Day 3/ Sept 14 El Camino/ La Virgen to Mazarife

Today we walked about 9 miles to the village of Mazarife. We are taking it light to break in but will need to do a bit more tomorrow to keep up. We walked on many surfaces and viewed fields, clouds, villages and pilgrims. The way is well marked with rocks, shells and arrows in many places and forms. I am learning to move quick and early. We had twenty in our room last night but I actually had a good nights rest. I awoke around 6, sat up and put my head in my hands for a few moments. Then I dressed, packed up in the dark and then when that was all set went and washed up. I have gotten quite proficient with my pack and sensitive as to how it feels. There is a sweet spot that I go for with my adjustments that feels quite right.

We had a light breakfast of nuts and fruit and beverage. We started out at 7:30.

We found the alternate trail we want that walks us through the countryside. An excellent choice. We each found our rhythm and would walk at our own pace sometimes together and at times alone. We stopped for a snack and when we put our packs back on I got distracted and forgot to buckle my pack. I tried over the next three miles to adjust my pack to the sweet spot but could not find it. Come to find out my buckles had gotten hidden under my hip back and I was walking without it secured. My poor shoulders will need some healing balm tonight.

We are staying at albergue Tio Pepe in Mazarife tonight and have smaller rooms. Di and I share a room with a private bath. A real treat. We went to a different Albergue for dinner. First course a lovely green salad fresh and beautiful presentation, a gazpacho soup that was creamy smooth with a hint of cucumber, vegetable paella remarkable, and a finishing with a crepe with drizzle of chocolate, strawberries and cream. All for 10 euros. We applauded the chef.

We are fortunate to have very pleasant weather to walk but I feel it in my thighs with some good hills today. We walked around the village a bit tonight. Just a humorous note, I have to always prepare myself for surprises in food as my “vegetable” sandwich was loaded with tuna and boiled egg. Differences of opinion and tradition.

Day 2/Sept 13 El Camino/ Leon to La Virgen

It has been a bit rough with the long flight and a cold virus setting in but things are moving in the right direction. Chris has declared we have officially begun the Camino even if it was only 1.7 miles from the train station yesterday to our first Albergue in Leon. Today we have moved on to La Virgen after hiking around old city Leon. We walked many narrow cobbled streets in the old city section of Leon. We went to Mass at the Basillica de San Isadoro. We then toured the Catredal de Santa Maria de Regla. We shopped for fruit in the open air market in the square. had a humorous and frustrating 20 minute walk to the bus to La  Virgen that took two hours to find. ( we took the bus ride as this area is all industrial and now we start moving into the country) Anyway, After getting a bit confused about location, 74 year old Gabriel offered to help. Instead of just pointing us in the right direction he walked along chatting with Jonathan and us through Jonathan for about 1 1/2 mile. He is a pensioner who grew up near our bus stop, moved away and now returned to care for his 96 yr old mother. Along the way we happened to come across his cousin. She had her opinion as well about where to catch the bus. Gabriel continued on until he saw us on the bus. We told him he was our angel Gabriel.

We are now at a very nice Albergue in La Virgen. They have co ed rooms here where as last night the genders were divided. The host showed us a bathroom as we looked around. Later when time to take a shower we all went off to the shower but when I looked around in the bathroom I wondered where are Di, Chris, and Mary? Did they go off somewhere? There was a man getting ready for his shower. I discretely went into the shower and adjusted the curtain so I could get my clothes off without getting wet. When I emerged later he was outside the shower drying his hairy bum. Another man came to use the shower, came in, saw me and turned around and left. I washed my clothes, face and finished up. I went back to the room and still did not see my group. When I walked down the hall I saw a closed door with a drawing of a woman on it. I opened it and there they all were. They were all laughing because Di had taken her shower and they found her dressing in front of an open door for all the world to see. I added my faux pas of taking my shower in the men’s room to the list and we all had peels of laughter.

There is much to acclimate to with sharing a sleeping room with so many. Lights, darkness, finding your stuff in the dark, flashlights, hand washing, snoring, early risers, later risers. We are learning.

We have to get some walking in as the pilgrim meals are three course meals and we have been eating those. An appetizer of a salad or pasta with red sauce and sometimes tuna or soup. Then a choice of a main dish and then dessert. I have been fortunate to have chicken both nights. Di had an orange filled trout and Jonathan had rabbit.

Tonight we decided to add yoga stretches to our daily routine.

We are all well and happy and tomorrow will be.

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Day 1/Sept 12 El Camino/ Leon

We met up with Chris and Mary in Newark and are now sitting in the train station at Pinar de Chamartin waiting for a train to Leon. We are tired from just little naps as we go but the flights went very well and we are beginning to deal with language and money.

I brought my drivers license for no reason as I have my passport but I needed it at MSP pre check as my passport was not signed and was not acceptable. I had to hold up the line while I unzipped my pants to access my license in my hidden hip pack (which I am so grateful I had on me) with the agent yelling to everyone else to make sure their documents are in order and their passports signed before they get up to him. He did smile upon my leaving.

We are all in good spirits and eager to see our bed for the night. We walked 1.7 miles from the train station in Leon to our Albergue at a Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria De Carbajal. Walking with the pack in a foreign city, paying for the bed, getting the bed set up in a room with a number of bunkbeds, all new experiences.

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El Camino Bound Sept 11

We are going to breakfast at Carol’s Restaurant and then on to the airport. One last goodbye hug to Leo and our flight leaves Mpls for Newark at 12:53. A 3 hour layover at Newark and on to Madrid arriving about 10 AM. Tuesday, Madrid time. Madrid and Leon are 7 hours ahead of our time zone, so 3 A.M. my time. We then take the train to Leon.

We are leaving with anticipation of meeting up with cousin Chris and friend Mary in Newark for the next leg then Jonathan in Leon.

We had a great sendoff yesterday with kids and grandkids. Laura had buckets of leftover flowers from a wedding she had arranged the flowers for on Saturday. We all made bouquets. The living room is encircled with 9 bouquets of purple and orange flowers.

It has been fun to include all of you in the journey so far through this blog and putting into word all that is swirling inside. Thanks for listening and there will be more posts and photos along the way.

Please keep us in thought and prayer with your hands at our backs.

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Backpacking at 66

These days I have been thinking of my daughter, Laura’s, backpacking trip to Europe the summer after she graduated from the Perpich Arts High School. I had never done that type of a trip even though I finished high school in 1968, which was when such a trip was the thing to do. I thought of Laura as very brave, which she was, and very determined. She and friend Rachel graduated and off they went. I felt I was living vicariously through her, as I would never have that opportunity in my lifetime. Well, my goodness, never say never. Who knew at 66 I would be heading off with a backpack for Europe?

Like that nervous teen heading out into something unknown, not sure the full extent of the challenge and all that lies ahead. I am also remembering the long distance calls from a phone from anywhere, like “Mom, we’ve been robbed. Send money.” She was way more out of touch than I will ever be with a cell phone, Di’s I pad, and the relative instantaneous communication with photos, Facebook, I message, and face time, to name a few.

A big difference in our trips is my need for comfort. I don’t think Laura and Rachel gave that one much thought. Their planning took a few weeks, while mine has taken months.

I am very grateful for this opportunity and in no small part to Leo, with all his support in many many ways. It might have been easier at 18 but I am not the same person. I love that I get to take a more conscious me on this journey, laugh with my sister who is celebrating 70 years as we head out into trouble not remembering in which pocket we put what, gasping then remembering. Watching out for each other as we attempt to make one full brain between us.

As I lie in bed at night enjoying the comfort of my bed and feeling gratitude for home and clothes and car and on and on, I wonder now why am I doing this? And I know that this is just all part of the isness of my life. It is all part of the flow.

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Dreaming of Backpacks

Night dreams swirl one after the other of backpacks and moving them, yes there is more than one, from place to place, room to room. Daily there have been things to assess, to add or subtract. I must be working hard on this at a deeper level.

I am happy to report I am done! The pack is closed. No more decisions. It is exciting to have so few choices. I opted for a backpack and a hip pack for the front for water and all the little stuff I need handy during the day. I am at 1 pair of pants, 1 capris, 1skirt, 2 t shirts, 1 wool under layer, 3 pair of socks, 2 panties, 2 bras, 1 fleece, 1 rain jacket, 1 rain pants, 1 hat, 1 buff, 1 leggings, 1 walking shoes, 1 pair sandals, journal, pen. The rest is sleeping bag, bug sheet, toiletries/medical and such. Not a lot of decisions day to day regarding stuff when on the Way.

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As preparation for the walk, we are encouraged to create an intention, I have decided to center my personal intention on the transition in my life from employed as a Grief Counselor for Hospice to unemployed, retired, receiving Social Security/Medicare and no income, no defined service work, more space in my life. That will be in a little over a year from now and I contemplate the loss of clients who grieve and my role in their lives. I hold curiosity for the opening of life in a new way, excitement for change, feeling ready for a shift, and trusting I will be guided to continue to live in ways that are meaningful and giving of self. I feel gratitude for the journey of the past 66 years that have led me to the work that I do and the use of my full self in my work. In this contemplation, I also walk for those who are not able to work, to earn a decent wage, who struggle day to day in work that does not challenge nor use their gifts, talents, and intelligence, and those who work hard and still find it hard to put food on the table.

Whatever the intention, may the Way be open, gentle, loving and kind and touched with surprise.

“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”
― Hermann HesseSiddhartha

Now, I must continue to practice walking; it is all practice.