¡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!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

La Cabane

You probably will never find this place on your grand maps of France; it is no more than a few farm houses around a bend in the road, though a fairly big road, the D40. But I’m here, in the home of a fine lady, Noëlle, who welcomes pilgrims in with warmth and generosity, even now, when her husband, Didier, is in the hospital. Her place is at about the mid-point in a 34 km stretch of the pilgrim way that someone decided should be done in one day. Not me. I’m staying right here for the night and will finish the “etappe” in Saint- Foy tomorrow, an easy 14 km walk.

As predicted, plenty of rain greeted this weary pilgrim upon awakening, but having learned something from Patricia in St. Astier, I dawdled through my morning preparations and lingered over my warm coffee and “pain au raisin” before finally heading out the door at 9:30. The strategy worked; by then the rain was easing up considerably and though I was getting wet, my boots and jacket stood up to it.
As the morning passed so too did the rain and it wasn’t too long before the clouds had exhausted the last of the day’s load. And it was dry sailing from then on. No lightning. No thunder. And my achy plantar fascitis was manageable through the day. Saint Jacques heard my prayers!

Along the way, about three hours into the walk, I was overtaken by a bicycling lady pilgrim who called to me “Are you Kevin from Spokane?” I responded with considerable surprise that indeed I was but how did she know? It turns out she had read my inscription in the guest book back in Sorges and asked the hospitalière, Micheline, about me. Her interest was piqued because her son had been an exchange student in Spokane! We stood in the road, she astride her bike, me with Gregory the Great on my back, chatting happily for 15 minutes or so, then Hildegard from Frankfurt said: “Well, gotta go….” And off she rode, out of my life as quickly as she had entered it. But what a good time we had while it lasted; it was like we had known each other forever. That’s the way it seems to be out here in this land where pilgrims are presently quite far and few between: it’s as if because of our common life as pilgrims, experiencing and enduring much the same thing, that we know each other as friends even before we know each other. Anyway, “bon chemin, Hildegard!”

So Madame Noëlle is just about ready to serve up some home cooking (smells great, but don’t know what it is yet). The skies have mostly cleared and tomorrow will be a new day.