In case you noticed my absence, I’m happy to report that I didn’t fall off the earth. Just the opposite, actually. I’ve been “communing” with the earth much more than usual. Mr. Mo and I have been lacing up our shoes and walking. Outside. A lot. We’ve officially started training in earnest for our epic 800 Kilometer (500 mile) pilgrimage across Spain on the ancient Camino de Santiago trail, also known as the “Road to Santiago”, The “Way of Saint James”, or simply “The Way” (yep, just like the Hollywood movie, filmed on location – which is how we first got this crazy idea). There are several pilgrimage routes to the tomb of the apostle James, all of which have been walked since 800 AD. [like I said…epic!] The most popular route is the Camino Francés, or French Way, which begins in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port, France at the base of the Pyrannes, then crosses up & over the steep mountain and spans westward across northern Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela [literal translation: Saint James in the Field of Stars]. Pilgrims often continue walking 3 more days to Finisterre (“End of the Earth”), completing their journey by symbolically ‘baptizing’ faithful feet in the soothing water of the Atlantic ocean.
I’ve mentioned this “bucket list” dream of ours in passing a few times. But, you will likely be hearing much more about it throughout this year. The Camino has been calling to us for almost two years now. Our kids roll their eyes and sigh as soon as the word “Camino” is mentioned because – according to them – it’s “all” we ever talk about. I’m sure we must talk about other things. But, I admit, it’s one of our favorite topics. We’ve decided to stop talking and start doing. Life is too short to keep waiting and putting off the great yearnings of our heart. If we don’t go soon, we might never get to go. And, that would be heartbreaking. So, we are going to focus on doing everything possible to make it happen. We have a target departure date, but I’m not quite ready to put it in print yet. (Don’t want to jinx it?!) It’s going to take a miracle – many – to pull this off. But, it’s been really interesting to see how many things have suddenly come together ever since we said “OK. Let’s go for this!”. Seems like a sign!
January 14th: A gathering of Utah pilgrims recently came together spontaneously via Facebook. Most of us had never met before. Until now, I didn’t know there were any Utah pilgrims! We are a very lively, friendly, diverse and energetic bunch! Mr. Mo and I learned that most of these pilgrims have not only walked once, but multiple times! And, those who have “only” walked once, are planning their next. We were told, several times, that as soon as we return from our first Camino, we will inevitably start dreaming & planning for our second … (oh, dear, don’t tell the kids!)
The Camino always beckons.
It was exciting to be in a room full of people with the same shared passion that we have been feeling. Everyone went around the room and shared a little bit about their “favorite” Camino experience and “least favorite” experience, their funny memories and tender stories, their Camino miracles, and even a few “Camino tattoos”. (We just shared our names, and that we hope to have stories to tell soon) There was a lovely spirit of joy and brotherhood/sisterhood in the room – it actually felt a lot like a Mormon testimony meeting…with wine. 😉 We enthusiastically voted to create the first official Utah chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC). Big shout out to our new friends who are spearheading!
Thanks to Dean, who owns the incredible restaurant where we met, we were treated to a feast of authentic Spanish foods from the Camino – Tortilla de Patatas (an egg and potato pie), Cocido Montañés an incredibly delicious meat and bean soup, fried peppers, breads + cheeses + olives, and the Galician specialty of pulpo, which is octopus, (my first time ever to try & it was actually pretty good). And of course, there was also a lot of La Rioja wine flowing (don’t worry, we drank water).
Our next meeting will be an “active” gathering – we are going snowshoeing. (with lots of food of course) How cool is that to suddenly have all of these new pilgrim friends?!
Martin Luther King Day – Jan 19th we launched our epic “baseline walk”. It’s highly suggested this is the best way to test just how long and far you can go at this point in your physical stamina. Then, you know what you need to work on. So, off we went! We chose to use the Legacy Parkway Trail because it’s flat and clear this time of year and easily marked. We each carried weighted backpacks. We covered a little over 30 Kilometers (approx. 19 miles) in 5 Hours. That’s a pretty sweet “baseline” test! Doing a 30K day would probably be the very longest distance we would ever try to cover in 1 day on the Camino. So, now we will back off from that distance and work on building up strength, stamina and tackle some hills, and once the snow melts on the mountains we will do some rustic trail walking. We learned a lot from that long walk.
- Friction from socks is bad! Fortunately, at the half-way point of our walk when our feet were burning and hurting we were near a sports store so we hobbled in and bought new socks and a product called “Glide” to roll on our feet which prevents friction. Made a huge difference. Happy feet = happy walkers!
- Layers are good in the winter – glad we had them
- Waterproof pants are good when it rains – glad we brought them
Since our baseline walk we have been walking every day – sometimes only 3 miles, sometimes 10. We are really racking up the steps on our Fitbit counters! We feel great!
Learning The Lingo
“I wish I knew how to speak Spanish.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve thought or said that for the past 40+ years of my life, I’d have a nice pile of cash! According to any website, guidebook, blogs, etc. it is not 100% necessary to be fluent in Spanish to walk the Camino. However, the more you know, the more you can interact with locals and fellow native pilgrims. For us it will be much more a necessity since we will likely be walking in Winter when there will be very few pilgrims, let alone English speakers, to help translate. So, here’s what we are doing right now for language training:
1. Camino Lingo book – very helpful little resource specifically created for pilgrims and the most common words and phrases needed.
2. DuoLingo – whoever created this site and app to learn languages deserves a big hug! This is a great language learning tool, and it’s even fun!
2. My husband is fluent in French. This is what keeps me from freaking out (too much). He’s way ahead of me with his Spanish study. He also happens to have an incredible brain for memorizing. I’m counting on him to do most of the talking and I’ll do most of the smiling and “singing for our supper”.
3. My brother and sister-in-law are fluent in Spanish. Private tutelage. Score!
Watching The Documentary
January 24 – It just so happens to be Sundance Film Festival time in Utah. And, it just so happens that because of our Utah APOC meeting on the 14th we were fortunate to be invited to see a private screening in Park City of the award winning documentary “Walking The Camino: 6 Ways To Santiago“.
Wow. All I can say is WOW about that entire evening. I laughed and cried through the whole film. It definitely made us even MORE excited to go. It was also cool to have Daughter A with us because she was able to actually see what we are going to do, and really catch the spirit of the journey. (She promised she won’t roll her eyes quite so much now when the subject comes up.) One of the featured pilgrims in the film – Annie – was there to meet us and hold a Q&A after. Her story on the Camino was one of the most painful but also most inspiring to watch, so it was especially sweet to meet her in person.
Annie also shared a sneak peek a new documentary she is producing called “Phil’s Camino” which documents a man with stage 4 cancer who is able to fulfill his pilgrimage dream and find spiritual, emotional & physical healing through the experience (although Phil is not cured, he found personal “healing”). I look forward to seeing that when it releases! If you want to help support the new film, check out Annie’s lovely little pocket-sized book with inspirational thoughts from her Camino.
In conclusion of this epic blog post, I have to share my dear friend Alex Boyé’s singing his stunning rendition of this beloved spiritual today, because the words seemed just too perfect – “I want Jesus to walk with me. All along my pilgrim journey. I want Jesus to walk with me.” I love this song – I love the message, and I love Alex’s powerful performance [and I love that I’m singing in his “backup group” in the video 😉 ]. I truly believe that we all have our own special journey to take in life. We are all walking a pilgrimage. And, we all need divine help. We don’t have to travel thousands of miles in order to learn the lessons of overcoming life’s mountains & trials, learning endurance & how to see tender mercies. But, for some reason, Mr. Mo and I feel like it’s important to make this particular trek part of our life’s “pilgrim journey”. So, I hope you’ll follow along, and let’s see where it takes us! – MoSop
I Want Jesus To Walk With Me