¡Buen Camino!

Dear Friends,
It has taken three tries and nine years, but as of July 2012, I have finally walked the entire Way of Compostela from my former home in Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, to Santiago de Composela!
My first pilgrimage experience from the French frontier with Spain to Santiago itself took place in 2003. You can read the details of this first walk along the famous Camino across Spain in my book, To The Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2008). (You can order it from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or from your local bookseller).
In the summer and early fall of 2007, I walked from Belgium most of the way across France, with the hope of at least making it to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where I began the first pilgrimage. I didn't quite make it. A bad case of plantar fasciitis took me down in the Bordeaux village of Sainte-Ferme. I continued on to Santiago by train and bus, but the "defeat of my feet" and those last 175 miles or so that were left undone, gnawed at me over the ensuing five years. Happily, I was finally able to wrap up this grand pilgrimage with a third walk from Sainte-Ferme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port this past summer (2012). It was a joy to have completed all 2,370 kilometers between Leuven and Santiago.
My adventures and misadventures, my thoughts and prayers of both the 2007 and 2012 pilgrimages have been shared in this blog. I will leave the blog and its archives open for some time to come; if you want to read bits and pieces of it, feel free, but remember that the beginning is at the bottom and the end is at the top.
My contact e-mail remains the same: kacodd@gmail.com; I am always happy to receive mail!
As the pilgrims in Spain greet one another, so I greet you, my reader: "Buen Camino!"
And as the people of France greet their pilgrims along the "Chemin", I also wish to you: "Courage!"

Grace and peace to you all!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Just two months before "C-Day"

Whether it is the "Chemin de Saint Jacques" of Wallonia and France or the "Camino de Santiago" of Spain, I am just a day shy of two months until "C-day"...that is, "Camino/Chemin Day", (unfortunately the Dutch "weg" doesn't fit my "C-day" thematic here, but it is a very good word too and so very close to my own English "way"). I have done some planning in my imagination of that day: July 1, Sunday. I will have my backpack readied the night before, get a nervous but sufficient sleep, at 7:00 am walk out the great door of our American College with whoever wants to accompany me for the first kilometer or two, pause at the medieval Saint Lambert Chapel just outside of town, celebrate Mass there, then bid a final adieu to my companions and friends, heading down the Naamsesteenweg and into the Heverlee Woods by myself. It won't be a long walk that day...just 15 kilometers or so. I'll hold up in a campground near the small town of Hamme-Mille; there I will learn how to set up my tent, arrange my stuff and warm up my first meal atop my little gas stove...perhaps meatballs from a can. I am no camper so it will be a fast learning curve out there. No problem, I'll have the whole afternoon to figure it out.
Well, that is how I am imagining it two months out. It seems idyllic enough in my imagination and probably will be. It is what follows that is now scaring me. So much can go wrong, especially with my 54 year-old body. I have a knee that is bugging me these days...a bad sign. What if my backpack is too heavy? Blisters after a day? Why not. I remember the pain of tendinitis in my lower leg from my "short" Spanish pilgrimage three years back; will it pay me a return visit? What if no one speaks any English at all? What if my tent is missing exactly the one cord or pole or spike that holds the whole thing together? How soon will discouragement set it in the form of the whine, "What am I DOING out here!" Ahh! So many worries! So many potential disasters! I accept them the fact that they are prowling around in the back of my mind all the time, but I am choosing to engage "spiritual override" and push ahead anyway. I AM going to do this. I WILL to do this. Santiago is CALLING me to do this.
Just a few days ago, some friends here in Leuven, Gene and Caroline Foley, treated me to a concert of the Galician-Celtic music group, Milladoiro. I've had some of their cd's for some time now and like their music very much; it is all gaetas, whistles, harps, a violin, drums. As they were beginning the second half of the program with a piece I especially love, "Alalá das mariñas", I looked at the banner stretched behind them on the back of the stage; it read simply: "Xacobeo", the Galician adjective for Jacob, James, Santiago, Jacques. Upon seeing the name and with the smooth sounds of Alalá das mariñas sifting through me, I feel the pull again : "You've got me, Santiago. You've got me again. I'm coming. I'm coming."
It is a "pull": unreasonable, weird, subtle, gentle, forceful, reasonable, mysterious, magical, mysterious again. It is like love. I suppose it is a kind of love. Pilgrim love. It will make it possible. It will guide me, guard me, protect me on the weg (there: I got the Dutch word in, too!). The whole thing and the whole thing in all its parts, is a prayer. Is prayer. I expect wonders amidst the trials. I expect Santiago and the Lord to do things to me out there; I don't know what exactly: make me better somehow. Make me understand home and not-home more deeply. Loosen up the stuff that constrains me. Laugh, weep, sigh each time a little more profoundly. Rediscover gratitude and rejoice in it.
So with two months to "C-day" I size it all up as best I can. I'm nervous. I'm excited. I'm afraid. Really, when all is said and done, tonight anyway, I can hardly wait...