Posts Tagged With: Camino de Santiago

Camino Primitivo with Dad, “Striking it Rich in Lugo,” 4th Night, 12 May 2016

My “cheater bus” didn’t have a stop in Cadavo, so I’m actually skipping 2 segments tonight – in about an hour I’d be in Lugo.  This actually put me a day ahead, and I’ll now arrive in Santiago on the 16th. My previous time in Santiago was emotional and, although not rushed, certainly not leisurely. I’d not had a day just to wander aimlessly, and people watch. Or instead, I could go on to Finisterre.  Tempting?  Of course not – this journey has always been about embracing the tomb of St. James on the 17th of May, not some pagan clothes-burning ritual at the end of the world.

I slide off the bus with 18 Euro now, and am beginning to  squirm a bit because if I don’t get my stupid ATM card to work soon, I’m going to run out of money. As my GPS guides me to my albergue, I walk by still another ATM; I spin around to try for probably the 10th time. I’d texted Sharon with Capital One’s phone number and was emphatic that she read them the riot act. Actually she’d undoubtedly been much sweeter than I had been the four times I’d called.  Maybe honey attracts success better than vinegar.

And so on my 11th attempt, out comes 200 Euro!!!

Wooo Hooo!  My wife is amazing!

I truly felt like I won the 500 million powerball.

Here’s a picture.  Me, stinking to high heaven from hiking in the rain and sweating up a stench in the afternoon bake for 7 hours, hauling 28# on my back, walking like my blisters had blisters.

But now I gots a “swagga.” Like I had gold chains on my neck, walking in the club, wit’ abou’ a bilyawn dolla in my pockets.

I know it all sounds a bit ridiculous. But that’s how I felt.

I still stayed in the 8 Euro hostel, but nodded without hesitation when asked if I wanted to eat a communal dinner with everyone. No problem, I can afford it!

And besides, I really like Paella!



Toasting the Chef at Albergue Lugo

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Camino Primitivo with Dad, “Catching up in the Rain,” 4th Day, 12 May 2016

I woke up today in such a good mood.  I slept well, my electronics were all charged up, my clothes all washed, and had memories of a fantastic day yesterday. I was up very early, and out the door while it was still dark…

Uggghhh.  Rain.  Very heavy rain.

Rainstorms in Florida pass in an hour or two.  But not here.  I was near the end of Asturias, and very close to Galicia, where it can actually rain for days.  No biggie.  It’s why I’ve carried around the extra 3# in my backpack.  I went back into the albergue and slipped on my rain-pants, and jacket, both made of eVent fabric, a newer cousin of Gore-Tex – supposedly waterproof, but breathes better so I won’t get soaked in sweat.  And this time I had also brought along gaiters, to keep the rain from dripping from my pants onto my socks and into my boots.  I was ready.

And off I went.

I’m making good time until I realize that I haven’t seen a scallop or arrow “way-marker” in an uncomfortably long time, and it’s raining entirely too heavy to risk getting my phone out to use the GPS.  I’ll trudge along for another mile or so and if I still don’t see any signs, I’ll turn around to retrace my steps.  I hadn’t even gone another 100 meters when the trail simply ended.  This path had clearly not been the Camino.  I’d obviously taken a wrong turn somewhere in the past hour.  So I turned around, and although I’m trying very hard to laugh at myself, it’s pretty difficult.

Goretex and eVent may well be “water resistant,” but they most assuredly are not “water-proof.” I’m now drenched through and through, and pretty miserable.  I backtrack to the last visible marker and I can’t, for the life of me, see how anyone could know which is the correct route.  There are several crossroads, and so many are conflicting that I begin to look for someone to ask.  But there is no one to ask, and so I give it another best guess. This one is lucky, because within about another kilometer, I see regularly spaced markers, indicating I’m on the right path.  Wishing I had someone to “high-five,” I look up and smile, lifting my hands for a different kind of salute.  I’m pretty sure He’s glad I finally found the right path also, and it just felt appropriate to celebrate together.

The weary feeling is exhaustion – so tired and doubting myself, with morale slipping, and frustrated, almost desperate for affirmation.  And then there it is.  Hundreds of years old and pointing “the way.”

Just when I think no one else could really understand the emotions of needing so desperately to get a sign that I am going the right way, one of those light bulbs goes on over my head.  It’s another metaphor for our life journeys; lots of people who have never worn a pair of hiking boots know this feeling. Guess I’m just a slow learner.

So anyway, 7 hours and 27 sloggy km later, I see the first hiker I would encounter today, and as I approached him from behind I was nothing short of astonished.

“Stefan! How the Hell did you get this far?” I reached for his hand and he almost fell onto me. “How are you?”

“Not very well, My feet hurt very badly.”

And how did you get ahead of me?

“Well, as I arrived yesterday in La Mesa, I realized I had only walked 29 km, and it was still pretty early, so I just kept walking, and there was nowhere to stay until I got to Grandas.”

“Yeah, but that 29 km was the hardest segment of any Camino!” I reminded him.

Stefan sheepishly replied that he really regretted it during the last hour.  “So you walked 45 km yesterday, on the hardest day…”

“Actually it was 44, but I don’t know how I got ahead of you, did you sleep late?”

“No, but I did get lost for about 2 hours.”

Stefan began to laugh from the belly, the kind that is contagious to everyone around, “Did you go to the left just after Castro, as the path entered the forest?”

“Umm, yes…that’s exactly where I got lost.”

He kept laughing, because he had made the same wrong turn in the rain.  “I saw the fresh tracks, and I followed to the left for a while, but when there were no waymarkers, after about 10 minutes, I turned around.” (That’s where he had overtaken me, because I stayed on that wrong path for probably an hour).


Another Camino metaphor: Don’t blindly follow another’s footsteps (especially if they’re mine!), when you, deep down know you’re on the wrong path – your inner compass is a better judge.  When we simply follow where others have gone, we’re effectively walking in their boots, and not our own.  They may not have a very good compass, or they might be ignoring it.

“Anyway, so why did you keep pushing forward? You told me you already had a few extra days to spend in Santiago, so why not  pull back and take your time?”

Stefan stopped walking and looked at me, “You are my friend, and I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”


I was surprised. No, actually I was shocked. He would push himself through this much pain to see me? And now I was horrified, and embarrassed. “You’re on track now to get to Santiago on the 18th (his original plan was for the 19th).  I actually leave on the 18th, so I need to be there for the Pilgrim’s Mass on the 17th.  So in Fonsagrada, I must get on the bus again, to…”

“I know that,” Stefan said.  “It’s fine, don’t feel bad.” I’m very happy that we met again.

“Let’s at least have dinner together, did you have lunch?”

“No,” he replied, “there was nowhere to eat!”

Realizing we were now in Galicia, I suggested we have pulpa (octopus), the specialty of this region.  “I’ve never had it before, why not!?”


I was squirming a little bit when I saw the menu.  Twelve Euro was reasonable for a four course meal featuring pulpa, but cash was low, and the sign behind the bar said, “Cash Only.”  So I excused myself to use the restroom, where I could count my cash, and was relieved to see I had 24 Euro and about 40 cents.  Perfect – of course I wanted to pay for his meal also.

By his facial expression and the food left on his plate, I’m pretty sure he thought it was disgusting, despite the fact that he said he liked it.

Now I really felt bad.

I asked the waitress for the check, and she looked at Stefan, then at me like I was from Mars, then back at him again, and he said, “I paid for our meal while you were using the servicios.” When I started to object, he cut me off.  “Don’t say anything bruder, I’m so happy that I can help you.”

He remembered how cash strapped I am.  My ATM password hasn’t worked since I got here, and so I’m limping along for 4 days on the $100 (74 Euro) emergency money I had brought, and he knows it’s almost exhausted.  Funny his math was better than mine.  If I had paid for dinner, I wouldn’t be able to pay for the bus!

And so the food didn’t seem to matter at all to him.  We’re talking and laughing and telling stories, and remembering… as if I was 30 and a childhood friend of his from Berlin that he hasn’t seen in years.

Except we’ve known each other for almost exactly 24 hours.  Camino time.

And so, once again I got on the bus, and he would walk on to the next town. The way he was painfully hobbling along, I knew he couldn’t go much further.

But it was sure good to see him.


Categories: cafe wifi, Camino coincidences, humorous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lessons from two Caminos: Time Heals Nothing

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It’s ironic that the reflective solitude that I enjoyed so much  last year on the Camino de Santiago would be what made me feel lonely as I hiked this year.

Maybe that’s not fair, or totally true, because I am a much different person this year. It’s now been two years since Cullen’s accident.

The old adage that “time heals all wounds” is a lie.  But at least the wound isn’t still hemorrhaging constantly. The fact is that wounds do not heal back to normal.  This is simply not true. Another axiom is that one achieves a “new normal,” which is also a lie.  There can be no normalcy when one loses a child.

From my medical perspective, an immune system attempts to repair that void or empty space where living tissue once was only by “granulating” it in with scar tissue.

So when Pontius Pilate asks, “What is truth?”  I can tell him, “The truth is, time heals nothing.”  Recovery through grief requires work.  Yes, lots of really hard work, and much of it continues to be painful.  Reading, talking, sharing, silence, and prayer. Time does create a kind of a “space” where we can put things – good things, positive things, an opportunity for suffering to be redemptive; and the “breath of life” will again come down upon us and we will find life within us.  Or we can choose to not put good things in this space, and the vacuum will suck in all of the horror, and negative, and evil, and we will dwell in this bottomless pit of sewage, where there is no life and no breath.  I witnessed this in a support group, where some members still wallowed in this lifeless sewage after 20 and 30 years.

Like Josie Vander Woude, we must allow ourselves to be pushed up out of that pit, and the “breath of life” to rush into our gasping lungs. Yes, I am much different than I was.  Perhaps last year, I simply needed some alone time.  Time to scream at God, and at Cullen, and at his stupid decision to drink that night, and at FSU for allowing him the opportunity to make such stupid choices, and at myself for not teaching him to be more effing responsible, and at God, and at my ex-wife, and at China, and at his absent guardian angel, and at God, and maybe just to scream.

One of the transitions I made last year, if you muddied through the garbled, mostly nonsensical posts of last year’s Camino, was that I found myself no longer angry.  And no longer desperately needing to tell everyone the horrible story so that they would also feel horrible, and, in turn, feel sorry for me.  And no longer even wanting anyone to feel sorry for me.  And no longer needing to tell everyone about the tragic accident; in fact I found myself actively avoiding telling the story.

I still love to talk about Cullen, and am told that I glow with pride and joy when I get to.  But now it’s the good stuff, and not so much the catastrophic loss.  Because, although it is both of these, the good stuff now allows me to rejoin life. There have been so many amazing “Gifts Left Behind” that allowing myself to dwell in that dark place would make his life here just a waste; his whole life here just a mistake.  And that’s just simply not the case.

So last year I welcomed this “time apart” from everyone that knows and loves me, and it did something to me.  Each evening, I got to see faces of other anonymous peregrinos that were becoming familiar from the previous night, or a week ago, or even from walking together for 10 minutes during that day.  We would share a glass of the local wine crop and tell each other stories of victory and loss, and that’s when I began to see the life a bit more holistically.  We all have lives, with our own losses and victories. Tired of crying, I found so much more joy in hearing others’ stories, and where they are in their lives than in telling about myself.

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C.S. Lewis calls this philia (love for a brother), or even agape love, where you would give of yourself for another.  There’s a certain joy that is so much deeper about caring for someone else and ministering to them than there is in begging to be heard and ministered to yourself. And so life is a repetitive struggle between the two.  We want to be the focus, to be served, for others to make us happy.  And yet we cannot.  We can not make ourselves happy, or whole, or even healed.  Fortunately we also feel this tug towards others, and in that longing is joy.

“It is in giving that we receive.” (St. Francis of Assisi) We are called to serve, to minister to each other, to love each other.


Matt Maher says it well in this song that means so much to me:

(It became our theme song in Haiti, and Sarah sang it at the end of the funeral)


It’s waiting for you, knocking at your door

In the moment of truth when your heart hits the floor

And you’re on your knees

And love will hold us together Make us a shelter to weather the storm

And I’ll be my brother’s keeper

So the whole world would know that we’re not alone

This is the first day of the rest of your life

‘Cause even in the dark you can still see the light

It’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright


At “the end of the day,” this becomes the manifestation of His love.  We take on a servant’s heart, and others see a change in the way we live our lives.  Everyone encountered becomes the living Christ.

Betty and Little Girl

She Wasn’t Being Rude



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Klein Family Mission Trip T-Shirt Logo, Haiti 2012

“but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

Much Love

Categories: post - meaningful/life lesson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

May 17 – Walking to Lourdes

I found myself with a case of the grade-school giggles as I left the cafe.  Not long ago, an episode like this would have affected me greatly, I would have been indignant, even angry, certainly not willing to donate another hour of precious time from today to go to the café owner’s bank.  But, as I’ve said numerous times, “It’s the Camino.”  And not only the Camino de Santiago, but when we see any journey we embark on as a “camino,” we begin to visualize every step of the trip as providence.  This event was foreseen, permitted, and if I view it in the “camino” context, one (or both) of us will grow.  Every person we encounter becomes important.  Important because they were placed in my path today for a reason, or perhaps I was placed in their path for a reason.  To become upset at events that are beyond my control, is not only unproductive, but even disrespectful.  This man clearly needed this 12E for my meal, the driver who cut me off in traffic is upset with her husband, and the client who shouts at me has a child at home who is very sick.  The man crying in the pew next to me held his mother last night as she died, the bank teller who snaps at me has a father with alzheimer’s, and my child who lashes out is struggling with their sexuality.  My neighbor who shouts at my dog for barking just got fired, and the woman inexcusably texting as she drives just found out that her biopsy was cancerous.


I laughed because I knew Gilles would give me a funny story to talk about, because his bank was still open, and from relief that no one was entering any of the stop signs that he flown through.  I laughed at my being in France walking to Lourdes, when my staff at work was screaming at being too busy, and my family was feeding the dogs and scooping the litter box.  I am so fortunate and so blessed, despite it all.  I refuse to be upset about a passport, a missed flight, a silly credit-card without a microchip, or someone who may be over-reacting.

Here for a Reason

Here for a Reason

And so “The Camino” becomes a new outlook on life, a new perspective.  Everyone is “here for a reason.”  When I screech to a stop because someone enters a crosswalk, they are no longer some random pedestrian who had inconvenienced me.  He’s a man home from Iraq, going to the beach with his son for the first time in two years.

And so I walked towards Lourdes, and became very, very fatigued.  Although the sun was still quite hot, it was almost 8 pm, and I’d left 13 hours ago.  I welcomed the shade as I traveled past Chemin de Croix and continued on “Route de la Foret,” a magnificent trail of rolling hills through the forest.  I thought about lots of stuff.  I always do.  The week was now taking its emotional toll.  I was hungry again, exhausted, wishing I wasn’t alone, and beginning to wonder why I do this to myself.

So why was I here on this day?  Why this place?  Lourdes is all about Mary.  If you don’t understand the relationship some Christians have with Mary, I’m not sure I can explain it well in a few sentences.  Perhaps it’s like our relationship with Jesus Himself.  Some people believe, and some people don’t.  Scripture affirms how incredible the entire story is, even two-thousand years ago, even to the eye witnesses who were telling the story, and leading worship.

     “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”       1 Corinthians 1:18 (NRSV)

The first “worship-leader” was Mary, who led so many to her son.  And so I have been pulled to Lourdes, where Mary appeared to poor, ignorant Bernadette so long ago, and where hundreds of thousands of faithful continue to also be pulled for the miracle that is here.  You see it’s not the soil, or the miraculous water, or even the grotto itself.  It’s the faith that they represent that can move mountains.  We come to Mary to pray that she help us. Help us to understand, to have strength, to carry on.  We know that she knows our pain.  My pain.  She lost her son also.  Her son was also killed in the prime of His life.  His blood and water flowed upon her from the cross. He looked down from that cross and told John that she was his mother now.  She was, of course, mother to all of us after that perfect sacrifice on the cross – the cross that represents love itself to His followers.  So yes, just as Christ humbled himself to us and felt the pain of our own humanity, Mary knows the sufferings of loss.


She is a disciple of the Lord, the first and best disciple, but one who surely struggled to understand him, just as we do.  She is a member of the “communion of saints,” helping bring us to her son, not someone who stands between us.

On a personal note, may I ask you to pray for me?  Was it okay to ask my dear mother on her deathbed to ask God to guide me when she was there with him?

And so that’s why its okay to ask Mary to pray for us.  To intercede on our behalf.  Think she does?  Think she can?  I would never have told my mother “No” to anything she asked me for.  And Jesus certainly loves His mother as much as I do mine, and likely considers her requests highly.  (Remember Cana?)

And we call all of those believers who have gone before us, praying with and for us, the “communion of saints.” They are not up there somewhere, praying for us, rather they are with us here, constantly, as part of “The Kingdom of God.”  So this “Kingdom of God” is not just somewhere we go “as a reward for being good” when we die.  No, it’s something we begin now, a choice we make everyday, here and now, as believers, to be the Kingdom of God, by choosing to live our lives the way Jesus asks.

So these were my contemplations as I stumbled through the wood.  The caffeine had long since worn off and I was struggling a bit to keep any pace at all.  This was a rare occasion where I reached for my music playlist for something to keep my morale and my pace going.  I had downloaded some songs that I hadn’t heard since grade-school at St. Francis Xavier, and had resisted the temptation to listen to them until now.  We just don’t sing them anymore, but seem pretty appropriate now:

Immaculate Mary.  Hail, Holy Queen (Oh Maria).  And of course Ave Maria.  A contemporary song by Matt Maher called Great Things, and a second, contemporary arrangement of Immaculate Mary by Josh Blakesly and sung by our own Sarah Kroger.


One last (very long) hill, and I was at last out of the forest, and onto the road.  I had placed a hiking headlight on, and must have appeared to cars passing by like Martin Sheen in The Way, dragging each foot forward at the end of his long hiking day on Camino. I was only about 2K from the shrine now, and I changed to Gregorian Chant music that I had downloaded in the 80s when it was popular, and quickly was pulled into a very mysterious place.

It was well after 10pm, I was tired and emotional, and after a few minutes of listening, I pulled out my earbuds for some silence.

Then I felt it, and heard it, and as I began to almost run towards, I began to see the flicker of the thousands of candles.  If you’ve not been to Lourdes, there are loudspeakers positioned over a kilometer from the cathedral, which is constructed over the grotto.  During the evening procession, tens of thousands from hundreds of countries, each hold a candle and walk in procession towards the shrine with “Our Lady of Lourdes Hymn” playing constantly, progressing through many languages.  Not surprisingly, as the pilgrims heard their own native tongue sing the “Ave Maria,” they would become very emotional.

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As it turns out, in addition to the pilgrims, this weekend also would be “military weekend.”  Over 900 countries were represented here, marching in their finest, with their chaplains and military brass. Pretty moving to see hundreds of thousands of troops with their brothers and sisters from countries who may not be politically friendly towards each other, kneeling together, or holding hands in prayer. There is hope indeed.

Very tired, more tomorrow.

Much Love.


Categories: hotel - wifi, mobile post, post - beautiful/visual, post - meaningful/life lesson, post - religious/spiritual | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

May 16, A Visit With Father Pierre


Ok, the title of today’s post is a little snarky, or at least facetious.  There was no “visit” with Fr. Pierre.

I had so been looking forward to staying there at his place because of such positive write-ups there have been on the Camino-forums.  Pierre Sallenave is the Vicar of a small but magnificent church in Arudy, France.  As part of the Church property he runs an albergue and provides breakfast, and also (sometimes) an evening meal. The fee is “donativo,” or “whatever you can afford.”  Some give well in excess of 20E, and likely some give nothing.  I generally like these places the best, because there just seems to be alot of commaderie.  Everyone pitches in to prepare ingredients for a simple meal, cook, serve, and then clean up.  There tends to be alot of sharing and when at a church there would normally be quite a prayerful-ness associated with the entire experience…at least some form of benediction service, possibly even Mass.

I entered Arudy after about 8 hours of hiking and had no idea where in the town I was going.  As I was walking along one of the village roads, someone apparently spied the scallop shells tied to and clapping against my pack and without my asking, told me I must go to “Pierre,” and directed me another kilometer down a street, then gauche (left) and to look for the church.  This heightened my expectations, with a local reaching out to a complete stranger to tell them they just “had to” go find “Pierre.”


As I entered, I did as I always had when I entered each village church I had encountered, a private ritual with Cullen’s box.  Then I kneeled for a while to have a little chat.  After a few minutes, I was startled by the voice of an elderly woman, who had apparently been watching for a while.  She, of course, told me where “Pierre” lived.  I use quotation marks here, because no-one seemed to call him “Father Pierre,” simply “Pierre.”

I knocked on the inauspicious door, adorned only by the scallop shell attached to the mantle.  A smiling face swung the door open, and said something to me in French.  When I replied with my now standard mantra, “Désolé, je ne parle français,” loosely translated as “I have no idea what you just said to me,” the woman standing by him simply smiled, gave me a hug and told me, “We’ve been waiting for you.”  Of course I flashed back to the scene in “The Way,” movie, where Tom (Martin Sheen) receives the identical greeting upon stumbling into an albergue as they’re having dinner.

But that would be the only exchange where I would feel very “engaged.”

After a (becoming a theme) much-needed shower, I washed my clothes and hung them to dry, and joined the others in the kitchen and dining room where dinner was being prepared.  Nine other pilgrims would be staying here, and we all were soon slicing, dicing and braising for the soup.  I sliced the bread and set the table and was then motioned to sit and start enjoying the wine, which, of course I complied with.  But basically, I was beginning to feel “in the way,” and just not really part of the group.  This certainly was not, in any way, anyone’s fault other than my own.  I just don’t speak ANY French, and with the exception of a Belgian couple (she had been the woman earlier next to Pierre), who knew a small spattering of English words, we just could not communicate well.

I felt like I was at a tennis match watching the words go back and forth between them, but they were, in fact, just going past me.  I felt like the TV was on some Spanish language station with some very entertaining show (hmm, like Sábado Gigante here in Florida), where the foreign words were flying, and everyone was so engaged, and thought it was so funny and … I didn’t.  A couple of times she would try to translate, and I would laugh in what I thought was a similar way that they had, but I had no idea what even she was saying, or if I did, why it was funny. So eventually (no exaggeration, two hours) of this, I did what is specifically forbidden at home.  I pulled out my cell phone to check to see if I had gotten any texts (on my whatsapp).  No.

For the first time (!) I was thrilled when the wine finally gave out and people started getting up.  I raced to the kitchen so I could feel like I was contributing.  I rinsed the plates and handed them to Francois to place in the dish-washer, and then scrubbed all the pots.  They were all still standing around talking, but now I didn’t feel so guilty slipping away.  I knew I needed to get into bed early, because tomorrow was going to be long and grueling.  I was told that breakfast was at 7:30, and although I had wanted to be on the road by then, was a bit relieved that I had an excuse for another hour of sleep.  Getting ready for bed, I was the only one in the “bed-room,” and had quite a conversation with the “house-cat.”  Haha, I talked more to the dumb cat that I had all week!


I opened the door to the dining room at 7:25 to find their plates empty, and everyone laughing; someone said something about my sleeping late.  I genuinely joined in the laughter this time.

We would not see each other again, because like everyone else I would encounter, they were walking west to Santiago, and I would continue to the east.  Having just completed the segment I would encounter today, they suggested my plans to Betharram were definitely a bit too ambitious.  Pointing to a tiny village called Asom on a map, they seemed to think this would be a more logical stopping point for tonight, roughly splitting the two remaining days to Lourdes more equally.  As always, I planned to go as far as the “Spirit” moved me…




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May 14 St. Jean-le-Vieux to Ordiarp to Mauleon-Licharre



Second day hiking the GR78

Look at the mileage count on today’s (May 14) MapMyHike App, it’s nothing heroic, it’s actually embarrassing.  A guidebook for the GR78 apparently doesn’t exist in English, so I splurged and prepaid for a small data plan – hope it is big enough.  Anyway my stoopid GPS lost signal in the mountains (what’s the point, right?), so I walked about an extra ten miles.  This was supposed to have been an easy day so I had planned to go well past Mauleon to get a bit ahead, in case there was a problem later.  Oh well, I’ve done this enough days over the past two years that this stuff just kind-of happens.  No worries.  It’s the Camino, the definition of the unexpected, and God’s providence.  But it was still a “little frustrating!”

The day also began on an embarrassing note.  Reminiscent of Dr. Thomas Avery (Martin Sheen) in “The Way,” we bolted out of the Alberge bright and early, but in the wrong direction. Having just posed with Monsieur Briseteia for a farewell photo, he was watching closely, and redirected.

We got started just in time for a sheep crossing. The shepherd and the dogs are just such an impressive team with their sheep. Every part of the body knows it’s role, does it without hesitation, and without complaining. Lots to learn here.


Lost without a shepherd

Lost without a shepherd

Although I took a wrong turn or two, today was just simply an incredible day. As I’m inclined to say it’s not merely the destination, it’s the journey. Why be bothered with frustration from losing my GPS navigation signal; the wasted hour allowed me more time with my son and my God. Sixty degrees ish, sunny, and the most incredible view of the Pyrenees you can imagine. I took a few pictures, but most are for my son and me. Just us.

After about six hours of the most challenging hiking I’ve encountered (by far exceeding last year, except that one day), I was really pooped. I truly needed to stop about every 20 meters to catch my breath, regroup, and focus my motivation. I kept saying, “Give me strength, focus, energy, even some kind of sign.” Almost immediately, over my head, as quick as a wink, a deer jumped across the road. I reached for my camera, and he was gone. Something else for “just us.”

A driver on the road saw I was struggling and asked ( I assume) if I’d like a ride to wherever I was going. Without hesitation, I said “Oui! S’ie vou plais!” But then, as he opened the door, for some reason, I declined and apologetically thanked him, “merci boucou!” Yes, I would do this myself, and then as if walking on air, I seemed to float to the hotel (yes, I splurged tonight, a real hotel!)

I realize it’s just my second day. But last year I almost had to quit on my third day because my knees were shot. Thanks for all your love, support, and prayers.
That’s all the light stuff. If that’s all you’re here for, thanks for dropping by.
More tomorrow! A little preaching after these pictures…

GR78 3GR78 near Mauleon

One of us has to move! Charolais near Mauleon

One of us has to move!
Charolais near Mauleon

Charolais in the way!

Charolais in the way!

GR78 Ordiarp 2

When I saw the sheep and their shepherd, I just couldn’t resist the temptation, and it’s been bothering me a lot since Easter Sunday, when I read someone’s Facebook post.

A friend of my daughter posted, on Easter Sunday, that ” We are not sheep, so we are in no need of a shepherd.” That was breathtaking to me but I crumbled to the floor that it got hundreds of likes, and lots of LOLs. Really?

I do realize that, over the past couple of years, my FB posts, and certainly my blog writings are faith centered. I get it. And I’ve lost a lot of followers, and lots of “friends” because of this. Fair enough. I’m a big boy, and I’ve gotten pretty thick skin after 50 years. But I do find both of these facts so very depressing.

You see, this person that wrote and shared such a popular, funny post also lost a son in a recent unlikely, unbelievable accident. The details or location aren’t so important. My daughter knows this man, who’s about my age, because she knew his son. I didn’t know either one.

What I do know is this. Jeshua ben Joseph truly lived. He is an indisputable historical figure. All three monotheistic religions agree. The other two hold him us a a great man, a wonderful philosopher. He said some of the most mind shattering things for the time. Including lots of clearly metaphorical references to a shepherd and his sheep. I’m no theologian, or bible scholar, I’ll insert the verses later. Jesus also claimed to be the messiah, and the son of God. This is also irrefutable. And all of his apostles (except John), and hundreds of other eye witnesses that knew Jesus were killed because NONE of them would retract or change their story, particularly about having seen Him after the resurrection, and then He disappeared before their eyes.

C.S. Lewis made famous the “liar, lunatic, or lord” argument. Jesus was one of these, and clearly not such a “great man” if liar or lunatic.

What we do with our faith when challenged with tragedy and crisis is unpredictable. It’s all just a bunch of words until we confront such a crisis. Our “profession of faith” is just a bunch of words unless we really think about them. And if we don’t agree, it’s our obligation to dig deeper to discover why not, or have an epiphany to prepare us for the unthinkable. We will stand before our God, perhaps tomorrow. Will He even know you? “He knows his sheep, and they know Him.”
GR78 Ordiarp 1

Categories: hotel - wifi, post - beautiful/visual, post - funny/humerois, post - meaningful/life lesson, post - religious/spiritual, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scallop Shells


I was caught off guard when a reader asked me about the significance of the scallop shell.  I was a bit embarrassed when I thought about this.   I’d never really thought much about the diversity of readers here. I’ve referenced the yellow arrow pointing the way along the route, however, at least as often, is the image of the scallop shell – most typically as a tile attached to one of the waymarkers along the road, or embedded as a brass plate into the surface of city sidewalks.

When you’re on TV or radio, or simply cutting a youtube video, you don’t see the faces.  You are speaking to an audience of one – the microphone.  Likewise, on a blog like this, I think about the four WordPress members that check-in after some of the posts, my wife, and maybe (hopefully) someday my kids when they are curious about what makes the old man tick.

My curiosity having been piqued, I dug into the administrative section of WordPress, and discovered over 500 people regularly following, and just over 7000 total search hits so far.  Hence my embarassment at thinking I was a ‘child singing a Christmas carol for his family.’  Avoiding eye contact, they would giggle, “That’s nice.”  So I’m certainly humbled to realize the outpouring of interest in my journey and my son.  I also wish I hadn’t been in such a weary hurry on my first dozen posts, trying to text my story on my phone, when I read back and see all of the (often comical) typos.  Anyway, feel free to comment – please do!  I realize you must jump through hoops, or even join WordPress to comment, but I would appreciate it.

I had become so accustomed to seeing the scallop shell, the “Image of Santiago;” it had been so ingrained in what I saw everywhere – now that I’m home, I really miss it!


A few years ago, I would have had no clue about symbolism surrounding the scallop shell either.  I took for granted all of my readers would also know those things I had learned.  In my most recent post, I mentioned in passing the tapping of the scallop shells against the small wooden box attached to the outside of my pack as I walked down the streets of Santiago, as well as all the challenging trails and paths up and down the mountains on this incredible journey.

The scallop shell has long been associated with St. James, as well as Santiago. The scallop industry is a way of life on the North West coast of Spain, and all of Galacia, for that matter, and has been for thousands of years.

The scallop shell holds symbolism for Christianity itself.  Used in those waters to scoop water to pour over the head during Christening, the shell represents baptismal renewal, the rebirth after washing away the sins.  Although my own church uses immersion for the sacrament of adult baptism, Father Tony does use a scallop shell to trickle a stream of the purifying water over an the head of an infant.  Indeed, an image of this shell is seen all over town on cars, representing well the Holy Name of Jesus Parish as her logo.  Another “coincidence” (remember, there’s no such thing!) is that the symbol of my own faith community is the same as the Camino.

HNJ logo

The scallop shell is said to be a metaphor on the Camino, its lines representing the different routes pilgrims traveled from all over the world, all walking trails leading to one point: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.  Medieval pilgrims often wore a scallop shell attached to their cloaks or hats during their journey to Santiago. More than being just a symbol or a pilgrim badge, the scallop shells also had a practical purpose: they were a handy and light replacement for a bowl so the pilgrims could use them to hold their food and drink on their long journey. Pilgrims would also be given food at churches and other establishments, and a scallop shell scoop was the measure for the food they would be donated. Since the scallop is native to the coast of Galicia, the shell also became a memento, a physical proof of having completed the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims today traditionally attach a shell to the outside of their rucksack as a statement of their faith, and participants on the pilgrimage. I had attached two, one on each side, as I left St. Jean Pied de Port, France, over 500 miles ago.

behindme2 behindme3 behindme4 behindme1

I knew viscerally that although I was doing the walking, that many were along with me.  And I will return soon to those I left behind.  My next post will be my final one on this blog, and I’ll say a few things regarding “those that went with me.”

Traditionally, when we return home, we bring special gifts to our loved ones.  But this was not a business trip, with stuffed animals for all the kids, or a vacation with T-shirts for everyone.  Having those things would be worse than nothing at all – they would trivialize this journey.

What would be an appropriate gift that others could hold, to memorialize the Camino de Santiago?

The pictures show that the tapping of the “shells against the small wooden box” could not be those I attached to the outside of my pack for Cullen and me.  It was the others, in the outer pocket with the box, that had travelled these miles with us.  Sharon and I each carried these scallop shells on this journey; they symbolize those at home, who walk with us.  As we have now finished this part of our Camino, we have presented each member of our family one of these treasures that we carried for them.  Much Love.



Categories: post - meaningful/life lesson, post - religious/spiritual | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Botofumiero Link

This is just a quickie, with a few pictures, and a LINK (press the colored letters) to the 5 minute video Sharon made of the Botofumiero that I had to post on FB, since I can’t post a video here on WP unless I pay for a premium membership, which, I’m probably not going to do this close to the end of my journey.  Here’s a shorter video LINK that I shot, but it’s shorter, because my phone memory is all used up!  Can’t imagine why – 42 videos, and over 2000 pictures!




Of course, we would see Dirk among the thousand pilgrims in the Cathedral!


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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Mama Needs Coffee

by Jenny Uebbing

Mama Needs Coffee

God | Family | Coffee | Books | Gilmore Girls | Harry Potter | Photography | Music

Put that in your theological pipe and smoke it...

Jonathan's Blog

Reflections on the glory of God

Some Days in My Lives

Loving Pets and Their People

trekker2013's Blog

The greatest site in all the land!

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said


“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Movin' it with Michelle

Running, Recipes, and Real life adventures!

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

gidivet camino

learning the unforced rhythms of grace

The Cereal Bowl

Taking life one spoonful at a time

St. Val the Eccentric

Contemplative musings on life and faith from a creative original


Improving my love of life.... through loving God, self and others

Thinking Out Loud

Children Matter


This site is the cat’s pajamas

Positively Sober

I'm just a girl from Boston living with AIDS and addiction. Two diseases, one slogan: Silence = death.

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