The Alchemy of Pilgrimage: Your Heroine’s Journey on the Camino de Santiago
Astorga – Finisterra, Spain | October 1-22, 2017
An invitation. Join me for this special initiation journey, a Heroine’s Rite of Passage on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail this October. This unique combination of retreat and walking pilgrimage has been crafted intentionally to deepen the pilgrim’s experience on the Camino. We will blend sacred artisan traditions, creativity, writing, ritual, and ceremony to prepare us for the walking portion of our journey.
Flores del Camino, Castillo de los Polvazares, Camino de Santiago
Our four-day retreat begins at the beautiful Flores del Camino country home in the village of Castrillo de los Polvazares with Basia and Bertrand as our hosts. Then we will put our feet on the ancient pilgrimage road, traveling the Camino Frances. Your journey will be cared for by two experienced guides, knowledgeable at walking the Camino, and will offer support for your unique inner and outer journey. When we arrive in Santiago de Compostela, we will spend two nights to celebrate, explore this fascinating medieval city, and rest. Then we begin the last leg of our journey, departing from Santiago, heading westward again, but this time to follow the Path of The Sun, an ancient Celtic route. We will make our way to the end of the land, Finisterra, where we will watch the sun disappear into the sea. Here, our ending becomes a new beginning.
The last day to sign up is Wednesday, October 6th. If you feel called, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange to talk more in depth. This intimate group quest is limited to a small number of women. The details of the journey are listed on the website, www.soulfulroad.com.
O mother of the sea
lend me a wave that is strong and true
to carry me from this Age which unbinds me.
I do not need a ship, mother,
but make it a buoyant swell
to beat me up and float me on the sea’s dreaming
then beach me on some lighter shore.
When I land there, give me warp and weft again,
an an urchin quill to remind me
how that prettiest barb can lodge under your skin
and leave you undone.
Only lend me a loom and I will
take up the threads of this unravelled life.
I will weave a braid from three strands of seaweed.
I will wind it three times around my finger.
I will dig my salt-encrusted hands into the soil
and wed myself to the thirsty brown roots of a new beginning.
– Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted
* When endings become new beginnings …
It seems my fourteen year relationship with the Camino de Santiago as both pilgrim and care-giver; self-inquiry, vision quest and rite-of-passage work was an apprenticeship of sorts. I received much from this long, strange and beautiful Road. On this last journey, which I wrote about in my last post, I came to the understanding that I had finally found what I was seeking, and my own pilgrimage was complete. I had been called to a new road, to give in the way that I know how, to encourage others to make their own way, now as a Camino guide and mentor.
Thank you for taking the time to read my words. If this message stirs something in your heart, and you are wondering if this journey might be just what you have been longing for, you can learn more by heading over to my new website for more details. You can also email me directly at email@example.com.
If you feel you know of someone who might benefit from the words you are reading here, please consider passing it along. I will be offering mentoring to support individual pilgrimages, small group quests on the Camino, and down the road, journeys to Brazil, India and Nepal. You can sign up for the field notes on the website to stay informed. Would be great to have you along.
My home base is now Northern Spain, tucked in along the ancient pilgrim trail, and I am looking forward to all good things to come.
From my road to yours,
“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.” ― Hermann Hesse,
A SPIRAL PATH
The last time I posted on this blog was January of 2011. Since that entry, much life has been lived. I went on to travel the Camino de Santiago at least two more times, and in the in-between, veered off-road into the real world with the all of the Beauty that had been handed to me on that dusty, strange and sacred Way, deeply imbedded inside my heart.
After I left the Road in 2011, I returned to the island of Key West, my home of more than 26 years. In the days, months and years that followed, I ran the salted soulwork gauntlet. I fell in love with a sailor, became a trusted caretaker of carolyn’s bottle wall house, a true gift from the island (and Carolyn’s daughter, Becca), opened an art gallery and became a seller of sea salt and wild island honey. During this time, I learned the hard-way about how to be an artist and run a business, but also experienced the joys of letting life come to me as I stayed put.
The months passed as I sifted through piles of old Dade County Pine and made art with bits from the sea with that holy rascal Rumi whispering in my ear. Published another – what would be my last – issue of the arts & literary journal that I created after that first Camino in 2003. Celebrated life’s magic and mysteries with the island’s most creative and talented characters, experienced the ending of that love story I mentioned earlier, realized and remembered that I was not cut out to be a seller/shopkeeper and in synchronistic fashion, sold the business to an old friend and mentor. In a bold practice in the art of letting go, and with the faith that in doing so, a new beginning awaited me, I give away that literary journal/publishing company in a separate, sacred pact. My old friend assured me that he would do his best to care-take the pearl that had been handed to me on that old Pilgrim trail, the ‘boon’ from my hero’s journey those years ago, something to bring back to my people. And, as a talisman to send with me on my journey, he slid a copy of Patti Smith’s M-Train across the old wooden drafting table in the salt shop. The now dog-eared pages between a cover, well-worn from traveling by train, tuktuk, into ashrams and on café table-tops, contain tender and poetic words like shiny keys unlocking the creative gates inside of me that I had thought were long forgotten.
“The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing,
no matter how you land there.”
― Patti Smith,
Shortly after I had wrapped up my life on the island, The Road summoned … turned out it would ask me to take the longer, steeper path to get there. I had a flight ticket to Madrid in hand when I received a call from my dear old dad that I should come West instead, and sooner than later. That plane flew northeast over the Atlantic without me as I was headed over the mountains by train in the opposite direction. I was in Colorado for the next six months where I was witness to my sweet mother’s transition from this realm into the next. I ate peaches with a broken heart, connected with my kind and down-to-earth colorado family, saw Elephant Revival at Red Rocks with my spirited and soulful aunt Pooh-z, and took morning walks with my dad by the winding river. We spoke often about him making his own Camino when the time is right. I would try to scare him with tales of wild dogs and Knights Templar, blisters and blazing heat … but, when St. James stirs the soul, you can push the snooze button, but it is hard to go back into deep sleep.
BRAZIL, COSTA RICA, INDIA, NEPAL
About a month after my mom passed, I traveled on to Brazil to tend to my heart, Costa Rica to re-wild along the Pacific coast, and then on to India for a month of satsang with Mooji to let the fire of self-discovery burn all that I was not. When my Indian visa expired, I headed for Nepal where the Universe moved me like a chess piece in perfect timing for my meeting with the goddess Durga and two Camino angels in Kathmandu. All that I found on this long journey would remind me that I was on the right road after all. Steady on old girl.
SPAIN & THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM
And just last week, a reunion with my old friends (family) at The Peaceable Kingdom in Moratinos. Most of the tribe was there, a new beast or two and a beloved one or two had moved on. But the heart of the place remains, we shook off the dust, generosity flowed as well as a tear or two over beauty, loss and the alchemy of ever-changing life. It was good to be there again. Full circle.
I am back on the Camino once again. This time, I am different. I found something since that last post all those years ago. A discovery that had to be lived. I will share more about what that might be in the coming days. I felt called this morning to write a few words here to open the window and let the light shine in … I have a few beautiful offerings/projects that I will be sharing as I drift gently down the stream Spiraling up towards whatever it is that Santiago has in mind for this new beginning of mine.
This Holy Road has remained my silent witness, guiding me along my path as I navigated many changes. Still listening to the wind of my soul. Wondering, is anyone out there?
Kim, Peregrina de la Verdad
pilgrim of truth
you see, i had an appointment. on the last day of the year, i met her there on that empty beach. my assignment had been to live a year, a holy year, along the camino de santiago pilgrimage route. i had few instructions, one or two of my own questions and a name that was given to me before i arrived. the instruction was only to live the experience. my own questions asked for a deeper understanding about who i really am and what is it that i have to give to the world. the name that was given to me by a teacher is kundön neyjama. these tibetan words translate into peregrina de la verdad, or pilgrim of truth.
on becoming the path
before you can travel the path, you must first become the path itself. – the buddha
it would be by the side of the ancient pilgrim’s trail in an ochre colored house that the camino requested my presence and attention. instead of making my way as a pilgrim, i was asked to stay still by the side of the road for a while. to learn to become the path. and to let the world come to me. the peaceable kingdom sits just about halfway or so between st. jean pied-de-port (one of the main jumping in points for the camino frances just over the border into france) and finisterra. there, in the middle of the spanish meseta, where the infinitude of a ‘big sky’ can make any good pilgrim a little wild of mind, is the small village of moratinos. this funny little pueblo is where i would come to spend many a moon smoothing out some of my rough edges and maybe gaining a few where i was much too soft.
just off of the calle ontanon is a private home (known as the peaceable) that is generously open to wanderers of all kinds. the place has grown organically in these past four years from the dream of american writer rebekah scott and her husband, artist and englishman patrick o’gara. it seems that the camino chose them to put down their roots in this small village of crumbling houses made from earth, with its 14 or so inhabitants that range from kind to curious. it hasn’t been easy for reb and paddy. from the beginning, they have been tested and tried and asked by the camino more than once if they really meant it and were committed to being there … and then stretched just a little bit more for good measure. (you can read more about their story by clicking on the three-legged una dog in the sidebar on the right)
and so, through the cold winter, into the deep red poppy bloom of spring and maybe just a bit longer, i became part of a strange tribe. a place where the existence of god is debated daily and the presence is felt even more often. mice are chased, wine is had, prayers are layed down and each day brings something or someone new. change is constant and flows over a foundation that has grown strong and sturdy. and it was here within these walls that i got down to some gritty soul work. i had the opportunity and privilege to care for pilgrims from all over the world—some blistered, broken hearted or mixture of both. i became hospitalera to the hospitaleros. had great adventures with wild dogs (and a handsome cat) all with the oldest of souls. i ran in the fields under skies as wide and blue as the sea that had i left behind. i chopped wood, carried water. cleaned out coops, shoveled poop. discovered the zen of dishwashing, learned to love european football, enjoyed good meals and became famous for salads and soulful stones. i tended the small but mighty labyrinth, wrestled my ego, felt grouchy sometimes. expressed it. was loved anyways. held space for healing and had space held for me. and it happened there, in through the cracks of everyday living and being, that the deepest of daily lessons seeped in —the ones about love, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, boundaries, kindness, receiving, giving, humility … and a much needed clarity of the difference between service and servitude. this subtle grace shimmered a fine light into the dusty corners of my soul and it was in this space that i practiced ‘the leaning in’. leaning in for a deeper understanding. for truth, without attachment or aversion. to be near and listen from the heart. to come to a simple knowing that we are all on our own spiritual journey, without exception. that we all want to be loved, to be understood, to be heard, to be seen and to know that we have the right exist. we each have our own unique story filled with dreams and longing, failures and disappointments. and no one’s is less important than the other’s. we have all known, at some time in our lives what it is like to suffer. we all want to be free of suffering. we want the freedom to be who we truly are. and through this practice of learning to see with the eyes of the heart and to stand in the stillness of a place of knowing the truth of who i really am and who i am becoming, i am beginning to understand that each time i lean in to others, i am also leaning in towards myself. thanks Peace (with all of your people, creatures, pilgrims and wanderers) for your mysterious spirit that has provided me with the time and space to learn about becoming the path.
traveling the path
and when the time was right, with my pack pressed close to my back, i set out. from the monastery of san juan de la peña along the camino aragones, i began to make my way. slowly following the path of the sun. it was a long road. a strange road. by no means an easy road. but for sure a most beautiful road. i learned about living close to nature and with very few ‘things’. to witness my ‘thoughts’ and the way that i have been perceiving the world. that circumstances don’t matter, but only our state of being matters. what is it that is really true? during these months on the trail, all that i met along my path became my reflections. i can’t say more now, only that it will take me some time. yes. i need some more time to understand.
i arrived on foot to finisterra, the end of the land, after walking for four days from santiago. the longest day was 35 km in the cold, wild wind and rain. for good measure. i have learned to meet this road where it is and to love all that the camino serves up. because, there are always the strange gifts after these storms. and i do not have the good words to describe what it was like for me to come to the place on the hill where i could see the sea for the first time after almost a year inland. i had almost forgotten the vastness of this ocean. funny thing is that it was there the whole time. while i stomped, staggered and shuffled my way along the long road, through fields of wheat and tops of mountains. the big blue had waited patiently for my return. when i landed on that beach, with my backpack still on my back, i wrote my name in the sand. do you see me, universe? it’s me. and i made it. … and then, on the last day of the year, i went to the spot where one year earlier i had buried the message in the bottle. the landscape had changed a lot in all of this time. i felt moments of despair when i thought i might not be able to find it. it is lost forever. then, i took a deep breath and laughed when i remembered that as a little girl, i always used to build my sand castles close to the waters edge. life is risky. this joke was one me. i heard a voice inside me say, go on, then. try again. so, i lined myself up with the old pine tree, the patch of rock, the big clump of seagrass. i began to dig. now, i know what pirates must have felt like when they hit that top of the treasure chest. i hooted and hollered like a maniac to the empty beach. woo, hoo! found it! there it was. i sat there in the grassy sand dunes with that letter for a long time. i looked each way down the long stretch of beach. maybe i was expecting to see ‘her’ walking up to me at any moment. shit, maybe she wasn’t going to show. deep breath. another. and then, with the sun shining down on my face and the soggy letter falling apart in my hand, i felt a wave of peace come over me. a sense of lightness. ah, ok. i get it. she was already here. and the ‘she’ is me. yes. i am here.
big old sun
i hustled the 3km up to the lighthouse. the sun was setting fast and i wasn’t sure i would make it in time. wait for me, old sun. in one hand, my trusty walking stick that i had received from that kind bird-watching hospitalera in jaca at the very beginning of my camino, in the other, the hole-y shirt that made me look like the loved-so-much skin horse in the children’s book the velveteen rabbit, and on my head, the warm cap that my dear dad had given me before my first camino almost seven years earlier. and with perfect timing, i found my place on the large stone that looked like a whale surfacing out of the sea. on the ground at my feet, the flames danced across the fabric of my old shirt, transforming its journey into ash and light. in front of me, a silhouette of a pilgrim who had walked for so many months from the czech republic performed his own ritual to the gods of salt and flame. he danced and cried out in what sounded to me like a native american chant. and there behind a large rock to my left, tucked in and out of sight, the pilgrim from texas sang a hebrew melody about a meeting with the angels. i was there in good company. and somehow, we harmonized together as i hummed my own little ditty by neil young. at the end of the earth on this last day of this most holy year, we sang that old sun to sleep.
it will appear as does the poem to the poet
it has been a long story. i have done my best to be authentic and to share the beauty of a journey with you. to show, through my experience, what is possible when you make the decision to set out on your own road, a road to the soul. it is my greatest wish that you will find the courage to make your own way. that you come to understand that all things are possible and experience a deep knowing of how close we all are to what some might call miracles.
i arrived here to this road with very few things. only with the intention to keep my heart open and to hold all things loosely. as i sit here in this moment, i can hear the words of that old poet and the coffeehouse shaman reminding me of what lives within me and a name that contains the potential of who i could be. who am i really? and what do i have to give to the world? and in the words of the man on the road, jack kerouac, one day i hope that i will find the right words. and they will be simple. until then …
ultreia. and namasté.
kundön neyjama. peregrina de la verdad. pilgrim of truth.
many demolitions are renovations. – rumi (from tear down this house)
the last 100 km and the old dream.
somewhere around palas de rei, i found myself standing in front of a small house built of stone. i leaned on my trusty walking stick and shifted my weight back and forth to try to relieve the aching in my feet. you have to know that this house wasn’t anything special, really. parts of the roof had merged with the nature and was making its elegant crumble down. down. down. the hearty wood beams entwined with thick vines that patiently wrestling them to the ground. i stood there and looked at this little house. i looked for a long, long time.
once upon a time, it had been a dream of mine to find my place along the camino. a small coffee house. for pilgrims, poets and wanderers. maybe even an albergue. only a few beds. donativo, of course. soulful hippie meets galician rustic.
after i arrived home from my first camino almost seven years earlier, i sat in my little studio in key west and dreamed. i searched online for property along the camino. (i have a funny feeling that i am not the only one who has done this.) i found a little stone place for sale. cheap. cheap. needed work. a lot of work. roof had started to fall in a bit. no matter, part of the charm. it had potential. lots of stone and wood. a real dreamers dream. i saw the photographs of this stone ruin on my computer screen and said out loud, “yes! this is what i want. universe, make it happen.”
skip ahead seven years later to present moment. the stone house that i was standing in front of was the very same house that i had seen online all of those years ago. there was no for sale sign anywhere but i recognized it from the photographs. no takers, i guess. this old house built of stone was slowly coming down. sigh. the universe must not have been listening.
during these final days of my adventure of the spirit, the camino has been really pulling out all of the stops. i have been in a space of complete wonder and amazement. the road kills me with delight. animals come out to the road to meet me. horses. turkeys. goats. cows. cats. dogs. even squirrels with wild tufts of fur on their ears chatter at me from the tree tops. the rain has stopped. the sunlight pours in through the tall eucalyptus giants and lights up the path in front of me. and with all of this, i started thinking. dangerous. might be something joseph campbell refers to as the hero’s refusal of the return. i started to bargain with the camino. ok. i could just keep going. maybe i am not supposed to finish at the end of the world. maybe the camino wants me. needs me to turn around and walk back. to the meseta. no, to lourdes. no, for sure it is vezelay, france. where i had started seven years ago. my mind played with me like a family of galician squirrels. i had all kinds of ideas. they flowed freely. they wouldn’t stop. i began to walk faster. almost skipping, as the brilliant plans came. i could become a shepherdess. with a flock of my very own sheep and a llama, for good measure. i could open a juice bar. train to become a wizard. a bee keeper. a shaman. or … nevermind all of those things. i could just keep on walking. until even i forgot my own name. then, i would find a new one. recreate myself. disappear. then i would be really and truly free. after all, no one needs me back home, i told myself. yes, thats it. i’ll just keep walking. i think that this could be my destiny. and i could finally learn to play the guitar. yep, a llama would be great. … then my mind drifted back to the little stone house. yes. this is it. this was what i told the universe. “i want that!”
… and no sooner than i said those words, i felt my feet slip out from under me. it all happened so fast, but was in slow motion. my mind had been so occupied with what had become a kind of dreaming frenzy that it would have been next to impossible to see that big rock with the fresh pile of cow shit strategically placed on its edge. the next thing i knew, i was on my knees. shock set in. i was sure that i had broken both of my legs. afraid to even breathe. i felt the camino’s hand gently on my shoulder holding me right where i was. don’t move. and in that moment, i saw once more the image of that stone house. the little fortress build of heavy stone and big beams that had started crumbling to the ground. i heard my voice say to the universe, … please. i want that. i have heard that images are the language of the soul. and i have come to understand that the camino/universe has a pretty good sense of humor. i heard a voice whisper to me, well, you asked for it. and you got it. still there on the ground, i saw flashes of my encounters from this year spent along this strange road. i saw many mirrors helping me to tear down – bit by bit – the stone walls that i had built up around myself. each lesson helped my old ways of being in the world begin to make its elegant crumble down. down. down. the hearty wood beams of misunderstanding and wrong thought were wrapped up with the thick vines of compassion that patiently wrestling them to the ground. tear down this house. and that was what my soul had really been asking for. to tear my own house down. hmmm, thought for sure it was a coffeehouse.
i finally picked myself up off the ground and dusted myself off. by some miracle, i was completely unhurt and with no cow poo on my person. my feet didn’t even hurt anymore. once more and right on time, the camino had spoken. loud and clear. pull myself together. i am to be in this world, but not of it.
and with that, i headed on down the road.
just when we think we know how it will go.
not far from santiago, i was thinking about a dog. i was thinking about a three-legged wonderdog named una. a peaceable kingdom dog that left this world over month or so ago. she had been a good friend, dependable backseat driver, a film star and the source of much joy and laughter. not long ago, i had been called back off the road for one last big dog party on the meseta. her cancer had spread and no one knew how long she would be around. so, i went back for a few days. it was a beautiful party. the best, really. and after the liver was gone and scruffles given, i headed back to the trail. it was not long after, she decided it was time to go.
as i was saying. i was walking along the trail, almost to santiago. after all of this time, my long road finally nearing its end. i was thinking about that peaceable dog and how funny she was. not too long after … there, in the misty eucalyptus wood, i felt someone behind me. expecting a pilgrim, i was surprised to find that following along right behind me was a dog. a curious little dog. with brown spots, a funny underbite grin and a bum front leg. a camino casualty. it was strange and mysterious and i will leave it to rebekah to tell you how the story goes from here. rosey has been graciously welcomed into the peaceable kingdom fold. she may be small, but i feel like she has the heart the size of a lions. … this long road offers up its strange gifts at every turn.
you see, i am a believer. i believe in the magic and the mystery of this Way. that we are given just what we need, when we need it. even thought it might not look like what we thought it would, it often times turns out to be even better than we could have imagined for ourselves. sometimes we are only the messenger, the catalyst or the middle-man. yes, i am a believer. and i want to keep believing. long after i leave this path. and i want to continue to tear my stone house down. to be ready for the renovations.
i arrived in santiago. alone. a little bit behind schedule. it was raining and i hustled to the cathedral. i forgot the new rules and that i couldn’t go inside with my backpack. i would have to come back later to give my thanks and say my prayers. meanwhile, i ducked into a smoke filled bar, had a coffee and gathered my thoughts. sitting there, i felt the camino’s hand again resting gently on my shoulder. i am tired, i thought. at least four more days to get to the sea. tearing down the house isn’t easy work. it is long and slow. the renovations, it seems, take years. lifetimes even. but, as i sat there looking down into my coffee and more deeply into how far i have come. all that i went through to get to this moment … now, almost one year later … as van morrison sings, i am a soul in wonder. really. it is all so rich and the beauty of feeling is difficult to describe in words. i am a soul in wonder, indeed. and i think maybe the universe is listening.
now, on to the end of the world.
a big dog party
now i’m aware that i alone am in the vast
of the sea
and cause the sea to be the sea.
go on with your story.
– dainin katagiri roshi
i dream. i am an old sea turtle. scarred and barnacled. and i am swimming for my own shore. my odyssey nearly complete. i have made my way there to the deep. deepest. now, i am on my way back. i saw things there in that fluid mystery. soft things. sweet things. dangerous things. and i tell you, all of them holy things. they live there in that liminal space. the place between the here and there. magic stones, wise old trees and pages from ancient poetry books line the bottom of this strange ocean. i swim above seagrasses that sway like prayer flags in the wind. flocks of silvery sheep race me. the sound of their bells muffled slightly by water, salty and blue. i hear voices gurgling out the names of god. and not just one name. but All of the names. i have visited other realms and other times. i drift now along a winding and sunken road. beside me pilgrims row small boats piled high with treasure and transformation. each bounty different. every voyage unique and filled with healing and meaning. pearls, scallop shells and hot bowls of con leche. … and i see my beautiful poet friend there. the one who made her journey to that ‘sacred deep’ as well. Coma, her vehicle. she is on her way back, too. see you there, she says to me with a wink and a flash of understanding travels between us. she swims and double-somersaults as gracefully as the words that she writes. i wave a flipper her way and give a lazy sea turtle smile. see you there, jto. yes, i am swimming slowly. back. i hear the holy om, deep and low. this mantra fills my ears and drowns my sea turtle heart. my internal compass bobs and lines up to its vibration. holy om. aum. i repeat it. again. and again. it becomes holyom. hhhooommm. home. home. ah, and where is my home?
i am coming closer. closer still. solitude. silence. i am now making my way alone. my traveling companion set his stone at the cruz de ferro and with his mission complete, now continues his journey back home from there. we traveled together well and for so long. we’ll see each other again, i believe. we have an appointment. back in the real world. and so … i continue.
i have entered the watery realm of galicia. i feel its mystery and oldness. gnomes, faeries, witches and ancient stories infuse this road. farmers and their gentle animals. a landscape that carries a scent so unique that it could be bottled up with simply ‘galicia’ on it’s label. one whiff and everyone who has ever passed this way would remember all things immediately. green fields. leaf covered paths. fresh rain. and … ah, those beautiful cows.
and so, for almost a year now … i sometimes waited, often wandered and have slowly made my Way. i will be honest and tell you that i am tired. my clothes are worn and tattered. my body aches a bit. i am sensitive and tears come easily. i feel like a vagabond. a nomad. a spiritual tramp. but, when i look in the mirror, there is a light within my eyes that is, well, … new. and with this light, there is a longing deep within my heart that swells and expands as i come closer and closer to the end of this journey. i ask that you keep me in your prayers, if you can. i still have a ways to go. 100 kilometers to santiago and then another four days or so to reach the end of the world. my odyssey nearing its completion.
i saw things there in that fluid mystery.
soft things. sweet things. dangerous things.
and i tell you, all of them holy things.
they live there in that space between the here and there.
go on with your story.
i am coming closer. and closer still.
“Somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.” Jack Kerouac
today is thanksgiving day. one year ago, on this very day, my dear dad came all the way to the island of key west from his mountain home in colorado to drive me to the airport in miami. we made our way slowly up the chain of islands on highway 1 in the pouring rain. i looked out across the warm waters of the gulf of mexico on one side and the atlantic on the other. i grew up in this territory of salt and sun. and now, i didn’t know how my destiny would unfold from here. i only knew that i could not stay. the road had been calling. and now, she was waiting for me. first to finisterra to pull myself together. to prepare. and then, a whole year on the holy road.
i have made it to the cruz de ferro (iron cross) situated on a plateau of monte irago. there is a long oak post with a small iron cross attached to the top and rises up from a large pile of stones. pilgrims have been laying a stone at the cross for centuries. the prayer of the cruz de ferro is: ‘lord, may this stone, a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage that i lay at the foot of the cross, weigh the balance in favour of my good deeds some day when the deeds of my life are judged. let it be so.’ for many pilgrims the ritual also denotes the symbolic laying down of a burden.
i have chosen to leave a pearl. this pearl comes from a mala that was handmade for me by a friend and then given to me by a teacher before my last pilgrimage. it broke in my hand the day i arrived in santiago. they say that when a mala breaks, it is auspicious. i have carried 12 pearls with me since then that represent twelve people in my life that have supported me as an artist as well as on my journey. this one that i leave here at the cross, disappearing between the stones and snow has nothing to do with burdens or sorrows. a small and precious symbol. wisdom. the grit of the journey. beauty formed slowly over time. a treasure. i leave this small treasure as a gift. an offering to the road. as a symbol of thanks giving for all that i have received. blisters and blessings. rain and sun. loss and love. shadow and light.
and now, i still have a mountain to climb o cebreiro. and about 255 kilometers of stones, mud, snow and Way to place my feet upon. pilgrims to connect with. experiences to live. prayers to lay down. i am a long, long way from the end of the earth. finisterra. where on the last day of this holy year, if i make it, i will dig up the message in a bottle that i wrote to myself. it waits for me on that long stretch of beach. and then, i hope that i will know where my road will take me from there. but i don’t have to know that just yet. … today, i wanted to put these words down. for you. a thanks giving on thanksgiving. i have to be honest that i don’t know if i am any wiser or closer to enlightenment. but i am doing my best to lean in to my truth. and maybe the most important, through the distance of miles and the space of time, i can feel the love of my life. the loves of my life. my family and friends. the pilgrims and care takers of pilgrims. peaceable kingdoms and three-legged dogs. animals. forests. the elements. all things. by being near to all of these things, i have discovered that i have a capacity. for big love. and it reminds me of the line in the eat, pray, love film when richard from texas in india says … clear out some of that space in your head. open a doorway. … and God will rush in.
and so, somewhere along the line, the pearl has been handed to me. god has rushed in. now, i bless it. and i give it away. i can’t hold on to anything on this journey. this was one of the conditions. love and life rests gently on an open palm.
i send love from my road to yours. happy thanksgiving.