this post is dedicated
with much love and heartfelt thanks to Mr F and my kids
whose love and encouragement helped me go for it….
Until now I’ve walked once a week on day hikes of five to twelve miles. Next weekend I’m going to Spain to walk two hundred kilometers over eleven days.
Although Mr F and Monte Carlo have been my hiking buddies all year, they aren’t coming with me.
I’m going, as I learned to say a few years ago, “with” myself.
I fly there via two cities beginning with “M’.
I seem to gravitate to cities beginning with “M”…
Manchester, Marseilles, Milan, Monaco
Miami, Montreal, Maputo, Maseru, Mbabane…
Next weekend I’ll add Madrid to my list.
But I’m not flying about thirteen hours to an airport called “MAD” just to add another “M” to my list. I’m not that crazy. Or perhaps I am.
A few months ago a Shaman told me my animal totem [according to North American Indians],was a horse.
“A horse?” I exclaimed, “but I’m scared of them. I can’t ride.”
“That’s why the horse is with you, to show you how to face your fear,” she said. “The more you understand your totem, the more you’ll understand your own often hidden abilities.”
I’ve wanted to walk the pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostella for about twenty years, but motherhood, money, and moving countries (more “M‘s”) kept getting in the way of my plans, until about six months ago when my aching limbs reminded me I wasn’t getting any younger, and though Mr F declined the invitation to join me, and my monkey-mind filled my head with fear (such as that I would be doing it alone, and how could I, a person with fibromyalgia even think I could do such a walk blah blah), I knew I couldn’t-shouldn’t-wouldn’t put it off any longer…
The Camino de Santiago (“The Way of Saint James,”) follows a thousand-year pilgrimage route west across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where “it is thought” the remains of Jesus’s Apostle Saint James are buried.
- The word Pilgrimage comes from the Latin ‘pereger‘ for “one who traverses a region.”
- People journey to pilgrim sites “for the purpose of discharging a religious obligation, or to get some supernatural help or benefit.”
- In 1189 Pope Alexander III declared Santiag0 de Compostela a Holy City, along with Rome and Jerusalem, and Santiago the patron saint of Spain.
- Only pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela could result in a plenary indulgence (to free a person from penance due for sins).
- Pilgrims who arrived in Santiago de Compostela during a Holy Year (when the Dia de Santiago – July 25 – falls on a Sunday) could bypass purgatory.
Pilgrimages were very popular in the middle ages.
Remember Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales?
Written at the end of the 14th century the tales were part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims traveling together on a journey to Canterbury Cathedral.
No American goes to Europe without a Rick Steves guide-book.
His video on the Camino:
You’re wondering why I’m spending all this money to walk along a route I could apparently drive in 2.2 hours (at 55 mph), especially as I’m not Catholic?
I don’t know. I just know I have to do it.
According to the Canadian writer Sue Kenney‘s memoir, “My Camino“:
It is said that pilgrims have been chosen to walk without a clear understanding of why they are there, often guided by a higher source.
There are many routes to Santiago. To walk the seven-hundred-and-fifty kilometers of the Camino Francés (above) the most popular route, takes about four to six weeks.
As I only get three weeks leave, I’m walking the last part of the French route with a group led by Sue Kenney (whom I haven’t met).
A few days ago a hymn that I haven’t thought of since I sang it at school over fifty years ago entered my head. I remembered the tune and thought I was mistaken thinking the song included a line “To be a pilgrim.”
Maddy Prior sings a beautiful version ….
John Bunyan’s hymn ‘To Be A Pilgrim’ – also known as ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’ – is sung here as ‘Who Would True Valour See’ by Maddy Prior accompanied by The Carnival Band recorded circa 1994.
“To be a Pilgrim” the only hymn written by John Bunyan, first appeared in Part 2 of Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan wrote it in 1684 while he was serving a twelve-year sentence in Bedford Gaol (for refusing to conform to the official state church). The hymn recalls the words of Hebrews 11:13: “…and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
The hymn’s refrain “to be a pilgrim” has entered the language and has been used in the title of a number of books dealing with pilgrimage in a literal or spiritual sense.
Of course I’ll be singing it while I walk.
If you’re still interested to know more about the Camino, the following is a short documentary by Joel Addams on what it means to hike the Camino.
By the way as I’ll be carrying my home on my back during my pilgrimage, for obvious reasons my backpack won’t include a laptop, which means my blog will be dark for the few weeks I’m away.