Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dance Line

If you have ever watched a musical - on television or in person - one of the most intriguing parts is when the cast forms a long line - the dance line - and performs in unison with each other. It is impressive that the choreography is so well timed that the people on the ends and in the middle have their movements synchronized exactly - moving as one body - with dozens of arms and legs. As individuals - each one is an excellent performer - as a group - as one body - astounding.

While walking The Camino - we passed by so many dance lines of trees - bushes - shrubs - rocks - that much of the beauty of the moment escaped us - eyes focused downwards - watching each step - avoiding - rocks - roots - ruts - attempting to walk without falling - attaining our goal for the day - the next albergue - the next rest stop - an open cafe or bar - our bed for the night. The idiom - not being able to see the forest - for the trees - so true on Camino - so sad.  It was not until we had finished our Camino - riding on a bus or train - that we became fully aware of what we had just done.  On the surface - we walked kilometers or miles - past thousands of trees - rocks - bushes - in reality - we had walked through the garden that is - Northern Spain - through towns - villages - through entire communities - one person - one place at a time.  During our month in Spain - we had walked through valleys and hills - we had climbed mountains - from the base - to the peak - one step - one rock - at a time. Our eyes saw each tree - but missed the forest - viewed each pebble - but missed the rock formations - until we  stopped - dared to look up - or down - at where we had been - where we had arrived. Then - only then - could we comprehend - what we were doing - still - on a larger scale - not apparent - until we left the Camino.

                                            The Garden of Northern Spain

It is amazing what each of us - each peregrina - each peregrino - did on our Camino. Where we walked - what we saw - what we experienced - who we met - residents - visitors - young - old - cannot be explained - defies description. We dared to leave the comfort of our homes - schools - offices - to walk with the angels - to experience the presence of God -  to experience each other - to experience self - one step at a time. We did it as individuals - in our own way - in our own time - starting at different points - taking different paths - yet in unison with each other - forming one beautiful Camino dance line.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

End of the World

At one point in time the Earth was thought to be flat - and the farthest western point was thought to be a land mass in Spain. Technology and adventurous sailors proved both to be wrong - the Earth is - of course round - the farthest western most land mass of Europe is in Portugal.  Not wanting to ruin a good story - the land area of A Coruna - known as Finisterre or Cape Finisterre ( in Spanish ) or Fisterra or Cabo Fisterra ( in Galician ) is still promoted as "The End of the World" - for many peregrinos who walk El Camino de Santiago - the final leg in their journey to Santiago. Finisterre is approximately an additional 90 kilometers from Santiago - having walked to Santiago - to reverence the bones of Saint James - the journey reaches completion - at "The End of the World".

Not all pilgrims walk to Finisterre - a large number - for various reasons - elect to take a bus from Santiago to make this journey - some spend a few days - some a few hours - to stand at the edge of the world and the ocean.  To make our Camino to Santiago complete - we likewise - went to Finisterre - the frosting on our cake - the foam on our beer.  Arlene and I did not travel alone - each of us had carried with us - personal artifacts - of three special people who are no longer alive. Arlene brought with her - a rosary - that she had given to Susan - our sister-in-law - my twin's wife - a Lutheran who Arlene had taught the Divine Mercy devotion - prayed on a rosary - which Susan did devoutly - and which was being prayed at the time of her death - at 3:00 PM in the afternoon - the Hour of Mercy.  With love for Susan - Arlene very reverently interred that rosary into the ocean - at the End of the World - very significant as Susan and Dean had spent their honeymoon in Spain. For my part - I had carried with me a small portion of the cremains of my twin - Dean and my older brother - Dennis - both who like Susan - had died much too early in life. The container with the cremains was opened and in two loving gestures - interred into the ocean - a significant end - and final gesture of good-bye to two brothers who were both very special to me. 

                                            Finisterre - Fisterra - Your Choice

                                                 Goodbye for Susan

                                              Goodbye for Dean and Dennis

                                                   The End of the World

Thus marks the official end of our Camino. In a few follow up posts - we will present some comments and hints for those who are considering walking their own Camino. 

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Friday, September 27, 2013

Compostela and Credencial

Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela was both a religious and spiritual journey that Arlene and I shared - although we walked side by side - sometimes following one another - at times as far as 50 meters apart - we each walked our own journey. Sometimes we prayed together - many times by ourselves - but we prayed daily - multiple times daily - for multiple people - for ourselves - for each other - for our families - our sons - daughter-in-laws - grandchildren - brothers - sisters - nieces - nephews - friends - the people at church - at the diocese - for our priests - Father Matt - Father Michael - Father Andy - Father Jerry - Father Doug - Bishop Conlon - Pope Francis - Sister Kathryn - The School Sisters of Saint Francis of Christ the King - for the diocesan agencies - for those we met on the Camino - for those who were "not" religious - for more people than we can ever remember.  Those prayers have been offered up - they are in God's hand now - to do with as He will - in His time - in His way.

We leave the Camino with a few pieces of paper - our Compostelas - the official documents that say we walked from Pamplona, Spain to Santiago, Spain and our Credencials - the Pilgrim Passports on which we collected stamps - sellos - that prove we either slept in that place or ate a dinner or snack along the journey. These are pieces of paper - of no material value - but a memory of a very special time in our lives when we dared to say - we can do this!

At 67 and 68 years of age we accomplished - not the impossible - but the possible - we proved to ourselves - to others - that at any age - all things are possible - with God. We were never alone on the Camino - Jesus was there with us the entire time - giving us the strength - the courage to do one simple task - to walk with Him.

We thank those who took the time to talk with us - to help us - to check up on us when we had our little medical issues - for encouragement from home - for Ryan/Sandi/Matthew tolerating Bene's barking - for Monsignor Michael checking in with us to see that we got that finger issue resolved - and especially for all the volunteers and people in the albergues and the small cafes along the Camino - for your help and smiles and your pleasant  "buen camino" day after day and pilgrim after pilgrim - we know we put you to the test very often - you never complained - you "the residents of the camino" made this possible for us and every other Pilgrim/peregrino who will walk The Way.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Pilgrim Mass

Today we attended the 12:00 Noon Pilgrim Mass at the Cathedral - it was very special with the Cathedral filled with pilgrims from yesterday and those just arriving today. There were about eight priests at the Mass - at the end of Mass the Botafumeiro was used - the Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world - weighing 80 kg - measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral - during certain important religious occasions it is brought to the floor of the Catedral and attached to ropes hung from the pulley mechanism. It takes a team of eight men to properly get the censer moving. It is an awesome sight to see - the congregation applauding when it is finished.

                                  Arriving at Catedral for Holy Mass for Pilgrims

               Outside the Catedral - always crowds of pilgrims and tourists

                                              Getting Ready for Mass

                                         The Botafumerio - Silver censer

                                               Getting Ready to Swing

Holy Mass at the Catedral at Santiago was the crowning point of our Camino - marking the official journey to Santiago. Now we have the add- ons - then we return for home.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Por Que?

Por que - why? 
Two days ago I mentioned my little fall and my injured finger - yesterday morning I woke and it was still bothering me - so we decided to go to the hospital and get an x-ray - simple enough - right? Not if you are not fluent in Spanish - it seems that nobody at the hospital could speak English - they were very polite - took me ahead of the locals at urgent care - moved me from room to room - all with big smiles and "sorry no Ingles" - in the end I did get the x-ray. We - the doctor and I - decided that we could see no fractures - just a "bump" on the one joint - so they treated my upset stomach and gave me an IV for the pain and sent me on my way - five hours later. 

                                              Finger Splint From Farmacia

We are happy that this did not happen on the Camino - not tickled pink that it happened at all - considering some of the injuries we saw walking the Camino - I will accept this smalll battle scar. When it is finally healed in a few more days - there will only be a memory - and that too shall pass. It makes me think of all the people - on Camino - in regular life - who are the walking wounded - hurting inside because of organic problems - silent diseases - arthritis - PMS - depression - diabetes - coronary artery disease - hurting because of emotional or spiritual trauma - walking alone in life because of an inner emptiness - nobody knowing - nobody caring. 

Truth be told - God knows - God cares. He may not make it known to us directly - but He will send a messenger - a fellow pilgrim - some brothers from Idaho - a Monsignor - a NICU nurse - a tatoo artist - when you least expect it - to remind you that He does care.

Next post the pilgrim Mass

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


The one thing we feared the most on the Camino was rain - rain produces mud - rain makes smooth rocks slippery - rain makes clothing damp and sticky - rain is not a trekker's friend. This morning - on our final day of walking the last 20 kilometers - we got rain. On the one hand - that did not make us happy - on the other - we were finally able to justify hauling rain gear with us for the entire Camino. At one point I was able to make Arlene realize how much lighter her back pack felt since we were wearing our rain jackets and pants rater than hauling them on our backs. 

Although we had to cope with rain today - we made very good time and were standing at the cathedral in Santiago by 3:30 PM in the afternoon. Neither of us believes that we have actually done this - this is the most adventurous thing that we have ever attempted - just living in a foreign country as long as we have -  has been an amazing experience.  The adventure does not end here as we still have to visit Finestre and Muixa before we return home.  When we got to the Cathedral - we were going to get our Compostelas but noticed a security sign stating we should not bring our backpacks- so we decided to check into our hotel room first - on the way - in the rain - Dale took a fall on the wet slippery rocks in Santiago and bruised his knee and hurt a finger - we are praying it is only a bruise - tomorrow will tell. After showering and cleaning up we returned to the cathedral to get our Compostelas - a procedure that took over an hour as the line was fairly long. On the Camino - we learned patience - Spain does not move quickly - the Spanish people do not move quickly - there is more to life than moving quickly - everything is to be savored and  enjoyed.

                                                   Old Pilgrim Marker

                                                Rough Terrain to the End

                                              Unusual Reddish Colors

                                             Putting on Rain Gear in Tunnel

                                                            Camino Ninja

                         Daily Lunch - Coke with Lemon Slice + Bocadillo 

                                                           Last Stop Over Before Santiago  

                                                              Another Hill

             We Started With Camino Shells in Sidewalk and We End With Them Also

                                            Arlene Cathedral Side Entrance

                                                 Arlene and Dale in Front of Cathedral

                                                           Pilgrim Office

                                                  Waiting to Get Compostela

                                                          More Waiters

                                   Still Waiting - About 50 People Inside

More to come - check back tomorrow

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Very Close

We are very close to Santiago now - the 100K walkers are very numerous now - today was very fruitful - we walked about 23 kilometers - some uphill challenges but most was fairly flat. 

                                                        Morning Haze

                                         Unusual Tree - What is This?

                             Dee -You Are The Plant Person - Can You Identify?

                                     Rest Stop - Lots of Pilgrims Today

                                                Yes! 30 kilometers left

                                                  Ancient Drainage System 

      26 Kilometer Marker- This is the Same Distance as Our Illinois Camino de los Santos Walk 

                                Entering Salceda - No More Big Towns Until Santiago

                                                       From 720K Down to 25K

                                                  Did Anyone Hear This Tree Fall?

                                            Remains of Old Medieval Church

                                              End of Today's Walk - 20 kilometers left

If tomorrow goes as well as today - we will make it to Santiago - only time will tell.Watch tomorrow's post to see if we succeed!

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene     

Monday, September 23, 2013


When is the last time that you crossed over a bridge and gave it a second thought - the age - materials used in construction - style of construction - intended use - technology - design engineer - contractor - construction crew - maintenance - terrain - locations being connected - who or what will use it - only a short list of factors to consider when designing and justifying the cost of the project. Bridges transport - people - vehicles - animals - materials - finished goods - individuals - communities. They connect one  geographical point to another - strangers to friends - friends to foes - lovers to each other.

On the Camino - we have walked or passed by so many bridges we have lost count - today our trek promises to have us engage four or more bridges - we will attempt to photograph each one - large and small - as well as other Galician delights - enjoy. 

The most important thing about bridges - they connect individuals - like bridges - the Camino connects people - hopefully in these small bridges of new relationship between participants - the entire world will benefit.

                                         Water Fountain in Square by the Albergue

                                                  Modern Circular Home

                       Every Neighborhood Has a Square - Every Square Has a Prominent Cross

                                             Leaving Town on the High Road

                                  49 kilometers to Santiago - Note St Gianna Prayer Card on Top

One of our intents on the Camino is to spread the word about Saint Gianna Bretta Molla - so we have been handing out prayer cards we had printed - to everyone we meet - leaving at most of the albergues we stay at -  underneath the cash tip we leave at restaurants and cafes. When we finally got to the 50 kilometer marker - we started leaving  the cards at every way marker that is accessible - one every half kilometer - by the time we reach Santiago - we will have distributed over 150 prayer cards on these markers. After we reach Santiago we will continue on to Muixa and Finistre and leave the final cards there - all totaled - we will have distributed 600 prayer cards. Some of these cards have been left in the prayer card racks in various churches - so with God's blessing - a lot of people will have been introduced to one of our more modern saints.  

                                                                Rock Bridge

                                                            Stoney Pathway 

                                                         Arlene on Bridge

                                                                  Made it Across

                                              Roadside Do-it-yourself Fruit Stand

                                                Old Wide Bridge - Easy to Cross

                                         Path is Wide - Wooden Bridge Railing 

                                              Camino Shell Design on Home Fence

                                  Unusual Wild Grass With White Feathery Plume

                                                             An Aloe Plant?

                                                Bright Light Green Evergreen

                House For Sale -Features Inside Garden Atrium - Needs Some Renovation

                                      Very small stream - Bridge Not Needed

                          Afternoon German Catholic Holy Mass on a Picnic Table

                                                          Old Village Bridge

            Cows Across From German Mass Site - That Makes Them ... Holy Cows!

                                      Modern Bridge Over a Valley of Cars

                                                                  40 kilometers

                                       Our Last Bridge For Today - Medieval Stone

                         Guess What Is On the Menu for Tonight - Octopus!

                            Cooking Paella on the Sidewalk - Yes We Stopped and Ate

The end of the Camino is rushing on us  - 3 more days and Santiago - then a rest day or two and on towards the "end of the world".

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene