(Please read Part I first.)
The Camino: From Boston on September 23, 2017, six weeks before my 71st birthday, we flew American Airlines flight 8640 to Madrid, then took a train to Sarria, our chosen starting point. There was a little awkwardness between us, as we each anticipated the beginning of our pilgrimage the next morning.
Then, it started, my Camino. I left a little before my friends and, at one of the many local shops, selected my walking stick, proud to have it, a symbol of this momentous walk. I began to walk, uphill on cobblestones and out of the village into the countryside. The weather was perfect, as expected for this time of year. The path was well marked with the iconic scallop shells and yellow arrows. Dozens of others walked the path, as well, most of them faster than me, many walking with a buddy. There was a wonderful feeling of camaraderie among us. There were many hills and, whenever I began to feel a little out of breath, I simply stopped, moved over to the side of the road, allowing other pilgrims to pass. Often, someone would stop and inquire about my well-being, which I appreciated.
Along the way, I connected with a young German woman walking at my pace, Lenke. We began to walk together, enjoying our conversation, as well as the comfortable silences, and ended up staying at the same excellent hostel that night, for 10€ each. We had walked from 7:00 am until about 3:00 pm, with a stop for lunch. At the end of the day, it felt so good to take that 20-pound pack off my back! And, I felt so proud of myself for doing it on my own, for carrying my own pack, making a new friend, and bravely choosing a place for the night.
The next day was similar, walking again with Lenke and sharing another hostel that night. The third day Lenke moved ahead of me and I stayed in a private room in a small hotel for 20€, still a good deal, as long as I could forget the more than thousand dollars that I had spent for the fine hotels where I was not sleeping!
This continued for about a week, with me sending a brief message at the end of each day to my three friends to let them know I was safe, though not in luxury. Then, I was ready to rejoin them, recognizing that I expected to be at their planned location by the end of the next day. I sent a text to them to let them know that I would meet them and spend the next week with them.
Here comes the shock: one of them texted me to let me know they did not want me to join them! They were so unhappy with my decision to walk on my own that they did not want to spend the rest of the time with me. This was women who had been my friends for 35 years!
I cannot begin to express the mix of feelings I experienced. Not anger, but confusion, sadness, and disappointment. I’d been feeling such a high, such joy at this journey, now confounded by this. A single incident later that day helped immensely to reduce the negativity I was feeling. My husband, who did not use email at that time, happened to choose that day to send me an email love letter, expressing his deep love and appreciation for me. He will never know how much that meant to me, receiving it right after being rejected by my friends. I personally do not believe in coincidences.
I continued to walk on my own, crossing paths with them during the next week. Except for the one who had texted me, the other two women approached me with kind words, inviting me to have lunch or coffee with them along the way. These two have also continued to reach out to me occasionally, after our return home.
I regained the joy of walking the Camino and experiencing the buzz of finding my own place each night, frequently walking with others and continuing to stop when I needed to catch my breath. If I had known in advance the outcome, the rejection I would experience, would I have made a different decision about walking on my own? No. This is the way I wanted to walk my Camino.
Postscript: As background information, we four had met in the 80’s while working at a teaching hospital in Pennsylvania: one, a physician doing her residency, two as social workers, and me as an ultrasound technician, working with cardiovascular surgeons. Thirty years later, we had become a rheumatologist, an Episcopal priest, a therapist, and me, a special-ed teacher, teaching algebra to high school students with dyslexia. The jobs were not the same, but all of us remained in helping professions.
Three months after the Camino, in a tap-dancing class, I experienced a heart attack, followed a week later by heart surgery, a triple bypass. During that week between my heart attack and surgery, I received a call from the friend who had texted me on the Camino, assuring me of her love. I asked for her reason for shutting me out, but her response did not help me to understand. I still do not understand.
I have wondered many times how close I was to this heart attack while walking the Camino, where I would have been a long way from effective medical care. Again, I don’t believe in coincidence. I do believe in blessings.
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6 thoughts on “Walking the Camino, Part II”
Thank you Carole for this extraordinary account of your sacred walk. How anyone could intentionally desecrate it is beyond my understanding.
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Barrie, I have tried and I don’t understand either.
Well done!-there are different personalities-sometimes it’s difficult to understand at the time-it’s usually much later ❤️
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Well, it is much later and I still don’t understand.
Wow-wow-Wow All I can say is Wow. You are braver than me, I think i would have gone with the friends.
However, this is a wonderful story. Thank you
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You know, it doesn’t feel like bravery to me. When something pulls at you, you have to do it.