I know I talk a lot about the Camino de Santiago on my blog. I’m a bit obsessive about a few things and the Camino is one of them. As obsessions go, it’s not really a bad one, though, is it? It’s a beautiful walk filled with inspiration, hard work, beautiful people, and time to reflect on the life you’ve led and the one you’ll walk into at the end of your journey to the Cathedral.
My friend–fellow writer and Camino expert Sue Kenney–guides small pilgrim groups on short pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. She does this twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Sue is now accepting pilgrims into her Fall Group.
100 Kilometres/6 Day Walk
2017 FALL RETREAT
DATES: October 20-28, 2017. 8 Days/7 Nights.
This is an exceptional primer to those who have always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago in its entirety, or for beginners who just want a taste of that elusive Camino energy they’ve been hearing about. It is said that once you hear about the Camino it begins to call to you…and the call doesn’t go silent until you feed it. Have you heard the call from the Camino? Maybe this Fall 2017 getaway is the best way to heed that call for now. 6 days, 100km…a walk in the park–one of the most beautiful parks in the world. With a beautiful person who will inspire your every step with her insatiably contagious joie de vivre. Now is the time to walk with Sue Kenney (Camino Sue) to that magical Cathedral at the end of the yellow arrows!
What are you doing this October? Let Sue Kenney guide you on a spiritual journey along the last 100km of the Camino. She is having a discount at the moment if you book before July 1st.
CANADA’S BIRTHDAY SPECIAL Book by July 1ST, 2017 with a $1000.00 deposit for 20% OFF THE FEES.
Visit Sue’s site for full details on the upcoming OCTOBER RETREAT. You’ve been thinking about the Camino for some time now, haven’t you? It’s time to do something about that desire you’ve been holding onto. The Camino is calling!
FROM SUE’S SITE:
The group will meet in Samos, Spain on October 20, 2017 and we will arrive in Santiago on October 27, 2017.
We begin our pilgrimage in the city of the famous 13 Century Samos monastery.
We will walk on average 18 kilometers a day through beautiful landscapes, undulating terrain and we will spend most of our time walking in the mountains and forests. At each stop, the accommodation is booked for you and in private pilgrim albergues, rural pensions or hotels.
On the last day, we will all walk into Santiago (Optional) as a group and go to the Pilgrims Office to receive our Compostela. On the following day, you are invited to attend the Pilgrims Mass and possibly see the Botafumeiro swing. (hugeincense holder)
The Camino has the power to transform lives. Is it calling you? For a FREE half hour phone call to find out more about the Camino or to receive a Registration Package, contact Sue at the number below.(GO DIRECTLY TO SUE’S SITE TO VIEW THE PHONE NUMBER)
Good ole Facebook is at it again. It is constantly re-igniting my obsession with the Camino de Santiago that grows inside me every day. This week is the 3rd year anniversary of my Camino journey. Every day I am seeing picture after picture in my Facebook Memories feature. Every day, my longing to be back on THE WAY swells to a new height.
Add in the fact that I know my Camino guide and friend Sue Kenney is currently guiding yet another round of peregrinos on The Way even as I write this, and I have a perfect storm of Camino Desire. I want to walk the entire Camino Frances (The French Way) from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and beyond…yes, all the way to Finisterre. Some days the desire is so strong, I just want to put life on hold, board a plane, land in France and start walking.
But the Camino is time. In order to walk The Way, you need well over a month to complete the trek from St. Jean to Finisterre. Perhaps 2. It is not presently in the cards. Retirement? Maybe. One can hope to be able to have the health required to do these things in their golden years. It is, nevertheless, an obsession…and it will continue to be one.
I try to take the journey with me every day. When I go somewhere new, I walk the streets and attempt to see that new place with the eyes of the Camino peregrino living inside me. Every day is an opportunity to walk…every day can be a journey.
Everything points to The Way. It’s a way to live as much as it is a physical path…it’s an exploration of self.
I suppose the intensity of my love for this place will always swell on the anniversary of my journey…thanks to Facebook and its memories. Not a bad thing to recall…not at all. I love you, My Camino. One day, I will walk you again. On that day, this peregrino will be home…
Sometimes, in the life of an author, the echo of silence is so severe it scorches. The armor one must wear to be a writer is, at times, debilitating. Even with 5 novels published and readily available for consumption, I’m, for the most part, an unread author. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to squish a mountain of sour grapes into the universe. It is what it is. My books are largely unread. It is merely a fact.
This, in and of itself, is not as debilitating as it sounds. Honestly. Just a little disheartening. But the preciousness of the ego is protected in such a way that one can hold on to one good word for a very long time as motivation to carry on and continue on with the journey despite the obvious reasons one has for folding up shop and moving on. Between the excruciatingly long awkward silences that come of being an unread author, there are little tidbits of rewards when one discovers someone has not only read one of your books…but loved it. These nuggets are what I hold onto when I struggle with the ever-present question that dogs the unread author: WHAT’S THE POINT?
But the point is more about self-fulfillment than it is about being read, isn’t it? When it comes right down to it, the creative heart is creative out of necessity rather than out of any desire for recognition and being petted for being creative. Creativity happens even in a void of witnesses. If I were the last human being on the planet–the lucky/unlucky survivor of a nuclear holocaust, say–I’d still have the need in my heart to be creative. I would still write.
I’ve been thinking a LOT lately about the Camino de Santiago and how my experience there reflects my creative life. I haven’t quite made the connection, but it’s there. I just can’t put my finger on it. I have thought a lot about the concept of EVERYDAY CAMINO since returning from Spain in May of 2014. I have thought a lot about the fact that the journey not only ended at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela…but it also BEGAN there. I honestly can’t stop thinking about how the journey of the Camino de Santiago mirrors Dorothy’s journey on the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz. I was mesmerized by the analogy all throughout my Camino journey and even more so at the end of the journey when I stood in the piazza in front of the great cathedral and saw a million familiar faces staring back at me and up into the face of the cathedral itself. Every man, woman and child I had walked beside, around, with, past—every one of them seemed to be there in that piazza. I walked around in a daze, thinking, ‘And you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and you were there!’And when I walked into the cathedral, I felt the weight of a thousand dreams, wishes and hopes. I looked about for the wizard and he was there and he was me and he was all the other peregrinos (pilgrims) present at the time. We were all the wizard. We were all the makers of our own journeys. We were allthere for proof of intelligence, and for a heart, and for courage, and for a home. We were there to belong.
I want to be on that journey, still. I want that wide-eyed wonder every day. I AM on that journey. I carry it with me. It is only after you walk the Camino de Santiago that you realize the journey has just begun. You can bottle that mesmerizing feeling and take it with you. The Camino allows you do to that.
The tie-in for me, when it comes to trying to piece together my writing life with my Camino, is the Muskoka Novel Marathon. This 72hr novel writing marathon is to the Camino as The Wizard of Oz is to the Camino. At the end of the writing marathon, I look around at all the tired, sleepy, traumatized, disheveled, elated, emotional writers (40+ of them) I took the marathon journey with and I think, ‘And you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and you were there!’ We land at the end of the marathon weekend with a splash and a plunk and we say, “WE MADE IT!” The marathon is the Camino is the marathon is the Camino. They are the same thing…both are journeys. One uses your feet and your heart and your desire and your dreams. The other uses all those things and a laptop and a chair.
I may have just put my finger on it.
I need to live the Everyday Camino I theorize and I need to use the Everyday MNM I theorize. I need these journeys to continue. I have books to write. I have books to complete. I can’t sit around hoping for others to read the words I leave behind me. I need to continue to leave them there for myself.
These two paths are so connected–interconnected–when I squint, the line between them disappears. Camino = Writing = Camino. I will, in the coming months, be looking for ways to shore up my writing practice with my Camino journey…which I very much consider to be ongoing.
I already know I will NOT be attending the 2017 Muskoka Novel Marathon. I won the Best Novel Award last year at the marathon, for the 5th time. I’m thrilled at that accomplishment. But I also felt like most of my time there was mired in failure last year. My unfinished manuscripts are piling up and I discovered at the marathon that I am unable to work on finishing projects there in that space of new projects. And that is what I want to do…finish projects. That is my goal for 2017.
In keeping with that goal, I am going to be exploring ways to work on my WIPs while at the same time exploring my life journey, my Camino. I know I can continue to incorporate the two. I don’t always write about the journeys I take, but I always feel more invigorated and ready to write when I take journeys. Perhaps I should make my own Camino this year, make my own novel writing marathon.
I recently received a terrifying email from Sue Kenney, the organizer of the Camino trip I am taking in May. To be fair, there is nothing terrifying about Sue. She’s a lovely person. I’ve had the pleasure of novel marathoning with her in the past and I’m looking forward to walking the Camino in her footsteps.
What terrified me was the list of things I am to carry during my walk. The list is remarkably sparse. On the surface, this makes a great deal of sense. We will, after all, be walking every day…and carrying everything we pack with us every day. In theory, I knew the list would be short. It’s the luggage packing maniac in me who has begun to panic. How am I to carry so little for so many days? I’ve taken more with me on long weekends.
Perhaps if I brought along a donkey, nobody would notice. Said donkey could walk alongside me and carry the burden of my guilt infested well-appointed luggage. And if it’s a small donkey, I might even be able to squeeze him into two airline seats. In the proper costume, said donkey could probably pass as a rather corpulent human. Heck, if he’s small enough, I wouldn’t even need the second seat…we could just sit in the more spacious first class section of the airplane.
I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from. Yes I do. I’m in the denial stage. I’m still under the mistaken impression that I could talk my way around the tiny list of meager possessions I am expected to carry. What can I say. As I was writing, my donkey brayed and that bray was the kernel of an idea. A means of rescue for an over-packer.
I thought I would compile a list of the things I will carry that will neither be in my backpack nor on my person during my Camino walk.
1. A rock I took from a mountain in Ohio during a Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery retreat (a retreat for men who were sexually abused as boys). The group of men I was with during that weekend all held this particular rock. It is meant to be a sort of talisman against the darkness. To hold it is to recall that weekend of empowerment and the men I shared it with. I will be leaving this rock at the cross of iron at Cruz del Ferro, if we are indeed to pass by this particular milestone in our shortened Camino walk. If not, it is of no matter. I will still be leaving the rock somewhere along my journey that seems of particular significance to me. (Read about the Cruz del Ferro milestone here)(so, technically, this will actually be on my person…I’m not really good at following rules.)
2. Fearlessness. I don’t think this is something I will be able to squeeze into my backpack. Fearlessness takes up a lot of space. It is better to carry it in my chest, where there is more room.
3. Faith in Goodness and Good Things. This is something I often have a hard time packing, even on my daily workaday adventures. You might have read my recent blog that referenced a quote by the late great Sid Caesar. “You think just because something good happens, THEN something bad has got to happen? Not necessarily. Two good things have happened in a row.”I tend to have a lot of faith in the happenstance of bad things. I wonder now if I should unpack my faith in bad things happening instead of attempt to pack a faith in good things happening. Or maybe I can do both. It’s always a good idea to get away from yourself when you’re travelling.
4. Wild-Eyed Wonder. I will be seeing beautiful things. I want to open my heart to it all, take it in and carry it with me beyond the plane-ride home. If I carry with me the same simple practice of wonder that I see in my grandson, Edward, I think I will be able to do this. When he sees the colour green, or a frog, or his favourite stuffed toy, or a puzzle, or chocolate, or mangoes…he himself becomes quite wondrous. If I think like him, see things for the first time like him, perhaps I will be able to enjoy every little detail of the Camino as I come upon it.
5. A notebook. Okay, like the rock, this is also something I will actually have on my person. A tangible physical item. But I will use it as an extension of myself. I will not worry about the grandeur of the words I choose to add to its pages. I will simply jot down the things that come to me. This is, after all, a pilgrimage. I’m sure a true pilgrim will always have a means to record the pilgrimage they are taking. I will be the notebook and the notebook will be me.
6. Cynicism. I will carry this in a safe place. Somewhere dark, isolated, and unreachable. It will be the thing I swallow before I leave the plane on the first day of my journey. And I will do my best to digest it and allow it to leave completely so I will no longer be required to carry it on my person once my journey is over. Cynicism is one of those things one just can’t seem to unpack. Best to just take it in and convert it to something more useful along the way. I know I can do this, because I am practicing on my Faith of Good Things happening.
If I make sure I have these things, they will help me to not notice the things I may lack in my backpack. Carrying these things may help me to be kinder to myself and to those around me. I’m ready for this. I can do this. The rock in my pocket, and all the things it represents, has given me a new kind of power. Sure, I intend on leaving it behind when I go to Spain…but I also intend on carrying it with me forever. Some things multiply in bounty as you let them go. If you have just the right amount of faith in a thing, you can watch it grow, even as it disappears in the distance. I’m making this journey to reclaim something that was taken from me. Sure, I may just be walking a well-beaten path to nowhere…but with every Camino Walk there is an immense inner journey that happens simultaneously to your feet touching the ground and your body being propelled forward.
I recently decided that I need to walk the Camino. In much the same way one lost in the desert decides they need water. It’s a long story.
I have been lost for a very long time. When one is visited by trauma in early life, one often gets misplaced from the life they would have lived had the trauma not occurred. I think I did a pretty good job these past few years rediscovering that long lost potential life.
Since around 2002, I’ve been writing. I believe writing to be my calling. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, but I know it makes me a better person. Does one have to be a master at something in order to believe that thing to be their calling? I don’t think so. I think it’s in the doing of the thing that one finds its true value, not in the quantifying of one’s ability in doing the thing. The possibility of kudos should not be the determining factor. My calling is writing. Because it is while I am writing that I feel most like the person I imagine myself to be. It defines me. I’m defined by it.
There was a time when I thought rediscovering my passion would be enough. I would find my happiness in doing the thing I was destined to do. Over the past decade, though, I discovered I couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not enough to reach your calling and sit on your ass. One must always plow forward. One must always be in a state of learning and personal growth. Sure, getting BUM IN CHAIR is an awesome and integral part of being a writer. I know this because I practice it.
But discovering and embracing my calling was not enough. Not by a long-shot. I was still a severely damaged human being. I was just slightly happier because putting words to paper seemed to keep the demons at bay, even if only momentarily.
I now know I needed to do more. I needed to face the demons in my life. If you are ignoring trauma, it doesn’t go away. It feeds off of you. And it grows. And grows. And grows some more. The only way to euthanize it and take back your life is to pull it out from under the rocks and face it down.
I heard about the CAMINO years ago. I took part in the 2007 Great Canadian Winter Novel Marathon at the Pickering Public Library and two of the other participants were this dynamic woman and comical man who, together, formed this kind of Superhero Duo. They were writing a novel together. At the time, the concept kind of blew me away.
The duo were Sue Kenney and Bruce Pirrie. I later learned about the Camino through Sue. AND since I first heard about it, I knew I had to walk it. I knew in my heart. I knew in my soul. I knew in that place where you just know. The Camino called out to me. I’ve since learned that one really doesn’t choose the Camino. The Camino chooses you. When it is your time to take the walk, you will know. It will become not just thing that you once heard about, but this thumping thriving living breathing thing inside you…a force that tells you to cross an ocean. When the Camino knocks, you put down your things, find the nearest walking stick, and start waking. <<that was a fortunate spelling error–I accidentally left out the l in walking. I think it’s kind of apropos, though…don’t you.
I have quite a bit of baggage to shed. And I have this rock I must leave along the Camino. I must leave it there, like others who find themselves lost in the desert must have a drink of water. I took the rock away with me when I left a Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery retreat. The rock is from a mountain top in Ohio, U.S.A. This summer, I had a moment when I knew I should leave it at our fire-pit in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada. But now I know I was wrong. Or, perhaps it only wanted to spend a season in Muskoka. Before I head for the Camino in May, I’m heading up to Muskoka to retrieve the rock.
You may think, “It’s only a rock. Why’s he making such a big deal?” A Weekend of Recovery retreat sees some thirty men participate in a fully interactive program to help them along the journey of recovery from the scars of sexual abuse. The larger group breaks down into smaller groups…and it is in these smaller groups that each participant chooses a rock from the grounds of the facility (which, for me, was at Hope Springs, in Peebles, Ohio). It is what these smaller groups do with the rocks that give them power and meaning. Each participant of the smaller group holds each rock in their hands. This symbolizes the strength we have together. Each participant walks away with a rock that was in the hands of each survivor in their small group.
Believe me…when I’m having a bad day, getting that rock out and holding onto it…it helps me to reflect on the weekend and what I learned there. I have been to Hope Springs two times. The first year, one of the other members in my small group actually gave me HIS rock. I’ve had it in my pocket every single day since October, 2011. I’m sure I’ll never be without it. But the rock I received the following year, I felt that I needed to plant it somewhere significant. And I thought maybe leaving it in that significant place would give all of us in that year’s small group a degree of power. I would be leaving a piece of US in that place.
I honestly thought Muskoka was the final resting place of that rock. But now I know differently. I’m walking the Camino to place it at the Cruz del Ferro site. This site is an iron cross atop an enormous pile of stones…stones left over the centuries by past pilgrims. This is the place I need to deliver my rock to…and in-turn deliver my brother survivors to.
I believe there is still room in Sue’s 2014 Journey. Click on the picture below to learn more.