Wednesday, June 5, 2013

my Camino, 10 years later: my walking stick

flowers I pressed and taped to my journal

doodling in my journal, Camino shell and cross


“I am like a dish that is broken”
~Psalm 31:13, from Good Friday liturgy
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“I entered myself when I entered Christ. And having learned compassion, I allowed my soul to stay” ~Thomas Aquinas

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Le Vase Brisé
by René François Armand Sully-Prudhomme

[The Broken Vase, translated by Robert Archambeau]
The vase where this verbena’s dying
Was cracked by a lady’s fan’s soft blow.
It must have been the merest grazing:
We heard no sound. The fissure grew. 
 The little wound spread while we slept,
Pried deep in the crystal, bit by bit.
A long, slow marching line, it crept
From spreading base to curving lip. 
 The water oozed out drop by drop,
Bled from the line we’d not seen etched.
The flowers drained out all their sap.
The vase is broken: do not touch.
[to read the rest of the poem, go to On Being]


I did not bring a walking stick with me for our pilgrimage. I knew it’d be an important item to have, but I sensed that I would find one to buy somewhere on the Camino.

I was half right. I found a stick, on the side of the trail as we descended el Monte del Perdón, the Mountain of Forgiveness, right outside Pamplona. It was the first day of our pilgrimage on el Camino de Santiago.

I spent the rest of the pilgrimage learning how to use it.  There was something cleansing, cathartic even, about getting to work on it with a knife at the end of the day.  Every night, little by little, I took a little bit more excess off the stick, shaving its bark and smoothing its surface.

At one point on the walk, a stranger looked at my crooked stick and laughed, then he tried to sell me his own staff, telling me in Spanish that mine was too brusco, meaning, too rough. 

I met a man named Jesus at one of the albergues. His last name was Ruiz, and we joked about the two of us being distant relatives.  When he saw me working on it, he pulled out his knife and used his stronger blade to smoothen my stick, gently evening out the rough "knots" in the wood so that it wouldn't hurt my hand as I held on to it throughout the day.

One night, I took a red pen and drew the Camino de Santiago cross on it.  This was my Camino walking stick. 

Yes, it came home with me--checked as luggage