Sunday, June 27, 2010

Plant a garden of life

seen in the mist on a descent from Cruz de Ferro
another of the person-made hearts
someone was making ahead of us on the Camino Frances

"Though your heart is in exile
Plant a garden of life where you stand
Seek the welfare of all those around you
And your welfare will lay in your hand."

~ from "If you seek me"
a song by David Kauffman

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"What about the God bit?"

Three Camino friends from Halifax, in the parish albergue at Granon

"Whilst the Camino to Santiago is essentially a Catholic pilgrimage
to the shrine said to contain the bones of one of the apostles
another thing I discovered is that there is no right or wrong way to travel the Camino to Santiago.
It isn’t just for holy people, or those who go to Church or people of faith.
It is for everyone.

But is it a spiritual experience? “What about the God bit?”

Over the last few days as I’ve thought about that question
and how to answer people who ask it,
I’ve been drawn to notes on my real experiences of pilgrimage.
They describe for me real encounters
with kindness, love, tolerance, respect, understanding.
Maybe they are the "God bit”?"

~From the blog: Camino to Santiago de Compostela
by Johnnie Walker

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

walking becomes the praying

on the alternative track through the countryside,
from Hospital de Orbigo
, en route for Astorga

"On the Camino in Spain,
I gradually discovered that the walking becomes the praying.

In putting one foot in front of another,
in the tiredness, in the blisters,
in the being at one
with myself, the landscape and God,

in the mind quietening,
in all this,
walking, pilgrimage itself, became prayer."

~ From Andy's Pilgrimpace Blog
'a short walk from Swanwick'

I concur with Andy's words
about walking.
There is something mysterious about the rhythm of the feet
meeting the earth for kilometres and days,
that can place the soul in a place of prayer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If God is the Song

French family walking amongst the fields and wildflowers above Bessuejouls

"If God is the song and we are the singers
We are filled with the fullness of God
If God is the song and we are the singers
When we sing we are one with God"

~ From "If God is the Song"

I carried a little 'packet' of songs and poems and readings
to inspire me along the way.
In the early days, one of my favourite songs was
"If God is the Song" by Chris Skinner,
truly a song of joy.

But- one day in my very first week-
I had the words for this song in the pocket of my shorts
to reach easily, so I could sing as I walked along
and- it rained- drenching rain.
In coping with the rain and cold,
I never thought about the pieces of paper in my shorts pocket.....
So the words for this song, became irretrievably soggy....

By the way, 'next time'
I intend to sing more freely
without checking first that nobody can hear me...
I will not be so timid!!!

Whispers of a Conversation

Rochegude: chapel dedicated to St James

"You can be a traveller on your own, but not, I think, a pilgrim.
Pilgrimage connects you to something bigger than yourself.
Pilgrimage connects you to longings that come from deep places
and that cannot easily be explained.

Even the solitary pilgrim is on a shared quest,
overhearing some whispers of a conversation
that has been going on for years.

interior of chapel, Rochegude
Pilgrims don’t always have a clear idea
of what they’re doing or why they’re doing it,
but they keep going,
exchanging nods on the way."
~from Jim Forest’s The Road to Emmaus
found on Andy's PilgrimPace Blog

Monday, June 21, 2010

Miracles every day.....

Leaving Montbonnet on Day 2, with snow lying all around.

"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is."
~Albert Einstein

It would be true to say I was 'afraid' when I stepped out alone into the snowy landscape
on just my second morning of walking.
But along with the anxiety, I knew such excitement, such gladness.
How could it be that I was so lucky to be here,
in the morning silence,
immersed in the secrets of the outdoors,
with just a slither of morning sun creeping out across the snowy fields.
It was an Hallelujah moment!

A sudden moment of Grace

On top of the first hill on the Meseta
"I was truly alive and all was grace.
That Amazing Grace
where a single moment of blindness
turns to sight once again. "

I climbed onto the Meseta with my two friends from Quebec.
We weren't sure what to expect.
So much is written about this place, that I think I truly feared it.

And maybe in the searing heat of summer it truly is deservedly feared.

But our first experience was of a green magic.
We climbed a hill onto the Meseta proper,
and suddenly this landscape stretched out before us,
as far as the eye could see, just green crops and sky.
Nothing else.
Almost in unison, for the three of us,
you could hear an audible sound,
as it took our breath quite away.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Heading for Camping Pech Ibert

"I’m now aware that what draws me back to pilgrimage time after time

is the simplicity of the pilgrim’s life.
We get up each day, pack the same few things into the same rucksack
and set off following a well waymarked path.
We have time to think, to pray, to reflect.
Our needs are simply food and a bed."
~Johnnie Walker
on `The Simple Life'

My first few weeks out of Le Puy were at times lonely

but they were precious days indeed
as I had time to reflect on my life.

My feet kept walking on the land, finding their rhythm
and as the kilometres stretched out ahead
there was no hiding from some conversations
with God or myself
about things past and present.

Simplicity #2

Resting at a picnic spot before the climb up to Auvillar

I am a little short-sighted,
and quite often don't recognise people 'out of context' down the street.
But I was always able to recognise my Camino friends:
we each had so few changes of clothes,
it was easy to tell their colours and styles
from far away!


En route between Astorga and Rabanal del Camino

this is the thing about pictures of people on the Camino.
This light within...
As if the Camino washed the soul and cleared the eyes."

~Claire Bangasser
in a comment on Johnnie Walker's blog

When I was traveling in France in 2006 I stayed in a hostel in Cahors.
There I met a Frenchwoman who had been walking three weeks
along the Le Puy route.
Her face glowed with a radiant joy.
Speaking to her was what first gave me the idea
of walking the Chemin myself....

Sacred Space Within

Stained glass window in the chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe, Le Puy

"Many of us are not aware of the sacred space within us,

the place where we can reflect and contemplate,
the space from which wonderment can flow
as we look at the mountains, the sky......

....This place, which is the deepest in us all,
is the place of our very personhood,
the place of inner peace where God dwells
and where we receive the light of life

and the murmurings of the Spirit of God.

It is the place in which we make life choices
and from which flows our love for others."

Jean Vanier
- quoted in "Essential Writings" (Carolyn Whitney-Brown) pg 157-8

Sing to the Mountains

"Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea.
Raise your voices, lift your hearts.
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let all the earth rejoice."
~Bob Dufford SJ

It was such a special day crossing the pass over the Pyrenees
from France into Spain.
We had looked at the steepness of the altitude charts for weeks beforehand
with trepidation in our hearts (!)
but in the event found we were well prepared after weeks of walking.

I took it slowly, and reveled in the views.
How fortunate to get such perfect walking weather
-not too hot, and mostly clear views- no rain in sight!

There was joy in my heart as I climbed.....

We say thanks

Spider web in Galicia along the Camino of St James, June 2008

"If the only prayer that we ever said
If the only prayer we said was thanks
That would be enough that would be enough
If the only prayer we said was thanks."

From the song "We say thanks"
by Fr Chris Skinner SM
on the CD Awesome God

The first few days walking when I started from Le-Puy-en-Velay
seemed surprisingly easy.
Though my feet did grow tender, I got no blisters,
and my 'training' back at home meant
I wasn't suffering from any sore muscles etc.

But then the weather changed.
It was a hard cold day on the first day crossing the Aubrac Plateau
and my feet became sodden.
Thus began a series of days with drenched feet that led to some blisters
and the soles of my feet became so tender I wanted to scream!!!

But somehow, in the midst of all the sore feet
I had a 'revelation' one day.
One of the 'pieces of paper' I was carrying to inspire me
held the words of the song "We say thanks" by Chris Skinner SM.

And one day I "knew"
that I could spend hours each day thinking about how sore my feet were,
or I could forget the soreness of my feet
and make sure I noticed the glory in the landscapes I was passing through,
and be thankful.

My feet never seemed to hurt so badly again
and that lesson of 'thanks'
was one of the most important ones of my whole Camino.

Who I was born to be

Bridge over a stream near Espeyrac in France

"Though I may not
Know the answers
I can finally say I am free
And if the questions
Led me here, then
I am who I was born to be"
~sung by Susan Boyle
from "I dreamed a dream"

dawdlers and daydreamers

"Purists abound on the Camino:
people who believe one should always go on the traditional track,

people who object to luggage-carrying services,

people who think rest days and short days are defeatist.

If you’re a purist, you’re on the wrong blog.

I’m a dawdler, a daydreamer, a mucker-about. An impurist."

~ From "Slow Camino"

a wonderful, developing blog about one Australian man's pilgrimage

from Le Puy to Pamplona

It is interesting to hear those planning a second Camino
who often plan, second-time around,
to travel more slowly....
take more time to appreciate the landscape, the flowers, the historical remnants...
take time to sit quietly in more places...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Manawatu River in autumn

"I stare and stare.
It seems I was called for this:
To glorify things just because they are."
~Czesław Miłosz
Inspiration for this post came from a quote and Meseta photo on "The Alchemy of Pilgrimage" blog.
This isn't a Camino photo- rather it is one from my home town.
But I guess this photo shows the 'legacy' I have brought home from the Camino:
I continue to want to 'notice' the beauty around me
and celebrate it.

You will turn and stand with them

Pilgrim monument in Villares de Orbigo

"The time will come
When someone else who in need
Will turn and run
Afraid to face what lies ahead for them
And you will turn and stand with them
And you'll have found your strength within
Your treasure in a field"

From the song "Treasure in a Field"
By Fr Chris Skinner SM
on his CD "Awesome God"

Shortly after I took this early morning photo,
I happened to have a quiet meeting in a cafe
with a young woman who was rather desperate over her life.
Somehow I seemed to find 'strength within'
from hard times in my own youth
and I hope I spoke quiet words that perhaps helped her.
I still think of her.

Pilgrim life as it is lived.....

Lunch break with other pilgrims at Saint Felix, en route to Figeac
"Also met up with the Swedish church group who started in Samos.... They told us that we were the subject of their group discussion yesterday and that we are their 'Camino Heros'.....So just in case you want to know the criteria to become a subject for discussion for Swedish Lutheran church groups in the future its because:

- we told them yesterday that it hasn't really got easier for us but that
we've just got more used to 'stopping the bitching and getting on with it';

-that no matter how long or short the distance the last 4 km of the day always kills us;

-that we haven't had a 'Camino crisis' but that we felt OK about that;

- that one of our strongest memories would be of laughing every day....

-after 800km and five weeks we had the less than shattering realisation that,
if given the time and opportunity to appreciate them,
everyone turns out to be pretty much OK, even the bloody cyclists!"

Read the whole extract from Nell's blog here, and prepare to laugh!!! And I sooooo agree about the last 4km of the day- it's a universal rule- get used to the idea if you plan to walk the Camino- and it is especially pertinent if you can 'see' the endpoint!

A doorway into thanks

"this isn't a contest but the doorway into thanks,
and a silence in which another voice may speak."

from "Praying" - a poem by Mary Oliver

Maybe if anything 'sums up' the Camino for me
this phrase from Mary Oliver
~about thanks and silence~

Be still for the presence -v2

"Be still, for the glory of the Lord,
Is shining all around.

He burns with holy fire,
With splendour He is crowned.

How awesome is the sight,
Our radiant King of light!

Be still, for the glory of the Lord,
Is shining all around."

"Be still for the presence of the Lord"
recorded by Fr Chris Skinner on CD "Truly Blessed"

There were so many precious moments on the Camino
that quite took my breath away,
and left me in the Stillness-

~ sunrise over O'Cebreiro
~ a rainbow over the mountains at Orisson
~ spiderwebs covered in raindrops or dewdrops
~ fields of green dotted with red poppies stretching out ahead of me
~ a realisation of the courage someone showed, walking in pain

It was a 'truly blessed' time.

Golden Moments

"Another day has passed......

Have I recognised the gold these hours possessed?

Have I been caressed by the beauty there expressed?"

From the song "Morning Song/ Evening Song"
on the new album by Chris Skinner SM, "A Place at the table"

Again, this is a post with photos from closer to home,
but the desire to be 'noticing' details

is a gift I brought home from the Camino

Step by step....

With my Quebec friends- first day on the Meseta

"......concentrate on only the next step; and keep walking.
Think about what is working well
- not about your aches and pains.
Don't think about the total number of kilometres you are walking.
Only think about what you are walking today.
Right now.
Step by step, hill by hill, rest stop by rest stop
- that's how you accomplish your goal."

Lynne, from Santiago Forum

I carried these words of Lynne's with me -and on some of the hard early days
when the rain was heavy and the tracks were like streams
and my feet were tender
I repeated these words to myself, and they got me through!
(until finally, thankfulness took hold...)

To Pay Attention

"To pay attention,
this is our endless and proper work."
~Mary Oliver

Friday, June 11, 2010

That small voice....

First morning- on the plateau above Le-Puy-en-Velay

"Trust that still, small voice that says
'This might work and I'll try it."
~Diane Mariechild

That first morning when I left Le Puy, I was so tentative.
It seemed almost an impossibility that I should walk all the way to Santiago.
But after I had reached the top of the old crater basin that held the town,
and walked out into the calm of the countryside
I had an incredible feeling of calm and joy.
I knew I was doing 'the right thing'.
I wasn't sure whether I would make it 'all the way'
but I already knew a deep peace.

Mary Oliver quote

Daisy in my back garden

"And did you feel it, in your heart,
how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out
what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?"
~Mary Oliver from ‘the swan’
Quote found on The Alchemy of Pilgrimage blog

Peace Prayer of St Francis

stone cross near Golinhac
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
~Prayer of St Francis of Assisi
who walked to Santiago as a pilgrim


Leaving Livinhac-en-haut, 29 April 2008

"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love
or the joy of breathing
or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air,
is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies."

~Erich Fromm


On the road out of Estaing

“The things that we love tell us what we are.”

~St Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


early morning mist, near Camping Pech Ibert

"When you finally allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it,
you will find you dance with everything."
- Emanuel

Stepping out alone into the quiet of a misty morning
cool, with dewdrops on all the spiderwebs in the bushes,
I knew I was so lucky to be enjoying this simple life,
able to be immersed in the outdoors.

Simplicity, and Joy,
as the feet walked ever onward....