Thursday, June 7, 2018

15 years after my Camino: when suffering is prayer





The funny thing about making a pilgrimage like the Camino de Santiago, the kind that incites an awakening of something new in your heart, is that you continue to learn from its lessons for the rest of your life--or so I assume since I'm still learning 15 years later!

As our long first day came to an end, I noted in my journal:
"I only remember being this sore after childbirth. Today we climbed El Perdón, where wind turbines lined the horizon at the top of the mountain. We walked paths and rocks and uphill and downhill. We passed fields of green and yellow wheat. We stopped to smell the dill and to watch a family harvesting a field of white asparagus... We walked in the heat of the day, longer than we said we would do on our first day."
Some people, like my husband Michael, can walk the entire 500 miles of the Camino and never get a significant blister. But I noted in my journal two things: I already had “big blisters,” and it was our “first internet access!” I didn't know it then, but I struggled with sores covering my toes or feet for basically the entire month of June.

In Estella, a 1,000-year-old town early on in our walk, I wrote:
“The albergue has 38 beds and a beautiful mural of St. Michael painted on the wall of the back patio. Our hospitalero is a guy with strict rules, big tattoos, and bad skin. 
With every painful step today, I offered my walk, my pain and my tears for the people I know who hurt even to stand everyday—Shirley, Lonnie, JoAnn’s friend who lost a leg in the [Oklahoma City] bombing, all who hurt every day. God bless them. When we arrived here we saw a man with a fake leg on a bike! God be with him.”

a butterfly wing that I found and taped to my journal, 
and a rough sketch of a church steeple that I doodled during a break in our walk

a traffic sign that I didn't recognize, 
and copied to my journal after I learned that it means: "unclear or undefined danger"! 

I’m convinced that no matter how much one prepares and trains in order to “successfully” walk this historic pilgrimage, the Camino will still be what it needs to be for every peregrino. It’s a personal, intimate experience.

And as is true of life, we can’t predict what the pilgrimage will demand from us. For me that meant blisters upon blisters. Never would I have dreamt that this experience would come back to help me and guide me years later as I began to face the beginning of my physical struggles with chronic pain.