Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 2013

Just under 700 km. 425 miles. 43 days.

I wanted to do something extraordinary.

So I did.

To be continued...

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24, 2013

Words seem inadequate. I have worked so hard for this for so long, and here it is. I don't know how I feel. It's a mix of emotion swirling around inside of me, making me both sick to my stomach and giddy with excitement. This morning I walked through my last magical, mystical Galician forest. When I emerged, the finality of it all was immediately evident when I saw the airplane lifting off from the runway before me at the Santiago airport.

Gone are the long moments of peace when everyone I started the day with has walked on, and those from the town behind have yet to catch up. Gone are the opportunities to simply pause and allow the chaos around me to pass, while also allowing me to catch my breath and find the peace once again.

But are those moments and opportunities really gone? Or have I finally learned the secret to finding that peace within myself, despite my circumstances and my surroundings. I need only to return to those forests in my mind and tranquility will be restored.

The gratitude I feel in my soul is immeasurable.

For my friends and my family and those I barely know who have lifted me up and supported me in my darkest times, and celebrated with me in my joys and successes. For those who made this possible in one way another, giving me your time and your energy and your love.

For the opportunity to walk the Camino. There have been parts of it I didn't care for at all, but each of those was a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. And each of those has already been overshadowed by the true miracles I experienced along the way. This journey has changed me in ways it would have taken years to accomplish in my day to day life. If ever.

For my courage to take the leap and actually follow through with this. How many times did I want to quit, both during the preparation and the walk itself. But those times don't matter. What matters is, I DIDN'T quit. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, and I succeeded.

In the spirit of my life lesson to Let Go to Receive, the time has come to say goodbye to the Camino. Some of you know how bad I am at goodbyes. There are always lots of tears. Tomorrow will be no different. A big part of my life will be over. In the past. The future is a blank page, still unwritten. What I write on that page is my creation. That blank page no longer seems so overwhelming.

Thanks to the lessons of the Camino, I have learned that tears don't make you weak. Refusing to ask for and accept help doesn't make you strong. I have learned to watch for and follow the signs. They are everywhere, if you just know where to look. I have learned to trust in myself, in others, and in God. In the same way that the Camino always provides, so it is with the Universe.


Natasha Bedingfield "Unwritten"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 2013

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

I've heard this quote by Marianne Williamson many times, but it never really hit home until I walked the Camino. My deepest fear really was that I was powerful beyond measure. That's a lot to live up to. It seemed easier to live beneath my capabilities, blaming it on one inadequacy or another.

Today the quote just popped in my mind as I walked. I thought to myself that I needed to look it up and read it again when I had access to wifi, since I couldn't remember it exactly. When I stopped for lunch, I logged into Facebook and what do you know, the first post I saw linked to this video of Marianne reading the quote herself.

I now know that I am indeed powerful beyond measure, and that I have not only the right, but also the responsibility, to live up to that fact. I'm going to let the video say the rest.

P.S. I don't know how to embed the actual YouTube video in this blog from Spain. It keeps trying to add a version with a Spanish voice over, so click the link below to watch the video on YouTube. You'll be glad you did. It's worth the 4:40 of time.

Marianne Williamson "Our Deepest Fear" 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22, 2013

I've debated about posting this one, but I've let you all experience everything else with me, so why stop now. This is not intended to make anyone feel sorry for me. It is what it is.

Tonight at dinner, I watched people toasting and celebrating with each other. For many, this is their last night. Tomorrow they will arrive in Santiago. They were telling each other how great it was to have met and how much they enjoyed the camaraderie along the way. Some were exchanging email addresses and Facebook information, others were making plans to meet up for the Pilgrims' Mass at the cathedral in Santiago.

This trip has been a challenge for me. I love my alone time in my real life. In fact, I'm energized by it. But always, when I'm ready for socializing, my family and friends are just a phone call away. There has never been a monumentous occasion in my life where my family and friends haven't been there to celebrate with me.

This time is different. Finishing the Camino may possibly be the biggest thing I've ever accomplished. But when I arrive at the cathedral, there will be no smiling face to congratulate me. No friends or family to hug me. I end as I began. Alone. I guess that makes it a little bittersweet.

I know I have the support of all of you who have been following along throughout this journey of mine, and I can never sufficiently express my gratitude. What would I have done without all of you? Thank you for being there for me through it all. We're almost there...

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21, 2013

Last night I ate dinner with a German couple. They barely spoke English, and I remember about four words from my German classes in high school, but somehow we managed to have a very nice conversation. I noticed that their guidebook now consisted of about five pages. The rest was gone. Many people will do that as they walk. They tear the pages out as they complete the stages, leaving less and less weight to carry each day. Every little bit helps when you are carrying everything on your back. I told them I had thought about doing the same thing, but I couldn't bring myself to tear out that first page. I love books, and for some reason it just seemed wrong for me to tear it up and throw it away. We even laughed when the man apologized to me for mutilating his book. It was a very brief, and seemingly inconsequential part of our conversation.

This morning, I left a few minutes before they did. Taking it slow, as usual, I had paused to breathe in the smell of the eucalyptus trees in the morning air, and to enjoy another of the magical green fairyland forests that I've come to love in Galicia. The German couple walked by, wishing me a Buen Camino. A few steps later, the man stopped, turned around, and asked me, "You love books?"

"Yes, very much."

"Do you write books?"

Holding back the sudden tears that sprang to my eyes, I said, "Not yet. But I plan to." In my head, I was thinking, "If I ever figure out how..."

He winked and tapped his head with his finger and said, "I suspected that."

He asked me if there was anything of mine he could read online. I directed him to this blog, telling him this was it for now. Then we parted ways as they walked on down the path.

Some of you who've known me for awhile will understand the significance and the incredible synchronicity of that conversation. I have been told over and over by many people that I need to write a book. I have agreed, confirming that I feel that I have a book somewhere inside of me, waiting to get out. I just don't know how to begin. I was thinking that very thing as I began to walk, the tears I had held back were now flowing freely. And suddenly I remembered that I didn't know how to walk the Camino a year ago either. It's not up to me to worry about the "how". It's my job to figure out the "what". How many times have I said that throughout this past year? How many times does this book thing have to hit me over the head before I pursue it seriously?

When I left for Spain, many people asked me what I planned to do after I got back. I always said I didn't know, but that the answer would become clear when the time was right. I had two months ahead of me with nothing to do, but think about that question. I had begun to wonder if there was even going to be an answer or if, for some reason I couldn't understand, maybe I'd return feeling just as lost about my next step as ever. Here I was, less than a week from finishing, and that sign from heaven had not yet appeared.

Until today.

That chance meeting and conversation with a stranger was no coincidence. There is no such thing as coincidence. I finally know what's next. I have no idea how. I have no idea why. I just know it's what I'm supposed to do. Wow! Does that sound familiar, or what? Pretty sure I said those exact words when I decided to walk the Camino.

And so I have come full circle. Am I ending where I began, or beginning where I end?

Does it really matter?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013

Three times today I got hopelessly lost in Melide. Three times an old man appeared wearing a brown sweater, a beret type cap, using a cane. Each time, he'd walk directly up to me and say, "A Santiago?" To Santiago? Each time, I'd say, "Si." He'd then point me in the right direction and walk away. This happened in three completely different areas of the city. Where did he come from? How did he know I was lost? Why did he choose to help me? Hmmm. Camino magic at work once again, I guess.

Yesterday I stopped a little short of my goal. Partly because my heels were hurting from the hills (again). Partly because I was freezing, and I just couldn't get warm. And partly because I was having a hard time finding a place to stay since I'd moved up my arrival in Palas de Rei. Walking fewer kilometers yesterday meant I had to make them up today. It was a little more flat, but still a long day. I'm hoping these feet of mine survive the final 50 km. I'm almost there. Then I can give them a break on a beach at an all-inclusive resort, while sipping port wine, in Portugal. Hopefully that's incentive enough to convince them I need them to last for just a few more days.

Any additional prayers and "heel"ing would be appreciated. They haven't hurt this bad since Burgos.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013

Such a mix of emotions as I entered my final week this morning. A year, and then some, of planning and preparation is about to come to an end. But with that ending comes an incredible opportunity of new beginnings. I have learned so many lessons in the past month and a half. So many, in fact, that I can't remember most of them. But not too long ago I told someone, "You don't have to remember the lessons in your head, as long as you remember them in your heart."

I am certain that I remember all of them in my heart, and I will carry them there for the rest of my life. Believe me when I say that this has been the most powerful thing I have ever done. I honestly don't know if I can match it in the future, but I won't even try. If the power I have received from walking this ancient trail is meant to be exceeded, it will come to me easily and without a doubt.

I still have work to do - A LOT of work to do - but I truly left the doubt and fear in my ability to do that work along with my stone at Cruz de Ferro. That doesn't mean I left all doubt and fear behind. It just means that I will no longer let it stand in my way. I will recognize it for what it is, and use that recognition as a chance to instead choose trust.

Six days of walking left. Six days to fully enjoy the "Me" I have come to know and love. Six days. Another lifetime in the blink of an eye.

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013

I have done the work. I have learned my lessons. And I've dragged this out long enough. It's time to finish it.

Today, I reached my intended destination at 9:30 am. Talk about not expecting enough of myself. The day I planned my stops along this part of the Camino, I noticed there was a big hill, followed by a lot of ups and downs, and finally a steep descent. Instead of breaking the stage in half, requiring two days to complete, I broke it into three days. One day to climb up the big hill, one day for all the ups and downs at the top, and one day for the big descent. Often times the downhills are tougher than the uphills.

Definitely planned that one out of fear. When I reached the place I had planned to stay for the night, I knew it was ridiculous to stop that early, so I went ahead and finished the stage, walking down the big descent too. Turns out, it wasn't all that big.  But that put me in the next town a day ahead of schedule. Thinking I could just be lazy and book a fancy hotel for a two night stay, that motivated me to really pick up the pace. I finished what I had planned to finish in two days in just one morning. I was here by noon. But there was one problem with my plan to be lazy in a fancy hotel for two nights. The nice hotels both had a room available for tonight, but were full tomorrow night.

Ok. Fine. I'll just stay in the nice hotel tonight, then move to the albergue I have booked tomorrow in the same town. All because I HAD to stay on the schedule I'd created for myself. I didn't want to risk losing out on the hotel I have booked in Santiago. But I hadn't even bothered to ask if they could change my reservation, if I arrived early.

Why not?

Honestly? I'm afraid to finish. I have been preparing for this for over a year now. It's been a huge part of my life. Even the past few weeks, as I've walked, I've imagined and re-imagined my arrival at the cathedral. What it will be like. What it will feel like. But to actually arrive there...

What if it doesn't live up to all my expectations? Or, God forbid, what if it exceeds them?

And most importantly. What comes next? The scariest question of all.

And so, as I learn another lesson along The Way, I have moved up my arrival date in Santiago. No more really short days. No more rest days. No more fear.

On June 25, just one week from tomorrow, I will reach my goal. I will finish this part of my journey. Mark your calendars. You all better be there with me in spirit!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 15, 2013

I ended up spending three nights in Sárria, instead of the two I had intended to spend, due to the money problem I had encountered. I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to resolve the issue before the weekend arrived. There was a lot of patiently, and not so patiently, waiting as I figured out how to get cash, so I spent some time on the internet, researching the things to do and see while I was here, once I had cash in hand.

Everything I read about the city was extremely negative. Most said it was an ugly city, suitable only as a starting point for the last stage of the Camino, where those who were completing just the minimum 100 km required to receive a Compostella would begin. One blog said Sárria had no redeeming qualities, no hidden gems and it didn't even have a historic center like most of the other larger cities in Spain. After reading that, I explored the option of rearranging the reservations I had in Santiago, so I could leave Sárria and arrive in Santiago earlier. I'm so glad I decided instead to stay on schedule, and honor my desire to experience the cities and the architecture of Spain, instead of just walking the Camino every day. All I have to say to the people who wrote those things is, you weren't looking very hard. There is a wonderful historic center in this town and a not-so-hidden gem, the beautiful and elegant, yet simple, Monastery of Mary Magdalene.

Another complaint I've read and heard over and over about this town was all of the new people who would be joining the Camino from here. For several days before arriving, I listened to people talk about how they dreaded the additional crowds, making the "race for the beds" even more competitive. One group even went so far as to suggest that beds should be offered first to those who had walked further than from León. Any remaining beds could then be offered to those who were newer to the trail.

To me that sounds a lot like taking ownership of the Camino. As if, by walking further than someone else, you are somehow entitled to more rights. Kind of like a form of sweat equity. But the Camino belongs to all of us. Whether we walk 790 km from Roncesvalles or more from other starting points, whether we walk only the last 100 km, or something in between, it shouldn't matter. The energy of the path and the lessons learned while walking it and the opportunity to find something inside of ourselves should not be limited to those who believe they are somehow more entitled to receive them.

Over the past few days, I witnessed the excitement and the uncertainty in the faces of those who had yet to begin The Way. It reminded me of how I felt that first day in St. Jean, when they practically had to kick me out of the albergue to make me take my first steps. What an overwhelming feeling that was. I had spent that first night with a couple who had walked the Le Puy route which is over 700 km through France, ending in St. Jean. They were continuing on to Santiago on the Camino Francés.  Over 1500 km they would walk,  but they never once made me feel I was less worthy to begin my journey simply because I was joining the path they'd already been walking. They encouraged me. They gave me hints and made me feel more at ease. That is the true spirit of the Camino. It's not a competition.

Somehow, taking a few days off in Sárria to enjoy the city and feel its energy and to watch the new people take their first steps has offered me a new beginning. It's as if I am once again taking my first steps. I am excited. I am nervous. But this time, I am ready.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

I had an A-Ha! moment just now when I realized I've completely checked out of this experience. In my head I'm already immersed in everything back in Colorado.  My days here are beginning to feel like something I have to endure in order to make it to the end. After O'Cebreiro, it feels like the magic vanished into thin air. But it's not the magic that has disappeared. It's my focus and intention to experience that magic and allow it to continue to fill my life that has changed.

This is what I do. I get very excited about something new, but when I get close to realizing the goal, I get impatient. I just want it over with already, so I can get excited about the next new thing that will be coming along. I live my life looking for that next adrenaline rush. But I've never learned to find the peace that comes with the contentment of what is. Right now. At this very moment.

While it may seem exciting and adventurous to live life as I do, there is no real fulfillment in it. I'm always looking for something other than what I have. That's no way to live. It's time to find my happiness in whatever is happening right now. It's time to re-focus and to live each moment more fully. Like I was doing at the beginning of this journey.

I realized today that I had overestimated the time I needed to make it to Santiago, now that the tough stages are over for the most part. I considered changing my hotel reservations and moving up the date when I'll arrive in Santiago. Then I could go somewhere exciting before I catch my plane to the U.S. But then I remembered how excited I was for the Camino. Why not find that excitement again, instead of searching out my next adventure. And so, I will stick to my schedule, rest days and all. I will live in this experience fully. I will not short change what I'm doing here.

Hi. I'm Callea, and I'm an excitement junkie. This is day one of my recovery.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11, 2013

Less than 150 km to Santiago. I can't believe how far I've come. For me, the remaining kilometers will take 10 days of walking, plus rest days, so I'm still two weeks out. For almost everyone else, they're about a week away. The conversations have turned from "Where and when did you start?" to "When do you plan to arrive in Santiago?" You can feel the excitement building. It's palpable.

I'm finding it difficult to keep my excitement in check. I don't want to spend two weeks of this experience thinking only of the destination. I want to continue to experience the Camino fully, giving it the focus and the appreciation it deserves, just as it has from my first step in St. Jean. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. Funny though, I've realized that, to me, it is also about the destination. Arriving in Santiago is important to me. Collecting my Compostella and attending the Pilgrims' Mass is important to me. Finishing what I started is important to me. Although I know that the end of the Camino is only the beginning.

I've begun thinking about what's next for me. I have to be honest. I have no more idea what the answer is to that question than I did when I left Colorado. It's difficult to trust that all will be revealed in the perfect time. In a way, I feel like I should be more proactive in deciding what I want and bringing it into my life. But I have no clue.

The other day, following a rest day, I left my hotel after laying awake all night wondering where I would live when I get back. I came around the corner to find a huge sign hanging in the window of a bank.



I promised to follow the signs to the best of my ability. And so, I will trust.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Let me begin with the fact that if I were to live in Spain, it would be in O'Cebreiro. I have always had a fondness for people, places and things where seemingly impossible opposite forces meet and come together. O'Cebreiro is one of those places. The blending of the Catholic with the Celtic, the Christian with the Pagan, results in a kind of magic I have yet to witness elsewhere.

When I made it up the hill to O'Cebreiro. I knew I'd be happy to finish the climb, but I had no idea the effect it would have on me. It was a very difficult climb. More steep, uneven, rocky terrain testing my desire to do this thing to its very limits. But even if I suddenly changed my mind, what difference would that make? I was on some mountain somewhere, with nowhere to go but up. And up. And up...

Earlier, as I left the albergue, I immediately began climbing in elevation. No time to even work myself up to the task. I was absolutely exhausted before I even started. My legs felt like jelly and my lungs felt like they might explode if I took one more step, and I hadn't even left the town I'd stayed in for the night. How was I going to make it 5 more km uphill, with no hope of a break? Well, apparently, one step at a time.

As I climbed, I was more and more broken. For some reason, I just didn't have it in me anymore. The worse I felt, the more the fog enveloped me, making me feel alone, with no way to see where I was headed. Suddenly, I wanted to quit. With all my heart, I wanted no more of this crazy adventure I had undertaken. I'd had enough. I had failed. Someone get me off this mountain. And just as I was seriously ready to give up completely, if I could only find a way, the town of  O'Cebreiro, appeared out of the mist, like some Spanish Brigadoon. I was ready to quit, and yet, I'd made it to the top.

Still feeling exhausted, I made my way into town. The weather had deteriorated, blowing cold, wintry air in my face, the fog so thick I could barely make out the buildings. To my right, I saw the bell tower of the church, and turned in to warm up. It was a beautiful little church, much more simple than the cathedrals I'd visited. It was warm and inviting, with beautiful music playing in the background.

I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere, so I decided to spend a little time there. I walked to the first row and sat down. The sense of relief and accomplishment that overwhelmed me as I settled into that pew was indescribable and I began to cry. Not just a few tears, but big, long, shoulder-shaking sobs. I don't know how long I sat there, just letting the tears flow, not even really knowing what I was feeling, just knowing it was powerful. And then I heard the words, "The hard part is over. Well done!"

At that moment, the bells of the church rang out.  One. Two. Three. There's power in that number for me. I don't know the full meaning of it yet, but someday I'll understand. As I stepped from the dark, warm interior of the church, I noticed the fog had lifted and the sun was shining brightly, welcoming me back out into the world.

Some say that this portion of the Camino symbolizes rebirth. I truly feel as if I have been given new life. I almost quit. In fact, if I could have I would have. That moment right before something really amazing happened. That's a lesson I'll never forget.

June 9, 2013

I started out the day tired and sick to my stomach. No surprise after the night I had last night. I woke up from bad dreams about 3am that, in reality, turned out to be old memories. Memories best left forgotten, but left forgotten, never healed.

When you bury a bad memory from your past, rather than dealing with it as it happens, you bury with it all of its toxic energy. It is this toxicity that often later reveals itself in sickness and disease.

I have been lucky. I have buried many unpleasant memories, many of which haunted me last night. But none of that negativity has made me seriously ill. Yet. I can only imagine that if I didn't release them, eventually I would have had to pay the price. Instead, I have been offered both the time and the opportunity to bring them to the surface and let them go. The Camino has given me that gift. Although the work is difficult, and at times painful, I will be eternally grateful for this experience.

A few minutes ago, I mentioned to someone that time was going by more quickly than I expected, but when I looked back on it all, it seemed I've been here an eternity. He said, "Maybe that's because we are living more fully in each moment." Hmmm. I like that explanation.

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 6, 2013

I wonder why it is that every time I reach a high point in my life, it always seems to be followed by extreme difficulty or pain. The Camino has illustrated that perfectly over the past couple of days. Yesterday, I reached the highest point of my journey so far, both in reality and metaphorically. Today I was looking forward to some easier downhills, but instead I was met with some of the most challenging downhill terrain I've experienced since this began. Kilometer after kilometer of rocky, uneven and slippery paths, made even more dangerous and difficult by the light rain falling on and off all day.

It seems that whenever I make a commitment to follow my soul's journey, my path immediately gets more difficult, challenging my every step. At times it makes me want to scream at the injustice of it all. Or at least what I perceive to be injustice.

When does the path get easier? Does it ever?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5, 2013

"With this stone, I choose to leave behind the fear and doubt which obstruct my ability to live the life I am meant to live. I ask for clarity from this point forward, giving me guidance and showing me the direction to my soul's purpose. I promise to watch for the signs and to follow them to the best of my ability. And I promise never to forget the lessons I've learned along the way."

I did it! I made it to Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino, higher even than the Pyrenees. What else is there to say.

June 4, 2013

I was beginning to wonder if all the walking would ever make me feel physically stronger. There's been no doubt it's working my mental and spiritual muscles, making them stronger, but I haven't felt much difference in the physical part. Today I finally had the opportunity to witness the vast amount of improvement I've made in that area.

On the first day of my Camino, I walked about 8 km uphill from St. Jean to Orisson. I had sent my backpack ahead by courier and only carried a small daypack. It took me almost 7 hours. Today I walked about 7 km uphill from Rabanal to Foncebadon, carrying my full backpack, on much more difficult terrain. It took me only 3-1/2 hours. What a difference! I may still be slow, but at least no one is mistaking me for dead anymore.

When I arrived at my albergue, I had some time to lay on my bunk and think quietly about tomorrow. It occurred to me that today would be my last day to carry the stone I brought from home, symbolizing whatever it is I no longer wish to carry around in my life. It made me a little sad. I've gotten used to having those things in my life. They're who I am. Or at least who I was. Am I willing to leave them behind? What if I leave them behind only to find I've somehow picked them up again? Does that mean I failed?

The actof leaving the stone and all it carries with it implies a commitment to real and visible change in my life. That's a lot of responsibility. Am I ready for it? I guess we'll see.


Monday, June 3, 2013

June 2 , 2013

I left Astorga full of hope and excitement for the days ahead. Trying not to place any expectations on the experience, but knowing whatever was about to happen would be perfect and powerful. Maybe I was feeling a little cocky when I said, " Bring on the lessons. I'm ready today."

I stopped in a little town about 6 km outside of Astorga, about an hour and a half walk, for something to eat. As I sat there eating my breakfast, it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten to get money before I left the city. I only had about 20€ in my pocket. Enough to get me by for a day or two. I wasn't too worried, thinking there would be a cash machine in Rabanal, only a day away. I started looking through the towns coming up on an iPhone app I have. It didn't take long to determine there wouldn't be a cash machine for several days. Even if I gave up my expensive Coca-Cola a day habit, I just couldn't stretch the money I had far enough. I was going to have to walk all the way back to Astorga.

Hoping the iPhone app was wrong, I went inside and asked the owner of the cafe, Pilar, where the next cash machine was. She confirmed it was in Ponferrada, several days ahead. Astorga was my only choice. The walk back would cost me 12 km round-trip and another day out of my schedule. I was deflated. What else could I do?

Seeing the look on my face, Pilar immediately said, "If you can wait a few minutes, I have business in Astorga. I will take you and bring you back." I was flooded with relief. It never occurred to me to refuse. The Camino always provides. This was just one more example.

Soon we were on our way in her "new" car. It was 15 years old, but it was new to her and she was so proud of it. We talked of many things on that drive back to Astorga. Things like The Way, spirituality, religion and the goodness of people. But she left me speechless when she looked at me and said, "The only reason we are here on this earth," pointing first to herself and then to me, "is to learn to love and to help others find their way. The way that is right for them."

I began to cry (yes - again!) remembering my promise from yesterday and the promise I'd received in return. This was no accident. No coincidence. The events of this morning were divinely orchestrated.

When we arrived back in her small town, having gone only to the bank for me, no "business in Astorga" for her after all, I hugged her and thanked her for her immense kindness. I wanted to ask what I could do for her in return, but before I could say a word, she shook her head, smiled and said one more thing before she was gone.


Wow. How did she know?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June 1, 2013

Today was one of those monumental breakthrough days that remind me why I'm doing this. I didn't blog yesterday because there wasn't much to talk about, but there was one thing that happened that is relevant to today's story. Somewhere along the trail, I saw one of the many heart-shaped rocks I've been seeing everywhere since I started the Camino. This one was different, though. It was broken in half. I didn't know why, but I knew I needed to stop at the rock and take a moment. As I stood there, I received a message.

"It's time."

"It's time for what?"

"It's time to open up your broken heart and finish the healing."

Wow. Ok.. And here I thought I'd done all that work and had moved on. It appears there's one thing left to do. Rip off the bandage I've kept so tightly wrapped around it, and expose it. Let it free. Let it heal. Think about that. You know that old saying, "It sticks out like a sore thumb"? That's because when something has been hurt, it seems to attract more hurt on top of hurt. So you keep it bandaged up and protected. But the final little bit of healing doesn't really come until you remove that bandage and let the air get to it. Let nature take its course.

I started out today with that in the back of my mind, but in spite of that, I was fully enjoying my morning. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I just felt good. This was the first day I had some hills to climb ahead, so I was hoping that my heels wouldn't protest too much.

It was a quiet and serene walk through the woods. No traffic. No city noise. Just me and the others making our way up the path. I was definitely taking my time on the hills, stepping very carefully over the loose stones on the path, not wanting to irritate the sore tendons any more than they already were.

I had stopped at a flat spot to take a rest. It was at a crossroads of a sort. A little used country road, really just two dirt-worn tire tracks crossing the path I was on. I noticed that on the other side of the little country lane, there appeared to be a large arrow made out of a collection of stones. Much larger than the one I posted in my blog from a couple of days ago. This one did not want to be missed. It wanted to be sure to guide the way, to help those who might feel a little lost, who needed a little guidance. Someone like me.

After I finished resting, I walked over to take a picture of the arrow, tripping on a stone underfoot. I was a little frustrated until I looked down to find a large, heart-shaped rock at my feet. At that moment I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. I picked up the rock and I carried it over to that large arrow guiding the way, and I placed my heart right in the center of it. And with it, I vowed that I would put my heart into helping others find their way. I don't know how. But the "how's" aren't up to me anyway.

After I had done that, I stood there, of course with more tears running down my face - seems to be a common occurrence for one reason or another these days - and I thought about what I had just promised. And I wondered, "Who am I to vow to help others find their way, when I feel lost most of the time myself?"

The answer, "Who are you not to?"

I feel like I have agreed to something pretty huge, and I don't even know what it is. Sounds a lot like my decision to walk the Camino, doesn't it?

It was only as I turned to continue walking up the hill, when I noticed that the tip of the arrow was pointing at a perfect, unbroken heart. In return for my promise to somehow help others find their way, I will find the way to finish the healing I need to do.

May 30, 2013

Today, for the first time, I truly felt I'd lost my way. I arrived at a roundabout out in the middle of nowhere with signs and roads going in all different directions. The yellow arrows that were painted on the ground were not helpful at all. They were pointing in three different directions, and there was a road sign that read "Camino" that pointed in a fourth. Usually at that time of day, there are people ahead of me or behind me who can be helpful at deciphering which way we should go. This time, however, there was no one. Anywhere. No people walking, no cars, no businesses. Nothing. After a few tears and some worthless self-pity, I decided I had to make a decision. Pick a direction and go with it. I couldn't just stand here all day.

Luckily, with intuition and some help from above, I picked the right direction. As soon as I started walking, I found this non-traditional arrow confirming I was going the right way.  All I had to do was pick a direction and start walking and the confirmation arrived. Standing locked in one spot waiting for someone to come along and rescue me got me nowhere.

I found the incident to be extremely ironic, because the day before, while still in León, I had begun to feel that I'd truly lost my way in general. I was wishing I had someone to talk to, who could point me in the right direction because the signs I was receiving from the Universe just weren't clear. I love how the Camino takes what I'm feeling and illustrates it in a real-life situation, then waits as I figure it out.

I have recently begun to think about what's next when I get home. Where will I live? What will I do with this new life I'm creating here as I walk the way and change who I am? It's somewhat daunting. And even more than a little frightening. Who will I be when this is all over? It's one thing to say I know I'm on a life-changing journey, it's another thing to follow through with allowing my life to change. Those were the thoughts going through my mind as I walked on once I'd found my way. And suddenly, there it was. My yellow arrow. In the form of a poem painted on an underpass. It's not pretty or artistic. But it was exactly what I needed at exactly that moment.

Dream what you dare to dream,
Be who you want to be,
Go where you want to go...

Dream what I dare to dream? Is that possible? Is that even allowed? Not long after that, I came across this symbol on the path. I'm still not clear about its meaning, but I honestly don't think it matters. It had a profound impact on me, to the point where I had to sit down on the side of the road and cry it all out before I could even walk through it. Dream what I DARE to dream. I dare to dream big!