The Long Road
Six years ago I first read about the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage to the shrine of the Apostle James, and instantly I knew I had to do this and that I had to walk from door to door. Just moments later my rational mind intervened and decided that this was a crazy stupid thing to do for someone without religious affiliation, or physical training. I ignored the idea for weeks and when it wouldn’t be ignored anymore I placed restrictions and conditions on it that made it ever more complex and improbably that I would go until one day, in a rare moment of clarity, I realized; I was either going to do it or not; but I was not going to keep postponing and if-ing this wish. Three weeks later, still disbelieving my audacity, I was on a train to Burgos, 500km away from Santiago de Compostela. A day later I had become a pilgrim and was on the way.
Four years and four months ago, in the municipal albergue in Villafranca del Bierzo, I woke up from a dream that saw my mother and I walking the Camino. It was one of those dreams that felt so real that I could taste it. Like the original wish it wouldn’t let go. Upon my return I told my mother, who said that of course she would share the way with me. I suspect that a large part of her motivation was her relief and gratitude for the joy and freedom with which I returned.
For the following years we kept discussing the idea, through all the stages of her physical illness, through all the stages of my return to mental health. The idea morphed and changed, until, at the very end, she confessed, almost apologized, that the thing that was most important to her was to spend time with the people she loved and to share in their lives. She knew we wouldn’t be going on pilgrimage together anymore, though it pained her to admit it.
I’ve talked before about how her passing confronted me with the finality and abruptness of life. It’s really driven home the point that we can’t put off our lives and heart wishes without risking the regret of having lost our chance. Over the last year, crystalized in the crucible of loss, I realized that I am and always have been on the way.
It’s time to put my boots back on. It’s time to walk again, with the grace of a sound mind and a strong body.
My mom was a marathon runner. She ran with determination and tenacity.
I’m no runner, but I am determined. And while she will not be with me physically, she will be with me in spirit.
My plan is to leave in mid-March, from Stuttgart. It will take me round about three to four months to reach Santiago, a distance of around 2800km. While there is nothing that will make the actual walking any easier, there are other parts where I can receive support. Last time on the Camino I learned that the way gives you what you need, if you can find the trust to recognized it. Well, following the adage of helping the way help me, I’m going to put out here a request for the things I need support with:
1) I would actually like to walk this way commemorating my mother and creating something that helps others struggling with tough times. I would appreciate help brainstorming ideas for what this could look like.
2) There is a small list of things that I still need and would be grateful to receive, as a birthday gift, or for other occasions. If you would like to give something I’d be happy to share that list with you.
3) I also have a big question mark on the financial side of making the way happen especially as I do not see myself working (much) while traveling. It’s not going to be overly much, but I would like ideas about how to raise the money. Of course if you feel inclined to just write a check, or add to the Camino fund I will gratefully receive that too
Ultreia et Suseia // onwards and upwards.