Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feeling with the Heart

On the plateau above Le Puy on the first morning's walk

“The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen, nor touched, 
but are felt in the heart.”

~Helen Keller

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mist in the hills surrounding O'Cebreiro

Mist seen in valleys below on the descent from O'Cebreiro
"What’s it like to be back? We can’t seem to stop walking, and on one of our impromptu hikes, Lisa observed: “I thought it would be somehow more . . . spiritual.”
I thought it would be more spiritual, too. Originally, we’d planned to walk the questions posed in John’s gospel, pondering one question each day. There are some great ones, worthy of weighty consideration: “What are you looking for?” “Do you want to be made well?” “Do you also want to go away?” And Pilate’s hauntingly cynical: “What is truth?”

On the Camino, however, the questions that consumed us were quite different: “Was that the alarm?” “Should I be paying attention to this pain?” “Can we stop for a café con leche?” “Are we there yet?”
So much for John’s questions.

But I could tell you the phases of the moon along the trek, when the first light comes, how the sun glints off the lantern of the cathedral of Santiago. I could describe magical forests in Galicia and how the morning mists create islands of the hills surrounding O’Cebreiro"....

"This is not the spirituality we anticipated; it’s the spirituality we got."

~ Martha E. Stortz
an article in Santa Clara Magazine
Summer 2010 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let your God look upon you

 Between Pech Ibert and Cajarc
"Be silent.

Be still.

Wait before your God.

Say nothing.

Ask nothing.

Be still.

Let your God look upon you.

That is all."

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Thursday's child has far to go!"

 Distance to Santiago on sign on outskirts of Le-Puy-en-Velay

 "Only those who will risk going too far 
can possibly find out how far they can go."
-- T.S. Eliot
Incidentally, there was another sign 
not too many metres away from this one 
that gave another, even longer, distance estimate. 
It is probably as well I never noticed it at the time!!

And yes, I am a 'Thursday's child'
-prophetic that saying!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rain on a spiderweb

seen soon after leaving Domaine des Mathieux, the day after heavy rain had fallen
"I am sure it is a great mistake always to know
enough to go in when it rains.  
One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, 
but one misses a world of loveliness."

~Adeline Knapp 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Whisperings of grasses

 Rural countryside, en route for Lauzerte

"What I know in my bones 
is that I forgot to take time to remember what I know.  
The world is holy.  We are holy.  
  All life is holy.  
Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves,
the whisperings of grasses, 
the shimmering of leaves,"
~   Terry Tempest Williams

Thursday, November 25, 2010


 Landscape after Estella

"It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. 
You do not need a sixth sense for it. 
It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; 
you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. 
'I am watching you -- are you watching yourself in me?' 
Most travelers hurry too much...
the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, 
and not too much factual information. 
To tune in, without reverence, idly -- 
but with real inward attention. 
It is to be had for the feeling...
you can extract the essence of a place once you know how. 
If you just get as still as a needle, you'll be there."

~Lawrence Durrell (Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The dreamers

 Two Italian women having dinner in Triacastela
-two of the many wonderful dreamers I met along the way...

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. 
Always remember, you have within you 
the strength, the patience, and the passion 
to reach for the stars to change the world."
~Harriet Tubman

The direction of your dreams

 "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. 
Live the life you have imagined."
~Henry David Thoreau

Cruz de Ferro

Cruz de Ferro in the mist, on the mountains above Foncebadon
"The mountain remains unmoved 
at seeming defeat by the mist."
- Rabindranath Tagore

Some people prepare very well for their encounter with the Cruz de Ferro
carrying stones all along the way that they will place there
in atonement for their sins or for the intentions of others.
And for some, this is a significant place where they leave behind past guilts,
and drop their burdens on the stone pile below the cross.

But I wasn't among them.
Religiously, I was quite unmoved.
It was the mist that moved me
to both delight and annoyance
-it was so gloriously thick but there was no view!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Early Morning

In the countryside after Astorga- walking early- 
with the remnants of a thunderstorm still in the air
"I'll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time."
~Emily Dickinson 

On warmer days in France and Spain 
I always preferred to start walking in the morning cool.
To walk as the world awoke to a new day 
was always a time of real joy for me
deep quiet joy.

And this particular morning I walked with my Quebec friends.
It had been an unbearably hot night,
until in the early hours, a loud thunderstorm began. 
We were glad to escape early, 
though nervous lest the storm return while we were in the open.
We were all excited, after so many days of 'flat' walking
to be heading for the mountains again, 
towards Rabanal del Camino... Foncebadon..... Cruz de Ferro...
places of mysterious names, 
all in the higher land that we couldn't wait to climb.

Changing Seasons

Leaving Montbonnet on Day 2 of the Chemin, with mid-April snow on the ground

"Each moment of the year has its own beauty
....a picture which was never before
and shall never be seen again."

Another h/t to George for the quote.

One of the greatest joys I found in the whole walk from Le Puy to Santiago
was the way I passed through the changing seasons as I walked. 
These first few days out of Le-Puy-en-Velay, mid-April
were bitterly cold at times
and twice, there was even snow- a novelty for a Kiwi lowland North Islander!

Monday, November 15, 2010

green tree and blue sky

En route for La Romieu 

"I thank you God for this most amazing day,
for the leaping greenly spirits of the trees,
and for the blue dream of sky
and for everything which is natural,
which is infinite, which is yes."
~e.e. cummings 

H/T to George for quote

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Real Maturity" and Cats

Real Cat seen in Auvillar

"Sometimes when I get up in the morning, I feel very peculiar. 
I feel like I've just got to bite a cat! 
I feel like if I don't bite a cat before sundown, I'll go crazy! 
But then I just take a deep breath and forget about it. 
That's what is known as real maturity."

~Charles Schultz on prudence and temperance (as Snoopy in Peanuts)
H/T to Ironic Catholic for this quote 

I think that walking the Camino brings out some 'real maturity'
- when the going gets tough sometimes, you just gotta keep going-
Plus the Camino often has you rolling in laughter uncontrollably
with your Camino mates
-in a way that's not easily understood by anyone who hasn't walked the Camino-
So this humour from Snoopy belongs here rather well....
One of the sculptured cats of La Romieu - a town well worth the detour- don't miss it folks!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A doorway

A door in a ruined wall- in the Auvergne- on the first day out of Le-Puy-en-Velay

  "God enters by a private door into every individual."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

an archway- a beginning

 The archway that looks down on the beginning of the Chemin-

the path away from the Cathedral in Le-Puy-en-Velay


"It is for us to pray

not for tasks equal to our powers,

but for powers equal to our tasks,

to go forward with a great desire

forever beating at the door of our hearts

as we travel toward our distant goal."


~Helen Keller 


"Everyone" who leaves from Le Puy takes a photo of this archway

-you see almost identical photos in everyone's collections!

It marks a significant point- the start-

an exhilarating place, 

where so much is hoped for

and so much lies unknown in the future.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Showing Love

With friends met on the Camino, in Santiago near the Cathedral 
"The only thing we really have to work at in this life
is how to manifest love."
~George Harrison

In this photo are three friends- two from Quebec and one from France.
Met on the Camino, they are jewels in my heart forever.

H/T to Mighty Ambivalent Catholic blog for quote, in a thought-provoking post

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Approaching Gite DuBarry, near Lelin-Lapujolle

"Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, 
in which you can walk with love and reverence."

~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On this beautiful path....

 en route between Cirauqui and Estella

"The mind can go in a thousand directions, 
but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. 
With each step, the wind blows. 
With each step, a flower blooms."

 ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I loved the beauty in these early days walking in Spain,
with fields so unexpectedly green and 'spring-like'
and medieval villages and bridges
that reminded you that you walked in historic steps.
Medieval pilgrims, ancient Romans and even those from times lost in pre-history
have also walked here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cathedral- Le-Puy-en-Velay

a Marian shrine for centuries

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with you
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners, now
and at the hour of our death.

Le-Puy-en-Velay was the jewel of a place I started walking from,
nestled in the hidden Auvergne,
in an old volcanic crater, with two rock 'needles' reaching for the sky.
Before I left home, Fr Chris Skinner told me of its significance in the history of his Marist order.
And though I am long estranged from church
I still sense some of the mystery
that Mary looks out for me like a mother
and I know that I walked all the way to Santiago
under the protection of the blessing given by the Bishop in the Cathedral of Le Puy.

Deo gratias

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hillary Quote

My Quebec friends eating lunch near the high point on the Route Napoleon over the Pyrenees.

 It’s not the mountain we conquer, 

We had looked at the altitude charts for weeks,
fearing the day we had to ascend the pass over the Pyrenees. 
In the event, we found it was 'not so hard'.
The weather was kind the day we crossed
not too hot or cold, and just a little cloudy near the top.
And we found that our weeks of walking in France had prepared our bodies well.
The crossing- which we split into two with a night in Orisson-
became an event of great joy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mindful- by Mary Oliver

The first day on the Meseta- lush and green and beautiful
not at all what I had been expecting!

'Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?'

~from 'Mindful'
by Mary Oliver 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Woyaya- We will get there

Home-made sign seen soon after Arzacq-Arraziguet

"We will get there
Heaven knows how we will get there
We know we will
It will be hard we know
And the road will be muddy and rough
But we'll get there

 Heaven knows how we will get there
We know we will."


Along the way at times, especially in France,
you would see home-made 
signs, or seats, or shelters, or food/drink stops
for pilgrims.
Always, it was great for morale,
a sign that others were thinking of you, encouraging you along the Chemin. 
Always, a little 'thank you' prayer went up...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pilgrims on a journey

  Ultreia Gîte, Moissac:- Hosts: Rom and Aideen

"We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I'll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through"

Rom and Aideen have moved from their homeland of Ireland
to serve the needs of pilgrims on the route to Compostela.
This gîte is their home
where they offer warm hospitality
and genuine care for pilgrims. 
I count them as friends, and hope to return to visit them one day.

There are several moving verses in this song,
but I chose the one about laughter and tears 
as they are two things I think most pilgrims come to know well....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peace- in the present moment

seen soon after leaving St Côme d'Olt
while walking along a peaceful road near the River Lot

"Peace is present right here and now, 
in ourselves and in everything we do and see. 
Every breath we take, every step we take, 
can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. 
The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. 
We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment."
~Thich Nhat Hanh
"Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life"

Monday, September 6, 2010


 sign on the door of Red Cross Clinic for pilgrims, Estella 

"Compassion is a verb." 
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Estella is reached within a few days walk after leaving Roncesvalles, 
and for some who started, perhaps too quickly,
there has been time for bodies and feet to lay complaints about the treatment meted out.
Some 'veteran' pilgrims also have bodies that are in need of some tenderness 
with the Pyrenees safely crossed behind them.

I know two people who visited this Red Cross Clinic
run by volunteers for pilgrims.
They -one 'newbie' and one 'veteran'- found it a haven of kindness,
with soft music, and tender, gentle care,
a safe place for tears.

People who show compassion
are treasures in this world.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lead me to your holy mountain

on the Route Napoleon, heading towards the pass over the Pyrenees

Send out your light and your truth, 
Let these be my guide, 
 to lead me to your holy mountain  
and to the place where you live.  
Then I shall go to the altar of God, 
 to the God of my joy,  
I shall rejoice.

Ps 43: 3-4

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


  pilgrim approaching Castrojeriz

Pilgrim of the world
Thy steps thy words
The road, thy song
the fatigue, thy prayer
And thy silence, finally thy speech.


thou art born for the way
That of pilgrimage
That other way leading to thyself
and thy quest
Already, God walks with thee."

an extract of parts from a longer poem  he was given at Navarrenx in France

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Road

on the Meseta
early one morning

The Road
Here is the road: the light
comes and goes then returns again.
Be gentle with your fellow travelers
as they move through the world of stone and stars
whirling with you yet every one alone.
The road waits.
Do not ask questions but when it invites you
to dance at daybreak, say yes.
Each step is the journey; a single note the song.

~ Arlene Gay Levine ~

by Nandy 61

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Be Mindful

two French men walking between Aroue and Ostabat, 
getting closer to the Pyrenees 
"Be mindful of the sound of your feet upon the road,
Be mindful of the warmth of the sun,
Be mindful of the smell of the earth after the rain,
Keep in mind the wonder of it all.

There’s a dance our bodies long to dance,
There’s a song our voices long to sing,
There’s a dream our planet’s dreaming of,
Sing and dance her dream upon the earth."

by Chris Skinner SM


"When I got upstairs to the office I asked if they had seen the queue. 
“Tell us” Eva said and when I did she blessed herself. 
“Headbangers” all, I thought fondly. Me included. 
Why else would we stand and wait for a stamp and a certificate 
which to many is just a piece of paper?

The answer is of course that it marks the end of a significant journey. 
A personal pilgrimage which has taken time and effort."

about his experience in the Pilgrim Office

When I finally stood in the square in front of the Cathedral in Santiago
I knew I had achieved something that was both
-very simple- a succession of day walks, mostly not too hard, and also
-amazing- a feat of endurance and perseverance that had taken me nearly three months.

I wasn't really sure whether I should ask for the Compostela, or the non-religious certificate, 
but I knew I would treasure the piece of paper I was given at the Pilgrim Office!

Addendum: 25 August 
Rebekah has just reported a tragic death on her blog, where a Frenchwoman died in an accident on the journey home, after finishing her pilgrimage and receiving her Compostela. Those at the Pilgrim's Office immediately arranged a memorial Mass to pray for her. It adds a whole new layer of 'special-ness' to the meaning of the Compostela.
' friends at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela got to work. They looked up the pilgrim credentials, they hustled over to the cathedral office, and the Monolithic Catholic Institution everyone rails against worked like a well-oiled machine to celebrate a beautiful memorial Mass for "la peregrina Frances."'

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


"All walking is discovery. 
On foot we take the time to see things whole."

~ Hal Borland
My friends from Quebec walking in Galicia,
in the last few days before we arrived in Santiago.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Coming down from the mountaintop....

on the descent from O'Cebreiro to Triacastela

"No one lives on the top of the mountain.
It’s fine to go there occasionally
—for inspiration, for new perspectives.
But you have to come down. Life is lived in the valleys.
That’s where the farms and gardens and orchards are,
and where the plowing and the work is done.
That’s where you apply the visions
you may have glimpsed from the peaks." 

~Arthur Gordon

Friday, August 6, 2010

Irish Blessing

four lovely ladies from St Etienne who looked after the foreigner at dinner in Saugues
seen here donning all their layers against the cold near Chanaleilles

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

"Que les chemins s 'ouvrent pour t 'accueillir,
Que le vent souffle toujours dans ton dos,
Que le soleil brille modérément sur ton visage,
Que la pluie tombe fine sur tes champs,
Et, en attenant notre prochaine rencontre,
Que Dieu te garde dans la paume de Sa main."

~An Irish Blessing
French translation as seen at  Eunate in Spain 
and posted to Camino Forum

Monday, July 26, 2010

living in the moment

Rebekah and Paddy's bodega, Moratinos
on the Meseta

"I´m making a concerted effort to really see the world that´s moving around me,
to train my mind to not spend all my time thinking
about what happened yesterday or ten years ago or last week, 
or what I hope will or will not happen tomorrow or next month or when I´m 64.
All I have is now. And I want to live here."

~Rebekah, resident in Moratinos

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rainbow at Orisson

part way up the pass over the Pyrenees
a magnificent rainbow draped the evening skies

“What you are in love with,

what seizes your imagination

will affect everything. 

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, 

what you will do with your evenings, 

how you spend your weekends, 

what you read, who you know, 

what breaks your heart, 

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. 

Fall in love, stay in love, 

and it will decide everything.”

~Pedro Arrupe S.J. 


The evening spent at Orisson, part-way up the Napoleon Route over the Pyrenees,
was one of the most precious times on the whole Chemin for me.
The view was magnificent, out across the 'layers' of hills and mountains.
Then a rainbow came, and was draped right across the sky and the mountains.
(This photo of just a portion of it gives merely a hint of the glory.)

These outdoor glories, the small ones and the large ones,

are treasures in my heart
and noticing them
has seeped within
as a reason for my being.