Sunday, December 28, 2014

Poem by David Whyte


"The road in the end taking the path
 the sun had taken,
into the western sea,
and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way

to your future now
but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, 
going where shadows go,

no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you brought
and light their illumined corners, and to read
them as they drifted through the western light;
to empty your bags;
to sort this and to leave that;

to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water's edge,

not because you had given up

but because now, 
you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all,
part of you could still walk on,

no matter how,
over the waves.”

― David Whyte


** I hope Zoe will not mind or find me presumptuous if I add this poem to the Blog........
Read back to follow Zoe's journey to Finisterre. 


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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Camino Thirty-Two – At the End of the Known World

Finisterre – nothing prepared me for this day of surprises at the End of the Known World.  Rain fell in torrents throughout the night and right through breakfast and on goes the poncho so I can reach the coach stop which is a ten minute walk away.  I am fortunate, not first in the queue, but in the four front seats sit three friends; I claim the fourth seat right there in the front, almost under the little swinging bruja who hangs from the rear vision mirror on the windscreen. 
I set her a task, she who hangs there with her miniature broomstick, please sweep away all the rainclouds before we reach the end of the world. 
I am grouchy inside, tired.  People are late, the guide is stressed, time ticks past the witching hour scheduled for our departure.  Stuff them, I think darkly, I would leave them behind. Planes don’t wait for no shows, Satyananda once told us, and the logic of his comment gave me such boldness that years later when I was in Urfa waiting for the coach of tourists to arrive so I could join them for a tour of Harran I waited for seven minutes past the departure time and demanded to go anyway. 
When I had booked the trip earlier the man said the tour would go even if I was the only person.  I pressed the case, reminding the Turkish travel agent of his own words –the Kurd standing behind him laughing hugely and silently at my challenging a Turk, the historical oppressor in their land – and I was given a taxi.  All to myself and no extra charge.  I sat begum-like in the back all the way to Harran and the eighth century, was gifted a hoopoe feather from a cloudless sky at the temple ruins of the moon god Sin, and given the keys of the Renault 12 by my handsome, chivalrous, Kurd driver when I told him I had the same model car back in Oz.  He had seen the hoopoe feather fall, seen the cloudless, birdless blue sky, spoke of special signs and the Eye of Allah, became intensely solicitous of my footfall amongst the jagged and uneven ruins.  
Back in the office he waxed lyrical to his colleagues of my driving, my negotiating the labyrinthine alleys of Urfa and everyone, including the Turk, was in great good humour.  I was given their delicious apple tea, blowtorch sweet, and told the coach had broken down anyway, somewhere east of Nemrut Dağ.

Much too late we leave, the stragglers are a honeymoon couple for whom time is a notion that belongs far beyond their rosy world.  Each time we stop for the sightseeing along the way my legs complain at having to get up and walk.  Gene and Sandy sit behind me, they are also tired and our couple of days rest has proved our legs far less than infallible.  I am more tired than I know.
Ponte Maceira, waterfalls, Cee, forgettable Muros, all with a guide whose English is unrecognisable as my mother tongue.  Her words delivered as bullet sound-bites without nuance or punctuation render them incomprehensible.  A most excellent accent with barely a trace of English ...  Was that church bombed or struck by lightning?  Did Napoleon rape and pillage or restore and improve?  Which war?  World War Two, the Spanish Civil or the Christians and Moors?  And telling us in English what to look out for on the right as we passed whatever it was two bends back because the Spanish explanation took a kilometre to say ... all rather vexing.
I asked her when was lunch. Uh oh!  Two o’clock, she snaps.  Two o’clock! I gasp, remembering breakfast was at seven o’clock.  Lunch in Spain, she fairly growls, she’s obviously met the lunch-at-noon brigade before, is two o’clock; you are in Spain, we lunch at two o’clock, don’t you know.  
I was in Spain for breakfast I reply, but it doesn’t stop me being hungry after 5 hours. Golly, it will be seven hours without food, I feel a coma coming on!
But, here we are at Finisterra.  The rain stops; the blueness of the sky astonishing in its clarity.  The very earth is different.  I step on to it and feel a sizzle, an amalgam of goose bumps, and I am alive.  Gone my grouches, my grumbles, my aches, my lurching on the walking stick, I am on the Camino path and it carries me.  It is true, so many pilgrims say it, the Way will carry you, it is true.  
The 0.00 kms sign on the last milestone is one thing, the Faro de Finisterre another, the lonely Cross a third.  Being given the sello for the End of the Known World brings an upwelling of tears to all of us who had walked so far knowing our limitations would prevent us the final difficulties of walking the four days to Finisterre.  I am so glad I came.  
I leapt from the coach and fairly hop from craggy rock to boulder to see signs of fire pits and smouldering ashes and then, round a particularly sheer and rugged protrusion, a curl of smoke.  Two young men are burning their pilgrim clothes.  I congratulate them, they are brimming with light and joy, one asks if he can take a photo of me with my camera at the end of the world.  I demur, I have not walked to it, but then, oh yes please falls out of my mouth – I am here!  My gratitude glowed, tears flowed.  The two young men are Italians, from that region of Switzerland. 
Down then to the town, my spirits transformed, I grin at the tour guide, tell her the place is wonderful, she is Galician, compliments for her country melts stone.  She smiles back, we are fine.  Sandy and Gene and I choose an empty restaurant on the quay, we are hungry and think the service will be quicker. 
We learn from the moment we are rationed to portions of bread for two given to three the reason the restaurant is empty.  Gene, the most affable of men, asks for a portion of bread divisible for three and is served with a volley of words in which, yes of course I’ll just cut some more for you, is not discernible.  The dishes are as mean and measured and poor and pricey.  We do not intend to leave a tip. 
But as we sit alone and obvious in this empty restaurant one of those moments occurs:  Cindy! How lovely! I call, for here she is, and as pleased to see me.  She comes to sit with us awhile.  She has not met Sandy or Gene, not once along the 500 miles.  Isn’t it curious who we meet and who we miss even walking the same path at the same time.  Cindy and I had not hoped to meet again after our sharing at breakfast days before, had not bumped into each other, yet here she is.  She had caught a local bus to Finisterre yesterday and will walk the long day to Muxia tomorrow.  I promised my body I wouldn’t push it anymore but we had a little talk and decided we could manage one more day!  We laugh, swap emails.
Cindy is from Boulder and when she hears I am from Glastonbury laughs and tells Gene, who commented that Boulder is a bit left of field, that Glastonbury is the last word in way out there and makes Boulder look boring.  We hug, take photos, wave goodbye and she calls out: start from Le Puy, your smile will get you through France, a smile speaks twenty languages!
And so on to Muxia, named for the monks of an 11th century Benedictine monastery.  The rock, the sail belonging to the Virgin of the Boat, is clear to see, but no going through the narrow hole nine times for me; Men-an-Tol cured me of crawling through little holes in or under rocks for all time.  I love the legend though: St James, Santiago, came here in despair thinking he had failed in his mission and the Blessed Virgin appeared sailing in to the land in a small barque to console him and say indeed he hadn’t failed at all.
Each one of us feels this to be the true end to our long walk; each of us sit on the sea pounded rocks lost in reverie and sea spray, silently.  My pilgrimage is over.
Almost ...



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Camino Thirty-One – Rain and Reflections and a Passing Irritation ...

27th June 2014.  
The day dawns in a minor key, rain patters at my window, seagulls wheel over the tiled roof domes, pricks of moving brightness in the sun shafts that pierce the charcoal and leaden skies.  This morning I can lie in bed until breakfast, I am weary, achievement is so fatiguing...
This attic floor of pilgrims is a distant world of its own, far removed from the ‘real’ life below.  I feel I’m in Gormenghast without the white cats for company.  Gone are the days of waking in the clothes of after-shower-yesterday, pinning the damp spare pair of socks to the mochila, collecting staff and hat, anointing and swaddling feet to paddle to the boot rack, all in silence, walking out into another new morning, the first yellow arrow a ray of welcome, and off I go. 
I amuse myself by reading some of my Camino diaries, now two of them; laugh again at some of the many moments of humour, flip to the photos I have glued in the back of each of them before leaving for the Camino, reflect on the people: Father Bede with HH Darling Lama, a photo taken in Australia during the time Fr Bede was my house guest in 1992. 

 Mrs Tweedie in London; me in India, in sannyasi robes, a pilgrim; Thérèse in Townsville leading the Gyuto monks to the sea to dissolve the sand from their sand mandala.
 Caroline on her visit to Townsville to find the Black Australia of her childhood dream, there she is standing under the grand waterfall of harlequin bougainvillea tumbling from Thérèse’s cliff top garden to the road below.
 St Francis, the Cimabue image; St Mary Our Lady of Glastonbury, in her red skirt and gold mantle  and pale veil, standing and crowned like the Queen of Heaven she is.
 In the front I glued tiny copies of my Hare and Hoopoe, and how apt they proved to be at my Epiphany.  There is a tiny photo of me, unidentifiable in the distance as anything more than a woman, a woman clothed in the sun; it is archetypal, as it should be.  I am alone, walking through the courtyard of the great Monastery of St John of Patmos; responsible for the Twinning in Perpetuity between Glastonbury, the Ancient Sacred Isle of Avalon, and Patmos, the Holy Isle.   
 The two saints, Joseph of Arimathea and St John the Beloved would have known each other, something I was made scintillatingly aware of as I sat in the Cave of the Apocalypse in 2007. A presence in the Cave impressed upon me, as I sat there alone, that linking these two holy places is a task I am beholden to do.  I dismiss it of course; I don’t do ‘public’.  The presence and its insistence persisted for three days; I was compelled to approach the Abbot of Patmos.  I walked to the Monastery.  A large monk, speaking nine languages, wearing a long grey beard and a black chimney pot, a rogue of a man with a chequered and fascinating past including, incredibly, a stint as something professional in the huge and now defunct asylum in Wells; he knew Glastonbury well.   He led me to the Abbot, acted as translator.  The Abbot and I were in accord, he embraced the link, knew and appreciated the legend of St Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn, urged me to speak to the Mayor of Glastonbury on my return.
And so it came to pass, a grand five day event for the visiting Patmos delegates, tours and the Tor, Chalice Well and lunch, a gala dinner with all manner of dignitaries present.  One of the high-ranking clergy present congratulated me on having brought together at the same table for the first time in 500 years representatives of the three major Christian faiths since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, seriously misnamed the Reformation.  Glastonbury shone with sun and warmth that September of 2009.  I had spoken with the Government official responsible for setting up Twinning protocol, unsure how to name our link.  She said it had to be a Twinning in Perpetuity, applauded me for creating the first such Twinning in Great Britain; for what else could a link between saints of 2000 years ago be but perpetual?  John Michel told me in March he felt that his prophetic book The Dimensions of Paradise published forty years earlier had now been redeemed.  He would feel privileged, he said, to speak at the Gala Dinner.  Three weeks after our conversation John died.  His presence remains.
This tiny archetypal photograph mirrors chapter twelve of St John: a great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun.  In the photo, taken from a great distance and without my knowing, I am clothed with the sun, walking in the sunlight between the shadows of the arches.  It is not me I see walking through the shadowed centuries of cloistered patriarchy here, but all women, women walking in their own Light. 
I see my life is a mosaic, nothing appears to link one thing with the next; no rise and rise in a career path; no continuation to even the most remote success; my life’s single theme is my Obedience to the Other, a theme invisible to the onlooker.  It is a lonely path but sometimes I am blessed to look into the eyes of a fellow pilgrim of the inner way and we recognise each other through the eyes, know each other.  These are my friends.
Since 2011 a small number of people have begun an ordinary twinning association between the two places, based on cultural and social ephemera.  It has no causal link with saints, nor anything perpetual, twinning association longevity being limited to the committees that uphold them.  They are different, these social twinnings, friendships more or less of good will between nations. 
A Twinning in Perpetuity is a singular event.  A woman from the Midlands, having a Jewish connection, but none with Glastonbury or Patmos until after their being twinned in Perpetuity, encouraged the new social twinning.  It seemed to me and to a few Patmians that her interest served to promote a personal platform; but that’s the Way of the World and we render unto Caesar that which is inevitable:  Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ. When I return I must address an insult, a public insult and personal to me and the Twinning in Perpetuity.  It threw me off balance at the time, but time has passed, my mind has cleared and I can respond to this woman, this oversized cuckoo who can feather her own nest without sullying mine, thank you very much!  Lying in bed blissfully horizontal waiting to go down for breakfast has brought up this unfinished business.  
I am, naturally, riven with faults and failings, they abound, but I’ve spoken with each over the years, spoken of them to myself, my Higher Self, to Holy Mary, to a good Jungian analyst, and am reconciled to my frailties and humanness.  I will give no quarter to guilt when I return home and clear the air; I smile, will add relish to my response to the cuckoo’s silly ego.  My temporary head-trip fades as I think delicious thoughts of re-arranging an ego ... hers, and in great good humour I shower and dress and skip down four floors and eight flights of stairs to breakfast.
Today I am doing churches and museums, leisurely.

Only a day or so, The End is Nigh ...


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Camino Thirty – La Divina Peregrina


26th June 2014. 

Bliss to sleep alone and wake to the sound of the Cathedral bells.  How magical this long adventure, how can I bear to go back to Chaingate Court?  Truth is, I can’t, so I must Ask and wait to Receive.

Sat with Cindy at breakfast.  She is having a teary moment like I had yesterday with Wilhelmina and her teary moment.  El Camino ... how can words touch the depths where only tears hold and tell our stories, our walk, our Camino?

Cindy began ten weeks ago in Le Puy, wonderful, she says, silent, solitary, beautiful; mountains and valleys and marvellous auberges, mochila transport, superb food and facilities – and you can travel with the transport for 15€ if you don’t feel like walking that day.   Well, it is France isn’t it, I muse as she tells her story, almost tempted to think myself another walk.  Feet come into the story; Cindy tells me she developed tendinitis so severely and so painfully she could only walk on her heels, for miles and miles.  At St Jean Pied de Port a man told her she must teach her feet to walk properly – and they didn’t know how to.  She had to go on Internet to research a way to re-teach her feet by using her brain to tell them the movements: heel first, roll the foot, lift from the ball and toes ...  She cried as she told me, because no-one had understood, she couldn’t tell anyone what she was going through. 

I am awed at her perseverance, she has walked 777 kms from Le Puy to St Jean and still had 777 kms to go before she would sit here in Santiago and tell me her foot story.  Me of all people, whose foot story and cellular memory is so similar. Oh, I say, oh Cindy I know exactly what you mean, and I share my wheelchair, cellular memory, teaching my feet to walk over grassy tussocks and ripples in the sand by thinking them through the movement until their own natural cellular memory is re-awoken.  Cindy listens intently, her eyes flood with tears.  She knew, and she knew because I under-stood, our sharing in perfect accord, what a metaphor – we under-stood.  How can we, she, speak of these things to many?  I feel a great warmth for Cindy, she had her sixtieth birthday along the Way; she looks about twelve.

As Cindy leaves Ela comes in and sits with me.  She tells me the floating bit again and I burst out laughing.  I admit others have said that too, and I find it quite incongruous. I don’t doubt their truth or their eyesight and all I can think of is that Angels must have been carrying me!  Angels, Holy Mary or Santiago because I did not have one blister as if my feet did not touch the ground!  Inside me, I tell Ela, I plodded and lurched with tiredness as I walked slow step by slow step all the way.  Ela promises to send me the photos she took, and especially the ones of Simone and I toasting socks over the fire when we all first met at the Paulo Coelho refugio with Jüergen.

Now I am at the train station with my ticket for Pontevedra, my train leaves at 11.11.  It is cold today, 13 C and the end of June.

When I bought my poppy earrings the young saleswoman told me the witch, the wise woman, la bruja, is good luck throughout northern Spain and different brujas’ carry different attributes: good health, happiness, wealth, safe travel (well, they’d know about that flitting about on broomsticks), love, longevity and so on.  How different from Puritan England where the very word is pejorative and has long since lost its wiser truth.
I bought myself a tiny, less than the size of my thumb, la bruja made of clay while in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, I love her cheery grin and her blue hood, like my poncho, her cockle shell and her stick and gourd.  I haven’t seen such a wee happy one since then.  This morning I unwrap her and stand her next to my water glass; I love her to pieces, such a funny and perfect image of me, the old cackling crone of the Camino!

11.11  and the train departs at the exact tick of the station clock. I settle by a window, sift and sort my morning stories, create mental space for my Encounter.  I am sizzling with anticipation.  A super train it is, fast and clean with clever seating that can swing according to direction of travel.  I’m happy with forward, and the hour slips by quickly. 

 Pontevedra!  Oh, civilization and hundreds of people – I’m such a hedgerow planting, happiest with fields and dormice – but I find yellow arrows and a cockleshell to follow through the elegant streets of elegant shops to – Plaza Peregrina!

 I am here, and there is the baroque church and it is open and I enter to stand transfixed at Nuestra Señora, la Divina Peregrina. 

She is wonderful!  She is gorgeous!  Just gorgeous, standing high above the altar She is dressed in a cape and long robe (is this familiar, oh indeed it is!) and wears a wondrous pilgrim hat, its wide brim turned back and decorated with a scallop shell, a long staff with a gourd for water in Her right hand and a little Jesus perched precariously in Her left hand. 


She is looking straight ahead, at you and me as we walk in the door, actually.  And Her face, so quiet and proud, just like I feel after such a Long Walk.  This is my homecoming, this is my acknowledgement, She and I, we’ve done it!  Not for nothing do we share birthdays!  The 8th of September, such a good day to have been born unmothered into the world and to eventually discover the Mother of All had me in Her sights all along!  

This is the real full circle of my pilgrim path on earth.  She smiles. I smile back.  My very insignificant camera works a miracle in the dim light and the great distance between us, take one photo I ask, perfectly.  Thank You, I smile again.  I swear She says, you see, I’ve been with you always, all through your pilgrimages, all through your loneliness, all through your losses, how did you survive so much?  Because I was there with you, I know sorrow and loss and homelessness too ... I bow my head, and I am full.

Do I stay long in the church?  It seems like eternity, all my lifetimes, a completion, a seeing into the essence of things past, present and to come, all complete.  But, human as ever, I want something tangible, a sello perhaps, my credencial is in my pocket, but there is nothing, and no one to guide me to where a sello might be obtained. 


I thank Her for Everything, reluctantly leave Her, wander aimlessly in the elegant crowds, out of sync in the sophisticated surroundings, the material temptations, the gaiety.  It is cold and I am discomforted now I am outside.  Idly I look in a jeweller’s window, oh my, there She is, in gold, far more appropriate for me than a mere scallop shell.  And I spend two fortunes on two pendants of La Divina Peregrina, for further along the street I find an exquisite enamel hand painted and gold La Divina Peregrina.  Barclays Debit Card obliges both transactions – so there we are!

Home again on the train, my treasures give me the warmest feelings of Something I can’t name or fathom.  I am wearing them both together on the gold chain I already have round my neck.  Apologizing, I remove the not-gold Miraculous Medal and replace it with both La Divina Peregrinas.  For the record, Saint Catherine Labouré, to whom the MM appeared, was born Zoé Labouré, it was the Zoé connection I felt akin too – though the French Connection might be more accurate a link for the name Zoé hasn’t always been with me.  Anyway, She has held me safe until I found La Divina Peregrina; and is generous about my fickleness.

I’ve always wanted a Mary image that would speak intimately to my solitary journey through life and none really did, not even the icons as pendants.  Her image as a peregrina sings to me.  We speak of the ‘pilgrim church on earth’; it assumes a relevance now I connect with Holy Mary as the Divine Pilgrim, Peregrina.  In the cloister shop there is an icon image of sorts but it is poorly executed – I will have to do my own.

Bought good food from an artisan grocer, a Spaniard from Bounds Green, from a street I know well from my long ago days with Aunt Alice in London.  Tried to siesta, couldn’t, came downstairs to see Dane and his cello back from Finisterre going up in the lift; we smile a greeting as the lift ascends.  As he is going up an entire orchestra with their instruments is coming down the staircase behind the lift.  Another surreal encounter.  I follow the orchestra into the courtyard in front of San Martin Pinario where they assemble under an awning and I perch on the wall to hear them play. 
 A film is being made, I am asked to sign a release.  It is a performance of fun, inviting different members of the public to act as conductors – the babes in arms look bemused as mini-maestros.

And on that happy and musical note so Endeth my Third Day.

But the tale continues ...