Snails, Horses, and Perspective

The experience of living mostly outdoors, and walking every day, is slowly soaking into me with a sense of scale, frame of reference, and perspective.  It seems good for my soul.  Walking near the sea and in the mountains allows me to sense how small I am with reference to all of God’s creation.  Disconnecting from my beloved work for a while calms my over-inflated sense of anxiety and importance.  And walking, for me is sacramental.  (Another post to come on that subject.)

Here’s how I noticed last week, that a sense of perspective was soaking into me: I found myself loving a horse and identifying with a snail.  We had walked a long day full of hills and were still far from our destination, so we stopped at the side of a rural road, sat down and peeled an orange.  Immediately a huge horse head appeared over the wall above us.  Evidently, horses have a strong sense of smell and love orange peels as a snack – who knew?  I threw one of the peels over the wall, and then TWO horse heads appeared.  One of them wagged back and forth, begging shamelessly.  Of course we fed them the rest of the peels.  Reflecting at the end of the day, I realized that tremendous joy invaded my day through the horses.  The horses were the highlight of a beautiful day.  I really cared about how those creatures felt, and I felt love for them.  Now I regularly carry orange peels or apple cores for MILES in order to brighten the day of livestock. Continue reading Snails, Horses, and Perspective

Pondering My Vanity

Behold. Hair serum. What you see before you is a snapshot of a recent, somewhat difficult decision.

A few days ago, when Jason and I were packing up and leaving Santander, I mistakenly left behind my small bottles of hair products.

This is my first left behind items…Left behind items pretty much never find you again. My shampoo, conditioner and hair serum are gone forever. Actually, they will probably be a special find for a traveler coming behind us. Good for her (or him)!

Earlier on the Camino, Jason left behind a few items, but we have been able to make due without them. I decided I too ought to try to live without shampoo, etc.

My hair is really curly. It wasn’t long ago that a friend with curly hair was talking to me about a new way of “dealing with” curls. The trick was, never washing it with shampoo. Yes, take a shower, water your head and rub your scalp. The natural oils will eventually keep the hair from getting frizzy. It’s an all-around win. You don’t have to buy any products. Products for curly hair can be expensive, just ask any African American sister, she’ll tell you.

So, I tried for three days. I used water and scalp rubbing. Day 1 wasn’t so bad. Day 2, I felt like my hair was dirty. Day 3, my curls felt like heavy bands surrounding my face. I buckled and went into a salon.

Two kind and knowledgable hair stylists helped me pick out tiny bottles of good quality product. This magic bottle of serum, pictured above, will handle the frizz…just a couple of drops, they said.

I immediately walked back to our hotel (we’re currently taking a two-day break from the Camino to rest and celebrate our 27th anniversary) and took a shower using real shampoo and conditioner and two drops of serum.

I think it will work out all right for my hair, but why did this matter? Why should it matter?

All pilgrims give up many comfort items to travel the road on foot to Santiago. I have given up a few myself, including my preferred number of shoes, clothes (for changing and variety). Almost every item we carry now has at least two purposes, preferably three. For example, we use our shampoo, Jason’s cheaper stuff, as body soap, shampoo and laundry soap. My light-weight down vest and jacket become my pillow each night when stuffed into my pillow case. My light-weight towel often covers me at night if there is a chill in the air…but hair serum is simply hair serum. It is a tiny luxury that helps me feel okay about being a little bit grundgy overall.

Still, I wonder about whether or not this ought to be important. Did I miss an opportunity by not going longer without this comfort item?

I’ll keep reflecting on it and let you know when the Camino is complete. I suppose if I end up leaving my hair serum behind at another albergue, I’ll take it as a sign that I ought to go without for the remainder of our time. For now, no frizz and a clean smelling head and that does make me happy.


Beginning Thoughts on Pilgrimage

Guest post from Jason:

We were sitting outside a cafe, and I had a familiar experience.  A young man walked up to us seeking to sell some handcrafts.  We were clearly out of place, foreigners visiting this area – and a good opportunity for a sale.  I felt similar feelings visiting majority world cities in the past:  compassion for the person clearly working to alleviate his family’s poverty – and also a subtle resistance to being “targeted” for a sale.  This time was different, though.  We told him, ” Continue reading Beginning Thoughts on Pilgrimage

Day 1 and Climbing a Long Hill


After a jaunt around Bilbao to find breakfast and SIM cards (so we can text one another while here in Spain for a reasonable amount of $), we strolled along the Rio Bilbao to the Guggenheim. The city is remarkably charming and warm (in friendliness and in weather today). We are appreciating our Spanish as we try to get around from one place to another, though a few individuals have laughed at our word choice, calling our speech, Mexicano. We proudly bear the moniker and today the Spanish woman who welcomed us to the Albergue pulled out her Virgin of Guadalupe necklace to affirm her love for Mexico.

Which brings me to the second part of our day. We have officially started the Camino. We walked across town and up a long hill to the local Albergue (pilgrim hostel). Jason is fine and seems to be pain-free…I am finding it a challenge already.  There are about thirty beds in this location and about 18 people staying for the night. Two young men from North Dakota are on their 6th day. They both have blisters and pain in their knees. They are encouraging us to take it slow and enjoy a pace for going the long haul. One of them also said (when I commmented on the long hill we had to climb to get here).

“It’s better than going downhill. I’d rather go up two of those hills than go down once.”

I will ponder this comment next time I feel like complaining about an up hill walk.  He speaks as one with experience, having accomplished more extremes, up and down some difficult terrain, from the city of Irun where he and his buddy began.

We have our first two stamps on our Camino passports. (I’ll post a photo of those later). Dinner is served at 8:30 tonight. Spanish cena for pilgrims new and experienced.

Figuring Out the Walking Life


For about 2 or 3 months, we have been walking and hiking anywhere and everywthere we find ourselves. Today, we were able to walk a part of a Norwegian pilgrimage, one that takes the pilgrim to the church where St. Olav is buried, the Dom Kirke of Trondheim. It happens to be the place of coronations for the Norwegian King or Queen.   It seems that Olav, a king in the style of the times, forced pagans by the sword to convert to Christianity.  Unlike the times, however, he distributed power more evenly to his people and became very popular. He was cut down, literally, by his nobles who were not keen on sharing power with the masses. Following his death, a few notable healings took place in the presence of his corpse. Thus, a Saint was born. Since, that time, countless pilgrims have traveled to Trondheim to visit his resting place, including those seeking healing. The walk was beautiful and Jason and I were able to practice the discipline of searching for pilgrim signs and use maps downloaded to phone.

Pilgrim road sign and map

Continue reading Figuring Out the Walking Life