And so it begins. My umpteenth walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am mentally ready but physically not where I need to be to effortlessly walk 10 miles a day. But prep time is up! Off I go!
This section of the path from Roncesvalles to Burgos is where I walked the first time in 1997. Fairly young. Newly married. Walking to celebrate the transition from one job to another and a new chapter in my life. It was hard! But it was great! My Camino ended early that year due to plantar fasciitis. But not before I had one of the most humbling experiences of my life: a volunteer at the refugio where we were staying the last day saw the pain I was in and got a tub of water for me to soak my feet and massaged them. It is hard to describe the kindness and humility of a person who washes and massages a stranger’s feet. But you never forget it.
I walked this section again in 2012 shortly after my beloved dog and soul mate, Gunny, died. I didn’t think I could walk away my grief but I did think it would help. I remember thinking on the last day of my walk in Navarra that I should not go back to work. Just call and quit and walk another month until I got to Santiago if that would fix me. But I did not believe that even that would do it. I was at the bottom of a well with no ability to ascend. I went home just as grief stricken as when I arrived and I stayed that way for well, a very long time.
A year or two later, I came back with Gunny’s ashes in my backpack and spread them in various spots that I thought he would enjoy, like a wheat field. The only thing he might have loved more than bread was me. And I am not totally sure about that. But I thought I should give him the chance to become a baguette. He got a kick out of that.
The following year I brought his brother Bacchus’ ashes to the same places. They were always together in life so it seemed the fitting thing to do to honor their abiding love for each other.
Then three years ago we brought our elderly rescue dog, Dino, to this section of the path to walk. It was mesmerizing to watch him literally transform as he walked. I talked to him a lot about letting go of the past and embracing his new life, and he really did. He even looked physically different after 10 days. He continues to spiritually and emotionally blossom still today, despite illness, and it was all set in motion by a walk on the Camino.
Dino is the real teacher here.
- You are never too old to let go of the the things that do not serve you. You just have to decide to do it. Then you can have the life that is waiting for you.
- Life is so full of unexpected surprises. Dino was neglected, abused, and abandoned – and then suddenly he was on a plane to Spain to go to one of the most sacred and magical places on the planet with people who loved him. Like many who walk the Camino – including me these days – he was old and overweight and out of shape, but he walked with a happy heart anyway, relishing the sights and especially the smells.
So I embark on my journey this time hoping to emulate Dino. He unburdened himself. Dino found his joy at this very spot. I am hoping to rediscover mine after a very tough year.
I know without a doubt that Gunny will join me again on my walk and is looking forward to my laughter rather than my tears. Me too! I will keep you posted on how it goes. Wish me luck to avoid blisters and the opportunity to laugh a lot!