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