back at me from my old passport.

First I had to slog around on line to find the correct form.  Now is it Form DS-82 or DS-11 or DS-5505? Then after reading the slightly confusing directions, complete the application to renew my passport.  Of course this is when I discover issues with my computer at home and it won't print the damn thing!  Ah well, so take the old passport to work and fill it out there and finally I've got a printed copy.  Now I need a photo.

The new picture isn't too bad, as passport pictures go.  What I really wish is that I could use one of the pictures from the Camino, maybe even the one from my blog profile.  Or a picture of me from my first MS150 bike tour. In these pictures I am happier than happy, sweaty, tired, but completely alive. If you want to see me, who I really am, what I really look like, that's the way to go.  That frozen moment in front of a white background, that's not me or anyone else for that matter.  I've seen some passports and barely recognized the person.  Ah well, this is just one of those things you've gotta do if you wanna go over there!! Or anyplace I'd really like to be right now!

So this morning, before heading back out to the Pine Barrens for a hike, it's off to the post office to mail away my most treasured piece of bureaucratic paper!  This one means more to me than my drivers license.  That's saying a lot!  Being able to move about, travel, in all it's forms, including driving is the world to me!

I'm off to write the check that accompanies all the papers and the pics, and the pray that it all comes back speedily!

Oh, by the is DS-82!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reading Readiness!

Since there are still several hundred days  between me and my camino, the time must be filled somehow.  Aside from a passion for travel, I love, LOVE  books. So read away I will.

As a child I was known for taking the bedside lamp under the quilt and curling up...all toasty warm (can you say fire hazard!) to read Little Women, long after I was supposed to be asleep.  I was (and still am) the only person I've ever known who got into serious trouble, as in grounded, for reading classical literature.  I was slogging thru Hugo's Les Mis when I was about 12 years old, rather than doing any of my homework.  So, instead of returning it to the library per my mothers strict instructions, I wrapped it up in plastic bags, and stuffed in the roots of a large tree.  The tree was in the midst of a field I walked thru on my way into school each morning and again in the afternoon.  On my way in, I'd pick up my book, read it at lunch and any spare moment I got.  I'd even stop in the woods briefly, before redepositing the book, and read a few more lines.  This went on for weeks.  I guess my grades improved a bit, the reading addiction, it only got worse.

The following summer, my Mom took us kids up to Vermont as usual for the month of August.  To this day my sense of that summer is of it having been so a dreary and dark, filled with anxiety and tension.  Only much later did it dawn on me, that the Green Mountains of Vermont were lovely.  Only my time spent in Tzarist Russia following Anna Karenina was stressed and dark!  Sheesh!

Lets just say I'm happy to report, having spent my time in literary Gulags (yup read that too in my early teens) I've moved on to much sunnier climes.  At home today, as a result of a truly horrendous headache, I'm also the happy recipient of my latest book order from Amazon!  Today's FedEx delivery brought not one but two new books.  The latest offerings of my Internet snooping are:  Call of the Camino: Myths, Legends and Pilgrim Stories on the Way to Santiago de Compostela by Robert Mullen and Road to Emmaus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life by Jim Forest.  The former was stumbled too via the Camino Forum, the later an offering from Amazon's little computer algorithms: if you like this, others who bought it bought these as well!  Computer dating at its finest.  Amazon, you can fix me up with a book anytime!

Book report at 11!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday Hike, Caranza Memorial to Batsto Village

Tales of what happens when a good hike goes bad!  I have the good fortune to have great friends who were willing to start late for a Sunday hike, as we all had things to do in the morning.  The plan was to do a section of the Batona (BAck TO NAture Trail).  I wanted us to do a section that I'd never been on before.

Strange people running from the Jersey Devil!  Oh wait,  no, it's my husband
and my good friend Vivian on a nice wide portion of the Batona trail!

The Batona trail runs for about 50 miles thru the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey.  It's an unusual area, full of unique plant and wildlife, with a few legends thrown in, including the likes of the Jersey Devil.    Most of the area is very flat, having once been ocean floor.  The soil is sandy and so white that at times the trail looks like it's been snowed on. The trail runs thru what are called scrub oaks, scrub pines and acres of wild blueberries.  Occasionally the trail crosses small creeks or rivers, running cool clear, tea colored, cedar water.  The water get's it's color from bog iron and the roots of cedar trees that line the banks.  Get it on white cotton and it will never be the same.

The Batsto River
Things began to go awry when I made the great mistake of not double checking my stats and figures for each section of the trail, and confusing which section we were going to do on Sunday.  So, instead of a 9 to 9.5 mile hike, we wound up doing a 12.5 mile hike.  Ouch!  At least three of us were sporting new boots on top of it!

I guess this is, as they now refer to these things, a teachable moment or a learning experience!  Things not to do when hiking.

A. Be damn certain which section/distance you are about to embark upon!
B.  Even if it is daylight when you leave home...have lighting gear, be it a head lamp, a hand held flashlight, a wind up no battery type, whatever....have a light!
C. If it's a longer than previous hike, you might want to reconsider using new foot gear this time around.
D. Bring food!
C. Make sure someone, not on the hike (!), knows roughly where your going and roughly when you expect to finish.

We did some of things right, and a few not!  We did have more than enough food, each of us, to go around and water for ourselves and Kiva the Airdale terrier and trusty trail companion.  Family members did know where we all were.

That first mistake though, resulted in doing an unexpected 25% longer hike.  Ok, if you are starting early.  But, we'd calculated to be coming in around 5:30pm to maybe 6pm, dusk.  End result was we were in the forest on fairly narrow trails after sundown.   Thank God for Rich having as always the most complete kit out on the trail.  His two head lamps brought us in safely.  With out them, we would have been in serious trouble, calling the rangers to bring us in.  I have several headlamps, but forgot to check that it was in my regular daypack.

Foot wear, well, I haven't heard back from everyone yet (hope they're all still talking to me!) but amazingly, I don't think we have any real blisters amongst us.  I did discover some irritated areas on the backs of my legs and heels this morning.  Things that, if I was doing a goodly distance today (the Camino!), would probably result in full blown blisters.  With a little more care and conditioning though,  looks like the feet will be ok!  The toe socks, they performed quite well.  The neuroma was at times fiercely painful, but then settled down to dull ache.  Ain't no question, I'm going to need to get a cortisone shot some time this week, and have it repeated six months or so down the pike.

When all is said and done it was a terrific hike inspite of the mishaps.  We made it safely to the Ranger station at Batsto village.  We retrieved the cars that'd been shuttled down there earlier in the morning.  As a full moon rose above the cranberry bogs, fully flooded for harvest, I can at least say we got in safely ahead of Mother Leeds 13th child!

The Jersey Devil himself!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Things I'm learning!

Sometimes it's little things you learn.  Like how long it takes to walk 1.7 miles to work.  For me, on Friday of this week, it appears to have taken 35 minutes.  So, if I can do the math that's 20.5 minutes per mile, so about what we thought I was doing...around 3 miles per hour.  Not too fast, but not too shabby either. SO, that would convert to 4.8k per hour.  Of course, that may improve...or it may not.  Be interesting to see, over the next few weeks of getting back into shape and walking to work once a week (to say nothing of other hikes on weekends!) if my speed improves.  Not that walking the Camino is about speed, far from that.  But, moving along a little faster, sometimes, allows you time to take breaks and at the end, to look about and appreciate what is around you.  Another thing I have to check is the exact distance, as I walked what I believe are essentially parallel roads to the main drag (trying to avoid the traffic).  Mayhap the route was a tad longer..or more embarrassingly .. shorter!

I'm also learning to find (read that make!) time for more prayer/meditation.  It's been as simple as finding the rosary beads in the bedding, to finding a website/blog of the Daily Office.  The later is a terrific way to move thru the year in prayer.  I've had a softcover version for years, but it sits on the shelf.  I'd pick it up occasionally, and always have to try and relearn what goes where and when and then what comes next.  Makes for quite the barrier to my willingness/eagerness to pick it up each time.  Then came the revelation, there is an electronic version!  It not only gives me the mornings readings etc, but reappears magically in the evening.   Now too, if I forget, there is no difficulty/guilt to begin again.  It simply arrives again in the morning.  Like a quiet little offering from the greater world out there.   Maybe it's like that Dummies book series, "The Daily Office for Dummies"!   I'd buy that!

So...for anyone interested, try, !

Guess I should also mention for total RC purists ... this particular site is...gasp, Episcopalian!  The only good Catholic one I can find....ain't free.  T'ain't expensive either, but for the moment I'm going for free.  As a former protestant meself, it doesn't faze me in the slightest.   Pax vobiscum.

Multi colored Linguini!  'splains why I get confused!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bits and pieces!

Had simply the best weekend in ages!  It began quietly enough, with an email to a friend, simply inquiring if he'd any plans to go shopping at our favorite local outdoor shop, REI.  They were having a sale, there were coupons involved and beer for afterwards! 

It took me the better part of an hour to work my way across an entire rack of hiking/trekking poles.  Who knew there could be such variety of weights and options in a "simple" walking stick.  I finally decided on the Leki's as I really find the angled/canted grip to be more natural.  The ones I picked are also part of the ultralight series, so they fit right into my plans to keep the weight down for the Camino to say nothing of fitting into my backpack as well.  Amazingly this pair also have shock absorbers built in, something I had on another pair and liked. I had to laugh, as once again, the "ladies" version just didn't fit me!  They assume if your female your tiny and have tiny hands. Oh contrariness no, of course I don't!  My hands easily reach a full octave on a they're way to long for women's hiking poles.

In the meantime, Joe worked his way thru the hiking shoe dept. and left with two pairs tucked under his arm.  Ray...he simply browsed and left with a thirst for wine or beer, which we then took care of at the Redstone across Rt. 70.   It was amazing to be sitting outside at 8:00 on a Friday evening in mid October.

Having enjoyed ourselves so much on Friday evening, we decided to try for something of a repeat, but with a little more on the outside part.  A quick post on Facebook rounded out our group with friends Bill and Gina joining our plans to hike the Cranberry Trail, in Bredan Byrne State Forest.  We decided on a night hike to allow for daytime things already scheduled.  The Cranberry Trail as we take it makes for a six mile hike.  Then it was a quick drive to Mayo's Half Way House for dinner.  While the others ate burgers I opted for the snapper soup (as in snapping turtle, much to Joe's disgust!)  The soup was excellent as always.  I sat during dinner with my foot propped up on the extra chair at our table, hiking boot removed.

My right foot has a neuroma (pinched nerve, getting rubbed by the metatarsal bones)  and certain shoes, if they ain't wide enough, hurt like *#%@)(* !!!!   These boots have been ok in the past but ... since REI was still having their sale and I had a 20% off coupon, burning a hole in my psyche, it was off to REI again on Sunday afternoon.  This time I was the one trying on half a dozen boots.  I came away with a lovely new pair of Keen boots, waterproof and all.  They are much more closely related to the shoe I wore on the last Camino, also Keens.  They have, for my taste, much more flex in them and a much wider toebox.

Injinji Toe Sock!

Sparkling and new....for how long!

     My Newest Foot Gear!   And to think some women would rather a pair of four inch heeled Jimmy Choo's. Look at these two, what's not to love!

In line with my thinking about the neuroma, and trying to keep my tootsies happy, I'm experimenting.  Since I've got time before my next go, I can play around with some of the details.  There are currently "shoeless" shoes for running, called Vibram Five Fingers, and as a result, socks to match!  The socks are supposed to help prevent chaffing, even when wearing regular boots or shoes.  So, I'm thinking anything that would help prevent the toes getting smushed together in the shoe, might help keep the fire in foot from getting started.  Hell, I haven't even put them on yet, so time will tell.  I can only promise to post the results of the first hike wearing my Injinji socks.

Sunday evening was finished off with dinner at El Camino Real (!) ( ) in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia.   Followed up by a YoYo Ma Concert at the Kimmel Center.  A perfect ending.

PS...tomorrow...walking to work!  Not sure if I'm using the hiking boots...but hoofing it...I am!

And here's where my real world colliding  with (sorry four letter language!)...if I can just click my heels together and whisper.."there's no place like a hike, there's no place like a hike" poof...ruby slippers to hiking boots!!  And I'll be on the Camino in no time.  Just gotta watch out for those houses!  Do they have tornado's in Spain?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And we're walking....

Driving in my car up to my German class this evening, I had the funniest thoughts about practicing things.  I need to practice my German, so I go to a group type lesson on Wednesday evenings, with a quick beer practice afterwards.  I practice my Spanish via podcasts in the car and at my desk.  This all got me to thinking about the physical practice I need to do the be ready to pound out mile after mile, day after day on the Camino.  Did medieval pilgrims have to practice before they set out?  I think not.  I suddenly struck me full force how unnaturally we live today.  A simple thing that we are  meant to do, almost as unconsciously as breathing, requires sometimes month of prep/practice, if the journey is going to be enjoyed, not just a trial by trail.

This trail of thought got me doing a little research and I found an article about diet and "exercise" during the Roman & Medieval times vs today.  According to this particular source, not only do we consume a much higher fat/cholesterol laden diet, but we also perform 94% less physical activity!  And we all wonder why we're so freaking fat these days!   Apparently we also simply eat way more often, thereby increasing our chances of over consuming calories.

And me?  I live in a small town.  There is a small market about 4 blocks from my house.  We've been known to jump in the car to get items for dinner.  I work 1.7 miles from my home (at least for the moment...please God...let them choose to can me next!!).  I'm embarrassed to admit...I drive to work most days.  I have walked on occasion.  Then I've had about half the work force, as they are passing me - dressed to walk - offer me a ride home, cause that's just so far!  I've ridden my bike on a few occasions, although that's hardly worth the effort to get it out for such a short trip.  My point is, I'm normally an exercise junkie.  When not in recovery mode from something like my surgery this summer, I will bike, hike, run, swim, go to the gym.  Essentially, I don't sit around a lot.  But in terms of simple day to day walking...not that much.  Not the kind of "exercise" my predecessors on the Camino would have had.   Not the kind that would simply allow me to do as they would have done - open the front door, step out, turn and walk all the way to Santiago.   And some how...we refer to their time as the "Dark" ages.  Makes you wonder.

So, my next goal?  Simple and small.   To see if I can't get myself ready early enough to walk to work at least one day out of the week.  Perhaps that simple morning walk will also help to connect me more closely to my larger goal in 11 months time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

From Mt. Rainer to Rain Gear!

Reading so many other blogs and books about the Camino, to say nothing of my own experiences on the Camino Portuguese, I realize it's time to start thinking about my physical preparations.  On the Portuguese route, we had rain.  Lots of rain.  Rain every day.  So I'm painfully aware of how valuable good rain gear is.
Ray looking snazzy in a regular
backpacking poncho.

 Last time, I took along a green backpacking poncho and then my hubby tells me he forgot to bring his.  So, (deep breath here!) I gave him mine, as I had a fairly water repellent jacket with me.  Neither was quite up to the task as it turns out. I'm not sure anything would have been perfect but I know want better this time around.

Altus, which you can see is
pretty long, but more of a raincoat.

During my research on the Camino Forum I like to frequent, I've found several options.  One is called the Altus and it's actually a type of rain coat that has a large gusset in the back to allow for your backpack.   We saw two girls from Germany wearing them and they seemed pretty good at keeping the rain off.  However, they also seemed long, too long for my liking.  They almost looked like they were mobile tents hiking along!   Perhaps it was a matter of fit, I'm not sure.

Another group of Brits, had rain jackets with their packs over top and rain pants too.  The only draw pack is you then need a cover for the pack too  and knowing my ability to overheat...I think the pants would be a bit too much.  They also used gaiters, and I can see a big plus there especially when your on gravel, as it gets into the boots or shoes and hurts like hell!

The last option, the one I'm thinking of going with is something I found reading about long distance hiking here in the US.  Here the long trails don't have villages conveniently dotted along the way.  Often you go for a week on the AT before you come to anything resembling civilization.  As a result, the folks doing this have to be really self reliant.  From what I've seen and heard talking to them, if they endorse's worth a listen.  One of them has come up with something that, for my money, seems to be the best of all of the above.  It's called the Packa, and it fits over your backpack.  It looks at first like nothing more than your typical elastic edged pack cover.  However, there is a rain coat attached that can be pulled out without ever removing the pack from your back, and then zipped, tied and cinched to fit.  This negates the whole problem of getting yourself covered quickly when it rains, digging in the pack to find your gear etc.  It's got a hood and that has a brim to keep the water out of your face and eyes.   I'm attaching a video I found on Youtube.  It's not cheap but then none of the other gear is either, at least not the good stuff.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bring on the mountains!

Continuing on the outward preparations, I wound up hiking for hours last week on Mount Rainier in Washington State. That's a long way from my home in the southern half of New Jersey, both in miles and terrain.  I

We'd flown out to help celebrate my fathers 80th birthday with family and friends.  We flew in from Florida, Washington DC, North Carolina and New Jersey.  Some drove in from Portland Oregon and up and down the Puget Sound.  So betwixt and between us we covered the country rather well.

While we enjoyed getting together, sometimes it can be stressful when you have that many people together in one not so large apartment.  Not that we were all actually staying with Dad.  So off to the mountain on Friday for a day of hiking and just getting back to what really matters.  We drove the 2 plus hours up to Rainier from Olympia, took off up the trail...only to turn right back and run into the lodge for sunscreen.  Now the Seattle area is not noted for it's sunshine, but we lucked into absolute perfection and the sun would have scorched us but good without help from a tube of SPF 30!  Off we went, each at our own pace.

After a quarter hour we fell into two groups.  The I can walk farther and faster and the I don't want to be pushed, rushed or hurried!  Me, I sort of fall in the middle.  I wasn't out to prove anything but I also couldn't/wouldn't walk as slow as my nearly 60 year old husband and my 77 year old uncle.  Nor did I want to run ahead with my 8 and 13 year old nieces, or try to keep up with my Ironman sister-in-law!  So, I did what I usually do in the family, play monkey in the middle, keeper of the the peace.  Half way between the two groups also means I get to walk on my very own and think my own thoughts.  A very nice place to be.

We didn't get all that high up the mountain this particular hike, but the scenery was fantastic and we got to see some terrific wildlife.   There was what we think was a marmot, sunning himself on a rock.  Around the bend we saw a bear in the meadow far below, munching on berries.  It was a perfect vantage point, as we had a terrific outlook with no chance of him coming near us.  That brown lump in the lower left corner...that's the bear!

Just the right distance!
Sunday's hike with two of my sons and their wives was a completely different story.  We left Olympia in full cover of a "marine" layer, aka FOG!  We got up to Mt. Rainier, hoping for their Sunday brunch at the Paradise Inn.  Unfortunately they'd canceled the brunch since they were closing for the season the following day.  They did however have a terrific lunch, so we feasted together, all the while hoping and praying for the weather to clear.

No change on the weather front so we decided to hike up anyway, since we'd driven over two hours.  The girls had never been there before so even if it wasn't perfect it was still new and exciting for them.  We took a different trail than on the previous hike.  Different in more ways than we could begin to imagine.  Hiking in the fog was actually very interesting.  You'd hear other groups further up the slopes but you couldn't always see them.  Then the clouds would lift a bit and you'd see for quite a distance.

We slowly made our way up Dead Horse Creek.  Great name for a hiking trail!  At one point my d-i-l Adrianne, in the lead, turned back waving her hands madly for us all to be quiet.  As we very slowly approached we found a small herd of deer quietly and contentedly munching away on the alpine meadow barely five feet away.  Turns out we didn't need to worry about them bolting, as long as we didn't make any loud noises, they simply continued to chew their way across the landscape, occasionally staring back at us.

So close we could almost touch them.
Right after this encounter, Ray, our oldest Peter, and his wife Jen, decided they'd had enough so they were going back to the Inn.  Patrick and Adrianne and I decided to forge ahead.  For a bit.  Then we started meeting people who'd been further up...all claiming to have made it above the clouds. So on we went.  We made it to the first snow field.  Someone had made a snowman in the middle. Probably waiting for the season to end so he could have the mountain to himself.

Snowman watching hikers go by.

Then we met more people who'd made it above the cloud cover.  They showed us pictures. Off we went.  The trail go narrower and steeper and rockier and higher and thinner.  I finally had to call it quits.  Truth be told, I am really quite the chicken with heights, although I'm always willing to try and test my ability to handle my fear.  This time though, I'd really had enough. We'd already gone on for at least forty minutes beyond the rest of the family and although the sun struggled to clear a way luck.  So now the kids went on yet further while I waited at the trail side.  They were gone for what seemed an interminable time.   Sitting alone by the trail, high on a mountain side can leave the imagination free to roam. Not a good thing.  Just at the point when I was beginning to panic (albeit quietly) they finally returned.  It seemed like it took us forever to make our way down, and I was eternally grateful for the cloud cover, which meant I never really had to face how high or steep the trail was.  The clouds allowed me to come down in a lovely soft white zone, surrounded by quiet little drips from the needles of the pines around us.

It wasn't actually raining, but everything dripped quietly.

Twice more we stumbled onto deer quietly munching and ignoring us.  On the final descent to the Inn, we suddenly meet up with a fox staring back at us from the middle of the trail.  He too, seemed completely unfazed by people, and loped off into the pine trees and scrub as we made our way down to hot cider and cold glares from the family waiting at the bottom.   The three of us agreed though, we'd do it again in a minute.   Over  2,000 feet was a pretty good afternoon hike, at least for us. We'd started around 5,000 ft at least according to Patrick's calculations and so we made it to nearly 7,000!  Next time, I'm bringing my boots!  Talk about ill prepared!!  I thought we'd go for a Sunday stroll!  Not a mountain climb.  So...bring on the Pyrenees!! I think I'm almost ready... mentally at least!

That's Mt. Rainier and in the distance to the left is Mt. St. Helen.
Of course now I've got to repeat this exercise...with a full backpack on!!  

Friday, September 24, 2010

And now for something completely different!

I guess of late I've been obsessing abit about the inner journey portion of the Camino.  It will simply be and it'll simply unfold on it's own.  The lessons learned  have to be discovered as they happen or as they open themselves to me, some probably a long time after the actual walking is over.  In the meanwhile, there are real and concrete things to be done.  Things like learning a tad more Espanol than I currently have a handle on.  I spend nearly every moment when I'm in my Jeep driving to work and everywhere else, listening to Spanish lessons.

My current favorite course came to me from out in left field.  It's a podcast, called Coffee Break Spanish.  It's done somewhere in Glasgow, Scotland.  The professor Mark and a studio student named Kara have the thickest accents!!!  It's like getting Sean Connery to teach you Spanish!  But when he, switches to Spanish it's amazing, I mean he's really good!  I even had two friends, whose first language is Spanish, listen and they totally agreed these recordings were good!  It's just so funny hearing the switch!  Please God and a lot of hard work, I can sound half as good!  Or at least be able to do the thing that Mark, the prof on these podcasts keeps talking about, communicate.

It horrifies me how often we expect others to be at least a little ready with a few words of English, and yet have so little to offer in their language!  Or in any other than our native tongue for that matter.  Last time on the Camino Portuguese, my German actually helped us save face a little and kept our group from looking the complete Ugly Americans.  I should add, the German was honestly if too easily come by.  Both of my folks are "off the boat" so I literally heard it from my first moments, so it's not as if I had to really work at it...well not much.

The funniest instance was in the Main Correo (Post Office) in Pontevedre.  Joe and I had things that needed to go home pronto!  We didn't just want to ditch them, like our expensive hiking pants, spare shirt and extra socks.  Others in our group threw away probably over a $100 dollars worth of excess.  We decided to ship it home!  After multiple attempts to get to the Correo (since it did not lie directly on the Camino, we were constantly being redirected back to the path) we finally locate it and wandered in like two lost and weary sheep.    I found an open spot at the counter and asked the girl behind if she spoke any, even un poco Inglese?  She shook her head and laughingly said no.  Smiling, holding up her fingers,  she counted off "One, Two, Three..." then laughed and shrugged!  Pointing to myself and then my fingers, "Uno, dos, tres...."  We both cracked up and shook our heads,  when "Light Bulb Moment"  I remembered the word for German, Algeman (?)  at which point she got really excited and ran around to the other side of the Correo, and motioned for us to follow!  The rest of it was like something from, oh I don't know, a bad comedy movie!  We got terrific service in a Spanish Post Office with the entire conversation taking place in German!  How weird is that! They say there are angels on the Camino and I'd have to say they were enjoying that one.

These are the mail slots on the outside of the Correo.  Probably the most
beautiful mail slot I've ever posted a letter too!

If I can master the technical difficulties, I'll have to see if I can post some sort of widget or attachment for the Coffee Break Spanish!  So in the mean while...I guess the Spanish would be Hasta Pronto!  See ya soon!

(For this weekend...I will hardly be doing any walking of any sort! At least if all goes well!  I'm off to the MS150, a charity bike ride!  75 miles to the shore and on Sunday...75 back!  For once the weather looks perfect too!  While this may not be regular Camino is good for the aerobic endurance as well as mental toughness! )  

Monday, September 20, 2010

How much does that weigh???

You know your becoming obsessed about the weight of things you carry on Camino when you look at a particular rosary and actually calculate it's weight and opt between one vs another one.   I'd have consider  this is on par with sawing the handle off a toothbrush as is often done by folks prepping to do the Appalachian Trail.

I've only ever recently stopped to think about the weight of what I carry in my heart.   Just within the last few days, I've discovered I have some funky and truly antiquated baggage.  Dusty, moldy.  Unhealthy.  Some of it I've been schlepping along for years and years.  Worthy of and needing to be discarded, yet for some  reason still solidly and firmly in my possession.  I can almost feel them like stones or anchors holding me in  places I no longer fit, and no longer even want to try to fit myself into.

So if I need to lighten my load, how do I go about it, physically, mentally and even spiritually.  I know people often take stones from home with them, representing either a prayer or perhaps a sin or burden, to be left at the Cruz de Fero  along the Camino Frances.  Some bring things they symbolically burn at the shore line in Finisterra along with their pilgrim clothes.  There are also small cairns along the road, where people leave stones, indicating I guess, the leaving of a burden or vice, or perhaps a prayer for someone.  If I carried a stone for each of the things that I've been brooding or mulling over lately, my pack is going to be too heavy to carry and have little room for real essentials!

So I guess over the next few weeks and months, I need to consider how to load my pack with only the essentials for the road, and my inner pack only with what will be good for me on the road.  As I spend time actually weighing the day to day items on my nifty little scale, I need to take the time to assess some of my mental pieces of baggage.  For the things I cannot quite manage to ditch, I need to think about how to carry them as lightly as possible.  How to find a way to leave them, hopefully once and for all?

Cairn at Cruz de Ferro
I don't want to end up pulling a Hansel and Gretel, and end up following the trail back to where I began. I want this to be a journey forward, upward and onward!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Age and ages ago!

It's funny when I tell my friends who've never heard of the Camino and are unfamiliar with the concept of pilgrimage (most of them I'm sad to say....cradle Catlicks !) they always seem to give me comments along the lines of aren't you a bit old to be doing that?  However from what I've been reading...nothing could really be further from the truth.  Making a pilgrimages later in life is actually pretty commonplace.

I've got my Google page on my work computer set up, in a way that I get juicy little quotes delivered fresh every morning.  Some really surprise me by their random appropriateness.  This morning saw the delivery of this tidbit:
"A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight."
  - Robertson Davies
Kinda makes me think of the journeys/adventures of a life time and how they're appreciated differently at each of our stages of life.  Rather like the directions on the shampoo bottle which has  become my favorite advice for all really good things..."Rinse and repeat!"

My long summer in Germany, I enjoyed going to clubs and just generally running under the radar as much as possible.   I did visit the cultural high points of each place, and come to think of it...usually with out my cousins in tow.  I spent quite a bit of time in the beautiful Lorenz Kirche in Nurnberg, bombed almost into oblivion during the war and laboriously rebuilt, often by young men like my dad a semi experienced Army veteran at the ripe age of 15. They worked as brick layers and stone masons apprentices because there simply wasn't any other work to be had.  I spent one glorious afternoon in the Durer Haus, and quietly enjoying an organ recital in Die Frauen Kirche (Church of Our Lady).  But most of my focus was on spending time with my cousins..being silly and just wandering aimlessly till quite late at night.

When I got home, state side, I was "home" for all of three and a half days. Barely enough time to do my laundry, repack and then it was off to Colorado and Peaceful Valley Ranch (yes a dude ranch!).  I lived in a cottage with about 10 other young women.  There were several other cottages and bunk houses for the guys.  We spent most of our days on the ranch itself high in the Rockies. We were waitresses, chambermaids,  wranglers, cooks and lastly me...grounds keeper! But I itched to see more and do more than square dance every night, both for our own entertainment and for the guests.

So on my days off, I'd go hiking with some of the local staff, picking choke cherries and making jam (!) or better yet (my hair turns gray at this one now) hitchhiking my way down to Denver to see what I could see. I remember spending one whole day in the Denver Art Museum looking at a display of quilts, some of whom I can still picture to this day.  I was only there about 5 weeks, but they were wonderful.

Coming home from all that was quite the shock.  I'd changed immensely and irreparably.  The folks, not so much.  So within a few months I was completely on my own, waiting only for the 18th birthday to make it "legal" to get an apartment.   Amazing what a little freedom, a little journeying can do for a body.  The girl who walked down the HS football field for graduation was gone.  Dead, buried.

So I guess I've had a chance to read my great book once already.  I know the difference it made in me, the changes that came about from that summer trip.    I know how it really prepared me, unwittingly, for a lot of the things (trials?) to come.   So now it's time to re-read my great book in my maturity (Ha...stop laughing!) and see what changes it makes in me now.  The exciting thing, according to Robertson Davies, I really ought to do it yet again, even later!  With my family's longevity I might be able to fit in several more tries!  Omi Palm died just shy of 101, Omi & Opa Becker were only 95, and 96 respectively.  Wonder what my friends will be doing when the time comes around!!     

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rite of passage?

The Camino de Santiago de Compostella is an old, and I do mean old road.  As a Christian pilgrim road it's about 1,000 years old.  Before Christians began tramping their way westward, Celts wound their way along the Milkyway to the very end of the earth, Finisterra.  I'd almost be willing to bet that before them, during the time the fabulous cave paintings of  Lascaux and Altamira (which itself lies along the route now known as the Camino del Norte, just outside the city of Santander)  people found a reason to work their way west, towards the setting sun.  Actually that'd be cheating, I do know that many cultures find a way to transition from childhood to adulthood by using some kind of journey/adventure/passage to mark this transformation.  To "make" a man out of them as the phrase goes.  Here in the US it was always "Go West young man!"  as though there were discoveries there that could only be made by undertaking a huge journey across the continent.

Funny but I don't seem to hear so much of anyone doing this anymore.  Young people go to school, go to college, go out into the work force.  It's as though if they miss a single beat in getting "ahead" they might fall irretrievably behind.  Behind what I don't know.  If memory serves..and I don't think mine failing me yet, a great many of my generation took time to drop out, backpack around Europe or elsewhere in the world.  Or drive cross country, just pointed in a general direction, looking to see the world, explore, breathe.  I just don't seem to hear much of that anymore.  Or is it me?  I don't think it hurt us.  I know it didn't hurt me.

Ok granted I didn't get the chance to backpack thru Europe then, but I did disappear from my family here in the US for 6 long weeks the year I graduated from High School. (My postcards arrived a week after I returned home and had left again for Colorado!)  I stayed with my cousins in Stuttgart and Nurnberg.  My partners in crimes were Hennie (Henrietta),  Regina, Lilly and Barbara.  With some, but not a lot, of supervision, we traipsed around the cities, took trains and generally ran about, without running completely wild.   I know when I came back, albeit quite tipsy upon arrival, I'd grown up quite a bit, much to my poor parents surprise.  Although why that surprised them surprises me to this day.

Thinking about it now, I believe some of that "growth" was what allowed me to handle living on my own very shortly there after, still barely 18.  And, although I married very young,  21,  I've never felt a loss of adventuring or loss of life.  Well not much anyway.  That trip, including the month or more in Colorado working on, dare I say it, a Dude Ranch, gave me space and time to breathe, explore the world and myself too.   So by 21 I was ready to say I do, and a year later when my first son was born, I was ready for him too.  Well, sort of!

So now I'm on the other end of that familial equation!  My sons are grown, two are married, and one about to be a father!  Strangely, although they had freedom too...they didn't seem to want to simply go...not like I did, or at least not perhaps as long.  But me, I'm back at a point where I need some sort of marker, demarcation, transition from what has gone before.  Not to break with the past but to at least mark, remember, and celebrate what has been, and give thanks for it all.  At the same time, turning west to see what will come after the sun sets on this phase.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Begin at the beginning!

Well, to actually do that, would mean going back a minimum of about 15 years!  Somewhere 15 to 20+ years ago was when I can first recall having heard about the Camino de Santiago de Compostella.  It was, if memory serves at all, an article in a German magazine.  It may have been Der Spiegel, and for the life of me I can't remember if I as reading it the original or not.  But that was the first time I heard of people walking from village to village in remote areas of northern Spain.  And crossing the Pyrenees on foot!  I was totally taken with the idea of being somewhat at the mercy of villagers kindnesses, for food, water and shelter.  I don't even remember that I knew where they were really walking to, or even that Santiago, was/is the english St. James.   There was literally sort of a bell that went off inside of me, saying with absolute clarity, you can do this, you must.  I just knew at some point I would.

Moving up a few years on a quiet Sunday morning, I was working in a bookstore in the Quakerbridge Mall.  It was my last day at that location.  I was opening alone and my first customer across the threshold as I raised the gate,  a young lady, slightly flustered and more than a little excited.  She was looking for a journal.  So I took her to the section, asked a few of the usual questions...type,  look, style etc.  She needed a lightweight one as she was going on a trip.  At the register, with what seemed half an acre of counter between us, I asked where was she going.  Her answer still gives me shivers.  She told me she was on the way to the airport, to Spain to the Camino de Santiago.  I froze and stared for a moment or two before I could even respond.  It was like hearing that bell again!  Hearing my name being called.  She too was more than a little surprised that I actually even heard of it.  I remember aching to go with her, wishing her well, watching her walk out of my store down the stairs, brightly lit by the skylight overhead, and just wanting to go....but not being able. That distance across the counter might as well have been an ocean.  There was simply no way I could do it, responsibly, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to jump that counter and run and follow her.  Of course since I was leaving for another store the next day, I also knew the odds of crossing paths with her later, ... slim to none!  But such is the Camino.

It's funny reading what I just wrote, and realizing for the first time how patiently I've been waiting for this.  Since that bright sunny morning, Caminoing, went way on the back burner for me.  I have a family and at that time, they truly needed Mom around.  You can't go disappearing, traipsing across Europe when you have sons in elementary and high school.  There were still so many meals to cook, clothes to wash, tuitions to be paid and the list goes on and on.  Funny to how in all the readings I've been doing about the Camino, patience is on of the things everyone talks about needing, learning, struggling with.  I guess I began my lessons in patience along the Camino a long time ago, I just didn't realize it.  So I guess the Camino has been teaching me for a long time already...good things are worth waiting for!

It's still a year away, I believe, that I'll be able to disentangle my self and go back.  Yes, I've done one of the routes, but not the one that's been calling me all this time.  Over this year there will be research, training, planning plotting and of course patience.   I may never get the chance to disappear and simply walk a pilgrimage again (at least of this length) so I want to be sure that I make the most of the opportunity.  I don't want to simply stumble blindly and unknowingly past the treasures of the road, unable to fully appreciate where I am and what has gone before me to make this road what it is.  There is such a wealth of history there, in Spain and on the road itself.  Culturally and spiritually...I want to be ready.

Camino....I'm coming...Publish Post