Part one of my answer to the question, “Why?” IMG_8851I guess it’s not always clear (but may become clear eventually…?)img_8045So, several of my friends have asked me what it was I was looking for on “The Camino” – what was my personal quest – why in the heck did I feel compelled to go to another country (where I don’t even speak their language) to walk hundreds of miles?!?!?IMG_6912To begin – complicated answer simply put – I was being pulled by some unseen force.IMG_7366Some simple supporting thoughts: I Just have to do it.  Gonna do it.  Can’t wait to do it! And Boy Howdy, do I like to walk!!img_3836I cannot even recall how “The Camino” first appeared on my radar.  Its likely that I read about it in a library publication listing the various “walks” around the globe (I’m a big fan of the library, my mother having been a long time employee of the King County Library system).  I just know it has been in my head for many years, and I knew that I would one day undertake it.IMG_7257The Camino de Santiago, “The Way of St. James” is an ancient Catholic pilgrimage undertaken from many places in Europe (though there are six main routes) to a cathedral where the bones of Apostle St. James are said to be buried.  St. James is the Patron Saint of Spain and is credited for bringing the Gospel to its people.  Catholics would travel hundreds of miles from their homes to pray over his bones for penitence. blessings and protection.IMG_6861Over time the pilgrimage saw less traffic, however there was a resurgence in interest in the 1980’s.  The paths that had been in ill repair were lovingly updated and more clearly marked and today it is not only a religious endeavor but a fitness and adventure quest as well as a way for people to take time out of their crazy, busy lives to find balance and connection in empty, out of control lifestyles.  The movie, “The Way”, produced and directed by Emilio Estevez in 2010, starring himself and his father, Martin Sheen, (inspired by his son and dedicated to his grandfather), brought an increased awareness to this pilgrimage and the numbers of people walking continue to increase each year.IMG_6556Every once in awhile I would meet someone who knew about “The Camino”, wanted to walk it, knew someone who had or was going to walk it and my enthusiasm would surge. A couple of years ago I began reading guide books, memoirs and overviews to educate myself and to keep my enthusiasm and motivation alive.  When my sister-in-law and her husband walked the Camino Frances route across the middle of Spain, I was anxious to hear all about it (and of course, I was envious)!!  Then they walked again along the coastal Camino del Norte’ route and presented their slide show locally (I was envious) and both my husband and I were on fire to go!!!  We set a goal for spring of 2017.  In the meantime we stumbled upon another pilgrimage, “The Way of St. Francis”, the path of St. Francis Assisi from Florence, Italy to Rome.  We went to a lecture at the Edmonds Rick Steves office and we determined to make that our focus as it was less popular.IMG_2431.JPG When January of this year rolled around and I was hell bent to start making arrangements, my dreams were quickly dashed as Bill realized that his commitment to coach Little League baseball would interfere and thus we would be unable to go.  Maybe in the fall…  Meanwhile I had been increasing the distances of my daily walks from 6-8 miles to 10-12 miles and Bill had not been joining me.  I took both his youth sports commitment and lack of training to mean the demise of my dream…IMG_4037I continued to walk.  Well, let me back up.  I had been walking in my Kenmore, Washington neighborhood for over three years, generally about 4 miles 4-6 times a week, and lovingly came to know the area backwards and forwards.  My “hood” had some great hills, beautiful foliage to observe and even St. Edward’s State Park which included several trails amidst towering evergreens leading to Lake Washington.  When we downsized to a condo in Kirkland, my quest to get to know my new stomping grounds (and my love of walking) inspired me to immediately adventure out to discover every nook, cranny, street and park within a ten mile radius!  With “The Camino” goal in the back of my mind, months of walking my usual hour increased to two and three, until I thought nothing of heading out before breakfast and returning well after lunch.  I guess to say that I love walking is a bit of an understatement!  And I live in such a wonderful place to enjoy every aspect of it!!!

As good fortune would have it and because of my connection to the founder, I was invited to join The Wayfinding Academy out of Portland, Oregon for their spring, “Learn and Explore” trip and my dream to walk the Camino de Santiago was alive once more!!IMG_1757Within the Wayfinding Academy’s Creed is the statement, “we favour adventure over comfort and ease.  We s t r e t c h.” This was not something that I had articulated before, yet I found that it was surely a tenant I hold for myself and that this was indeed a big factor in my desire to walk “the Camino”.  Further, I knew that this would be an opportunity to live in the “now” and to be open to each day without expectations.  Does it seem crazy to say that I had an expectation of having no expectations…?!  Yet truly, I wanted to be open to that lesson!  We humans “unfold” in new territory where the senses are awakened with unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.  I knew that it would be stimulating to meet new people walking the same path as me, differently, and that potentially we would share our own unfolding.  I consider myself “alive” and participatory in my life, but I wondered if there were parts of me that were asleep that could be awakened by this experience…?

The Wayfinding Academy does everything “with intention” – I’d like to think that I do as well…  Within our group, individuals pondered “intent”, how would we “stretch”, how did we want to grow from this experience..?  We met to share/disclose/proclaim these intentions on the predawn morn of our “Camino”.  It was enjoyable, enlightening and daunting to not only proclaim one’s intention, etc., but to hear and share these same dreams and fears with others.  Personally I wanted to expand on my daily time with My Lord, being in Christian walk with God but also to take advantage of the substantial time to pray for my loved ones – for their salvation, for ease of pain and disease, relief from chronic pain and sorrow, self doubt, financial restraints…  And also to use the time to pray for those who need prayer and support – humanity at large…  Many people that I talked with pre, during and post Camino, fully expected to meet some of their (old) demons (perhaps unrecognized before) and to have the opportunity to release them (or at least to strike a truce).  What a challenge!!  I was personally looking for the continued transformation I pray for daily with the influence of the Holy Spirit…

I also opened myself up to the intentions of my group, which were varied.  I was focused in many ways, confused as well and disciplined and free flowing, simultaneously – go figure!!!  It’s about the journey, not the destination…IMG_7157.JPG

Part one of my answer to the question, “Why” reflected upon the initial spark and continued motivation of my dream. In Part two I will set out to address what it was I was looking for and what I expected to glean from this extreme investment of time and energy.IMG_1991.JPG

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