Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Camino Codicils - Karel's Miracles, Cindy's Feet, A Box of Gumleaves

"It is a magical path, and it is true that it will carry you.  I found it so, millions have found it so.  Yet home again I can only manage to walk from Glastonbury to Street, just as before, about 3 miles.  I wonder if the Camino is not the ultimate gift we can give to ourselves, our sorrows, meaning that we can clear bucket loads of karma just in the process of walking.  Exactly as the monks of old knew - solvitur ambulando, it is solved by walking."

The stories of many pilgrims touched me along the Way. I was slow, took time to sit on park benches, have one of those faces that people talk to - even on a bad day when Karel braved my low blood sugar scowl.  His story is memorable, I played an infinitesimal part in it.  Our Lady of Finisterre came to me from a Dutch woman in Glastonbury, a walker, the day before I left - a day poignant with meaning for Karel.  His codicil of Camino miracles are here: 
Dear Zoé, 
The Camino has shaken me and still does.   It is a good thing, valuable but not easy and it takes time to (re)settle, reshuffle and stableise myself.   Writing/making the book is paused. It will take the right time to do it as well as much time, so hereby I tell you what happened in Finisterre.
After we met, on the Camino, just before walking into a village called Ledigos there were stone-formations on the ground. You probably have also seen them. 
The first one was a heart, another one  - on the left side - said:  MIS JE LINDA (Miss you Linda).  Linda, the name of my beloved daughter who died in the air crash. It was there… I did not put it there.  In fact somebody else pointed out/directed me to read it. But how is this possible? Who put it there??? Goose-skin feeling…
The next formation of stones, a few meters further was of a smiley. For me the first 'sign’, confirmation, that God gave to me, when I was still training in Holland, to go on the Camino, was a yellow rubber doll/fellow of 10 cm that I found on my path, with the text on the body  "Smile, God Loves You. "

I believe I showed you this doll...  
At Cabo Fisterra more miracles took place.  I took two candles (for Linda and Jeffrey) with me, the medallion you gave me and the small stone heart I had with me (given to me on Memorial Day by Pien, the best girlfriend of Linda).  I was looking for a place to put it all down, which should be a place without too much wind so that the candles would stay burning. Then I saw a white cross 1,50 high/1,20 meter wide.  At the back of this cross there was a space/shrine. I had to reshuffle some of the things people had put at the feet of the statue in order to have space for the two candles, the medallion and the stone heart.

After I finished I went to my pilgrim/friends and we burned cloths and threw a stone in the sea.  Then I suggested to them to have a look at the shrine. We stood there, I explained what I had done at the cross and why. Somebody wondered whether it was a statue was of Santiago or of the first pilgrim.   We then looked not only at the feet, but at the whole statue.

Somebody noticed there was 'something' lying on the head/hat of Santiago. I took it in my hands and it was… an identical heart in material, shape, colour and size as the one Pien had given to me….!!!   It was partly blackish, because of smoke of burning of cloth and… a pilgrim-friend said… "there is picture of an angel in the blackish smoke tint". Everybody was silent… awe… no words. 
Then we went to the light tower/restaurant to let this special moment settle down.  Standing on the rock of Cabo Fisterra, looking at the sea, I was hoping to see dolphins.

In Johannesburg Linda was picked out of an audience at a dolphin-show and a picture of her and the dolphin was made by a fellow traveller from her group, when she sat on her knees and kissed the dolphin.  We never knew that this special moment took place until months after the crash, when films and the sd-cards in camera’s were recovered.  As such I associate dolphins with Linda and Jeffrey.
Imagine my emotion/feeling when we walked towards the light tower and saw two statues of… dolphins.  Somebody told me that I would 'see' Linda on the Camino, my wife and Pien said she will be with you.  At Cabo Fisterra I embraced and hugged 'Linda’.

Please see the various pictures.  Look forward to hearing from you.
Warm pilgrim greetings,
Karel is right about the stone message and Linda's name, I saw it too but it made no connection for me then.
Ela and Christina in Canada stay in touch, I am sure we will meet again.  I emailed Cindy some months after my return, her reply more than made my day:
How good to hear from you, Zoé...I was actually thinking about you today while I drove back from the mountains where I have been visiting an old friend. 
I, too, have struggled somewhat to pick up my old life.  I have been  simplifying my house and enjoying my own company but also missing the people I shared the camino is really impossible to explain its impact to anyone who hasn't walked it. 
I walked from Finisterre to Muxia and then taxied back (with my friends) to Santiago to catch my flight home.  As a wonderful cosmic gift, Iberia Airlines had a bit of a problem sorting out my ticket and, though I was very mellow about the whole thing, they upgraded my Madrid to Chicago flight so I flew business class...what an amazing gift to my weary body. 
My feet are not completely heels are still slightly sore when I walk but my tendon feels nearly normal and I don't limp any more.  The mechanics of walking have come back to me.  I've worked with a fabulous chiropractor who works with soft tissue (muscle, tendons, and ligaments) rather than bones and joints and it has been fabulous.  I am dreaming of walking the camino again when I'm not limping...maybe next fall if I have nothing else planned.
The priest whom I asked to email my parish did just that - after many months his email was resurrected and I was able then write to thank him, though not expecting he  would recall our brief encounter.  He replied, sending me a pilgrims prayer, saying he remember me "perfectly", wished me many blessings ...
I drove over to Shalford to visit dearest friends and met up with the lovely Patricia whose synchronistic appearance as a hospitalero rescued Vanessa and I as we fell dying from the taxi at Bercianos; she was imminently leaving for Australia, California and other new worlds with David ...
Vanessa's zany emails sing with happiness: the life for the living in this little neck of the woods is wonderful. Tomorrow we head up to exquisite Byron bay for two and a half weeks to be with our daughter expecting the arrival of her baby daughter any time now! Life is intense and full with honed down focus to the things that matter. 
John's response to one of mine, while I was struggling to make sense of being back home to my small life in Glastonbury, and while Vanessa was incommunicado reassembling body mind and spirit, was: would you like me to send you a box of gum leaves?  The harmony  in which those two Lovelies live proves such a thing as The Perfect Match.
Lauren Raine, dearest woman, brilliant artist, created a blog from my email essays - her own page is on Wikipedia.  She said she would like to walk the Camino one day and told me to add my response to her here, as a kind of summing up:

It is a magical path, and it is true that it will carry you.  I found it so, millions have found it so.  Yet home again I can only manage to walk from Glastonbury to Street, just as before, about 3 miles.  I wonder if the Camino is not the ultimate gift we can give to ourselves, our sorrows, meaning that we can clear bucket loads of karma just in the process of walking.  Exactly as the monks of old knew - solvitur ambulando, it is solved by walking.
Sorrows don't automatically dissolve; Christine still grieves her loss, nothing she once loved to do brings solace, neither her gardening nor her passion for quilting.  For her, life will return slowly. Grief is a substance that has weight; our language has not forgotten the truth, we speak of a heavy heart, of being weighed down with grief.  The substance of grief cannot be dissolved by distractions; it will leave and it will take its allotted time to do so.  The mystics tell us two years ...  Meanwhile we support our friendship. Ann who told me I had beautiful feet, and on one of my worst days told me I was beautiful too, went back to Santiago to finish her walk to Finisterre ... Perhaps I will do the same.
Thank you all for walking with me, I will continue to add to  Zoé's Camino Blog (  with stories of my other pilgrimages as my mood dictates: Montserrat and La Moraneta, my Aboriginal Walkabout with Caroline: Two Middle-Aged Women on Walkabout, and my stories of the Old Silk Road.  I shall leave all these for you to find through Lauren's blog.  Who knows, maybe I will brave a blog myself and then ...
 Love and bright blessings to you all, dear Lovelies, and thank you for being with me!
Z xx
Once again my heartfelt thanks go to 1000mile socks, NOK and Macabi Skirts!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Camino Thirty-Three – The Final Farewell

There are new people in rooms adjacent to mine.  How can they be so loud?  It sounds like they are dismantling the bed, unscrewing the sink – whoops, there goes the wrench crashing to the tiled floor.  What do they do?  I can only giggle.

Today I will pack my Opinel knife, my Aussie Barmah, nail file and scissors to post home.  I posted them to the hotel in Bilbao two weeks before leaving Glastonbury as I couldn’t take them on the flight in my backpack, cabin baggage.  The clever hat is able to squash flat, the way it arrived from Australia.  I use the walking stick as a ‘mobility aid’, it isn’t a walking pole, and I am allowed to have that with me.  Will buy final small gifts today.   
Cindy wondered if people who walk the Camino more than once are lonely in their home community,  for the Camino really is a community in motion.  When it stops in Santiago only the truest connections will continue.  I hope mine will continue, run through my small list of special encounters.  Everyone else outran me. 
At breakfast a good-looking New Zealand woman asks to sit with me.  Rhyll hasn’t a drop of Welsh in her veins but chose her name – a Far Memory moment.  She does claim Irish though, and conversations, circuitous around the yoghurt and fresh orange juice and breads and cheese and good coffee wind up in Pennant Melangell where I can tell her a 6th century Irish princess left Ireland to become a holy hermit in north Wales.  Because of her, Saint Melangell, the Prince of Powys made all hares protected when the one he was coursing ran into a thicket and his dogs refused to follow.  He dismounted, walked through, saw the trembling hare taking refuge with a woman whose sanctity he recognised and thenceforth respected.  The hare is a one of the sacred creatures of the Old Ways.   
Rhyll happens to be going to Oxford next year and will explore Powys.  She only began her walk in Sarria, with a backpack on wheels, an ordinary cabin case; so difficult, she taxi’d 35 of the 100 kms and didn’t claim a Compostela; she’d come a long way for a short walk.  Still sharing stories we walk together to my room.

I dawdle, pack my mochila, give Rhyll my hare shirt, a silk talisman printed with pale grey hares which I had found after a dream I had before leaving Glastonbury in which a hare was to accompany me; my rose scarf; it is good to pass these on, I couldn’t bring myself to burn them.  Things were different in times past when those practices were put  in place -  hostelries weren’t blessed with showers and soap  was barely invented. 

The weather is not warm even now, the end of June. I wander listlessly, admire architectural scallop shells, drift into the Parador café for a hot chocolate; it doesn’t lift my spirits. The magic has left me.  Time to go back to the Cathedral for a final farewell to Santiago.

A surprise – the great silver-cased relic of Santiago greets me in the apse, I am charmed by its very human expression, go up very close, respectfully, wonder why it is here on its bier surrounded by liveried men.  I will wait for the Mass and watch the procession. 
The bells chime the hour, but nothing happens.  I wonder why things are not quite as they should be.  Time passes.  I walk around the crowds, drawn to a focused point amongst the rows of chairs where people are gathered, hunched and murmuring around a collapsed body.  Quietly a team of paramedics swiftly appear, a blood transfusion right here as I watch.  But the body is carried out under a shroud, face covered, on a stretcher.  The solemnity of the music that follows as Mass can then begin adds gravitas to the scene.   
There is more quiet movement over there, and I walk to it, the Botafumeiro is being lowered. Entranced I find a good plinth to perch on, watch the men struggle under the weight of the bier as they process slowly along the nave, disappear into clouds of incense, bring the relic to rest. A handsome couple seem to be a focus.   
Later I learn the old King abdicated and the young Lovelies, Felipe and Letizia, have come to Santiago for a blessing.  They are as lovely a couple as our own Wills and Kate.

I meet up with Gene and Sandy who are far better adapted to leaving tomorrow than I am and we have a last meal together in the Parador bistro.  It is beyond superb.  I had two starters and no main; sea urchin au gratin, scallops in the lightest of sauces the like of which I’ve never tasted.  Gene has crisp sardines and green beans; knowing I will not eat like this in England I succumb to a small plate and can’t finish them.  A dessert of spun chocolate so rich and generous follows, but not for me.

The day’s gifts do not dispel my feeling of reluctance at returning to Chaingate Court with its mix of human difficulties.  Sleep is dreamless.  I wake on this final day, say goodbye to my pilgrim room, take my pack down with me to breakfast, thank the waiters, one of whom gives me a hug.  With a heart heavy and anchored with unshed tears I walk as if from a long dream out into the rain and down to the local bus to Lavacolla to wait for my flight to Gatwick.


I want to end here, but it isn’t quite the end.  Timing and synchronicities make the homeward journey memorable, my special connections continue, their stories enrich me. What happened to Karel when he reached Finisterre ... did the miracle he longed for occur?  And Christine, whose loss marked her whole life?  And Cindy’s feet?  What happened to these and other pilgrim encounters when each left the ultimate gift of Time and Solitude to return to their known world?  Each remained in touch, their stories contained, held, in my particular pilgrimage.

Yes, I think, I must share these Camino completions with you.  You have walked with me along this almost impossible-to-imagine pilgrimage; courtesy requires a codicil or two, they will follow. 
The Camino gifts a legacy, I feel, of wonder and courage; it comes home with us.

Zoé xx