Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Camino 2017-09-30 Changing it up

I was planning to have two short days (to Rubiães then to Tui) followed by a long day. The two short days would be a nice rest break. Instead I'm facing a Monday that is projected to be 88F. Given my exhaustion during the high heat and rolling hills, I thought it wise to change it up a little and alter my plans.

And I've got a pulled something in my left lower abdomen when I go up hills. Doesn't hurt any other time than going up hill. It probably needs rest but I've just taken to slowing down even more on those stretches.

I didn't really want to leave Ponte de Lima. The town had a nice laid back vibe, save the endless campaign rally that went on overnight. I think I could enjoy political rallies if they had marching bands going through them like in this town.  I would be less likely to import the absurdly loud cars with giant speakers droning on every tiny street, with campaign speeches repeatedly blaring.

The hill on the way to Rubiães was a gut-kicker (literally as I just mentioned). It's not overly tall at 1400 feet but it's just rather steep and rocky. Thankfully the forest shaded you though it blocked the views promised in the Brierly guide book. Fortunately you eventually get past the forest and you enjoy the agricultural lands down to Valença.

When in the distance I could see Spain, I got a little excited. There's a language I can understand  and a sign that I'm that much closer to Santiago than before.

I decided to stay at an hostal because the day was longer than expected (no need to queue for a bed). The room was fine, but the oddly placed electrical outlets didn't reflect today's phone needs. Thankfully though they had a weird and wonderful shower contraption that felt like heaven to this tired pilgrim.

I explored the fort in Vanelça. I was wondering about its defenses so I asked one of the shopkeepers in the fort who they defended against. Though I don't know Portugués, I asked in Spanish in ways that got me an answer: it's "only" a 500 year old fort so it was defending against the Spanish across the river. (Ask short yes-no questions if you're weak with a language so that you can comprehend the answer more easily).

It still surprises me to see so many churches, bars, shops, and commerce in old castles and forts. I guess the utter lack of anything comparable in the US is bound to do that to you. Nevertheless, the weird entry points (all the customers to those businesses must enter via drawbridges) remind you that even castles need to change it up sometimes.

So hoping the changes work out. Change shouldn't be feared and we can't control the Camino. The Camino guides us and can change us up, if we let it.

Camino 2017-9-29 Throwing Some Attitude

Sometime by midday, I felt like I was losing it today. By "it", I mean the Camino. The walk was very confusing for some reason.

The day was mostly cloudy, so the heat wasn't bad. Yet somehow i drank more water than normal and needed to refill my 2-liter bottle sooner. Granted, I told myself to not be stingy with my sips to avoid dehydration, but it still seemed like a significant increase in water consumption.

The day was 33km on paper to go from barcelos to Ponte Lima. And somehow I got lost a few times so that I ended up walking 35km. Of course the mentally frustrating part of the extra two km was that I invariably get lost by needlessly going uphill.

And I started to wonder about the length of time it was taking me. I'm deliberately changing my walking stride so that I'm not plagued with blisters like I get when I Camino alone. Alone, I tend to walk very quickly and, well, trudge or waddle. I think this contributes to blisters. So I'm walking slower and with a more forward gait. It just seems to slow me down a lot.

But hey, so far no blisters!

Today's walk was very agricultural and woodsy. Once out of Baceros, you end up on trails pretty quickly. This is a welcome change, as my feet feel pummeled by the higher percentage of road and cobblestone walking in Portugal. I didn't realize how comfortable the decomposed granite and dirt roads of Spanish sendas were on the body.

And though I'm eating well in my mind, I did take the belt in a notch today. So I'm losing weight which is normal. Thankfully I'm not losing it at an unhealthy rate like my first Camino. There's losing weight and there's inadequate eating for the walking needs.  

Towards the end of the day I noticed my attitude shifting. Not sure what caused it. Perhaps exhaustion?

I found that I'm still walking in the midst of gratitude. Gratitude for life, for those who make my life meaningful, and even for those who test me in my life. For the sheep, the chickens, the endless grape vines. With these various things I was losing today, there were always good things happening too. So I was grateful that good can come from the confusing.

I forget to allow that attitude going. And I forget that others have much to be grateful for themselves.

So I realized we shouldn't just HAVE an attitude of gratitude. We should BE the attitude of gratitude, so that it's part of us, like a reflex. We should be embracing gratitude so thoroughly that we can't put it down. That's a blessing. That's an atonement for tonight's Yom Kipput in itself. Be the attitude of gratitude and be blessed with God's grace.

Be the blessing. Be the attitude of gratitude... the beatitude of gratitude.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Camino 2017-9-28 I'm Happy Just to Dance with You

Walking is a privilege. A gift. That reality hit home last year when I walked with Daniel along Camino Frances. It struck me when I met someone who, on full recovery after months in a coma, immediately bought tickets to Saint Jean Pied de Port to begin his first Camino.

And it happened yesterday.

I briefly walked for at most an hour with Miss J from South Africa. She seemed like a regular person whose traveling companion decided not to walk the next few segments and stayed in Porto. It was Miss J's first visit to Portugal and she was smitten.

Then a curious comment indicated that she had written about her time in paralysis. Just a couple years ago she couldn't move. She wrote about it in a dark but heart-felt comedy "Memoir of a Lunatic: the Lighter Side of Paralysis". You can download or buy it on Amazon.

The turn in coversation made this 30km segment between Vila do Condo and Barcelos downright fascinating. She was just overjoyed at everything. The smell of the farm animals, the rocks, the dirt. The heat was much but she was grateful to be able to do this.

After we parted, as she was ending before Barcelos, I kept thinking about gratitude. Why do we most feel grateful when we've fallen? Why can't we feel gratitude all the time?

I forget at times how lucky I am. It takes misfortune to remind me most deeply that I am being given a new chance, repeatedly. The fact that I am alive is actually a source of joy, as many things in my life could easily have shortened it years ago.

So I walked wondering if I could be more thankful. The Beatles song "I'm happy Just to Dance with You" filled me ears as I thought of this. I might be as thankful as any other person but I feel I could be a happier person if I always fall back on an attitude of gratitude.

So I end today with a short hymn that, especially now that I'm less than 100 miles from Santiago de Compostela, I'll carry in my heart to Ponte de Lima. 

Santo, santo, santo
Mi corazón te adora
Mi corazón sabe decir

Santo eres Senor

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Camino 2017-9-27 Ebbing and Flowing

The full moon will come in a week, on the day I come into Santiago de Compostela. I thought of that every time I peered at tide pools yesterday.

The walk from Porto to Vila do Conde was beside the Rio Douro (literally the River of Gold, as it carried the treasures from Portuguese colonies) and the Atlantic Ocean. So there were lots of stunning beach and ocean views, with sun and surfers, vacationers and retirees every way the head turned. 

There were also tide pools. And you could see little critters wandering here and there, reacting to the waters around them. They weren't anchored, as the crashing tide could crush them. Instead they floated here and there, peeked out when safe and returning home when not.

As I took a photo of a statue of an angel, pilgrim Janet of Laguna Hills, California introduced herself. We ended up walking about 12 of the 20 miles together. She's delightfully smart, empathetic, and deeply caring for her family. We talked non-stop, which was easy since we are both ENFP on the Meyers Brigg.

During our time, which included lunch at a cafe and dinner after we arrived, she also talked about her discomfort of being on Camino this time. Unlike her past two Caminos, something didn't feel right. And at the 15 mile mark, she decided the sun got the best of her and she'd find a cab.

We did meet for dinner and gabbed for hours. She will be returning home on Friday and cut her trip short. I was disappointed that I couldn't walk with her more, but at least we don't live too far apart

I thought about her decision, during my couple hours walking alone and after dinner.  She's a psychotherapist so is more attuned to probing self than I am. She's doing what's right for her. 

The Camino is a microcosm of life, a pilgrimage into the heart. Sometimes life gets in the way, such as an injury, and you go home. Other times, the Camino itself gets in the way, and staying can be the injury. It takes courage to accept that and go home.

I've wondered about that in myself. Do I know when to pack it up and get away from the rough tides and go to safety? In my first partnership of 18 years, it took a decade to figure that out. Maybe not just figure but also to admit it. Then it took another few years to accept it.

Sometimes I feel like some crayfish. My journey is dependent on the seas around me. I know how to venture out and I know when to retreat. But sometimes, we don't do as well as the crayfish, and we are paralyzed and don't retreat. We don't treat ourselves right.

That's not healthy. The self care has yielded to things like pride, ego, or gluttony. Sometimes we HAVE had our fill. I think Janet is wise to understand herself well and isn't put in the waves for someone other than herself.

My prayer today is the one attributed to Saint Francis. May the ebb and flows of our lives be filled with compassion and empathy not just for others, but for ourselves.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where tyhere is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are brought back to eternal life.