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Archive for the ‘El Camino: The Way of St. James’ Category

 

“Be prepared.”

That’s a piece of wisdom that anyone who backpacks can appreciate. When hiking in the wilderness one has to rely on self-preservation. It’s You and Mother Nature. How you have prepared for the hike and how you handle any issues that arise is a difference between enjoying your adventure and telling the tale . . . or not making it.

This is harsh reality.

Walking the Camino is not a walk thru a city park. You will hit a variety of terrain from mountians, valleys, farmland, forests, towns, cities and industrial areas. Be vigilant and prepared with both mind and body.

When my husband decided to walk the 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port in 2015 to Santiago I would have loved to go with him. I wasn’t ready though plus I knew at that time he needed to do this alone. Now I have had 2 years to get my self “up to speed” for the 600-mile hike that we plan to take. I have actually been quite surprised at how quickly my body has come back into shape after too much neglect.

I also have two really good pair of boots that I have broken in with the daily walks and weekly long hikes that we are doing.

 

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Those comfortable boots that you have loved for years?  Maybe not a good idea.

 

Taking care of your feet is something often talked about in the various articles and web sites on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Good quality boots, good health practices and…moleskin for blisters.   When my husband was getting prepared for his walk the first thing I told him was that he needed to get a good pair of boots and to bring moleskin with him.

“Moleskin? What’s that?” He asked.

I showed him and told him that whenever he felt the beginnings of a blister that he was to put this on it and leave it on. I was thanked via text many times by him while he was on his first walk. He also encountered people who didn’t take care of their feet and suffered gravely for it.

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My husband’s feet with moleskin…and no blisters

 

To me it’s common sense to take care of yourself and make sure that your feet are well cared for since they will be taking you on a long journey. It should be common sense…but common sense is not always there.

Which reminds me of a story…I am a storyteller…

Anansi the Spider decided that he wanted all the common sense in the world for himself. So he took a gourd and collected all the common sense he could find and placed it in that gourd and stuck a cork in the opening good and tight. He then tied a rope around the gourd so that he could carry it around his neck. He found this too cumbersome though and decided that he needed to hide the gourd full of common sense somewhere where it would not be found. He decided high up in the tallest tree would be a good place.

So one day he began to climb, up and up and up. But that gourd swinging around his neck between his belly and the tree just kept getting in the way. It was a difficult climb even with his eight legs.

Far below he heard a small voice, “If you put the gourd behind you you’ll be able to clime easier!”

“What?!?” Anansi didn’t quite hear what the voice said. He looked down and far below standing beside the tall tree was a small boy. His hands where cupped around his mouth and he repeated even louder:

“If … you … put … the … gourd … behind … you … you … will … be … able … to … climb … easier!” He called out again.

Anansi had heard the boy this time. He looked at the tree trunk in front of him; he looked his belly so round; he looked at the gourd full of common sense between the two.

“What?!?” He thought to himself. Here he had all this common sense…all the common sense of the whole world and a little boy still had more than he. What good was it doing him? Nothing.

So Anansi popped the cork and let the common sense ride the four winds. It was taken all over the world and some people ended up with a lot of common sense, some a little and … well others … ended up with none at all.

 

Take care of you feet. They will be carrying all the weight.

Boots1328   The boots that will carry me along

 

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Shells found throughout Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Like many of us, I collect shells. I have bowls and jars full of shells that I have collected along the coasts of California and Costa Rica when I lived there. When I was leaving California in the mid 70’s for the Army, I dragged a friend of mine to Black’s Beach that lies just South of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. I had seen bits and pieces of cowrie shells there along a line of rocks that protruded out of the ocean. We spent about an hour looking for a cowrie shell that was not broken, then we gave up and that’s when I found it.   I have carried it with me ever since.   It reminds me of my childhood, growing up and the value of a great friendship that still continues to this day…Love you Jeffrey.

In Costa Rica in 1992 while pregnant with my daughter my husband and I visited the family ranch in Guanacaste along the Pacific Coast. There I found another cowrie shell. This one joined the first and reminds me of my early adulthood, the man that has become my life partner and motherhood…Love you Guillermo and Geannina you’re the heart and soul of my life.

Cowrie1324_4x3 Cowrie Shells from California and Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Shells are the primordial reminder of where life began. They protect, are beautiful and some hold the sound of the ocean within them.

Throughout Europe the symbol of the scallop shell can be found on doors, windows, walls, statues, and embedded in the roadways. It has become a symbol of the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela.

The scallop shell is found naturally along the coastline and at the end of the Camino in Finisterre. Early pilgrims would collect one to prove that they had walked and finished El Camino to the end of the world. Modern day pilgrims will attach one to their packs. It has both practical as well as symbolic uses in the long history of the Camino. For more information on this please go to www.Followthecamino.com they have a very good article on the legend, history and symbolic use of the scallop shell.

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Scallop Shell on pilgrim’s pack

When my husband finished his 500-mile walk to Santiago de Compostela in 2015 we bought each other silver shell charms. He added this to the chain that he wore around his neck throughout his walk and still wears. He added it to a wooden St. Francis of Assisi cross that I bought him at Santa Croce in Florence. When we bought the chain for the cross it was too long so we had it shortened and a bracelet made for me. I placed the shell charm on the bracelet and have worn it almost everyday for the past two years. (Had to take it off for a while when I got my tattoo)

This charm reminds me of the goal that I have set for myself. It reminds me of what I hope to achieve for myself and be a better person. I don’t know if I will be wearing it as I walk but I will have it with me. When I finish and return home I will be adding a new tattoo to my wrist, just under the one I have of a gingko branch and three-legged crow. I will add a scallop shell.

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Note: Follow the Camino is the company that we are using to organize our walk.

 

 

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Today I picked out my stone. I have a collection of stones that I have picked up along mountain passes and beaches thru my lifetime. Quite a few of them are from California. Many have fossils embedded in the ancient and hardened sand. That’s what I chose:  A small stone the color of blue grey with white flakes thru it…ancient shells embedded in sand that time hardened. It’s flat and round. 1.75 inches across and feels good in the hand. I picked it up on a beach in Northern California.

I will carry it now in my daypack. Carry it while I go on practice hikes here in Illinois and carry it on the plane when I head out to Southern France. I will carry it across the Pyrenees Mountains into Northern Spain. Than about 553 kilometers or 343.5 miles into the walk near Ponferrada at the highest point of El Camino in Spain, 1,530 meters above sea level (5,020 feet) I will be standing on the “Roof of the Way” in front of an iron cross perched on top of a 7 meter (23 ft ) wooden post that is surrounded by stones, stones that pilgrims (peregrinos) have left over the years.

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The iron cross, Cruz de Fierro, sits upon a point in the Leon Mountains that once had an altar dedicated to the Roman god Mercury. Now it is where pilgrims come and leave a stone from their home. The stone can symbolize a deliverance from sin or protection from the dangers encountered along El Camino. It’s what one wants it to be. For me it symbolizes the release of unneeded weight that gets in the way in life. It’s an offering to all that have traveled this road thru the millenniums.

 

“When I let go of what I am,

I become what I might be.

When I let go of what I have,

I receive what I need.”

                                                                             — Lo Tzu

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned,

so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

                                                                                            — Joseph Campbell

 

Notes:

Photograph of Cruz de Fierro by Guillermo Gutierrez, 2015

Ramos, Sergi.  Camino de Santiago. 2014

http://www.cyclefiesta.com

http://www.caminoways.com

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Santiago, A Coruña

In August 2015 my husband told me that he was going to do something stupid. “What?” I asked him.   “Quit my job and walk El Camino.” He answered.

“That’s the smartest thing that I’ve heard in a long time.” I told him.

Since the “down turn” in jobs and getting caught in the whirl wind of job after job after job in the world of Private Equity Firms where companies are flipped and people let go for no good reason we both were tired and going a bit insane.

My husband had wanted to walk El Camino (The Way) since he was a boy. When we first met he told me about it.  I, an avid backpacker at the time, was intrigued. Our plan had been to do this together…Someday.  Careers, a daughter, life and all its insanity just got in the way of walking The Way.

I was not ready to walk with him in 2015, bad knees and so out of shape. Besides this was a time that he needed—by himself.  So…in October of 2015 he left for Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, France to start his walk and I later met up with him at the end of November, in Santiago de Compostela where he ended his 500-mile walk. To his discernment I was already planning to get myself in shape and walk El Camino with him in 2017.

So here we are…in two months (September 2017) I will be in France with my husband and walk the 600 miles to the End of the World, Finisterre.   We actually plan to continue on to Muxia then bus back to Santiago de Compostela and travel a bit more (by bus, train and plane) before we end up in Madrid.

It’s been a good year training and getting into shape. I loved my time in Spain two years ago and look forward to going back…this time seeing this lovely and culturally diverse country in a more intimate way.  I also look forward to enjoying the wine, pulpo (octopus), and olives! … And of course so much more!

This blog will be a chronicle of my time walking El Camino. I am more of a photographer than a writer so I hope to fill the pages with photos more than words. To do this I needed to get a camera that was compact and shot RAW. I ended up with a Sony.  It’s a great camera and though I do miss my DSLR and lenses, I am happy that I won’t have the size and weight to deal with yet still a good quality camera.

Some references:

Movie:   The Way   Produced by Emilio Estevez, Staring Martin Sheen

Websites:

www.MarciaGutierrezPhotography.com (Photos of the trip will later be placed on                                                                            this site)

www.americanpilgrims.org

Books:

Ramis, Sergi. Camino de Santiago

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