From Maine to Spain (and back)

Foncebadon to Ponferrada (34km/21mile/42,405steps) – the day started off with a quick 20 minute climb to the Cruz Ferro or Iron Cross which is the highest point on the Camino and where pilgrims for decades have placed a stone at the foot of the cross, symbolically relieving themselves of their sins and burdens. Tradition dictates that the stone is to brought from home and carried all this way. Hence I brought a small stone. The stone that I placed at the cross was one I had taken off the beach on Peaks Island, Maine, nowhere creates perfectly round stones like the Maine coast. Don’t worry though I picked a small granite stone up off the trail a few days ago to put on the beach on Peaks at the end of the summer. Seemed like a fair trade. And yes I am obsessed with the weight of my pack but I am carrying stone with me – oh tradition.

The day continued with what I believe may be the prettiest day of walking I have ever had. While the trail was quite challenging and we did get a few sprinkles the last few miles Mother Nature was really showing off her stuff today. I walked for 6ish hours through the mountains dropping into small valley hamlets and back up again. It was not only beautiful it was really fun.

One sad point was that I did obverse many folks walking in sandals because of hurting feet and I came across a young women who had tripped, fallen and cut her head open on the rock – she seemed in amazingly good spirits despite all the blood but her companions were taking good care of her and an ambulance was called.

As you walk the Camino not a day goes by that you do not see at least one memorial to either a person who died walking the Camino or a person for whom this trail meant a lot. Today I saw one with a saying I have never heard before but really like. I’ll end with the quote and some picks from what was a really good walk today.

Peace

The boat is safer anchored in the port; but that is not the point of boats

Actual Knights Templar Castle

Happy Mother’s Day

And the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14a). To pull this off Jesus needed to have a mom just like you and me.

For me the most important theological concept is the incarnation. The fact that Jesus was born into this world, again just like you and me, is incredible telling about the God I worship and how I am to live (on my best days I do try).

Over the last few weeks I have spent a great deal of time wondering through churches and cathedrals across northern Spain. Today I spent the morning in the cathedral in Leon. This is one of my top 3 favorite sacred spaces along the Camino. It is one of the finest examples of the use of light and glass in all of Europe. Unlike so many churches and cathedrals in Spain Leon cathedral in simple and unmolested by baroque art and architecture. The windows are simply magnificent. But non of this is the point of this posting.

As I wondered through the cathedral today it became very clear that the most common theme in the windows and other pieces of art is the relationship between Jesus and his mom – from the beginning of his life until the end. They even have a rather uncommon statue of Mary pregnant. Throughout Spain a common theme in sacred art is La Virgin De La Leche or The Virgin of the Milk. There are statues, reliefs and panting everywhere (especially in Burgos) of the young mother Mary nursing her first born. Unlike so much Spanish art the expressions of the people in these works is almost always very sweet and tended, with Mary and the baby Jesus looking directly into each other’s eyes. They can be quite moving.

There is just something about these works of art that speak of real love to me.

Moms can be amazing. I have been blessed with two of the best, my mother Jan and the mother of my children Priscilla. So on this Mother’s Day I would like to express my love, appreciation and gratitude to all the mothers in my life and all the women and men who have played that roll. Being as mom is about as hard a job as any one person could every take on (I know being my mom was no cake walk) – so thanks.

Happy Mother’s Day and Peace.

Flying

Stage 9 – Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

One thing I have learned is that I should look at my elevation map before I leave in the morning – today was a lot hillier then I expected – nice surprise 😳. That said it was a pleasant 16 miles in unexpectedly cool weather (that’s good). Met some nice folks and reconnected with some others.

Not a lot to say about the day or at least nothing interesting enough to need to share – so here are my 2 favorite pics from the day.

Santo Domingo’s latest miracle is the temporary healing of my knees.

Stage 8 – Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

This posting will be pretty short, I have nothing terribly witty (shocking I know) or insightful (not so shocking) to offer. Todays walk was quite pleasant, my knees felt good and I had no problem caring the weight of my pack. I walked with a young women from the states that reminded me of Maddy, my daughter, she kept me throughly amused all morning. It takes a 22 yr old women to out talk me and she did. A fun conversation tends to make the walk easy no matter who it is with.

Today’s end point was Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Santo Domingo was one of the great heroes of the ancient Camino – look it up and report back it’s worth the trouble and I am not here to do your research, I already know the story and it’s a good one. The cathedral here that is his burial place is one of my favorite Spanish churches. Spanish Churches tend to be over the top in the bling department and a bit much for my taste. By Spanish standards The Cathedral of Santo Domingo is quite understated.

Today is also a festival day here and that has been fun – lots of adults and kids in traditional dress. I still haven’t figured out what the festival was but it was something like Labor Day mixed with a local religious holiday 🤷🏼‍♂️.

I am looking forward to a nice walk tomorrow and who knows who I will meet along the way. As always here are some pictures from the day.

Peace.

Humility while a powerful lesson is no fun

Stage 7: Logroño to Najera

For those who do not know me very well let me tell you a little secret – humility is not really my thing. I am very well aware of my white male privilege (that’s what I have friends (you know who you are) and a daughter for) and I trend to either wield it like a sword or carry it like a shield. The sword to fight for justice when my access it helpful (I know I know) and a shield to protect my ego from the world. Now I know that that is not very nuanced, but for this story its enough and its my blog anyways.

My privilege leaves me thinking that I can do anything, the world (and my mom)has told me so.

Like I said humility is not really my goto but the Camino has this amazing way of stripping away your pride and making you come face to face with your shortcomings (its kind of like family that way.) Today was one of those times.

Let me start this tale of woe from the beginning. Last time I walked the Camino I had great problems with my feet. This time so far so good. This year however on the very first day ascending the Pyrenees I wrenched an already bad knee. Needless to say my knees have been bothering me ever since – not a problem, I have had knee issues my entire adult life and I deal (I am very brave)(side bar – A very wise friend, Clarke Hendley, once told me “you know Bob, sarcasm does not translate onto paper” and I have spent my life ever since trying to prove him wrong with little success).

Ok, back to my tale of woe: After my walk yesterday I was really hurting and even got myself wondering how munch longer I could go on. Proof that to much time to oneself and with ones own thoughts can make you think all kinds of negative things. So this morning when I woke up and my knees (yes now plural) were still hurting and I did the one thing I said I would never do – I sent my heavy backpack forward to where I am staying tonight and carried just a small day pack I keep rolled up in by bag for evening strolls. YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND – I said I would NEVER do this and I did. Guess what? A little humility and self awareness can paid off. 30km later I arrived feeling better then I had in days.

Pride has no place on the Camino and as I have learned one more time the Camino is a metaphor for life – A little humility goes a long way.

As we pass through this Easter season its nice for this old priest to remember that everyday has the possibility for resurrection – even if it is just a pair of beaten up pair of knees.

Peace

PS – here are a few pictures from the day

A Good Day for a Walk

Today was the perfect weather for a nice walk. It was cool, overcast and dry most of the day. We did get about an hour or so of light rain but not only was it no problem it would have been missed after so many very rainy days.
As we have passed the 100km mark to Santiago the path is becoming much busier. That said, at times today it was quite quiet.
A very large percentage of pilgrims only do the last 100km of the 800km Camino. Tradition provides full pilgrim privileges to those who walk at least the last 100k. Modern schedules have made this a much more attractive and accessible goal for most. I am glad that this provides a piece of this wonderful experience to so many, but I would not trade my 5 weeks and 800km for anything – this time has been a real blessing in many different ways and I will be processing it for some time to come and will never forget it.

I still can’t load the video from the other day, but here are some pictures from today.

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What goes up must come down

The last 2 days have been very interesting (i.e.: hard as hell). We have walked nearly 60k and climbed 1505m, meaning we have also come down. I don’t mind climbing,I kind of like it, but I hate descending, it hurts my feet. Over the last two days the weather has been perfect, sunrises beautiful, mornings cool and afternoons hot, food really good (stewed pigs ears), the path has been narrow, rocky and steep and the company wonderful.
We spent last night and part of today’s walk with 3 retired British military officers (all dentist), 2 of which are treating the Camino like a military campaign and one wonderful guy who turned 70 on the Camino. Yes, 70.
My foot still hurts, but I have come to the place where I know it will for the rest of the walk – so be it. My biggest obstacle is that I miss my family terribly but that is also a blessing.
Tonight I will sleep in a room across the street form a Knight’s Templar Castle – How cool is that?
Pray for me and know that you are in my prayers.

Here is a bunch of pictures – enjoy, and yes that is my right foot.

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Quick and Easy – easing back into it

Today we were back on the road after a much appreciated and enjoyed rest day in Leon. Leon is a lovely city with a number of quite good museums, a beautiful cathedral, a bunch of churches (shocking!) and lots of good food.
It was a great day to walk. The weather was perfect, with the sun out and a slight breeze. The path rolled and was not to rocky nor did it spend to much time parallel with any significant roadways. As we began to walk the comment was made that it was nice to be easing back into being on the road. The response was something about how things/we have changed from the first days – when did 23 km become easing back in?
Not a lot to say about my time in Leon other than the day and a half off was a good idea and I saw many beautiful and ancient things while there. We even saw what is said to be (possibly) the Holy Grail.
Here are some pics:

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