Back in the Saddle Again

Yes I know, I am severely late in updating my blog. No excuse, except that when our website was being updated….well, out of site (literally) out of mind. I can’t even remember the last entry so I will update starting from our sabbatical to Spain! It was pure joy, let me tell you. I shared with Will that it was the best trip I have ever taken. I’m not a “lay at the beach and read a book” kind of person. So, though the idea had a little getting used to, I agreed to go on our sabbatical to Spain to walk the Santiago Camino. This pilgrimage is traveled literally by thousands of people every year and is growing and keeps growing in popularity. It is about 500 miles from St. Jean de Pied in France to Santiago, Spain. Some people take about a month to complete it. Will and I traveled with our friend, Dr. Steve Miller and his brother Mark. None of us had a month to walk the pilgrimage but decided on about half the distance and would walk it in about 17 days. I loved the fact that I did not having to worry about what to pack. This trip was the simplest packing trip because it required just the minimum of walking clothes, clothes that could be washed and dried easily.  The thought of walking daily was one of those elements for me that makes for a time of refreshment. I need to move….

Anyway, we flew into Madrid and met up there, spent a few days visiting local sites and just enjoyed walking the pedestrian friendly city. Madrid is a beautiful city. I enjoyed the outdoor cafes that start hopping about 5 p.m. the time before dinner where you eat tapas. Thank goodness for tapas because dinner could be served anywhere from 7 to 9 p.m. After a few days we took a train to Pamplona and started the Camino the following day. Now, I confess we are not hardcore walkers in that we did not carry all our stuff in our backpacks. You know those HUGE backpacks that hold your bedding, clothes, food etc., Nope, we had our luggage sent ahead. We had reservations at nice hotels. I’m not ashamed. The last thing I could imagine was walking 20 miles and trying to find a hostel and to share it with lots of people, sharing bathroom facilities and listening to others snore all night. This was non-negotiable for me. Road rage has nothing on me if someone keeps me up all night sawing logs. We all pretty much felt the same way. So we basically had day packs with water and a granola bar or two and of course band aids and hats, and cappuccino money (most important of all hahaha)! We traveled through some beautiful countryside, and the grape harvest was in full swing so some of the farmers shared from their bounty. The first day of walking was probably the worse for me. My boots were great, my legs were another story. I work out and had been doing strength training lunges and squats but I don’t walk 20 miles on any given day and it wore me out. But arriving at our hotel and having a sangria and lovely meal made it worth it all. I enjoyed just being present. How hard that is, just keeping your mind present in the moment and not traveling forward or backward. I had no problem just putting one foot in front of the other and letting my mind rest on this journey and I was very much surprised.

Here is Steve (L) and his brother Mark. They had wonderful stories to share with us each day!

And yum, there is never a shortage of good bread in Spain, a carb addicts delight !

This is called the “Hill of Pardon” You can leave something there as symbolic of forgiving someone. There was some kind of group dance happening when we arrived!

You can see why in some places it would not be hard to be alone with your thoughts…..

This is a monastery that makes wine and serves it daily at a “water” fountain! People were waiting to fill their sea shell which is symbolic of the Camino. Here is Will taking a sip! And yes, I had mine too.

This town made a wading pool for pilgrim’s tired feet and this day was particularly tiring. That water was WONDERFUL!!! What the Camino taught me is that it takes sooooooo little to make one grateful if you simply see all those blessings that are present in each day. I loved having so little to haul around and think about. A couple of change of clothes that I washed daily. I was grateful for shade, water, coffee, good socks, good boots, shared meals, laughter, meeting people from all over the world, lots of stories, no blisters, and a pillow to lay my tired head on each night.

We visited a monastery where the Spanish language was created!

This basilica was absolutely incredible, inside and out! You wouldn’t believe how many smaller chapels were inside. It was mind-boggling!

This is the enormous cathedral in Santiago where you can end your Camino or go on to the coast called Fenestrae or what they thought long ago was the end of the earth. There were hundreds of pilgrims that arrived when we did. And thousands upon thousands walk this Camino every year. We stood in line after the pilgrim Mass to get out certificate of completion!

This is the bufimero which is a huge and I mean huge incense holder that takes 6 men to swing over the heads of all the pilgrims. It was swung at one time because of the “scent” of the traveler’s wafting in the air when they attended the Mass. I wish you could see what we saw. After walking into the service right after entering Santiago and completing our journey, we celebrated with Christians from all over the world (and some tourists)! The music and the sight of this incense holder flying as the incense rose was an unforgettable experience.

I enjoyed this sabbatical because it was life in it’s simplicity. Fellow sojourners traveling together with the goal of finishing well. Some faster, some slower but recognizing it takes so little to truly live….

And we thank you God for our journey and Your daily presence!

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