¡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!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bordeaux, Day 3

Well, all in all, this has been a strange day. It is sort of like one of those "out of time" days after someone close to you has died and you are very busy about all the things that need to be taken care of, so busy that mourning itself is postponed. So it has been for me today. My efforts and those of my "guardian angels" back in Belgium to make contact with the local "Friends of Saint-Jacques" bore no great fruit: mostly out-of-date phone numbers; answering machines and unanswered messages. By 10:00 am I was on the street checking out bus and train schedules; bus schedules were bad, train was good, so by 11:00 I had bought a ticket to Irun, just across the French border in Spain for tomorrow morning (Tuesday), and then from Irun, I'll improvise my way towards Compostela by buses, taking several days to get there. My train ticket was returnable so if something new developed during the day, I would be free to change my mind and stay here longer or make other plans. Later in the day I went into the city center to wash all my clothes in a laundromat, and then in the afternoon, again, to buy a few items of clothing so I don't look quite so much like a wayward camper and can feel again against my skin something other than synthetic fibres, (real cotton underwear was high on my shopping list!). It has been a busy little day today; later, maybe tomorrow, I'll have to stop, take a deep breath, maybe have a little cry, and somehow say "au revoir" to the "chemin" which has been under my feet now for some 1300 kilometers.

The one thing that has come to seem obvious since arriving in Bordeaux is that continuing to walk as I had been walking just is not in the cards anymore. I spoke by phone to my brother, Bill, a physical therapist who has worked a lot with these kinds of injuries, and he was not particularly encouraging about the possibility of a quick fix; these plantar fascitis things are tough to heal in many cases. It's not likely to be good enough to do heavy hiking any time soon.
So the walking part of my pilgrimage is over for now; the pilgrimage itself continues as I now head to Compostela on wheels instead of feet. I will miss the walking, and miss it a lot, I suspect. I will miss the beautiful vistas of French countryside and its villages and the welcoming and extraordinarily kind people of France. I will miss talking to the mules and dogs and geese along the Way. I will miss the solitude. I'll miss the very special kind of prayer that is part and parcel of the pilgrim way, seldom pious, usually not so sweet, always from the heart, ("Okay, Jesus, help me out here, IF YOU DON'T MIND!!!).

In the days ahead, I'll continue to send reports to this blog as much as I am able, and when I get to Compostela on the weekend, I'll have a good talk with Santiago about this foot, and what he has been up to in getting me this far then allowing it to end so unexpectedly, and before I'm done with him I'll ask him to do good things for all who have been walking with me in prayer and through the web. I'll let you know how that goes.

Finally, I extend a special word of thanks to my Belgian "Guardian Angels," Gene and Caroline, for all they've done for me over these pilgrim months! This pilgrimage has been as much theirs as mine! And also a great "Gracias" in advance to my pilgrim pal in Galicia, Toni, who will meet me in Compostela and take me in for some days thereafter.

So, it's time to clean the mud off my boots, give Gregory the Great a bit of a clean-up, then repack him for his first train ride tomorrow; and before going to bed, say once more a not-so-pious and not-so-sweet word of gratitude to the Creator and Lord, who makes all things possible and blesses us with grace upon grace. It is an honor and a joy to be one of his pilgrims on the face of this beautiful earth...