¡Buen Camino!

Dear Friends,
It has taken three tries and nine years, but as of July 2012, I have finally walked the entire Way of Compostela from my former home in Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, to Santiago de Composela!
My first pilgrimage experience from the French frontier with Spain to Santiago itself took place in 2003. You can read the details of this first walk along the famous Camino across Spain in my book, To The Field of Stars: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2008). (You can order it from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or from your local bookseller).
In the summer and early fall of 2007, I walked from Belgium most of the way across France, with the hope of at least making it to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where I began the first pilgrimage. I didn't quite make it. A bad case of plantar fasciitis took me down in the Bordeaux village of Sainte-Ferme. I continued on to Santiago by train and bus, but the "defeat of my feet" and those last 175 miles or so that were left undone, gnawed at me over the ensuing five years. Happily, I was finally able to wrap up this grand pilgrimage with a third walk from Sainte-Ferme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port this past summer (2012). It was a joy to have completed all 2,370 kilometers between Leuven and Santiago.
My adventures and misadventures, my thoughts and prayers of both the 2007 and 2012 pilgrimages have been shared in this blog. I will leave the blog and its archives open for some time to come; if you want to read bits and pieces of it, feel free, but remember that the beginning is at the bottom and the end is at the top.
My contact e-mail remains the same: kacodd@gmail.com; I am always happy to receive mail!
As the pilgrims in Spain greet one another, so I greet you, my reader: "Buen Camino!"
And as the people of France greet their pilgrims along the "Chemin", I also wish to you: "Courage!"

Grace and peace to you all!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Like Missing a Friend

Waterloo. I am now well into the midst of my "medical hiatus" and though the cast around my lower leg is a nuisance for its clumsiness I am fine and being well-tended to. Fr. Vince's rectory is quiet, comfortable and cozy, perfect for reading and resting. Both yesterday and today have been gray days with heavy clouds overhead, and today's weather has been additionally marked by a constant drizzle. I am happy to be indoors and dry. Unlike the forests I've wandered through in the past month, there is no slippery mud to navigate my way through in this house, but the tight stairway between floors is not so easy either with this cast making every step something to be tended to consciously.
Beneath the surface of this present contentment, though, there is the quiet unease of a sort of loneliness that comes from feeling distance from a friend. The friend in this case is my road and my walking. I miss it. I am a bit lonely for its company. My legs at night are restless in bed, twitching this way and that as I fall asleep, unhappy at not having worked enough during the day, wanting to be pilgrim legs again. I never thought of the Way as a friend before, but that is what it has become; with its fields and vineyards and deep dark woods, with its kind people who greet me and say to me "Courage!", even with its unexpected ups and downs and tough moments, it is a friend now and it is not so easy to be separated from the constant company it has afforded me for so many days. As with all friendships, this time apart reveals my fondness for it and even deepens it. It is really a fondness for life, for simplicity, for freedom, for God's face revealed in the details of leaf, soil, sky, flesh, words of welcome.
Some people here seem surprised that I want to go back and pick up where I left off, as if you could have enough of friendship. Others do everything possible to not let me even consider the possibility of not going back to Tonnerre to continue. I understand both because I have a lazy side and feel the attraction of stopping now even as I greedily want to know all the new riches that will be discovered and all the new graces to be experienced once I begin again.

I continue to be astonished at the number of people who are following this pilgrimage through this blog. Their e-mails to me are so encouraging and teach me so much. I received an especially wonderful one from John, a friend in Maryland and student of The American College in he '60's, who wrote yesterday:

From what I have learned about your
pilgrimage from you, if getting to or being at Compostela were the most important aspect of your journey, you would have taken a plane, train, bus, car, or even a bicycle ;-).
Once you decided to pilgrimage via foot and strapped on Gregory the Great, you
made the journey itself the most important aspect, accepting all the vagaries
that come with that way of the Way. Walking the pilgrimage expresses intense
physicality--one can almost feel the sweat from your writings--with its
heightened sacramentalism. Wherever you go, people will remember
'that American pilgrim priest'. If during the summer of 1964, people thought two
Americans on bicycles were a strange curiosity, I can imagine what they think of a walking American, especially an American priest. At the least, you will give those who meet you something to talk about--I am certain that those old ladies at the nursing home in Brienne-le-Chateau are still talking about that stranger who brightened and blessed their Friday in July. Once made, those encounters can become grace giving grace--a challenge to some and a comfort to others. What better way to share the blessings! Walk as far as you are able and use the slowness of foot to savor what comes your way.
You are not alone. Courage! John

Thanks, John! I will do my best. For now my pilgrimage is one of pause and waiting and letting this moment along the Way be grace upon grace too.