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

Dog Left Behind


To bond with a dog is not so unusual. In fact, there are many people I know who would never contemplate leaving their dog for 3 months, but Jason and I are about to and today, our golden retriever, Luna, was dropped off with a wonderful family of five. All of them are excited to have her. Jason and I are feeling the loss. This is a beginning step of our Camino.