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Archive for December, 2012

Haven’t written a word here since September 18, a week after returning from walking 110k on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Thought I was finished with this blog, the final post about those 5 days signifying ‘it’s a wrap’. I was wrong.

Tonight, with only a few hours left on this year, I realized something, with a little help from my friends – always. My Camino was this entire year. It didn’t end in Spain. It ends tonight at midnight. And tomorrow, new day, new Camino.

I suppose everyone feels compelled to capture the waning year, summarize the ever-fluid thing we call life, make meaning out of it, look back fondly or with regret or with pain or with love. Kiss it goodbye and linger or get racing to the new year, all that potentiality waiting to be fulfilled. Make a new plan. Dance with possibility.

For me, the year was all journey – finding my way and walking the Way, stumbling hundreds of times and going on. The Camino that began well before Spain, and continued well after. ultreya

Move forward. Ultreya, my word for the year – a deeply compelling pilgrim word of encouragement on the Camino meaning, depending on translation, onward, move forward with courage, walk with grace and appreciate everything. Without question, this strong beautiful word sustained me through pain and near-defeat on the Camino.

It also, I realize now, has fueled me, lifted me, guided me and been at the core of everything I’ve done this year – before and after Spain – a time of change, growth, spiritual and physical preparation, and rediscovering purpose, passion and love. My gratefulness is boundless and has become my prayer.

I’ve written thousands of words here about the steps I took before taking those first steps on the sacred trail in Spain. I had some awareness that what was happening was transformative, a ‘journey before the journey’. I see now it was all one. Everything that happened, every experience, every new ‘yes’ created a personal river of motion and momentum that helped me ‘wash my soul and get it clean‘. When I walked those many hours mostly in silence except for the daily music that is the Camino, I simply had more time to absorb and think about what had happened and about the way forward.

And while that was partly about self-discovery, it was also very much about letting go of self, ego, mind traps, historical narratives and constraining beliefs and giving over. I am here. Now. I am here to do one thing – live love. I can be of service in this way. And then the ‘I’ went away altogether. Another pilgrim wrote it best: “One commentator on the Camino has said that a pilgrimage should be considered a success if the pilgrim meets him or herself on the way. For me the high points were when I lost myself.”

Coming home from Spain and to this extended Camino…so much fullness.

I’m stronger – in all ways. But yes, physically, for sure – it’s so much easier to move forward, here or on the trail, if you’re strong. So I’ve continued with Stefan and the gym and it’s as tough and challenging and wonderful as ever! A few weeks ago, I dead-lifted 155 lbs – 30 more than before I went to Spain. My knee still complains from time to time but right now we’re good – and I love the focus and mind-emptying power of lifting. I recently met a woman at a party, same age as me with 60 a couple of months away, who had just dead-lifted 230 lbs!! So I have another goal. (though I now sort of wish Stefan didn’t read this blog 🙂

I have found my footing in my new role at my beloved Donkey Sanctuary.  I already knew this was the right place for me, the right ‘last job’. Now I know the people there better and am feeling so lucky to be doing work that’s important with people I have come to care about deeply. We have worked hard and navigated some difficult losses together – bonds have been formed. Apollo_head

I have taken enormous comfort in my Quaker roots – finding the still, powerful embrace of silent meditation to be quite a lovely antidote to the noisy world we live in. And as someone who would not be called an introvert (though I’m actually shyer than some might think), this is a good thing. Silence has much to tell us. The Camino taught me that as I walked virtually alone most days, something I think I feared before that. I’ve also opened up to the possibility of God – the spark and presence of divinity in all of us, all things. I think I had many years of resistance to the word and concept of God – too many associations with organized religion that didn’t sit well with me. On the Camino – and since – I have found a new openness to that larger idea, to a greater connectivity among all beings, and to the notion of perfection.

I took a chance on love again. And though it didn’t stay, I am ever grateful for always. After my marriage ended, I walled up my heart. I didn’t mean to but that’s what happened. The Camino – this whole year of it and on the Way – took every brick away. How love may be expressed..in what form, so to speak, is not for me to say or even seek. It is all about simply being open to possibility. That’s a gigantic gift.

The year of the Camino – this ultreya experience – I am indebted to many for so much of it. Thank you to my exquisite, perfect daughter – light of my life – for every single thing about you and to her loving partner whom I so adore. Thank you to my brother and sister-in-law and all my family who are simply always there, with love. And to my irreplaceable close friends – you know who you are – my life is a thousand times bigger – and better – with you in it. And to the Camino angels who gave me so many yellow arrows before I ever reached Spain. And to Stefan for his knowledge and faith. And to many others who have peeked into this diary and spoken encouraging words and also expressed interest in the Camino. I’m here – always – to talk Camino with anyone who would like to.

And so guess what? This Camino is done and dusted. But another one is in the offing – yes, in life, but also in Spain. I want to go back. I need to go back. I feel a pull that’s beyond strong to walk more steps on the Way, and so I’m starting to plan. And for this I need a new word for the year.

I believe that word is Faith.

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