¡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!
Kevin

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pellegrue

As I write this, late in the afternoon, my walking work over for the day, the sky is as blue as blue can be, and the late afternoon sun softens the stone walls of this ancient town into a lovely gold hue. It was not ever so; in fact, this afternoon and this morning hardly seem to belong to the same day.
I left Saint-Foy in a thick fog, that only after several hours lifted high enough to then become a low overcast. Not a spot of sunshine brightened a fairly grim walk beside, around, and through the vineyards of this corner of Bordeaux country. Making matters worse, the tourism folks of the regional Gironde government don’t seem to have allowed the “Amis de Saint-Jacques” to put up their usual arrows to guide us on our way; they have put on their own “Compostelle” markers which follow our route, more or less, but not entirely. They disappeared entirely for several kms. Caution and an extra dose of alertness are called for, and it’s an irritation.
Making matters worse yet, my troublesome plantar fascitis decided to act up today, making walking slower and more achy throughout the morning.
Once safely arrived in Pellegrue, I retrieved the key to the municipal refuge from the local bar, then returned for a sandwich and beer. Along came another pilgrim, considerably older than myself. He too came into the bar, so I asked if he was looking for the refuge, since I had the key. He told me no, he intended to continue another 15 kms. (making a total of 34 for the day!), but he sat down with me for a sandwich and beer too. Peter began his pilgrimage in his hometown of Koblenz, Germany, and outside a bout with fleas, and another with tick, he’s been doing some great walking, getting stronger and going further each day. He didn’t look bushed at all after the same 20 km. I had just done (I always feel bushed after 20!).
I admire so much these older folks who are out here on the road, but they do make me feel a bit like a piker. We all have our ways, and not two are alike, and my more tortoisy pace has got me this far, so I don’t feel too bad.
I’m sitting in a bright little park just outside the village church; it’s a lovely old building of simple Romanesque design, except that about half of its fa├žade is missing, and a 19th century addition of a bell tower that rather resembles a minaret. One set of windows inside has been recently filled with the faceted stain glass of Gabriel Loire from Chartres, who also did the windows for my home parish in Spokane, St. Charles. It made me feel a homey connection between this old world and that of my other life back in the States. Here and there, they are not so far apart, really. I have a spiritual foot in both, and it’s not too great a stretch…