Author Archives: kelleyjanes

Pasia

What an incredible journey. I am moving through layers of exhaustion, and layers of cultural realities. Maui- London- Spain- Camino el Norte’

Our walk began only yesterday and I already have three blisters, Daisy sprained her ankle and both Linden and I have pain that feels like if we are not careful we could get shin splints. I am limping my way down the trail and we have only just begun!

What did this to us? Only 17.6 kilometers. this short distance was absolutely beautiful and had a kind of ruggedness that required concentration as to where to put our feet. We hiked up the side of a mountain- about a steep 3 kilometer climb to ocean views along an amazing Spanish coastline, old towers that date back to the Carlist war, followed by megalithic sites, grazing sheep and a breed of small horse that is built for work. We then walked along a kind of ridge line shelf where on our right side was wild coastline down to the sea and on our left side were towns and industrial activity. From our high mountain perspective everything as far as the eye can see was beautiful. Cloud cover and sun. A gorgeous day for walking.

Daisy, not the same Daisy as last year. Daisy has become a gazelle, leader of the pack setting a very strong pace, happy. I love it when Daisy is happy, she tosses back her long main of hair and laughs loud and hard till her stomach aches. Unfortunately Daisy maneuvered through a series of rocks while negotiating the trail when her foot landed on a pointy rock and Daisy landed with a good size thud and her ankle took a bad twist. Not much we could do. Daisy had her ankle wrap, I had homeopathic Arnica, and Daisy used her hiking poles and walked another 7 kilometers to the next town. We arrived to one of the most amazing villages I had ever encountered called Pasia.

The village of Pasia was carved out of the mountain side, an old Basque and Spanish village positioned inside an inlet from the ocean. A very active fishing culture, yet the place dates back hundreds of years. A tiny inlet that opens to a rather large inlet and at one time was a port for part of the Spanish Armada. I can’t imagine how this small inlet housed so many old ships- but it did. I can only imagine that back in the 1600’s this place was rather seedy bedecked with working men on boats and working women on shore…..

We parked ourselves at the alburgee which is an old church at the top of about five layers of town built into the cliff side which is accessed through steps and paths. A beautiful place. Daisy could finally lay low…. after a really good local fish meal. We ate like kings and queens, but the locals eat this way often…..this was our day one.

Alan developed A big fat blister on his front toe. I popped drained and threaded the blister. For those of you who do not know what threading a blister is it is just that. Threading a blister. Blisters tend to refill and with an epic back pack journey like ours we have to be careful with blisters because several things can happen. Blisters if they refill can grow bigger under the skin. I have seen a blister go from the size of an eraser head on a pencil to about the size of three quarters. Big nasty thing. Blisters can also if under pressure go deeper. I have seen and popped blisters up to three layers deep. Meaning one blister on top of another blister on top of another blister which means that it is very difficult to drain the lower blisters and so they are growing due to being under pressure and they are in much deeper softer tissues and that means pain. Lots of pain, and longer to heal. What does threading a blister do? It is 24 hour drain service. I will literally pass a double threaded needle through a blister knot on both ends and then fluids move down the threads. I will thread the blister many times to support drainage where needed. Then I will decide to tape the blister – or not depending on the situation.

The good news is Alan’s blister healed up wonderfully. The bad news is I have three blisters. One is right between my big toe and toe next to it. It is surprisingly big and is in a very strange place which means I have to be watchful to support healing. it is threaded in two different ways to support drainage and I use tea tree oil to clean and sterilize the skin and needle because I forgot the goldenseal which I prefer as the golden seal powder will help suck fluid from blisters while preventing infection.

So here I am three blisters and sore shin muscle. I am essentially limping and I am on day two. My mind runs between two spheres of thoughts. One is how did this happen so quickly? And the other part is well I’m getting it all over with at once!

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Map of Spain

We are walking the Northern Coast Trail from Irun to Santiago. About 870 Kilometers. If there is time we will walk to the west coast to a place called the end of the world.

True or False

Here we go again……
True? OR False?

Yes! We are going back to Spain!
Yes! We are walking the Camino Santiago!
No! We are not walking the same trail. We are walking El’ Norte
No! It is not just Daisy and I
Yes! It is myself, Daisy, Linden and Alan
No! We are not in shape, though Linden might think he is.
Yes it is going to be a to totally different experience!
Yes! I’m a lot nervous and excited!

What makes this so different?
A year in Daisy’s life going from age twelve to thirteen is young person teen body to grown up teen body and sassy personality to boot.
Linden who is seventeen is about ready to be launched out into the wonders of the universe somewhere. Luckily he is a good tracker. He won’t get to lost. Linden completed his junior year in public school on Maui and will spend his senior year at The Bali Green School. From there, who knows what’s next. Maybe home, maybe college, maybe something else crazy fun or at least engaging. At any rate Linden is transitioning toward adult independence.
Alan, my honey for 21 years still not married, amazing grower of green growing vegetables, owner of Aloha FoodScapes here on Maui is ready for adventures, stretching his body tall, walking off exhaustion of work and responsibilities and regaining that big warm hearty smile. Actually, Alan always has that smile. I think of him as “he who smiles through life”. Except for when he gets depressed, or his critic needs to have its turn to make a statement, Alan smiles.

Then there is me, mom. A very good grower of green growing things, I might add, and crazy fun dancer to boot! Last year, on the final stretches of the Camino they came. Hot Flashes! “Wow!”, I thought. “Not so bad!” Actually they aren’t all that bad. It is the other stuff that comes with the hot flashes that surprise, stupefies, physically renders me into this strange exhaustion and emotional morphing into a temperamental blob. I decided that menopause is more like butterfly melt down. I’m certainly not in a cacoon to become a butterfly. No my wings are dropping. Maybe I am morphing into something like an adult termite. Something that can eat wood. Yes, I probably could take a house down. That’s me.

How did this all come about? To go back to Spain? Well that is another story. Nothing brilliant or financially logical or anything. That’s the part I love. More later.

We’re going. Some how we found cheap tickets from Maui to Stockholm Sweeden. everything else was twice the cost. We will fly from Stockholm to Barritz on the South coast of France near the Spain Border, and bus to Irun Spain, find the church where we register and obtain pilgrim passports and begin.

The North Coast pilgrim trail, El Norte is apparently less populated with pilgrims. It looks like the cost of pilgrim alburgees vary in price and that generally from the bits of sleuthing through guidebooks, Internet, and Camino blog sites the coastal route appears to be a tad more expensive than the main Camino route. Simple. Camp! We bought great ultralight gear that packs so small you barely know its there. We will camp as part of our fun crazy adventures. Linden and Daisy have their own ultralight under a pound tents with their sleeping bag that weighs in ounces, warm waterproof and groovy. Privacy. Yes we might even like it better some of the time, and that’s the plan, to camp some of the time takes the price down for the whole of the time. We will see what happens, or if it even works. If not we Alburgee it and send stuff forward to Ivar Revke, the Camino post office storage locker. Ivar offers a fabulous service to all us folks who would otherwise have to send stuff through political borders making shipping costs crazy expensive. Ivar stores your stuff for a cost and then we can pick it up when we arrive in Santiago. That’s the other thing. You send stuff to Ivar you have to make it to Santiago to get it! No giving up!

Speaking of those words, Last year I had a determination, a kind of knowing and wanting to make it. This year, it is foreboding. I know the mental and physical work involved in walking long distances. My butterfly wings are gone and what calls me is that I know I want to be there. On the Camino. I don’t want to be anywhere else now that I know we’re going. It is like I could sit down on that trail and allow the trail to take me. I don’t even know what that means. That power strength I had just a year ago is not the force I am moving with right now. I no longer have a need to heal from some old wounds that rendered my spirit hurt angry, betrayed and frozen just a few years ago. I think that I will be moving into the unknown meanings and understandings of what I think might be the stuff of grace, or of undoing…..

Either way, our family travels pretty well together. Our humor, slightly morbid, adventurous eaters, can put up with being uncomfortable comfortably, can appreciate comfort, cleanliness and curiosity. I haven’t a clue as to what to expect. But there is one thing I know. We will laugh.M

Dear Ayn

Warm blessings ayn,

Thank you so much for your note. It arrived timely in my email as this was our last morning in England and again a sleepless night. I too am feeling the integration period of walking the Camino. Sadness, relief, no longer enough words for the under layers of such a profound life enhancing experience.

This morning while boarding the van to the airport, A nice conversation with a woman while in the bus asked if we had walked the Camino. She knew about it! Why yes we had…… We arrived London early as a way to integrate into modernity prior to going home. Her comment was something like, a trip like that will be strange no matter what because your adventure was so different, all sorts of changes could be made, but home, we often come home to being the same. Yep. She knew! And, she articulated what I think so many of us walkers understand and are a bit afraid of. Going home to the same. We are going home to the same and home asked us to be the same and we are, yet somehow we are not. I have been chewing on this thought through the airport and finally I had this thought. “. No pain, no glory!” Ha! The joke is on me. I realized somewhere that the Camino is simply a path or a teacher for my life at home. That the real pilgrimage begins with the hardship of expansion inside an already created form or shape or lifestyle or social life or relationship or home we call home. The real work is changing those structures to expand like we have expanded. The awkwardness is that with expansion space is found in two ways the filling of space and the “negative space”. Kind of like looking at a tree. You can see the tree, or you can see the space around the tree. We walkers are having to deal with both forms of expanded space inside ourselves and are now going home to a defined space or lifestyle. How do we deal? That is where the no pain no glory comes in….like the Irish fellow on the Camino said to the man who was working to stay in his body and not check out while walking. Our work is to not check out or back into the structures of our life except those which we perhaps want. Our work is to not only invite the change but to demand the change.

Yes we a going home to Santiago. And this pilgrimage for some may be harder than the actual walk itself. To go home to Santiago is to perhaps allow the Camino to be part of a spiritual living standard that we may carry for ourselves now. I mean we could say, ” what would the Camino want of us.” Or “Daisy to honor the Camino, the work it took for you to make it to Santiago, how would you or the spirit of the Camino want you to project yourself in your journal? What grade would it want?” Silly thoughts? Absolutely! Yet I think we all struggle with the profound and the absurdity of this experience and how it all acquiescences into a major ordeal that we could overcome only by making it and to do that we were asked to sharpen our minds, our wills and our bodies as best we could. If we could not we would not finish the Camino. We all witnessed this. People leaving. Sprains, tendons, blisters, fights, or even scheduled short time periods due to inadequate goals, whatever it was they are real obstacles we all had to overcome. Some had to overcome the opposite staying on the Camino but speeding through. The discomfort of struggle but having to reach the end. I felt this myself. I am not proud and yet it is a profound teacher about the discomfort of staying put. That was the beauty of the English man who’s name I have forgotten. He walked up from Seville and then began in St. Jean. He would only walk 20 kilometers a day. He was steadfast in this committment. Not to fast, not to slow. He walked and when I saw him in Leon he was taking pictures and sightseeing with a sharpened sense of curiosity I had not seen in others. He was not tired or struggling. He was a student of a kind who had the ability to take in some of the deeper layers the Camino had to offer. I think that was the beauty of a set standard of walking. He did what he knew worked for him, but again that understanding came with experience. The Sevill path is one of the longest camino’s. His gear, practically a day pack. He had probably already learned by trial and error already. I remember saying to Daisy that by the time we arrive Santiago we will know how to walk the Camino. I think that I hit the mark when I said that. I learned so much and think that if I started all over again after arriving I would have a comfort that I did not have before. This is also part of our learning. How to make change with grace but to be clear about the goals. Santiago

So now Daisy and I are on a ten hour flight to L.A. And I get to ask my self what needs changing? How do I embody spiritually and psychologically the awesomeness of the Camino? How do I support my beautiful teenage daughter who will be surounded by her peers? How do I trust that there is going to be a “bed” at night? How do I trust the amaizing opportunities that jump out at us when we need them? For us it was the young man with the dogs who invited us to his friends home. Yes we could have walked 12 more kilometers. But why when god shows up with a mattress and heat and food and its raining outside?

Trust, is a huge part of our next journey as I return home. I also think this notion of no pain…… Is the recognition that the Camino was very hard! Change is hard and actively creating change can even be harder sometimes. We are at the crossroads and it is time to move on. Decisions about life, goals, finances, how to actively parent and co parent and how to be a good person or steward in the world as I have been taught through walking and listening to the stories of people from all over the world. Requires work. We can not longer be afraid of work as abstract as it sometimes may seam.

I think in this large scope of things I will simplify and commit to a few things and do them well. I again am reminded of the Camino. A lovely woman from outside Portland USA I forget her name, anyway I ran into her a few days after we arrived Santiago. She was lamenting feeling like she did not do a good enough job and could have done more on the Camino. More touring, more, churches, more engaging with the people more…. I told her my story of how I had at one point those kinds of feelings too. But it became clear to me that there would always be more. That if we walked the Camino again we would have the ability to take in a different layer…. But our layers is what we could do and we did them well. To make it. To achieve the physicality to make it. To develop relations with other walkers and lend kindness. To hear each others stories with empathy,and curiosity. To emerge ourselves as best we could even if it did not seam like enough on this journey was enough. We all did what we could do it is just that by the end we have all expanded. We can all do more now. But not at the beginning. We each did what it took to get us here and that is profound.

So for going home my work is kindness.
Listening
Seeing my cup fuller than full
Make money
Raise my children with my loving blessed partner
To give praise and gratitude
To tend my body
To let go of the bitter. I might add radicchio is really good with goat cheese. So perhaps take the bitter, like the mud and turn it into a satisfaction that I made it through. It is behind me now. I do not have to relive it anymore.
To go for it! The extra kilometers, the new food, the language, the attempt to communicate, to go for it on uneven paths and to fave good fun doing it.

My list is not that different than before really. So the difference is the golden treasure of knowing that it is all doable and like the Irish man said, “no pain, no glory”. Heck the Camino would not have been fun if it was easy.

Love to you in a big heart way,
I look forward to when I see you again,
As we say on Maui, Aloha- may the breath of life be with you,
Kelley

Santiago Cathederal

Santiago Cathedral

Daisy and I currently sit here waiting. We have another hour. We arrived early for good seating. I figured if we are going to attend mass it would be nice to have front row seats. We are in a beautiful very old Cathedral dating back several centuries, decorated with large amounts of gold ornamentation and an organ whose sound I believe will fill this space that holds one thousand people. Actually the Cathedral holds more than that, there are folks standing squished in every corner possible. Daisy and I arrived here at 10:30am. Mass begins at 12:00. We have front row seats and so do many of our Camino friends. Because, Daisy and I checked in yesterday, our names are now on the church registrar as folks who completed the compestella trail. I do not know how many people completed the trail the same day as us but the church is full of attendees and there are walkers arriving all the time. They come into the church with their packs on like Daisy and I did yesterday. Slightly overwhelmed, they sit down and they also stay for mass. It is here that we are welcomed by the church.

We sit waiting in natural light that comes through the windows located high in the stone ceilings. When mass begins, the lights go on, and the gold ornamentation in the forms of angels and Saints of all kinds glisten everywhere especially in the front partition where the priests stand. It is stunning. What I look forward to is the swinging of the burners called botafumeiro which hold 45 kg of frankincense and swings 75 meters through the air. What fun! I do not think many churches carry on with this tradition any more and it is this tradition I have come to see. The burner. Full of frankincense swinging, permeating the space with smoke and scent. A tradition adopted to keep churches “sanitary” to prevent sickness that spread all over Europe.

Yesterday, when Daisy and I arrived Santiago we were In a bit of shock. We’re here. We made it. To what? To a church? It is raining. There are pilgrims, and bikers everywhere. Pilgrims who arrived days earlier and pilgrims who arrived minutes after us. Some how I felt disconnected to the nature, the intimacy of the land and towns. I also felt a slight disconnect from the easy comrodery between pilgrims who despite language barriers and who are from many different places in the world had developed ways to communicate with one another. Despite this disconnect, I also have a feeling of relief and grief that this phase is over. The yellow arrow we have been following and the shell, symbol of a pilgrim ended at the church.

Upon entering the church yesterday, I was struck by the smell inside the Cathederal. My first thought….. ,”I also walked this pilgrimage for the trees! The trees!” How many people come to mass for sacrament and how many people come to watch and experience the botafumeiro could be contemplated. This very special and considered sacred ritual is a huge expense to the church. It is performed only on special occasions, or if it is sponsored. The cost of sponsorship is 300 euros. Why so costly? Frankincense is expensive stuff. And truth told we will be lucky to have frankincense around in twenty or thirty years from now. The best frankincense trees are being over harvested. Income is such an important need that the old systems of tending the trees are being eroded. Trees are weakening and showily dying. Growing a Frankincense tree is not easy. I have no clue as to how they would be propagated, as all the pictures of trees I have seen look as if the tree itself grows out of rock and then it is so hot, and dry I do not know how they receive moisture. I have always considered the trees of frankincense to be a miracle of life because their life span is so very long- hundreds of years and they live in such an extreme climate. These sacred trees are dying. I will be one of the many to witness this ancient custom/tradition that cloud even predate Christianity.

Mass, was beautiful. Singing in Latin and Spanish led by a nun who’s voice was so beautiful this large audience was quiet. we wanted to listen to her. That beautiful. There was the Camino welcoming following more music, the sermon, communion, more singing and the botafumeiro. Seven men in maroon velvet robes arrive. Together they operate this massive piece of shiny equipment that I guess might be real silver. They add hot coals to the frankincense already inside the burner. Smoke. The botafumeiro is hoisted into the air by the men in velvet. Together they work the rope. One of the men calls it when it is time to pull. Timing is important to keep the huge now bellowing smoke botafumeiro correctly propelled through the air that it may cascade with out fault over the heads of hundreds of people, swinging back and forth. Wow! I love it! So does Daisy and everybody around. The air is filled with the sweet scent of frankincense. This is one ritual in this church that I do not think the priests tire of. Eventually the smoke begins to recede and the botafumeiro slows down. One of the men catch the botafumeiro, lands it on the ground, gets the shovel and takes out the remains of the coals with a small shovel. He then makes his way through the crowd somewhere outside the church to release the coals. The rest of the men then hoist and tie up the botafumeiro. This all takes no time and happens in a bustling crowd of folks now exiting the church. We are complete on every level. Done. Fini. We say our last goodbyes to new friends we may never see again. We go back to our little room in the hostel and sleep. Our next task is sleeping and healing our tired feet which for me will take some time. My tendons are sore. Very sore.

……..

Compleation. We returned to our simple little hostel with our very own beds and bathroom. Privacy we had not had in a very long time and sleep. (Essentially we sleep for several days and when we are awake we walk around town feeling a bit like a zombie from space.) We meet friends for dinner and eat the local seafood: scallops, crab, shrimp,barnacles, clams, razor clams a seafood fare. The richest food we have eaten in weeks. I could feel it pulsing into my veins. Another compleation of a kind, the feast and grand good bye of new friends. Friendship on the Camino is special because there is a way in which one has to be seen. The nature of walking and negioating language and culture, sleeping quarters and meals invites a kind of intimacy. Though we are all our own ” groups or individuals”. We learn about each other. We run into people over and over and over and check in, have a meal, a good laugh or a good cry what ever is right there. Daisy and I recently ran into some one on the last days of walking and that person remembered us from the second day on the Camino. They exclaimed, “yahoo! You made it! I remember how hard it was for your daughter and how you had to leave her at the edge of town while you found an Alburgee with room in it for the both of you. I remember how you carried her pack and she walked along side slowly making her way to the Alburgee. I/we were worried for you and have been sending you good thoughts.” I thanked them and told them their good thoughts helped because we made it. Good thoughts always help.

So what happened? Why did we make it? Daisy finally hit a wall and I her mother helped her hit it. The day before half way point on the Camino. Daisy again struggling in a very big way. I can honestly say that her mental/ emotional well being was limiting her to such a degree that I was to the point of giving up. I had already considered several times. She was not a happy cookie and so the momma that I am sat her down in a cafe after taking a taxi (our first and last taxi to the next town) and challenged her straight on, “what is the deal girl?” We talked for a very long time and I pushed Daisy to speak. She finally spoke up, pushed back against me! This was important and good! She did not like my tough mom talk and when pushing back she began to crack. She said, “yes I am limiting myself”. A very hard thing to confess. I challenged and supported her to try and articulate what she meant. She knew how her attitudes were limiting and controlling the situation on some level. She knew that I as her mother had to bend to where she was at. I could not force and would not force her on the Camino. This issue manifested here is not a new issue. It was one of the reasons I with Alan’s support and even drive to make this happen. we knew that Daisy might have to face something very difficult in herself. Her own limitations of a kind and perhaps find release. I knew Daisy had the possibility of change but I was not sure she would let herself. Daisy was not only dealing with the physical challenges and complete shift of everyday routine, this new routine expected something of her. It required that she show up powerfully. To shift is a decision only she could make. Her confession was the stepping stone of something extraordinary for herself. I think sometimes when we realize something about ourselves that is enough to invite change. This was happening. It had to if we were to continue. Funny….., during this moment in our conversation with pained voices, and a few tears, a man at a nearby table began to ask us in broken English if we need anything. anything? Do you need anything a hot chocolate, a sweet, a coffee? He then said, ” there are tears. There is no need for tears and sadness or disagreement. You are on the Camino? Yes? You do not need tears on the Camino. Everything will be better.” So sweet and kind. The man was uncomfortable with our discussion. I had really pushed Daisy. sometimes on the Camino one of Daisy’s challenges was me & I her. This was a moment that was going to make or break our continuing. The man in his empathetic understanding of the situation brought love and compassion and in his own way encouragement to stay on track. He brought magic.

From that moment, our conversation, the kind caring man, there was change in Daisy. I can’t take credit for it. It was all her. I think I would call it expansion. She expanded. She learned to deal with the painful feet at the end of a day, how to deal with blisters, how to negioate culture, food, laundry, packing gear, walking with a brighter attitude, taking in and being in the present and looking forward rather than looking back at what was lost rather than what is gained. She laughed and sang and twirled her stick rather than walking like a cripple. Literally. She allowed herself to be in the moment rather than spending her time missing her papa and brother, and pets and friends and all the happenings of friends. Daisy embraced the Camino and it took her roughly 360 kilometers to do that. We hit the halfway mark the next day on the edge of a town. Stopped at the local pharmacy for more blister supplies, the local bakery for a baguette and cheese and continued on. Later, we herd others half way stories. I guess we were not alone. I herd that a few partners had horrendous fights and others giving up. Again a few people disappeared from the trail.

It was the mud. Seriously! the mud pushed people to their limits. People were seriously injured, fell, or became sick from the weather. People like us were pushed to their edges, and then the mud and injuries….. making the choice to leave or stay and rest was dependent on the severity of injuries, health or mental health for some. Truth be told Daisy and I were pretty lucky. Yes I developed a bad cough that lasted for many weeks. But no serious injuries. We were just injured from all the walking. No twists or sprains or serious falls. Ok! We had a silly and magical tool that helped us through all that rain and thick mud! A song called Rubber Ducky. We sang rubber ducky in every tone, every beat, rasta, rock n roll, romance and love…..We laughed due to the absurdity and simplicity of this song. I thank god for this song and and the companionship of my daughter who rose to the insanity of the occasion to embrace this song. We imagined large motorized rubber ducky boats that would carry us across the mud lakes. Cool little propellers that would spew mud out the back. Rubber ducky got us through days and days, kilometers of really gross mud. In fact the news on the television showed how the rivers around Pamplona were flooding a very serious issue! Huge! Homes flooding, cars washing away. People trapped. Daisy and I walked through those rains. (We send prayers to all the people and the beautiful towns and cities being effected. We send prayers to the landscape, farm animals and pets. For protection, and wise choices and help where needed.)

We made it and fell in love with Spain, its people, culture and history. To walk the Camino is like walking through a living museum. What we consider history is still so much alive that it becomes hard to differentiate between past and present when what has been such a strong influence like the knights Templar- considered a thing of the past, is kept alive in its own way, just different. To walk through a landscape Is a very intimate act. To walk in and out of towns and cities, to see how rural landscapes merge with non rural is to understand similar differences with all of modernity and yet the differences also emerge. Cleaner. Walking out of Leon we went uphill steeply and through streets of houses built into the earth. Beautiful hobbit holes. Cities that are designed or created in the round rather than the grid in the U.S.

The intimacy of the land. Plants, rock formations, roads and paths, birds, sky and the clouds, the wind and watching it everyday in the crops washing over the wheat like waves in an ocean. The smell. And wildlife. Fox leaving scats full of cherry pits in the middle of a trail. The little mice and oddly half eaten dead rats we would see. I did not see dear, or even a track of one. Nor did I see tracks of much wildlife. (I make an effort to notice things like animal tracks) I found myself questioning the amount of wildlife that exists in a well used mostly domesticated landscape. I would say anyway, ” I know you are there animal beings. I just don’t see you, but a hearty hello to you and all your friends”.

I fell in love with the storks. They are so funny. Big slightly awkward birds who build their nests on the highest pole like structures they can find. Storks love churches to build their nests on and I at one point witnessed five stork nests on one church tower. What I loved is that these giant nests of sticks litterally became hotels for other smaller birds. a stork nest was home to sometimes Hundreds of birds. no kidding! you could watch birds comming and going to their nests inside a stork nest. Mama birds feeding their young. Birds sitting and resting And chirping wildly over some local bird gossip. so entertaining and delightful. Every stork nest we could see close up, was always a huge habitat for the smaller birds. Then the baby storks in the middle of that big stick nest, they would back there huge baby stork buts up to the edge of a nest and send their waste flying! woohoo! Never stand under a stork nest or,…. your going to get it! Meanwhile mama storks feed their young. they would open those wide beaks and baby would pick out dinner. and sometimes there would be a rumbly humm…. a song? The critic in me began to judge a town when in stork country….ok, does this town have a stork nest? Yes? A good town, lets go for a cafe con leche. Our favorite. (The coffee in Spain is excellent.) Daisy and I took a museum tour in the city of Astorga. The tour was about the Roman history and archecture of the area and archeological digs and findings of roman remains. One thing that caught my interest was that the Romans believed that the storks we’re good luck. I have to agree. Those little birds that share the storks giant nests of twigs believe it also.

The last stretch

We have walked 725 kilometers. We have 72 to go. We plan on being in Santiago in four days rain or shine or of late, lots of heavy fog…..
Our legs have grown strong and Daisy and I can now pound out 25 kilometers in a day. We walk roughly between 5 and 6 k an hour depending on our energy, intention and terrain. With our new bouncy butt technique, a man from Germany taught us, I can now move down hills much more quickly. We take turns for each other setting the pace.

Tidbits-
Usually if we have a disagreement, one of us will set the faster pace, usually the more frustrated one who moves ahead that is until we forget why were frustrated and really we are both usually right or wrong and that is how it goes, so it ends. we move on to another discussion. The bad stuff, we move thru quickly nowadays because it is like walking up hill. Hard. Why bother. Our energy is geared toward walking not friction. We do not have enough energy to drag out a disagreement, and it is way more fun to laugh and play and see the beauty.

Daisy still Daisy has work to do in digesting the Camino experience. She is tired in both body and mind. She has learned to wake between 6 to 6:15 every day and has fairly efficiently fallen into routines that get us out the door, including taping and tending her feet. We walk, talk embrace silence because our minds have become mush. We continue walking observing the landscape twirling our walking sticks and walking some more.

Days later……
Yesterday we walked 27 kilometers. We are going for it mostly because we are tired and crave days in a hostel with private beds to sleep past 6:30am. The routine of sleeping in a new place everyday can at times be very hard on the system. Though folks are respectful, I am a lite sleeper sensitive to the sounds of snoring, farting, someone waking in the night to go to the rest room, the early bird who wakes at 5:00 to leave before 6:00 am. Truth is without exaggeration, I have probably sept between 3 and 5 whole nights thru since the beginning of walking the Camino. we began on April 31. Walking everyday with pack, rain, fog, sun mud and a new Alburgee nightly, cool showers and when the showers are hot a long line of enthusiastic folks waiting for a turn. And the meals cooking or going out. We mostly go out for the peregrino menu which is very cheap and gives us the experience of local food. I love the the peregrino meals. We eat lots of local soups, salad, meat or fish and desert choices of flan or the Camino tart which is a kind of almond cake, my favorite. Regardless, I am tired. So is Daisy. We miss home badly. The weather has turned cold…..again…! Yeah for the 5 days of sun! I loved those days!

As of today we are approximately 33 kilometers away from Santiago. Walking is our focus. We wake gear up, eat simply and walk, walk, walk! The goal between 10 and 12 kilometers before we have lunch then we chow! Today was a crab pie, fresh orange juice, a shared piece of almond Camino tart. We’re off, we can walk another 10 k on lunch sometimes the main meal of the day, before we find other food snacks to get us to the next Alburgee…… Sometimes limping. This is not your everyday workout, this is a whole other kind of work out, the Camino. The back of my left Achilles is so tender sometimes I come limping in and even after arriving at my bunk and setting up my temporary home I hobble for another hour or two. Daisy also hobbles for different reasons. We are not the only ones. Everybody does it. In fact it is a rare pilgrim who is NOT hobbling at the end of a day. Always something. Even on the last days of this trip. The life and culture and focus is about our bodies making it to Santiago. We must tend our feet and our gear.

Many new pilgrims have joined the Camino in the large town called Sarrah. This is a location where pilgrims may receive their compestella passport and only walk the last 100 kilometers. I think I mentioned previously how valuable a compestella certificate is on a resume….. Not all pilgrims start in Locations where a pilgrimage becomes a journey. In fact 75 % of the compestella certificates issued are from walkers who began in Sarrah. Lots of new energy, it is fun on the trail…., and it is very interesting to observe the new walkers and think, they will have blisters, they best be careful of their feet, it is raining and they will arrive in an Alburgee with wet clothing if they do not take care…..all these thoughts run through us who are now seasoned walkers. For me these new walkers are like mile posts. They help us see what we have walked thru and if they are lucky they will walk thu some of it too. To say what have we learned …….fear, humility, a bit of wisdom and understanding that one must be vigilant to the body and even more important to the mind. A strong mind and a good set of emotional tools to pull one through a tough moment, even when lacking sleep. No excuses because they do not help us get the next kilometer down road. For me, my work is to allow myself to stop, take the beauty in, as if it were a miracle, or honor the love of god who shows up in a predominately Christian setting which has impacted the landscape of every town or city we have walked thru. There is beauty.

We continue to walk through beautiful villages, probably thousands of years old. The villages are agrarian based and the village folks work into their 90s. This is what we have been told, but it is also clear that the ołder folks dominate the towns and they work. They also play. There are festivals, dances, wine, and distillerd drinks of some kinds that will heat you up from the inside out. I like these drinks. They are tinctures with local plants and the herbalist in me has to try the local brews. It is one way they speak about the land, the culture and the people. I also love that folks love their local brews. There is pride.

Today was a special day. Why? Because the Alburgee that supposedly existed turned out to be much further down the road. Why go back kilometers when you can go forward. A tough moment. This could have been a real distress moment. We have the perfect song: Monty Python, “always look on the bright side of life” we sing while moving up the very steep hill we had come down looking for the Alburgee which was not located where it said it was. And at this point decided it did not exist. We sang because we had 6 kilometers to the next alburgee and sweet Daisy was already limping. Not a good sign. So we sang. I set the pace slow but sure setting little goals to get us up this steep hill one step at a time. (Yes this steep). Suddenly Daisy comes trotting up with the music on her iPhone and we are serenaded the entire Monty python song and we get to whistle to the lyrics and jolly walk to the bright side of life. Song over. We are about to the top of the hill. A big white dog. Daisy reacted to the dog with nervousness. I on the other hand saw the little lopping dog behind the white dog. They are happy romper dogs. We turn back onto the Camino trail. And there is a young man with 5 dogs. All happy dogs and they come over for lots of pats from Daisy and I. We are so happy to pat dogs! We miss our dogs badly and love the social connection with animals. We are in happy dog conversation with this young man. Turns out he lives his summer in Finnesterre with other pilgrims on the beach and comes to help his extended family by working in the garden, walking the dogs and what ever help he can offer. A friend. He took us home. They have a pilgrim guest room with a bunk, sheets, fresh spring water, toilet the stuff of a home inside one of these old Spanish homes. We are located right on the Camino trail and in the morning we can skip out. Mean while we are going to eat local food and talk about Hawaii and the islands off south Spain which is where this family is from. The woman has walked the Camino 7 times and will walk again in September. They moved here to be by the Camino.

I am still trying to understand this pull so many people have to walk the Camino over and over and over again and to then set up home or create a pilgrim Alburgee for pilgrims. A life and soul adjustment, or calling that seams to be powerful for many people. The Camino is a life blood. The ancestors walk this trail it is so real and so old. There does not have to be understanding as to why one is called, I guess. A trail, Thousands of years old, there is life. And it’s popularity is growing. I hope that everybody who feels called to walk this trail does. Yes a financial commitment. But now that I know this there is a much greater commitment. The commitment of some how being reworked over and over again -but then being exactly the same. What did I learn about the Camino? Well the best answer might be to say, “dunno”. Really it is so damn complicated and it is not one big thing but so many little things put together that it boils down to about relationship, and ones internal landscape of self.. And gratefulness for the moment in time to impact our lives quite literally forever. Daisy and I are just one more here with the thousands and I am so very glad to be part of the group.

—– next day
Today a short day due to Alburgee locations about 20 k Tomarrow we walk into Santiago our last 22 k walk. (Of phase one. I do plan for us to walk to finnesterre if the weather is good, another 80 kilometers) Mind blowing but we are just about there…..
I asked Daisy what have you learned about the Camino? Her reply, ” If you step in cow poop you will never get it off your shoe.” Yes her crazy mother understands.

I asked her, “Do you think your friends will understand?” “No. Actually, not at all.”. She continues to say, “This is one of those things that you can think you understand because you can say, I or you walked 800 kilometers, but the truth is, it is a hands on experience. It takes many days when you realize that a helicopter is not going to rescue you and bring you to a hot tub.” So many transitions. I am a bit afraid for my daughter. Still twelve years of age and funny and kind and cares about her looks of course! Yet she has grown rugged, thoughtful, competent in a different culture doing a very different activity. I don’t know how it will translate back in her teen world.

 

The walking stick

So much fun is happening I can barely keep up with writing! I might say walking. We are having fun walking! Well, except those moments when I can’t seam to do anything right by Daisy. As annoying as those moments are, the fun, the physicality by far outweigh those moments. We are surrounded by beauty and sunshine.

Let me catch up…. We left the town of Mazarife home of few and one darn good Alburgee. An artsy Alburgee, beautiful and philosophical grafiti all over the walls everywhere. And most of the town fols were in the pub at the Alburgee watching futbol, drinking beer and checking out pelegrino’s especially the women. Poor fellows. A small town, not enough women to go around and well us women walking through might have the goods but…. that is where it ends. Poor fellows. Very fun Alburgee. We left early on our way to a village called De orbio 17 kilometers away. The walk was a hard one. Hurting feet, not quite enough sleep. Sleep is the clincher. It can make or break a day especially for Daisy.

I made Daisy a walking stick, a branch from a dead popular tree. A rather ugly stick, but it worked and well it turned out to be a really fun stick. The branch splayed out on one end kind of like a really ugly broom. But that thing held flowers tucked in the pieces of splayed wood and when flowers wilted it became a broom for all kinds of things. Daisy could sweep the trail, bushes, me anything she cared to sweep. We have been walking for days, weeks. Her stick is good entertainment- the simple things. Conversation has at times diminished to half sentences. A broom stick, now that was new stuff! And when she did not want to sweep she could clunk her way down the road. I had also ripped a branch off for myself. A small spindly kind of thing, but it works and it makes a great clunking sound while walking. I am quite pleased. The best part of my stick is that it has a little bit of a branch sticking out right at the height I hold it for walking. A hook for my opposable thumb, at least that is what I call it- Apparently a very important genetic mutation that led to the survival of the human species.(according to the hominid museum back in Leon). I have an opposable thumb holder! And as weird as it sounds, it is really useful. I can actually put weight on it when going up steep hills or comming down steep hills and when it is flat well, it becomes a toy…..

Walking sticks are important. I never knew this until I walked the Camino. Our first day out in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, many walkers had telescope walking sticks and I was enlightened. Those sticks. Folks swear by their sticks, by their brands and how to use them. Some people hunker down and walk with their sticks like they are skiing over the trails. Others think the height of the stick is very important. Low is good because you can give them your weight and then get a bit of upper body work out too and then you can walk even faster…. Others are just grateful for the support. What I think people like most about their sticks is the noise. Click click click rhymithical click, those sticks are comming closer….. Closer and eventually pass us by…..there go a set of sticks….. many folks love their stick sounds. The sound helps to keep the pace. Especially the serious ones. Those would be the fast walkers. They are walking so clicky fast I don’t think they can hear the birds, but the can move.

I bought Daisy a pear of sticks, and I ruined one in the first 15 minutes of ownership. It was raining and we were on our way of a sprawling town. I crossed the road following the yellow Camino arrow. Daisy ahead. I noticed a woman dressed in a lace outfit tall high heels and thought she better be careful. (I also thought her dress was god forsaken ugly black lace skirt white lace top attachment). I stepped onto the side walk pleased with Daisy’s groovy walking stick and kaboom! I went down! I was a splayed out like an upside down turtle in shock. The woman in the lace dress bends over asking me if I’m all right and helps me up. Here I am passing judgement thinking I am so cool with this new walking stick.,…. and, miss lace dress is helping me up. Gulp. Grasias! I’m in shock. Daisy comes over and I show her the new walking stick…..bent really bad. I had fallen on it. A pilgrim (who witnessed the whole thing) comes over. Can’t speak English. Takes that walking stick and there in the rain slowly bends it back so that it looks decent…. And from that day on the telescopic technology of this stick is a tug of war. Somewhere down the line Daisy lost those sticks. I’m pretty sure she left them at the tourist office in Leon. No clicky sticks to walk with and do crazy weird things with. Daisy never did walk with those sticks like a pro. She used them more like, ….well, ….a swooper! She would swoop each stick around her side and land them in front. Weird, but worked for Daisy. Lots of clicky stick walkers gave Daisy (and I) recommendations. Lower the stick height, raise the stick height, Try keeping them behind where she gives more weight try the full stick swing… Daisy swooped. Daisy swoops her sticks because it is fun and somehow it works for her and the girl can move on those swoops like a pro in action. Why bother a good thing? The sticks were lost.

This is how Daisy got her broom stick. (which I have described above). However the day I made her this stick that brough her about 17 kilometers of joy, it was taken away. A friendly fellow who thought he was doing a good deed by gifting her with a beautiful carved nicely trimmed stick. This young kind man felt horrible that he had to turn us away from the Alburgee because it was full. We had to walk another 4’kilometers to the next Alburgee. A hell moment that we will always remember and not in a fond way. Some days are just plain hard walking. Could be the weather, cement, same kinds of visuals for days, physical exhaustion and mental weakness of a kind. Daisy was having a hard day. She was physically exhausted and hurting. We were on our way to the (full) Alburgee looking forward to the rest. When we found out we had another four plus kilometers To the next Alburgee. Those 4 kilometers were long and hard though we were on a most beautiful path. Daisy cried. She cried not for the long walk. She just lost a good friend. Her broom stick replaced by a tall thing whose hand hold was made for big hands. She did not want to touch this stick. She borrowed my stick. I offered to walk back and go get her broom stick. No. I empathized as I loved my scraggly and bouncy opposable thumb holder stick she was now using. I understand how attachment happens to our sticks. I walked with her stick. I commented on the sound – nice deep tone. I noticed her new stick could take some serious weight. And it was a gift! How spiritual is that? I’m not kidding! I don’t know many others who have been given their sticks. That to me is special and some kind of affirmation from the Camino. I continued walking with her new stick and at some point I encouraged her to send thanks to her old stick, let it go and see what happens, including the possibility of letting go of her new stick and finding something new.

Honestly, I was not to crazy about Daisy’s new stick. It was heavy and to big for my hands. I tried something radical, I turned the stick upside down and began walking with it. It worked. The weight of the stick low and a much smaller hand hold. Interesting things began to happen. The once clunk side of the stick now in the air had a cool flat design worth noticing. The hand held worked and the weight could be swung with the help of gravity when walking. Kinda fun and easy going.

The next day, Daisy said I will take my new stick back. She noticed the changes with the stick upside down and thought she would give it a try. I was relieved. I liked my scraggly stick. She continued to keep the stick inverted and now, many days later she can swirl her stick several ways. Through her hands like a batan and around her waist pack and all. She can poke mud holes, and that stick will swing through her hands with gravity and come down with a grand sound. It helps with the pace and weight and she can move like a mountain sheep with that stick. She also learned how to go down hill by a German man who said give your but the weight, not the knees. You can do this by tightening the muscles in your inner thighs where they go into your but and literally bounce your way down the hill, while still I of course taking care of your knees. She tried the new walking technique in the pass we have been walking over and down. The combination of her clicky walking stick and bouncing knee to but technique the girl can fly. She has had to wait for me until she taught me how to move down mountains. Me. I will always be slow on the down hill especially my hiking coyote friends know, but for me, I was cruzing! I was, passing up those clicky clackers, and many other walkers and right down the mountain slopes we went. One morning we did five kilometers in a little over an hour. Surprised the both of us.

Daisy will not be able to bring her walking stick home if it makes it to Santiago. She is aware of this and me to with mine. Although each day I am surprised my walking stick still works.

I do like those telescoping walking sticks they are pretty cool. Camino Bob from Connecticut somewhere in front of us. The same guy who told us to drink five quarts of water a day, (we still have not achieved- but try). Bob said he loves hi Leki walking sticks. Light and powerful, good handles. He said Leki had has a free stick fixing policy. He has sent his Leki’s back to the company three times. (He uses his sticks a lot). The last time he put a note and a $20.00 bill wrapped to the stick. The note said I am happy to pay you to fix my stick you have fixed it several times already and I do not mean to take advantage of your company. It is just that I love my sticks. Leki fixed his stick and sent it back with the $20.00. Bob is a believer. I herd Bobs story early on. I did not understand why he would like this brand until I broke Daisy’s new cheap stick and then in the sports stores, which are pilgrims city hide outs. Pilgrims I have learned love good gear. So much for simplicity. Any way I have been looking at sticks and I have to agree with Bob. If you like those clicky clacky telescoping sticks, go for quality. Leki is it. And you can now purchass rubbers for your sticks to remove the clacky sound and give you friction on hard trails….. What this world is comming to. For now, we have our cool groovy and free walking sticks and we are proud stick walkers.

Xo,Kelley