Saturday, October 29, 2011


Daylight is struggling to shift the morning mists to a paler shade of grey. Portland to the south, shrouded in fog, is lost from view. The nearest trees are just vague dark smudges, hardly silhouettes. Robin, got a lead on me today as she rose early to prepare her music for an ordination mass this morning. I followed an hour later, gathering a bit of breakfast and some tea (Bamboo Mountain) along the way. As the trilling of scales upstairs signaled no conversation was forthcoming I reached out for the book nearest at hand. It was John Brierley's Camino Guide. A few days earler, Robin and I, had been caught in a Camino moment (again), and dug out John's book to clarify a name. It has since been close at hand (why bother to put it away). Some, as I have read, feel John's writing is a bit too reflective. They just want the practical bits. But, I thoroughly connect with him, and enjoy his inner musings. The Camino for Robin, and I, presented many of the same challenges that John relates in his guide. After all, don't we all share the same human weaknesses? It is clearly important to have a full understanding of the route, the equipment you will need, the terrain, and the weather, but it is also became clear as we walked along that there was an inner journey that emerged which we had not fully considered or prepared for. Of course, I don't know how one prepares for that sort of thing, but that companion journey turned out to be more compelling than the physical one. I guess I would just simply say to be aware for the blessing of silence and the freedom from distraction. What that enables on your Camino will be your personal discovery, and joy. For us, it was in those many quiet moments, as we made our way down the Camino in December and January, where our faith awakened, and a connection to the Camino was forged forever. Robin often refers to this experience as a love letter from God. She just might be on to something.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

There is a longing in my heart

Robin and I saw the movie "The Way" yesterday and found ourselves dealing with a cascade of emotion as we were brought back to our time on the Camino. I particularly was drawn to a comment in the film that said no one walks the Camino by accident. I believe that is true. Yes, admittedly it is hard to understand just how all this would work when people walk the Camino for so many different reasons, but are those reasons really so different. Therein lies the mystery. Perhaps there is a connective thread of sorts that weaves its way through the many pilgrims and their personal journeys to and along the Camino. We have a Canadian friend, Daniel, who we met on the Camino, who would say that, regarding the Camino, we all start as walkers but finish as pilgrims. After his three Caminos I trust his wisdom on the subject. It is almost as though the prayers of all the saints and all the pilgrims past transform us as we make pilgrimage to Santiago. For people who have other views (or none) of religion or spirituality they try to resist this feeling because it is such an alien concept. But, with All Saints Day just around the corner I feel particularly connected to those who have proceeded us in this life especially those who, over the past thousand years, have made their way along the Camino. Whatever mindset you bring to the Camino the prayers of those many pilgrims past will be your constant companion and comforter even if you choose to believe that the many wonders of the Camino are just a bit of good luck.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The story continues

I have long been absent from this blog as business and other distractions have competed (and prevailed) for my time. I know it is not fair to anyone's readers to just depart from the story without explanation, but in the blog world this just seems to happen. I must admit it is a strange etiquette that we sadly get accustomed to. Perhaps it is because bloggers are at once both intimate with and yet distant from our readers that we grant ourselves permission to behave differently (perhaps even badly). My apologies.

To the story...much has happened since my last post. Robin and I, looking at our finances and making an accounting of what we might do in the time we are gifted with, have decided to opt for retirement. This seemed like a straight forward decision, but as the months have passed my mind has been flooded with the consideration of the consequences (both intended and unintended) of walking away from a career. This I have found is a separation process that simply requires working through. It is not as though I am bailing out early. I will be 65 in November and that just seemed like enough time devoted to the comings and goings of life at the office. So now what? In the short term it is completing the separation process, getting our finances settled down, and simply enjoy walking in the autumnal glory of the Pacific Northwest. It is interesting to note that since returning from the Camino last February Robin and I have hardly missed a day walking. We seem to do at least five miles a day (after work) and the ten miles on a Saturday and Sunday as events allow. It is just what we now do. I also cannot deny the impacts that future Caminos have on our walking schedule. Let's just say we are trying to stay "Camino ready."

The Arles route still has its strong calling. We had hoped to be able to start this coming winter but a March pilgrimage to the Holy Land has intervened and it now looks as though the earliest we could start will be October 2012. That would give us the time to continue on to Santiago and Finisterre and perhaps on to Muxia again before returning home for Christmas. Another option, offered by a friend, is to walk Cadiz, Seville, Santiago, Ferrol. We will get our plans in order this winter as we settle into retirement and just see how things work out. One way or another we will be back on the Camino just as soon we can. In the meantime we will fully enjoy each day that comes our way.

A few weeks back Robin and I climbed a local mountain, Larch Mountain, with our Camino packs (17 and 20 pounds respectively). It was great to feel the weight of our packs and to enjoy the challenge of crossing the Pyrenees in Portland once again. Left at 8:45 and found ourselves in the base lodge bar at 4:45 after 14 miles (roundtrip) and 8000 feet of elevation change (4000 up and 4000 back). A cold beer never tasted so good. Knees hurt like hell for two days, but loved every minute of it.

Columbia River from the summit