¡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, October 16, 2007

San Sebastian, Spain

As I write, I sit on the stone porch of the Cathedral of San Sebastian, a world that seems a million miles from the small towns and countryside of the French “Chemin”. This place is brimming with life, and I have not seen so many children at play in ages. Paloma, a little 5 year old, just made friends with me, asking me all kinds of important questions, like:”What are the names of your mama and papa?…Oh, Cecilia is just like my tia Cecilia!”.
It is a nice balance to a difficult morning. Once I got onto the train in Bordeaux, I entered into that strange anonymity and invincible strangerhood that so many of us westerners impose on ourselves when we travel: minimal eye contact, conversation, or engagement with the other, as if none of us exists to the others. It reinforced my sense of leaving not just France, but a whole world of pilgrims and hospitaliers and cheery “Bonjour, monsieur’s!” and “Bon courage’s”. I especially felt alienated from the non-alienation of the pilgrim life as my train slowly nudged its way across the Spanish frontier and into Irun. As I looked at the dismal train station I almost felt like asking the Lord to send one of his angels to grab me by the hair and drop me back into Saint-Ferme, so I could be again a pilgrim as before.
I caught the much smaller train into nearby San Sebastian, and found myself walking into a beautiful city, filled with life.
I was feeling hungry, so I stopped at a sidewalk café, but got restless about finding a place to stay for the night as I sat there waiting to be waited on for a half hour or so. Feeling still quite “culture shocked” inside, I got up, walked down a street, any street, saw a sign for a pension and headed for it. As I limped along the street, a girl on a bicycle overtook me, looked over, and with a big smile, called out to me:”Buen Camino”, the universal pilgrim greeting along the Spanish Camino to Compostela. It unfroze me, and I became a pilgrim again...and a human being again. It was a new day from then on.

The folks at the pension, just across the street from the Cathedral, were happy to take me in.
After a fine little “Menu del dia” in a café down the street, I walked, (still slowly) to the city beach, and decided to give my plantar fascitis a touch of surf and sand therapy.I don’t know if my walk on the beach helped or not, but it felt very good, and the sound of the waves breaking only a meter away (and sometimes right under me), was restorative, and healing of mind and heart, if not of foot.
So now I await evening Mass in the Cathedral, then I’ll have a bite to eat, then to bed.
I have no idea right now what I will do tomorrow, but feel fine about that now. We’ll just wait and see..