Jade and I walked over 800km and lived to tell about it. Easy for my tree planting, uber fit daughter and some days not so much for yours truly. It’s hard to believe it has been 8 months since we completed the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage already. A lot has happened in that time, a move back home to Canada from Europe for my husband and I and settling into a new old life. We’ve done reno’s on our 40 year old home that once seemed old by Canadian standards. This blog needed a little aging like the Tempranillo-Rioja Reserva vino we found all along el Camino. You are very missed excellent inexpensive red wine. Vino tinto was included with our pilgrims menu every night and the calories were not a problem when we walked it off everyday for 5 weeks. Many pilgrims savored an evening glass or two especially if they were tired. It helped us sleep when the 10 pm-lights out-rule was in effect in the albergues/hostels, and the snoring began. A medley of snores, some soft, some hearty some just weird. Out of sync to begin with and then finally a glorious symphony of snorts and muffled whistles performed in sync for a fleeting moment, for the wide eyed sleep deprived pilgrims. It’s finally morning…Hallelujah! You do become oblivious sooner than you think. Really.
My 29 year old daughter Jade invited me to do the pilgrimage. I jumped at the chance to spend a few weeks with just her while savoring being outside. I didn’t know that much about it but it was when I started researching I became even more excited for this epic historical journey together. I thought it was 400km well after I committed to the walk. Jade enjoyed informing me “Ah Mom, it’s 800km not 400.”
The wisest thing I will say in this entire blog is pack light. Your body, especially your feet will thank you profusely. Don’t worry about the things that qualify as “just in case items.” There are pharmacies and stores all along el Camino. Be very aware that no matter how good your shoes are and how well you have broken them in, you may need to adapt or even purchase new ones. The fit is more important than breaking them in at that point. Make sure your shoes are at least 1 full size bigger than normal. I did that but my feet ended up swelling almost 2 sizes. I had plantar fasciitis the whole way but most people don’t. I’ve had it for years but didn’t realize it as it came and went. For me it was better to have more room due to swelling and have ankle support so I could snug up the laces to keep the boot in place. No friction equals fewer blisters. merino wool socks and liners work surprisingly well no matter the weather. Two pair of each should do. I took polysporin and butterfly bandaids and thats all I needed other than angel medical tape. The kind you can rip with your hands. Don’t be afraid of blisters, they go numb once you start a new day. It is not a deal breaker and really common to get them. That being said rest days for your body, mind and spirit are spectacular. Fear not, some people do NOT get any blister. If you have good shoes – a good fit – good socks – and you tape up hot spots, you will minimize potential foot problems. Again, pack light or you will throw things away to lessen your load guaranteed so don’t waste your money.
The most profound realization for me is that we really truely are all one, and ONE is all around us. Even if we see things totally different. Walking in nature was a great reminder of life’s circle. The colors of the fields, the weather, the changing seasons that return year after year. We cannot stop the flow of nature, life and death. Why would we want to, we are all a part of the whole. Nobody has to be wrong or right in what they believe or what they do. Have you ever noticed that when we compare our lives to others, compete or choose to be “right” that we become miserable. One day at a time, one breath at a time, one step at a time. ONE.
The reality that we always have choices about who and what kind of energy we will be around was driven home on the Camino. It was kind of like life on steroids. In my experience there was only one seriously difficult soul that I encountered on the trail. Looking to piss in anyones cornflakes just because – or more likely she was in a lot of pain. Mixed messages, I think she just needed a little extra love but it got old really fast. I’m no saint but at the same time I am mortified if I think I have hurt anyone. 3/4 of the way through the pilgimidge when my mouth almost dropped open and I noticed people didn’t even know how to respond to her, I found myself just saying “I’m leaving in 10 minutes so you can have someone new to trash then.” It would have been so easy to stay and argue, I had so much to say but, ain’t nobody got time for that! She pretended to not know what was going on or maybe she really didn’t see. It just doesn’t even matter. I had a really good sleep that night after the 15 min it took to let it go. Sending out love and compassion to her…from a distance felt like the right thing to do. She allowed me to practice my zen so I guess it was a gift. I got to enjoy many other lovely people on el Camino even more because of the situation. Well, all good then.
I am imperfect and always will be. Take that self! I hold my power no one else does. I am lovable. I am enough. I am. We are ALL enough. We are ONE.
It was a huge breakthrough to be able to confirmed that my lovely daughter and I are just fine and didn’t have a whole lot to work out. Mom and Daughter relationships, sometimes sweet and beautiful and sometimes so complex your head spins. We were presented with the optimum setting of almost 800 km of staggeringly beautiful fields, hills and medieval towns to walk, talk and argue through to our hearts content. Discussing any unresolved life issues, we had plenty of space for free falling tears and few people that would slow their pace long enough to witness them. Away from our routines and triggers, we could have utilized this perfect venue but surprisingly…we didn’t really need to…We only almost argued once over purchasing new hikers at Decathlon in Logrono. Neither of us realized at first my feet had swollen almost two sizes bigger than normal and I kept refusing the shoes Jade gave me to try on. She struggled to not paced and fume as she tried stuffing me into anything it seemed at the time, so she could get back to el Camino. Can’t say I blame her. I blurted “Just go, I’ll catch up for god sakes!!!” I still laugh at the expression on the face of a fellow pilgrim close by. I was truly in so much foot pain that I couldn’t get the bloody shoes on! So my friends, that’s what plantar fasciitis is. It bloody hurts but doable with shoe breaks throughout the day and ibuprofen. No way was I not going to finish this walk with my daughter. I finally found a lightweight Solomon hiker that worked, it was even on sale. Despite a bit of drama, we ended up having an awesome day walking through a peaceful little park, with ducks floating on a meandering creek. Meandering, that was Jade and I that day. It was our Canadian thanksgiving and we were feeling nostalgic. The little restaurant/bar in the park actually had turkey stew on the menu. It was the only turkey meal on any of the menus we saw the rest of our journey. We had a midday wine and toasted to family, friends and each other. It was my son’s – Jades brother’s – birthday that day and I mentioned wanting to make sure to text him when we had wifi service later that night. We glanced around while we took our boots off and noticed a local Spanish family celebrating a birthday with a huge cake. It was touching and we lingered, drinking in the feeling of peace, family and love. I thought and I think Jade also felt we had more to work out after Jade’s dad and I had a tough divorced years earlier. 18 years earlier. We were all holding onto the last bit of heavy energy of old pain because the same old stuff kept showing it’s ugly head over the years. Not that the pain wasn’t truly genuine for all of us at the time, it was, especially for the kids, but after 18 years of open communication, some mistakes on everyone’s part, tears, arguments, and lots and lots of love….really.
I’m convinced that pain and resentment are a very powerful glue. Subconscious and holding many of us tightly to the past even when our current reality is light years away. Patterns are hard to break when they are so familiar and an easy automatic place to land. Some would say that energy is even somewhat of an addiction. Even if it keeps us stuck in pain, we don’t even see it sometimes. So could it be that all we have to do is give pain and old patterns a bit of space and a spotlight to highlight that “it” often isn’t even there anymore? So the self inflicted pain is nothing more than a habit, what!! Nothing more than a useless old story that we hold fast to our ego. What a waste of time. Let’s let go of that heavy back pack of life’s heartaches and pack light!
The magical Albergue in Granon, a donativo (hostel paid by donation) where we had a prayer circle after a song fest, a community dinner and meditation was where one of my very favorite moments unfolded. My introverted yet easygoing and friendly daughter shared with the group by candlelight her love for me and an appreciation for our journey together. My heart still swells thinking of it. I am so blessed to have the true love of Jade, a beautiful woman, a true minimalist, very self aware, my daughter. I love and respect you Jadie Girl. We may rarely share so openly but I will treasure the moment forever. On a lighter note, you showed me through example how to live in two sets of clothing for 5 weeks…I can now go commando after failing to clip my freshly washed undies with a close-pin on a breezy Camino night. Bring clothes pins! I love how you come and go like that soft breeze Jade. Unless of course you have had one too many with your new friends and your mother can’t help herself and is laying awake worrying for all of you. Nope you didn’t ask me to worry. I didn’t come a looking Jadie girl, but it was really hard to fight the instinct. You all came home safely and loudly in dribs and drabs. I was smiling like an idiot when I heard the “kids” come home. Mine being the last one. Self appointed mother for ever…yup!
Morning walks and Camino sunrises. Nature, my church and heaven. I feel it, I get it, especially after witnessing the sunrise the morning we left the albergue in Foncebadon. For hundreds of years it has been said if you carry a rock with you along el Camino, it represents your sins. When you place it near the base of the cross near Santa Columba de Somoza, the next stage after Foncebadon, you will be absolved of all of your sins. Although I wasn’t raised in the church, this spiritual tradition worked for me. I had to run back to the albergue shortly after we departed as I forgot my rock. I started the journey with 3 rocks but I tossed 2 out….remember the pack light thing…It was back at the albergue that Rodney from the US asked me how I was going to stay focused on my walk to the cross. He helped me remember the words to the Serenity Prayer and I silently recited it as Jade, Ann from Denmark, and Emelia from Sweden walked along and soaked in the epic sunrise that stopped us in our tracks. Rodney hugged me and told me he loved me before I left the albergue for the second time. I really felt loved in that moment. He was definitely the Camino Dad I didn’t know I needed. I was surprised at the emotion I felt and appreciated his guidance. It will always take a village. Sweet Rodney, I didn’t even realize how much I missed my Dad. I think I blocked it as he’s been gone for 25 years. Growing up he was really volatile at times to the whole family. I have many very tough graphic memories, however, he was also good and kind in many other ways. I worked through most of the hurt and resentment years ago but I hadn’t allowed myself to feel the sadness around missing the good Dad energy. Growing up it was confusing to love someone who was a monster at times. Rodney’s healthy Dad hugs were beautiful and healing and exactly what I needed in that moment. Thank you, thank you, thank you Rodney.
A truly close friendship is what I least expected along el Camino. It turns out Ann and I have the exact birthday in December. Jade came into our shared hostel room one night and found Ann and I head to head laying on the bunkbeds laughing about something and swapping iPhone pictures. She commented “Now girls do I have to separate you so you settle down for bed.” Ooh the child within, how good it feels. Ann and I met up last Feb to explore her homeland Denmark and went to Sweden where I have long lost family roots. She could have been a historian with her stellar memory and knowledge. She is coming to our family reunion in Canada this July and in fact arrives today. The journey continues for us all and can be found near and far. If you ever do el Camino your journey will be totally different than mine and that is the exciting part. Life changes constantly but maybe it will be full of surprise at any age if we open our heart’s, look around and within.
Hallelujah…not just a cry of glee when morning came for sleep deprived pilgrims. It is a favourite songs for many, written and sang by fellow Canadian Lenard Cohen. Coincidentally my daughter and I sang Hallelujah and Patsy Clines “Walking After Midnight” from day one as we were walking. When I heard along el Camino half way in, that the legend from Montreal had died….no…we kept singing. We felt him and it stung. His haunting song will be remembered forever. Thank you Lenard for your song, spirit and your gift of reminding us how much our love is magnified when a person is gone. I will try to love others more deeply right here, right now, today.