Once you walk the Camino, you start meeting many others who are walking it; I have two good friends who have walked it in the past month, and it’s on my own calendar for April of next year. In fact, I already have my “Credencial de peregrino” (courtesy the American Pilgrims) and a plane ticket! (The ticket is on points and refundable. Crazy I may be, I’m not so crazy as to buy a nonrefundable ticket now for a date in 2024.)
Recently I dusted off my backpack and loaded it with about ten pounds of stuff and walked a half-dozen miles. It felt . . . natural. I ended at a coffee shop (creature of habit I certainly am), and remembered, from a couple of years ago at that same coffee shop, being taken for someone for whom Dallas was just a way-station. “No, I live here,” I tried to explain. They looked at my pack. They weren’t persuaded; I must have looked more itinerant.
Now that I’m preparing for my second Camino, I’m in a position to give myself the advice that I am glad to give to anyone else who might be thinking of taking this pilgrimage.
1) Keep your pack as light as you can. Last time I aimed for 15 pounds and ended up at 17, which was 19 when my water bottles were filled. It was okay. For clothing, you need only two T-shirts, two pairs of pants, four pairs of socks, two sets of underwear, a fleece, a puff jacket (not needed in the heat of summer), and a rain covering (stuff a lightweight stocking cap and gloves in its pockets). Everyday you walk, you get to your destination, you shower, and you wash some clothes by hand and hang them to dry.
You will be tempted to take more. But every extra fraction of a pound is something you will be carrying for several hundred miles. And remember there are stores along the way: if you absolutely must have something you didn’t pack, you will be able to buy it.
2) Change your socks midday. This gives your feet a rest, and is wonderfully refreshing as you continue on (and helps minimize blisters). I always had an extra pair of clean socks right at the top of my pack. The saying is true and worthy of acceptance: “Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.”
3) Pilgrims help pilgrims continually. One morning I was resting on a flat rock. A fellow came near and offered to help me readjust my pack, passing on a bit of wisdom. Another time, in a small group at supper, a pilgrim was lamenting her bug bites and that the stores were closed. I had an anti-itch stick that I didn’t need, and I gave it to her. (She did me a favor by lightening my load by two ounces! I never needed that and I won’t be packing it next time.)
Camino lessons are basic life lessons. God has so constructed this world that our entire lives are pilgrimages.
1) Don’t carry unnecessary stuff, physical or emotional or otherwise. It will only weigh you down.
2) Don’t just work. Stop to relax, take your shoes off, and allow yourself a little refreshment before carrying on. Do this every day.
3) Look for help in others. Look to help others yourself.
Out & About. Saturday/Sunday, July 15/16, I am to preach at All Souls’ Church in Oklahoma City: Saturday at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday at 8 and 10 a.m.
I hope you have noted the date (and started enjoying the book): The “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar will have its first fall meeting at St. Matthew’s (a new location) on Sunday, September 10, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The book is The Index of Self-Destructive Acts, the most recent novel from the remarkable Christopher Beha. We also have book seminars scheduled for October 8 and November 26, both Sundays at 5 p.m.; titles to be announced.
On the Web. By “the Camino” above I mean a pilgrimage that aims to end up at Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Although there are many routes, people usually mean the Camino Francese, which in the past decades has seen a remarkable reawakening. There’s lots of information on the Web; one place to start is the American Pilgrims on the Camino: https://americanpilgrims.org/