Hontanas is the city you see in this pano. It is classic Camino village was a welcome sight after walking through the Meseta “wilderness” for most of the morning (11km). (Click on the “Hontanas” to see the image.)
Many of you may know that anyone that walks the Camino de Santiago is referred to as “pilgrim”. So what are pilgrims, really? There are two possible definitions that apply. The first definition is “a pilgrim is someone who journeys to a holy place.” This is certainly appropriate when talking about the Camino’s history which has been walked for religious reasons for over a century! The pilgrim would start from their home and walk to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, a holy place. It was believed that the bones of the Apostle St James were in the Cathedral. Pilgrims began walking to this “holy place” as far back as 950. The number of pilgrims walking to this “holy place” has steadily increased in modern times and between 2000 and 2012 over 150 million pilgrims have completed the journey!
The other definition of a pilgrim is “one who journeys in a foreign land”. That is certainly the case for the Camino de Santiago as well. In 2011 pilgrims from 138 nationalities collected a Compostela (a certificate that you have walked the Camino).
Terri and I certainly felt like pilgrims as we journeyed through this “foreign land” on our journey to the “holy place” called Santiago de Compostela. When we are far from home we leave behind everything we know that makes us comfortable. We expose ourselves to whatever may come, good or bad, trusting that there will be some help along the way.
The Camino has a very long history of people caring and protecting the weary pilgrims as they journeyed to Santiago. Terri and I experienced and witnessed this legendary caring “Pilgrim Hospitality” all along the way. It was present for us almost immediately on our travels. On the second day of the Camino, we ran into trouble after a long day of walking and there was no lodging for us anywhere. We were fortunate to experience the kindness of an owner of a Pension in town who called to the next town and found us lodging there. In addition, the owner of the Pension came from the neighboring town to pick us up! We had many such encounters with this “Camino Hospitality”.
This Christmas season, I was thinking about this wonderful “Camino Hospitality” again when I heard the Christmas Nativity Gospel. In the Gospel story, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill their census obligation. They were also pilgrims traveling in a foreign land. They were looking for a place to stay the night as well and also found “no room at the inn” and Mary was about to give birth! They were looking for some pilgrim hospitality. They did not get it in this case and the baby Jesus was born in a barn. This got me thinking about how important it is keep our eyes open to the “weary pilgrims” out there that may need our hospitality. The last few years we have taken to inviting to our Christmas Eve dinner friends we know have no family in the area. They are away from their homes and would be often by themselves on Christmas. It is always a wonderful evening with Terri cooking her famous Ravioli. It is what Christmas is all about! Let’s all keep our hearts and homes open in 2015 for the “weary pilgrims” needing some “Camino Hospitality”!
This week’s Pano comes from the Meseta, the section of the Camino I was not looking forward to as it was going to be very flat and desert-like and would take almost a week to walk through. I was pleasantly surprised by the unique beauty of this section of the Camino. One of our favorite sight at the end of each day’s walk was seeing in the distance the village we were going to spend the night at.
In walking the Camino one of the cool things is that you are outside for the majority of the day rather than inside. Since I had spent my career working at a desk inside, the idea of spending the majority of the day outside was very enticing to me. This aspect of the Camino proved to be one of my favorite aspects of the pilgrimage walk. Each day was a new adventure and a new landscape to experience. One of the keys to really embracing and enjoying the outdoors is related to the ability to be relaxed, open and aware of all that is around you as you walk.
The advantages of being in this state of mind when I was walking the Camino, was my increased awareness and openness lead me to find and capture on camera the beauty I was immersed in. Being open to each day and what it might bring was a great way to walk each day.
Reflecting on how I was able to do this so well on the Camino, I realized that I was largely free from a lot of worries and anxieties and preoccupations running through my mind. Things were stripped down to the basics (walking, eating, sleeping). What a great way to go. I found that I was so much more aware of the beauty around me when my mind was not ruled by the constant stream of thoughts that preoccupied my mind. It seemed that the stream of thinking was more slowed and focused on the present rather than in the past and future.
I have come to realize that this is a very wonderful way to live our life. To be present and aware to our environment and with others is the way to go. It is not easy to slow down our minds and focus more on the present moment but the benefits are well worth it. This Christmas season while we are spending time with our family and friends is a great time to try being more aware and present to each precious moment. A true Christmas present we can give is the gift of ourselves. Being Christmas “present” to all we meet.
John and Terri
Here is the “Pano Of The Week”. It was taken between the cities of Villatu and Los Arcos. As you can see we are passing through some very rural farm lands. These farm landscapes continued to appear to me as we walked along the Camino. I found that Panoramic photography was the best suited format to capture the essence of the landscapes. This lone tree on the hillside called out to me to capture it standing “all by itself” on the hillside.
Hope you enjoy this one.
As I have mentioned in a previous blog posting, the entire Camino we walked was extremely well marked. The main symbol or sign used to show the right path forward was the “Camino Yellow Arrow”. It was very comforting to see those “little yellow arrows” to assure ourselves we were still on the right path. At one point though, we missed a critical “yellow arrow” and ended up walking for 10 minutes in the wrong direction before we recognized we needed to turn around and backtrack untill we found the “yellow arrows” again.
We all need some help with keeping on the “right path” as we journey through this life. Sometimes I get help from family or friends when they give me encouragement that I am doing the right thing (e.g. those that have told me how important and helpful this blog has been for them). Other times I find I am not on the “right path” and I need to turn around and go back. These are often the harder conversations when those close to us give us that timely and critical advice that we are “going the wrong way”. These are the times I must slow down and really pay attention and listen. I often will need to “swallow my pride” and admit I was going the “wrong way”. It is not always an easy thing to do to admit you are wrong and turn around and go back but it is always the right thing to do.
One of the questions Terri and I have been frequently asked was regarding why we choose to walk the Camino at this time in our lives. It is a common question to ask someone who chooses to dedicate such effort and time and resources to walk this far (500 miles). We both feel in a lot of ways we were called to walk it. It just felt right for us at this time in our lives.
We recently read an reflection by Fr. George Smiga, entitled “What Time Is It?” that I think really hits the mark in regards to explaining what we mean by the “right time” for our Camino walk.
Fr. Smiga points out that in the Greek language they have two words for the single word “time” that we have in our English language. The first word is “Chronos“. Chronos is clock time. Clock time measures things. It marks intervals and does not care about any of the things that happen within it.
The other kind of time is “Karios”. “Karios time is not clock time. It is the right time, the time when good things happen. Karios is the time we are waiting for, the time when all things come together. Karios, is God’s time, the time in which we see God working… Kairos is time we remember always – the time we met our spouse, found the courage to forgive an enemy, realized what we wanted to do with our lives, held a child or grandchild in our arms for the first time, or made a sacrifice which changed ourselves and others. We remember these times because they are kairos. This is the time on which we hang our lives. Karios does not measure life. It is life. It is not the time we live through. It is the time we live for.” (Fr. George Smiga)
I found this to be such a profound insight for me. In thinking about the Camino walk, we realize that it was indeed our “Karios” time. We are so thankful we recognized that it was our “Karios” moment. We know it now. It was just the right time and we will always remember it and how we were changed by it.
The reality is that we have a lot of potential “Karios” moments in our lives but we might be missing them if we live our lives only in the chronos clock time. We need to be alert and looking for those karios moments or they will pass us by. Don’t let them pass you by!
John and Terri