Wednesday, January 21, 2015


on the Cluny route- nearing St Haon le Chatel

 “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky.”  

                                                                                 ~Kahlil Gibran

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.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bread of Life

 wheat growing on the Camino
 after leaving Pamplona, en route for Alto del Perdon

1. "I am the bread of life.
Those who come to me shall not hunger.
Those who believe in me shall not thirst.
No one can come to me
Unless the Father draw them.

And I will raise you up, and I will raise you up,
And I will raise you up on the last day."

~Sister Suzanne Toolan

I am a very 'lapsed' Catholic. 
But seeing wheatfields and vineyards 
always reminded me of the Eucharist I shared as I grew up. 
And I knew some longing as I walked...


between Villamayor de Monjardin and Los Arcos

 "Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? 
Can one really explain this? No."
~Pablo Picasso

The morning I walked towards Torres del Rio, the colours in the landscape were magnificent. I have not managed to capture the magic of it all with the camera, - I don't know how to allow for heat haze. But all those I met walking seemed very happy and content, full of the joy of the palette we were walking through. Special memories.

The mountain seems small...

 nearing the top of O'Cebreiro, and entering Galicia

“Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
is just a grain of sand
What you've been out there searching for forever
is in your hands
When you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else seem so small “
~Carrie Underwood

Two fellow pilgrims doing a 'happy dance' on reaching the top of O'Cebreiro. The woman in the grey-blue t-shirt is from Oz- and I enjoyed meeting her quite a few times en route- she was always kind, no matter how tired she was. 

The Answer to what?

 the last stage of the climb to Alto del Perdon
“O Deep Thought computer," he said, "the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us...." he paused, "The Answer."
"The Answer?" said Deep Thought. "The Answer to what?"
"Life!" urged Fook.
"The Universe!" said Lunkwill.
"Everything!" they said in chorus.
Deep Thought paused for a moment's reflection.
"Tricky," he said finally.
"But can you do it?"
Again, a significant pause.
"Yes," said Deep Thought, "I can do it."
"There is an answer?" said Fook with breathless excitement.
"Yes," said Deep Thought. "Life, the Universe, and Everything. There is an answer. But, I'll have to think about it."

 from 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
~Douglas Adams

The wide open spaces, the huge skies, walking along step after step- there was room on the Camino to think about the world and my place in it, my loved ones, what it was all about...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Walking Joy

 Now shall I walk
or shall I ride?
"Ride," Pleasure said:
"Walk," Joy replied.
~W.H. Davies

I've had the joy of walking over the Aubrac Plateau twice. This photo was taken on the second day of the crossing in 2012. The weather was brilliantly fine- almost too hot! Four years previously, in 2008, we'd been advised to walk on the road rather than the Chemin because of heavy rain the previous day. Even on the road, which runs at a slightly lower altitude than the Chemin, it was very cold, and the fog soon came thickly down. I could barely see my hand in front of my face. So imagine my joy walking this route again under clear sunny skies, where I could see all the views. I felt like I was on top of the world, close to heaven!

Strangely enough though, my joy was all the greater because I had walked the route twice- the first time in awful weather.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Names and Dawns

On the path between Azofra and Santo Domingo de la Calzada
"Blessed are you pilgrim, when you contemplate
 the "camino" and you discover it is full of names and dawns"

This year I re-walked some of the Camino Frances that I had walked in 2008. One of the things I noticed was that in certain places, I had very strong associations with people I had met there. In this place, I was strongly reminded of my friend Lyne, who was starting to struggle badly with her knee. Somewhere soon after this I walked ahead while she rested with her husband, then never saw them again for several days- but we heard news of each other from others and were to be re-united in Burgos...

Another 'treasure' of this part of the walk was that because of the heat, it became quite normal to leave early, and many 'dawns' were seen. Truly one of the special things on the Camino.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happiness within you

snow on the ground leaving Montbonnet
"Your success and happiness lies in you. 
Resolve to keep happy, 
and your joy and you 
shall form an invincible host against difficulties."
~ Helen Keller

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pilgrim's Prayer

on the Napoleon Route over the Pyrenees

 Lord show me the way
and give me strength to follow it

~Pilgrim's Prayer of St Birgitta (of Sweden, 1303-1373)

-given to me by Elisabet from Sweden
 before I started the Chemin from Cluny

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Music of the soul

Looking back at Conques, one of the jewels of the Le Puy Chemin

"I need simply and only to wait upon God without expectation, 
and God, all longing, resting in me, 
will breathe in me the music of my soul."
~Edwina Gately 

Quote sent to me by a friend just before my departure for Cluny, 2012.

Taking a Walk

leaving Orisson for the rest of the Napoleon Route across the Pyrenees
"Few people know how to take a walk. 
The qualifications are endurance, 
plain clothes, old shoes, 
an eye for nature, good humor, 
vast curiosity, 
good speech, good silence 
and nothing too much.... "

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, February 2, 2012


a gift left for pilgrims on a simple little seat on the outskirts of Moissac

"Believe in the whisperings of God to your own heart"
~ Mary MacKillop 
as quoted by Bishop John Dew after his return from the Camino

It was a beautiful walk to Moissac, but quite a lot was on hard tarmac, 
and my feet were feeling tender as I reached the outskirts of the city.
Imagine my joy to find a simple little seat under a tree
with a sign that said it was a rest area for pilgrims,
and someone had even left some lollies on the little table. 
I sat down, took off my boots and socks- oh sweet relief-
put some tape on the 'hot spots' on my feet
ate a lolly, and was refreshed
as there were still several kms of city walking before the gîte.

I don't know who set up this simple little rest area
or left the lollies
but the love showed.
It seemed like they had listened to a whisper of God to their heart.