Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Struggling up a mighty hill

climb towards Cenves- 5km uphill- beginning soon after leaving Tramayes (Cluny route)

 "I realised one day walking along that I was made to enjoy THIS. This is a lot of things, 
even struggling up a mighty hill with a backpack, 
and I felt really grateful to be alive. 
I have also changed a lot of the things I believe, 
but that is for another time."

~Graham English
Catholica website

I had been warned about the difficulty of the climb towards Cenves, and it certainly started out looking tricky, with the 'path' looking more like the bed of a stream to begin with. But that old maxim, 'one step at a time' proved true yet again.

Stone walls

stone wall seen between Cluny and Tramayes
 Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed. — Mary Oliver

I always love coming upon stone walls. I guess that in some way they hark back to the Celtic past of my ancestors. The stones used in this modern French wall may be of more recent origin, but it is also possible the stones themselves have been used before. And when I see flowers blooming against the 'barren' stones, it is always a source of happiness for me.

Walking with a friend

 "The world is round
so that friendship may encircle it."
~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

When I walked the Cluny route in 2012, the first two days I had company along the way. A French friend who I had met on the Camino in Spain in 2008, offered to walk with me. Cluny was in his home region of Bourgogne, and he wanted to be sure I knew how to follow the waymarks. The important markers on this route were scallop shells, and the 'fingers' of the shell showed which way you had to walk.

He had told me that I would find the Cluny route far more lonesome than the route south from Le Puy- and he was right. I treasure the time we spent walking together. He taught me many things as we walked, such as how to recognise church tower windows that indicated a church affiliated with the monastery of Cluny, and the names of wildflowers we passed. It was a precious time.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The joy of walking

 leaving St Chely d'Aubrac, on the Le Puy route,  spring 2012

"Joy is the echo of God's life in us." 
~St Columba of Iona 

Two years before I walked the Camino, I was in Cahors as a tourist, and in the hostel I met a Frenchwoman who had been walking for three weeks from Le Puy. She had a look of quiet but deep joy on her face and in her whole being. She talked about how happy she was walking in the countryside. Meeting her gave me the first inklings I had that I might walk the Chemin too. On quiet, peaceful mornings like this, joy was there, surrounding you all around.

Walking early

“Walking in the morning takes you to beautiful places 
where light and shade make love.”

~Prof. Mohamed Shareef
Leaving Montbonnet in the springtime
6 May 2012  Le Puy route


Monday, May 26, 2014

Taste and enjoy

near the village of Marols, on the Cluny route, after a strenuous climb up from St-Jean-Solymieux

"Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. 
Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good 
and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances,
 or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it 
and find out the truth about who you are."
~Anne Lamott

I think that walking the Chemin for many people can be a way to 'taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.'
This blossom tree was a casualty of the very windy storm the night before. It is still full of spring blossoms flowering. Wounded by unpredictable circumstances, it is still a thing of beauty in the landscape.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Walking into the Storm

St Paulien in the Auvergne region, not far from Le-Puy-en-Velay (on the Cluny route)

"If you spend your life waiting for the sun, you'll never enjoy the storm."
~Morris West

I was walking towards St Paulien, with only one more day's journey ahead of me before I reached Le-Puy-en-Velay. After passing a wonderful rural farm gîte, (and wishing I was staying there for the night!) I saw ahead of me that storm clouds were gathering. And indeed, soon I walked right into drenching heavy rain for the next few kilometres. There is something so cleansing about being doused in rain like that- and when you are walking you just have to surrender to getting wet! As the rain eased, I could see a dry road ahead of me, leading the way downhill into St Paulien.

The Light of Faith

"The light of faith is unique, because it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence!" 
~Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

When I walked the Camino in 2008, I met a Frenchman who inspired me as a prayerful man who was mindful of others. Then in 2012 when I planned to walk the Cluny route in France, I was invited to stay with him and his wife in their home in Burgundy. He offered to walk the first couple of days with me, to support me, and make sure I knew how to follow the way-markings. (These were crucial on this less-walked route, and different from those further south.) This statue of St Jacques was in the bedroom I was in, lit by the light from the window. It was in a bedroom that also welcomed other pilgrims who walked on the route from Dijon. 
My French friend is one who shows forth the light of faith- and he is also glad to walk with St Jacques as his protector. It has been a joy of my life to meet him and his wife, and even though they are so far away in kilometre terms, the light of their faith will always keep us together.