¡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!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A "Vermeerish" Weekend

Waterloo. So what does a pilgrim on medical hiatus do to fill the time for fifteen days? Well, he reads, of course; (I just finished a delightful little novel by Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, about a fifteen year old boy suffering from a form of autism). But even reading can grow tiresome day after day so if the sidelined pilgrim has some good friends, he is well advised to take up their invitation to a weekend jaunt to some wonderful place filled with new things to taste and see. Such was my good fortune over the past weekend! Gene and Caroline Foley, ever attentive to caring for me in my present circumstances, welcomed me to join them for a little trip up to Caroline's hometown in Holland, Den Haag ("The Hague" in English). We left Leuven on Saturday morning quite early and headed north. We stopped in Gouda, the big cheese of Dutch towns, had lunch there and enjoyed walking its market and along its picturesque canals (well, sort of walking, in my case...the cast slowing me down considerably on the cobbles!). We bypassed the big city of Rotterdam and got to Den Haag in time to do a bit of grocery shopping and then settled into the home of Caroline's son, Koen, who with his children, is presently on vacation in Iceland.
The highlight for me of our weekend foray into the Netherlands was Den Haag's Mauritshaus, filled to its gills with great artistic treasures; here you find Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer in just the right doses: enough to awe, but not so much as to overwhelm. I was especially thrilled to be able to enjoy for the first time Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring" and his "View of Delft." What extraordinary works! That mysterious girl is as "alive" today as she was when Vermeer painted her; you almost feel you could have a good chat with her! The sky and special light playing over the town of Delft captured in Vermeer's oils and brush strokes in his other masterwork in the Den Haag museum was evident in the real world as we drove through the countryside yesterday, casually working our way back to Belgium. Being so close to the sea the blue of the sky has a silvery undertone to it and the light of day adds a shimmering quality to everything it touches, especially the waters of the North Sea and the inland harbors ; what kind of word can you find to characterize this light? About all I can think of is "Vermeerish". Before we got serious about returning to Belgium, we passed a couple hours in the late morning wandering about the university town of Leiden, which reminded us all of our own Leuven, though with a Dutch touch. A bit of my own national history is noted there: the famouns Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock spent several years in Leiden before heading across the sea to North America and the first Thanksgiving.

So now that I'm back in Waterloo for a few more days, I'll start a new book (an early novel of Iris Murdoch), and begin planning the next "etapes" of my pilgrimage south, from Tonnerre, where I left off, to Vezelay, one of the great French towns associated with the pilgrimage to Compostela since the early middle ages. The cast on my leg will come off on Friday of this week and, presuming all is well, I should be back in France and ready to begin walking again on Monday (again with the help of the Foleys who have offered to drive me back down to Tonnerre). Vezelay will be about three days of walking further on, if I go my own route rather than the much longer "official GR". So that is next on my rather wide-open agenda: mapping out my way on the Way. I feel it already: it will be good to be back!