About 6 mos. ago I began thinking about actually doing a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. El Camino de Santiago Compostela is an ancient pilgrimage to the site of a cathedral in northwest Spain where tradition says the bones of St. James the Apostle are buried. There are many routes to this site throughout all of Europe. In medieval times apparently the foot traffic was very heavy (some say 3 million a year!) with pilgrims staying in a variety of private, church, monastery, convent and municipal-run “refugios” or hostels.
Whether you believe the bones of St. James were miraculously transported to north west Spain (he was martyred in Jerusalem c. 44 A.D) or not, the sheer number of devout pilgrims who have traveled “The Way” purportedly adds metaphysical weight to the endeavor. Nowadays, the pilgrimage has a definite “New Age” appeal, as many, many pilgrims are not believers. Nevertheless, they undergo the same hardships and work of walking more than 500 miles through north west Spain to a medieval cathedral for a Church-issued certificate of completion, itself called a compostela.
The compostela has been indulgenced since the Early Middle Ages and remains so to this day (Wikipedia.) So, am I walking this pilgrimage to gain a plenary indulgence? I will leave the explanation of this piece of trivia catolicá for another day. The latin translation of the official compostela document each pilgrim receives (if he/she declares her/his intentions to be religious) only “makes it known that _____ has devoutly visited this Sacred Church on a pious cause.”
So, I am declaring here that indeed I am on a “pious cause”
1. to offer thanksgiving for 35 years of healthy living with insulin-dependent diabetes (with no complications, Gracias a Dios) and
2. to carry the prayer intentions of my family & friends to Santiago, asking for the good saint’s intervention.
More practically, this Spring I began looking for someone (among my friends & acquaintances) with whom to make this pilgrimage. In June (2013) my friend Colleen expressed interest and pretty soon we began “practicing” multi-mile hiking together. She is an experienced hiker, while my hiking has been pretty limited to what I did with the Girl Guides (in Canada as a child) and as a Girl Scout (in Buffalo, NY in the 1960’s) and as a college student & later as a Girl Scout leader (in the 1970’s.) So, it has been a long, long time since I did any serious hiking. Plus, I have NEVER used a backpack!
Colleen’s husband, John, and mine are also longtime friends. That, perhaps, makes my husband Mark feel a little better about this enterprise of mine, but probably not much!
Our preparations have been proceeding well. I now have a backpack (a Gregory Women’s Jade 38) and nearly all my gear, including good hiking shoes and a lightweight sleeping bag. I’ve been hiking with my (almost fully) loaded pack for the past 3 weeks. Our longest hike has been 12 or so miles. We’re using the hills around Conesus, Hemlock and Springwater, NY for practice warming up to doing the Pyranées (NOT!) but that’s the best we can do around here. In August we’ve planned to hike 16 miles to my friend’s cottage on Keuka Lake from Naples, NY, a pretty hilly part of the Fingerlakes. We’ll stay overnight and then hike back, more or less the same 16 miles to Naples. That will be as close to a real “Camino” hill-climb as we can replicate here.
So, with less than 6 weeks until we leave for Spain, wish us: Buen Camino!