Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's difficult to believe that this year is actually coming to a close.  It's been quite spectacular and will rank as one of the most special in my life.  So far!  Two beautiful granddaughters.  One Camino Frances done and done!  So many wonderful new friends.  Just as many lovely old ones too.  I am filled to the brim with blessings this year, as it draws to a sweet close.  Truly the words, my cup runneth over, have never felt so true. 

Where the road will lead in this coming year I can't quite say.  If the past is anything to measure by, it could be truly amazing.  In fact I know it will be.  So to all who have stopped by here, blessings be upon you.  Blessings on all in your life.  Peace and joy be yours in the up coming New Year!

Now after a long days hiking in the Pine Barrens,  I'm off to slay some opponents at Scrabble!!

Buen Camino all!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Watershed Moment?

Left or right?  Yes or No? High road or low road?  There come moments in all of our lives when there is a shift or a line that gets crossed.  A change.  A choice that gets made, and everything that comes after will be different.  Sometimes it's obvious and clear for anyone to see.  Sometimes the changes can be so subtle.  I think sometimes those quiet ones may have the most lasting effect.

I knew the Camino, this Camino, was important for me.  I knew I would have time to think, uninterrupted.  Time to just be, completely removed from all the "things" that make up my so called life. No distractions.  To the point I lost all track of the days of the week! The most obvious and funny one was sitting in Hontanas as the bells began to peal, looking at another pilgrim and wondering why.  It was it turns out, Sunday morning!

I find myself viewing  a lot of my life as before and after the Camino.   There were immediate and obvious changes, like the 16+ lbs left behind in the Pyrenees and the mountains of Galicia.  There are others, quiet ones that aren't as easy to define.  And I don't think El Camino is done with me yet!!  Seeing where this all leads is going to be interesting.  Probably almost as interesting as the Camino was.  Interesting for me at least...I do realize that for others, it might be as exciting as watching grass grow or paint dry

Strange, but I have been told by a few people that while they can't put a finger on it...they think I've changed.  I don't know that I thought any of this to be obvious to anyone outside my family.  A friend from the gym, had no idea where I'd gone or what I'd done, stopped me and asked what was up, why did I seem different.  I think maybe the changes are a little like what happened to my hiking shoes.  When I left home they were green and grey.  Each day that went by they grew a little more worn (and a little more cofortable too!).  When I got to Santiago, they were nearly unrecognizable.  I have similar pair of Keens here at home that have seen way fewer miles and still resemble their original color and shape.  And, while at times it felt like I'd worn my feet 'n legs down to mere nubs, here too is proof that the feet came thru in one piece too!

Just a few thoughts and samples of little things that have changed:
  • Writting - constantly.  Which is funny, 'cause I didn't write a journal 'cept for this blog while actually on the Camino! Then I just wanted to in the moment.
  • Trying poetry even!  Ok, so haven't exactly gone public with any, but I get immense satisfaction out of it.
  • Watch very little TV, some times nothing for days on end.
  • Really making space and time for all the good people in my life. Only the good...the others, I just don't sweat anymore.  I don't specifically push them away, I just don't make room for them. 
  • Haven't set foot in a shopping mall since my return, and very few other retail establishments outside of the grocery store.  Now FYI, I live only a few miles from the first ever modern indoor shopping mall.  It all started here in NJ! Sheesh!
  • Do more things completely independently.  So I want to go hike in Wharton State Forest.  No one to go with, no problem.  Tell the rangers and head out.  Simple as that. 
  • Have not bought a single article of clothing since the scarf I bought in Santiago de Compostella. My last job was in a clothing store so this is pretty funny, and I like it!
  • Finally got the courage to paint and I don't mean change the color of a room!  I drew a sketch for a particular space below the stairs in our house ten years ago.  Now I finally have the courage to put it on the wall!  Great art? No, but very satisfying!
So on a note of absolute bravery...for is that sketch made 10 years ago...soon to be
on the wall it was drawn for:

Last but in no way least, perhaps one of the greatest changes is the acceptance of things that are simply, unchangeable.  Myself or rather the body I inhabit.  For all that I lost weight walking the Camino Frances, I've learned that this is a sturdy strong body that I live in.  Size is not important.  Being healthy is.  Being comfortable and confident in my own skin is.  Accepting who I am at 55 is.  And that, as the ole Master Card commercials say, is priceless!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memories of a Museo

Museums.  I think if this word was to be in a word association "test", most, if not many would answer dust!  Or perhaps in a kinder moment, simply old or perhaps boring.  I don't know why but it's never been that way for me.  Maybe because they've been a part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember.

As children we were taken (yes some days dragged!) to museums of all sorts.  A favorite was the Trolley Museum in Connecticut.  The Trolley Museum meant being able to climb all over the machinery.  There were trips to other museums with my stateside grandparents.  They lived just outside Philadelphia.  We kids would get to stay for a week, all by ourselves, reveling in being the center of attention.  I remember Omi asking me where I wanted to go each time I was with them.  The answer was rarely anything but the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  One of my all time favorite rooms has a lovely reflecting pool in the center of the gallery.  Sometimes it was hard not to want to play in the water!  Just sitting on the marble bench swinging my feet, next to my Opa, that was fun too.

So I guess, me finding my way into museums in Santiago was just natural.  I wandered thru parts of the Cathedral Museum with Hunter prior to our taking the trip up to the roof.  On my final day in Santiago, as I continued to struggle finding tokens of rememberance for the family back home, I found my feet unerringly leading me to the Museum of Pilgrimage. It is actually incredibly close to the Cathedral and to where I was staying at the Seminario.
The entry fee isn't much.  As a perigrina, with credencial or Compostella even that small fee is waived!  Doesn't get much better than that does it!

The first few rooms were dedicated to pilgrimage in general.  There were examples of different pilgrimages around the world.  In one of those rooms I found this lovely mandala.  

In one of the halls, these tiles were on the ceiling.  I would have loved to have had copies of them.  The beautiful green and the soft ochre tones of the shells...very restful, I think.  Almost like looking at them underwater.

My fascination with columns and capitals continued here in the museum where they were wonderfully displayed where someone like me can truly examine them up close and personal.  This was like a dream come true for me, getting to see them so close and no ladders! Both my feet firmly on the floor. 

Now mind you there was a lot more to be seen there besides capital!  There were arches!!

As beautiful as this is now...worn and weathered, imagine how stunning it must have looked like when the velvet was new!

I had to fight the urge to touch I zoomed in with the camera to compensate!

This is one of the most beautiful paintings, in my opinion!  An absolute jewel.

So, next time your in Santiago de Compostella, and looking for something to do, wander round the corner and have a look see at this lovely little gem of museum.  The staff are very welcoming, although the ones working that day didn't speak much English, they could not have been nicer or more helpful.  I'm including a link to their website so you can find them even more easily.  They absolutely should be on everyone's visit list!

I'm also including the link to the cathedral, and the information about the museum there and the hours are included.

It was in the museum that I finally found things to bring home that felt right.  I bought a cd called Canto de Ultreia.  If I was more talented on the computer, I might even be able to include some of the haunting music from this CD, which is playing as I type here.  I also bought three tiny blue and white plates with a scallop shell on them, one for each household.  Supporting the museum by making these purchases also just felt right to me at this particular time.  They didn't feel like just purchases for the sake of buying something.  They were tangible reminders of my journey, and a way of sharing it with family back home.    Another friend bought rosaries along the way.  Again, a lovely way to bring a piece of the Camino home.  Funny, still haven't been able to go into a mall since I've been back!  Not once.  Several malls!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Up on the Roof!!

The days I spent in Santiago were desperately needed.  They were very special in their own way.  Talking with other pilgrims in Santiago, I found I wasn't alone in that feeling.   To grab a flight straight home seemed simply unimaginable, and in a way wrong.  Even now, months later, I'm really just starting to feel like my feet are on the ground here at home.  As much as they ever may be again!  But then...they weren't exactly on the ground all the time I was Santiago either!

The last time I'd been in Santiago, in '08, I hadn't even known there was a roof top tour.    The tour is currently running at 8 Euros, and is worth every bit of it.  I had the good fortune to get to share my experience with Hunter a terrific young man, a great pilgrim, from Florida.  We'd met on the trail a while back and bumped into each other again, as pilgrims do, in Santiago.  We both enjoy church architecture and art, so sharing it with him was great.

The our actual tour began a 7:00pm with a flight of ancient stairs.   We nearly had to run up those stairs, because I was late! One wrong turn while trying to shop for family and I ended up several blocks over from where I shoulda been.  Not an auspiscious beginning for a tour with lots and lots of stairs.  That however turned out to be the only off moment!

The guide took us up to one of the rooms of the Cathedral Museum, and showed us what would have been a banquet room and gave wonderful explanations of the various carvings and colors that would have filled the room.  Even ceilings weren't left alone.  There is a whole other language being used, a kind of shorthand, that many of us are unaware of these days.  Just as we speak in sometimes unintelligible shorthand while texting, in a way so did the builders and artists who made the cathedral and surrounding buildings.  We may use the phrase IMHO (In my humble opinion!) or LOL (laughing out loud).  When these buildings were being mapped out, you might have been told your "place" in someone's humble opinion by a simple glance around you.  Look up and see plain and few ornaments in your little part of the universe and you didn't need to wonder where you fitted into the larger picture. Then all of this would have been painted too.  While our current sensibilities are accustomed to the tans, taupes, grays and browns, in their time much of the rooms as well as the cathedral proper would have been beautifully painted.  Add then banners of all sorts, tapestries and the rich colored robes and the place would have been a riot of color.  So very different from what we see today, cool and calm and monochromatic.

From these rooms our guide, Andy, took us up yet another flight of steps which brought us to the gallery in the Cathedral itself.  Amazing things to be seen and discovered here, many completely unexpected.  In it's hey day this gallery running around the cathedral would have been where pilgrims spent the night.  All of a sudden the botafumeri clearly is much more than a show stopping ornamental incense burner.  It's essentially a giant room deodorizer!

This pic was taken in '08

Look at the thickness of those ropes!!

Can you imagine waking up in the morning...looking down and seeing this in the cool light of dawn!
Here we also got an incredible up close view of what was once a rose window in the original facade of the cathedral. So sad, at least to me, to see what was once someones beautiful masterpiece pushed aside by a change in fashion.  But that still goes on today, doesn't it, out with the old and in with the new?

This area is off limits unless your on the tour, or one of the lucky people who are working on restorations up here.  This is also turns out to be the attic area of the cathedral.

Imagine this as your workspace!!  Ahh one can dream!
These giant figures are used during feistas! We were told the represent in a humorous
way pilgrims from around the world.
This is how it rests on the person carrying it!
Somehow it looks like the ultimate headache.

Now it was onward and upward to the roof itself.  I had no real idea what it might be like up there.  It was amazing.  The one and only complaint, was of myself, for being silly enough not to inquire about footwear.  I had my crocs on, which were ok, but my hiking shoes would have been much more secure.  Especially for someone who doesn't like heights all that much.

Andy our intrepid guide who patiently answered all our questions.

As you come out of the stair case this is the view that greets you straight ahead.  In clearer weather it must be unbelievable.  Although this cloud cover gave us nice even lighting.

Looking left this is what you'll see. It was funny to see how comfortable some people were up here.  Funnier still how uncomfortable some us were!

Get really brave and start wandering about anywhere...even the ridge line!

Looking down at the Plaza where I'd had a glass of champange
with Arlene the day before, celebrating our arrival in Santiago.

This curved door completely intriuged me.

Look around the city, heck look anywhere in Galicia and you'll see mosses, lichens, flowers and ferns popping out of crevices and clinging to walls.  While I found them beautiful to look at, they worried me.  I was concerned they might be causing damage to the buildings.  Andy our guide assured me that they don't.  In fact he said one of them and I'm not sure which color it was, actually acts in a protective manner for the stone face. You can see at least three colors of lichens, one moss, and two different flowers just on this one piece of ornamentation!
While looking at the building was fun...looking in was almost as much!  Being able to view parts of the great gilded altar from the roof top windows was amazing.  Someone needs to tell housekeeping they missed a spot!

Interesting and understandable, to see how the gold is only on the parts that show! I don't like doing windows either.

This tour was terrific and I truly recommend it to any and all going to Santiago!  But now it's time for a beer, a reward for climbing so high and getting clamy hands and feet!!   I'm off from there...humming me a little James Taylor.!!

Since my friends and family know how much I don't like heights...I had to have this picture taken up there as proof positive!  See I didn't just send my camera up with Hunter!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I first heard about the Camino at least 20 years ago.  There was an immediate deep visceral response.  I knew in every fiber of my being I wanted to do this thing, walk across the North of Spain.  This isn't a surprise if you really know me.  Or, it shouldn't be!

Growing up my first heroes/heroines were adventurers.  I remember getting lost reading an entire series of biographies in the elementary school library for young readers. Bios of people like Lief Erikson, Kit Carson, Lewis and Clark. My bedtime reads often included old (I mean 1915!) copies of National Geographic, often all black and white.  Someday, I will go to the Gobi Desert and be surprised that it doesn't smell like old books, that delicious dry, ever so slightly moldy dusty aroma of ancient paper. Ahhh... the dream of travel.

So, now I'm all grown up (lol) and been married for 33 years.  A lifetime!  Married to someone whose idea of vacations is a polar opposite.  Not wrong, just undeniably different.  It can be fun to go to the same shore spot year in and year out.  To see how things change. Or not.  Measuring yourself against things seen only once each year.  However, for someone whose earliest memories are airplanes, airports and autobahns, this can feel at times like an almost imperceptible dying, unless well seasoned with periodic adventures.

An amusing example of our differences is simply in the expectations of where people live after marriage.  His family all tried, at least initially to stay as close as possible.  Five miles was good.  Same neighborhood, even better.  Next county, well that was seriously pushing the envelope.   I pushed the envelope.  My envelope always was bigger to start with.  Thousands of miles bigger.  My childhood impressions of marriage were, you married and moved.  Far.  My maternal grandparents married in Germany and moved to England. My paternal great grandparents married in Germany, and moved to America.  And then back to Germany, to fulfill military obligations during the WW I.  My parents, my uncle and aunt either married and then moved to the US or vice versa.  So if you'd ever asked me as a youngster, what I thought would happen when I married, the answer would have been simple.  Marry and move to the west coast!  Finding myself living within a few miles of where I went to high school, essentially wedded (or is that welded?) to the state university via marriage to a tenured professor, is, well - a shock! 

Even something as benign or boring sounding, like visiting grandparents was a little different. I remember looks of pity when I told other kids I was going to my grandparents for vacation. I just neglected to mention they lived in another country.  On another continent.   I learned early on to fly alone to Germany. Then to negotiate the train from Frankfurt to Nurnberg and then finding my Opa at the Hauptbanhof.  Even at thirteen and fourteen. So traveling, even on my own has been in my blood and a habit for as long as I can remember.

So I've often felt a little out of sync.  It really began to hit me how much my version of travel and "normal" weren't, aren't exactly that.  There have been many times when I've expressed my interest in visiting places that don't show up on shiny travel brochures and gotten such strained smiles.  Comments like "that's not safe" or "we aren't that kind of people"  or "not a woman, certainly not alone...".  A kind of loneliness became normal.  Quiet.  I simply learned to be quiet.

That doesn't mean I gave up dreaming.  Plotting some might call it.  Watching, waiting, a little praying too.  Somehow I knew I couldn't possibly be the only one.  Oh, I knew I wasn't, but it sure felt that way sometimes. 

Then the Camino.  Here were people who quite literally stepped out of "normal" and into another way.  Men, women, young, old, people who weren't afraid to meet the world full on.  To live in ways, many, at least here in the US couldn't (or perhaps I should say wouldn't) conceive of doing. 

Finally, I found home or could I say I found my tribal lands. We are tribe of nomads on the Camino.  For more than five weeks I slept in a different bed nearly every single night. Most of the time, I and my compadres on the road, weren't even sure where we might be sleeping for the night. I ate in different towns, with different people.  Yet in it's own lovely way it finally felt, well, like a home.  Even now, more than two months out, I find a comfort, knowing there are pilgrims out there.  On the road.  Pilgrims who will pick up in a few hours and walk forward.  Where to exactly doesn't matter.  Exactly with whom doesn't matter.  They will get to know still more people.  Tomorrow, on the road.  The tribe will continue.

I'm beginning to realize too,  how many other pilgrims moved with me when I was on the road. Other pilgrims were invested in me and my pilgrimage, without ever meeting.  Every day in Santiago at Mass, prayers of thanksgiving are said for those at the cathedral.  And prayers are said for those still on their way. How many pilgrims at home, were remembering, as I do now, their days on the road and pray for those currently walking.  How many pilgrims, lurk on Internet forums and wonder about those walking.  Wonder will it would be like?  And perhaps pray for those walking.  How many of us say prayers of thanksgiving for advice we've received from those who walked before us and shared their knowledge.  How many feet have trodden those routes over the years?

I almost wonder how much of the dust we breathe in on that road is partly dust of those who've gone before us, the dust of our pilgrim tribe.  Perhaps in a way that was part of what I smelled, all those years ago in my attic bedroom.  Reading my ancient National Geographics under the covers with bedside lamps or flashlights or however I could manage it on that night.  My nose already knew, the familiar smell of the dust of the road.  The smell of homecoming.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

** Monastery Bells **

Well, sort of!  This poem was shared by a friend and I think of it every time I look at this picture, which is now my wallpaper on the computer.

The temple bell stopped

but the sound kept coming

from the flowers

- Matsuo Basho, 17th century Japanese Zen-Haiku poet  

** The Road Not Taken **

My first thought as I came to this particular intersection as of Frost...and the road not taken...So I thought I 'd share them together with you...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What the **

Ok in an effort to make things manageable for those who are well as myself in editing...any entries with the apparent cursing going on, ** are new entries with pics and captions only! Hope this is helpful.  Looks like only a day or a two at time.  The upload process ain't exactly greased lightening. Oh that's right a pilgrim is always grateful...but then I ain't in pilg mode anymore... I am home!!  (insert evil witchy laugh here!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 last!

Ok....have begun inserting pics in the chronologically appropriate places...but not 100% sure if this is a good idea...or should I just start a second section of order?  Will take advice or opinions from one and offense taken...just excited as all get out to be able to share them with you all at last. 

Ahhhh...that's right..breathe, just breathe!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Today is her day!

Today is my beautiful granddaughter Anna Karina's baptism.  Today is the day that made me hurry a little more than I might have liked, across the north of Spain.

My dearest and darling little one, I hope you will know how much I missed you!  Someday maybe you'll realize how many people know this is your day!  People in S. Africa, Germany, England, Ireland, France, Brasil, Italy...they all knew why I had this intense look some days, the look of someone with a goal.  A goal beyond just Santiago de Compostella!  So as I sit and write this with the sun coming up over my shoulder, I lift my cafe con leche to you my little one!

So Anna, and Clare Grace, my other beloved, still waiting in the wings....Omi is home!

Anna Karin Samulis (and her Omi!)

Friday, June 24, 2011

God is so good to us!

As much as I dreaded the reentry, it is going so much better so far than I'd ever expected.  Now this is coming from a woman who only laid her head on her own pillow about 8 hours ago! 

My last day in Santiago was a bit of a whirlwind that allowed me not to have too many meltdowns!  I meet and enjoyed my time with so many people that day, including Joachim and Hanna, who walked from Burgos or was it Pamplona, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary!  Awesome couple and so much fun to spend time with.  We decided to meet for a final dinner as I had the night train to catch.  This left me now with an afternoon to fill.  One last afternoon in my Emerald City, what to do?  I had to do some shopping but was just having the worst time buying "things".  I just couldn't.  Yet, I wanted some small thing to share with my loved ones at home.  So, putting all things in the hands of someone larger I went off, knowing I had to meet dear people in front of the Cathedral at 6pm

Wandering the streets I saw some lovely things, and yet none of them spoke to me.  At all.  Well, one pair of earrings did, that were very very modern and looked like cherries in a silvery/pewter/gold fabrication.  But that would have been for me, a memory of cherries shared along the road, wild and those given to me by a local couple harvesting from their own front yard tree.  No earrings.  I wanted to check out the Convento and the church attached, but siesta intervened.  Hmmmm...continue wandering the streets, starting to feeling the slightest anxiety that I wouldn't have any "thing" to share.  When what to my wondering eyes should of my all time favorite things...a museum. 

Now my poor family knows, if there is one thing I am liable to dive into anywhere anytime, it is a museum.  Once again, the Camino provided.  It was the Museum of Pilgrimage.  It was free.  It was terrific.  It also allowed me to get something of remembrance without feeling overwhelmed by the commercial.  I was still in a small way supporting both the museum and the local economy.  So a few small items, some music and I was free to finish and meet my friends.

Our final dinner was in a small restaurant, frequented by locals only as it turned out.  And the food was excellent.  I simply indulged in my last Ensalada Mixta and last Tortilla Espana.  Followed of course by Tarte de Santiago.  We wandered around a bit after eating and found ourselves once again standing before the Cathedral in the Praza de Obradorio.  All was well till I realized this was truly my last goodbye in this wonderful journey and with a quick hug to all, I fled.  Grabbed my bag, had the concierge at the Seminario call a taxi, and headed for the train station.

I was, I believe the first pilg to show for the train.  Got my ticket, on the cheap, a seat not a berth which would have been more than double, at 120 euros.  So for 50 I had a comfy seat.  Or so I thought.

Getting into my seat 2A on Coach 6, I discover myself sitting across from a man about 6' 5"!  At first he didn't say a word as we four tried to settle ourselves.  After a few moments, he realized I spoke English and lit up.  Apparently hadn't heard a word for two days! Turns out to be ex British military, heading down to visit a sister in the south of Spain.  His dad was also there and at 97, not doing well, so he was doing whatever and where ever to get there ASAP.  And of course as cheap as possible.  The flight, last minute would have been 600E ! So anyhow, we chat abit and decide to head for a coffee, which actually turned out to be a beer (smarter option if you wanna try and sleep upright I think). 

Back in our spot on the train we struggle to get comfortable as possible, and Matt and the other pilg next to him said I should put my feet up on the seat between them.  I looked at them in complete horror, as they were bare feet, Camino feet with healed blisters that are starting to peel and really look, well, disgusting!  They insisted it was ok, so, lets not be stupid, I did!  We all nod off as well as we can, with Matt doing like my friend Joe here, instant coma!  Somewhere during the night I feel something on my legs.  Ummm. Ok.  Turns out Matt noticed my capris, and my cold legs, and was tucking me in with a shirt from his pack.  Now tell me the Camino doesn't provide the most amazing angels along the way.  Nasty slightly dirty camino feet and he tucks me in so gently I almost didn't notice.  We parted with a hug and a kiss on the cheek in Madrid.  I know I will never see him again, but neither will I ever forget him and his kindness.  Matt, I hope it goes well with your Dad.

Back home after a long set of flights with all kinds of delays and near misses, I realize I have to call home.  I am too late for any trains.  So much for wanting to walk the last 2k to the house under my own steam.  My phone had gone dead, and yet one last time, Camino Angels appear.  The girl at the counter for the limos, hands me her phone (unasked for) and says to call my husband.  Another girl waiting for her pick up hands me a phone to double check that he is heading to the right stop at Newark Airport.  This is Jersey folks.  This is highly populated, urban, busy, hectic and yet, people are good.   

So now here I sit, having made my own caffe con leche and eaten a bit trying to think of what to do.  I do know I need to go outside.  I haven't been in a building this long in nearly six weeks.  I need to walk.  I need to go see my granddaughter.  Oh GOD, that means I need to drive. Oh this should be interesting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tick, Tick, TICK!

I´m down to hours in Santiago. Just as the city begins to feel home like, it´s time to leave.  It really is.  I´m ready, or as much as any of us is after a fairly long walk, to reenter my real world. Reenter without scaring the hell out of my family and friends.  In my own weird way, I think after finally arriving in the City, I felt maybe a little like Moses did when he came down from the mountain, and people couldn´t look at him.  I just wasn´t ready to have "regular" conversations. I wasn´t ready to think about daily tasks.  Tasks that weren´t walking, washing laundry by hand, and eating something before sleeping again. Tasks that were anything but being, praying and enjoying the world as a whole.

OH....more tears here in the Emerald City!  Sitting here typing, Rita, with whom I literally began my walk, appeared!  We set our feet on the path to Santiago, together, on May 13th just before the gate in St. Jean Pied du Port.  Today on my very last day, she is here with me again!  Some how, it seems to round things out, complete and close a chapter.  Beautifully.  I think as of now there is only one friend I haven´t been able to say a proper goodbye to.  And in it´s own way that is ok too. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here´s to small quiet voices

This morning, the dawn of midsummer, I woke up thinking I´d take the bus to Finisterre.  My tummy felt a tiny bit wobbly, so I figured breakfast was in order.  I wandered down to the dining hall, where the Seminario has a fantastic breakfast buffet.  I ate.  I drank coffee con leche.  I sipped juice.  I still felt just the tiniest bit off.  So I wandered off to the cathedral.

The cathedral at roughly a few minutes after 8am is delightful. Quiet.  Truly peaceful.  I could really enjoy the silence, the polychrome pillars, the infinite variety of the chapels, the old and the new all  living side by side.  I watched quietly from a pew as some priests did their divine office, and then mass.  I knew I wasn´t going to make Finisterre today and that was fine.  I walked around the Portico del Gloria, admiring the work and looking a the restoration in progress over the next few years. 

Needing more fresh air I went out the main steps and stood looking out over the Praza.  A pilgrim sitting with his bag at the bottom smiled back as I mouthed "Hola".  Then I saw why I´d had a wobbly stomach.  Renate!  Renate Gunther!  I think the world of this young woman, and haven´t seen her since Leon.  We spent the morning catching eachother up on all the happenings, and various folk from our Camino Families.  I´d forgotten that she and Hunter were also good friends.

So I´ve been given once again the gift of friendship and time with good people.  Tonight Hunter and I have reservations to look at the roof of the Cathedral.  Not a bad spot to toast midsummer !  Wonder who else I might run into in the process!  So here´s to those small quiet voices gently pulling you back from a plan that looked so promising at first light.

Monday, June 20, 2011

** "Last" day...or where to now? **

How do you put into words, this last day, walking ... It rather reminds me of the line in a song from the movie "To Sir with Love" where she says "how do you thank someone who's taken you from crayons to perfume?" Well, I may not have been quite that young...but...  How do you quantify, measure or even begin to know how much you've changed over these days and weeks and actually months?  For the now, thank you Santiago, for the place, Gracias, Espana and all my fellow Perigrinos, for everything...Gracias, Danke.   Thank you all the angels I met along this way... I am so grateful and happy to say I am not the woman who began this trip...whoever she was.  I can also say, who I am still becoming..don't quite know, but thank you for that too!

Yes, it was this dark when I started walking!  this was probably the only day I left this early.

It took a lot of manipulating to get this picture to show...but the hayloft was so lovely in the near dark, I wanted to crawl up there and wait...for the sun and the rest of the world...
Finally the sun, as always decided to show his face and help me along the way.

At long last, enough light to seen the yellow arrows...and the boots sitting on top of the stele..

So long awaited and now actually dreaded.  This is it, city of my dreams.

A little humor always helps too!  And another one of those tiny notes, which always leave one with that bittersweet wondering, did they meet...did they reconnect?

The equally long awaited words...Monto de Gozo, Mount of Joy.  From there pilgrims can see the actual Cathedral for the first time.  Now mind you, I've been there before, so I wasn't thinking it would hit me....

Well, Duh!! Of course it did...I was trying so damn hard to smile, which only made me cry more!! Of course I can laugh at it now...The Dutch pair who took this for me, and I of them, wound up sitting in the same corner at Mass!  It was a mother being helped by her son...who was only a bit younger than me.  Lovely to see them together.

There they are..smack dab in the middle between the trees, the misty spires of Santiago!  What can I say, the mist matched my eyes this Sunday morning in Santiago.

The road into downtown was amazingly crowded, and it was here I lost the two ladies from Sweden! 

I almost thought the boot was part of the sign.  The couple walking by, in the background, they thought I forgot it!!  He chased me down, and I had to explain in my pitiful Espanol, No mi Zappato and pointing at my feet and my now nasty looking Keens, Mi solo Zappatos.  It was incredibly sweet of him to try and do this...I kinda felt bad...but even for the last 3km, I wasn't carrying another thing!!

When I said on my earlier post about Santiago, about my sitting in a corner and I couldn't believe Enzo and Pepy actually found me sitting  here, my pack tucked into the corner between the sign and the wall, me, as you saw above, all in black!  Apparently the angels were hard at work again.

Stepping into my room at the Monastery, that Enzo and Pepy steered me into, this was what greeted me outside my window!!  My angels...still at it, day and night.

Bliss, aka Room 401.  Those are real cotton sheets and comforter...and a door...that only I can lock or open! and a bathroom..all to myself!  and breakfast too, all for 23 Euros!!!  Ahhhhhh!

Angel of God,
My guardian dear,
To whom His love
Commits me here;
Ever this night
Be at my side,
To light and guard,
To rule and guide.
Sleep tight pilgrims everywhere...don't let the bed bugs bite!!


Ok ya´ll, I have a date with a young man from Florida in about 45 minutes...and the computer has only about 25 minutes left, at the gets what ya gets!!

Where to begin...ok, maybe back in Santa Irene would be great idea? Made that tiny village late on Saturday, along with my beautiful friends from Sweden.  Ingmarie and Evelille (spelling?) started in Sarria, the last major outpost  for those "only" doing the last 100km.  As much as I tried or wanted to look down my weary and old pilgrim nose at this, their joy and delight at being on the road together was infectious! We enjoyed walking sorta together and then meeting up to find an alburgue or hostel.

In Santa Irene, we tried really hard to find the private alburgue, and failed.  Too tired, as we´d just completed a bit over 30km for the day.  So we stayed in the public one we´d stumbled too, and were rewarded with a room to ourselves.  Joy of Joys!  NO Supermercado or anything else, so back up the hill and into one of three restaurants there.  We´ll St. James was looking out for us as it was one of the best meals I´ve had.  The girls ate ensalad mixta, I had a lovely veg soup.  We all agreed to fish, so it came family style.  And oh what style! No Pomme Frites for us.... Real chunks of potatoes, with olive oil, and three kinds of grilled fish!  Salmon, Hake and Calimari! Evelile finally tried calimari and declared it good.  For Postres, we had fruit macerated in orange juice.  Peaches and plums etc.  Absolute perfection..all at the staggering price of 9€.

The girls had also given me another gift, for helping them along the way (that´s a laugh with my un poco Espanol!)  But it was one of the most precious gifts, especially to a woman living out of a bag for more than a month.  It was a tiny bottle of conditioner.  I can comb my hair properly using the small brush that Emmanuel from Stuttgart gave me (lightening his pack and making me feel like a girl again!)

So..anyhow...At five in the morning, with my miners lamp firmly on my head, I left, hell bent on making my way into Santiago in time for the noon pilgrims mass.  It was dark.  Really dark.  However the sky was clear, the moon was out and I simply had to take my time.  So, happily I can report I made it thru the forest without a faceplant and any other untoward  happenings.  Didn´t even scream in the one town where the motion detector sign that talks to you began to greet me in the dark!!  Very proud of myself for that one!

Now my family will find this hard to believe, but I walked nearly 12km before I had  a cuppa coffee (con Leche of course!) But I did it and have to pinch myself from the shock of it.  After this one lonely cup, I pushed on, and to all of Santiago, Mea Culpa!  That had to have been one grim faced perigrina that passed you all on a Sunday morning.

Make it in time for Mass?  You bet I did! Found me a padded seat on a confessional, huddled my now cramping legs and bawled (family, are you surprised?) It was a lovely mass, especially when I looked up and Pepy from Italy was standing over me smiling and telling me he and Enzo had spotted me!

So after Mass, they steered me to a place another friend from the Camino Forum had recommended (thank you Ian!).  I knew it existed but by this point was too tired to even figure out how to find it. Turns out they were all staying there!  So Enzo, my lovely heart transplant friend, literally took me by the pack and gently shoved me over there.  Pepy and he shortened and stashed my poles.  They made sure I got the Alburgue floor which is only 23€ including a fantastic breakfast buffet. So now I too can heartily and joyfully recommend the Semenario Menor (?).  Beautiful, clean, friendly, and.....a room all my own, with a bath of my VERY OWN!! I can stay neeked for more than thirty seconds!  I have white sheets...and a fluffy towel!!

Ok...time for my date with Hunter, touring the Cathedral roof and such!

Tomorrow...Finisterre per Autobus!!  Midsummer on the beach...looking at home and thinking of all of you, at home and all of you elswhere...I love you all very much!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

** Melide **

Left Ligonde quietly in the near dark...alone again.  It felt better than the previous days, and suddenly it began to really hit me..I was days from Santiago.  My epic was nearly over.  Or so I thought at the time.  Journeys like this...they stay with you, in you forever.  Rather like having a child, you are never ever quite the same. 

I was still meeting new and wonderful people.  Some of them long timers..some really new to the road.  It took an effort to remain open to new encounters, but it was worth the effort.  There were the girls from Sweden, Johann from Germany and many others, esp. the cyclist, who really just fly thru our lives.

Making it into Melide I was dragging a little, but feeling fairly contented with my journey.  Just needed to find the Alburgue. No sooner was the thought clear in my head when another pilgrim, neatly scrubbed and ready to see the town, grabs me and points me in the direction, telling me to hurry, but there are still beds!  Well thank you!  I found it, although with a little more direction.  New, large, possibly a little sterile and with a bathroom shower area..designed by a man!  No curtains, no doors..rather like being in gym class all over again.  Although at this stage, I quite frankly didn't give a damn!  The only concession was that the bathrooms were not co-ed!

There was internet in the area..but not in our Alburgue, rather at the little hostel next door.  It took a bit of waiting and standing around to get my hands on one but I was glad I did.  Not only did I get to blog, as you can see by the entry sans pics!  I juiced up my iPod nano!  I had completely resisted the urge to listen to music the entire time.  I felt, for me, that I'd rather be completly aware of everything around me when I was walking.  People are less likely to talk to you if they see earbuds and wires dangling down the sides of your face.  So for the last five plus weeks I had completely given myself to being present to what ever was.  The last few kilometers loomed, I thought a little help might be in order.

Melide was also the site of my Alburgue break IN.  While happily blogging, a fellow pilgrim and I suddenly's past 10pm.  Like 5 minutes past.  So we scrambled, grabbing our electronic gear and other stuff and bolted out the door like a pair of kids who are about to get grounded by their parents.  We get to the front door. It's locked.  We ring the bell.  No answer. We ring again.  No answer.  So at this point he goes around the corner...and after one more ring I follow.  We find a window to the dining area.  There are several people, including a "slightly" inebriated Frenchman who is sitting right at the window.  He tells us the doors are locked.  Very perceptive!  It takes us about 10 minutes to convince him to close the window, one of those with variable was open at the top only...and swing the damn thing open so we could climb in.  After we finally achieving this and get ourselves in (I needed a leg up cause of laughing way to much!) what does he do...he jumps out the window check his laundry.  Not quite sure how he clambered in as I was still laughing too hard and simply headed up to bed.

More and more, people were leaving notes along the side of the road.  Some were fresh..others left you wondering, rather sadly, had they been able to get together again...would they?

And then the reminders  that time is precious and sweet for each of us.

A small dose of humor never hurts!  Noticed a lot of these had funny faces on them.

A Camino version of "no pain, no gain!"

Okay, my mojo is everywhere and I am seeing them all and loving them!
Church in Melide...where we never did find out what the correct time for Mass was!

We'd come into this rather swanky restaurant...hoping to eat before the Mass (which we never found!) and had planned on being frugal..till the waitress delivered this to the table next to us.  MEAT...real meat that you need a knife for...with lovely peppercorn sauce..ahhhh!!!

Another of countless roadside shrines.
Dinner...4 k back up and I do mean UP the road.  It turned out to be one of the best dinners.  The soup  and salad were great, the entree...wonderful.  Three kinds of fish, potatoes with olive oil and bread.  For Postre...fruit macerated in orange juice.  The grilled calamari were the best!  These are the two ladies from Sweden who made my last days such a pleasure.

Mangolia!!  Mojo back!!!

Hydrangea....I can hear one friend telling me "this is not a botany lesson!" :-)

A fixer upper....loads of charm though!  Just needs the right person to tame those grapes!