A year ago today, J and I were in Burgos, Spain, at the beginning of an adventure that has marked our lives permanently. We were beginning a walk on part of the Camino so we could learn about and examine the concept of pilgrimage. We ended up experiencing pilgrimage instead, and, as you could read in posts on this blog last summer, the experience affected the following months. It’s hard to describe just what the effect is, but its the kind of experience you want to go back and find again, to hold it in your hand one more time, to be able to recreate the sense of belonging to something, to grasp again the feeling of achievement, the sense of community, the stripping down to basics that is the Camino.
I’ve just finished reading Jane Christmas’ book, “What the Psychic told the Pilgrim”. Jane does a good job of describing what happens of the Camino, the awesome scenery, the walking relationships, the group dynamics, the accommodations, and the sense of self discovery that comes with the experience. Many times, as I read her account, I could see myself in her experiences. Through her writing I was able to relive my Camino. It was good. It also made me want to go and do it again.
The book ended up in our house, because a friend had bought it for someone who was considering doing the Camino this summer. It turned out this someone already had a copy, so our friend gave it to us. The book is not a travel guide. In fact, I don’t think it should be read prior to the trip. It is the telling of one person’s experience, one person’s journey, and each person will experience their own pilgrimage in their own way. Reading this book before walking will set expectations that will close the door to actually finding your own way through the journey. I think each pilgrimage should begin with something of a blank page. Travel guides, listing accommodations, restaurants, points of interest, etc are fine, but reading books to tell you how you might feel or react to the pilgrimage, in my opinion, can reduce the experience to an attempt to recreate someone else’s.
In the meantime, we continue to treasure the memories, we live through the changes the experience made in our lives, and we cherish the lasting friendships we made during those weeks in Spain.