the del Norte/Primitivo route.
Spain: From Irun to Santiago de Compostela, 500 miles.
Post 5; June 4, 2016, Saturday afternoon. Nine days til we go.
The Five Symbols
It’s Saturday afternoon. We’ve walked from the 18th Street Coffee House on Broadway in Santa Monica to REI, on the corner of 4th street and Santa Monica Blvd, where we are buying all our gear for the Camino. Yes, it’s the six of us, the group, the team:
The Actor, Nick Tate.
The Professional Man, Harold Rosenberg.
The Everyday Woman, Tempie Teagarden.
The Young Man, Norm Adams, also known as the Problem Solver, or “TPS” for short.
Baby Doe 1, the photographer.
And, me, Tom Gehring.
And as we walked I went over the list I’d prepared to make sure everyone had what they needed for the journey (see attached). Thank you Brian Thomason, the leader of the 2014 Camino trip along the Francés route, for the genesis of the list. The walk to REI was symbolic itself, because that is what we will be doing on the Camino: walking, or hiking, or trekking for about 500 miles, not including the extra hundred miles for all the side excursions to castles, monasteries, Knight Templar hideouts, bridges, and secret places. There are many symbols on the Camino. Here are five:
1. The Yellow Arrow. All along the Camino we will find the little, sometimes big, yellow arrows pointing the right way to go. Ah, such is life. Wouldn’t it be nice if, at every crossroad in life, there was the clear little yellow arrow that pointed the way. When I did the Camino in 2014, the little yellow arrows were such a sign of joy. I often thought, wow, thank God, I’m on the right path, I know which way to go, I’m at peace. Our life is like the Camino. What arrows do we follow?
2. The Scallop Shell. Also, all along the Camino we will find the scallop shells which along with the painted yellow arrows guide the pilgrims to the great Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. We can expect to find the scallop shells painted or fixed on the sidewalks, trees, fences, ancient buildings, everywhere as they guide us to Santiago. I already have five scallop shells to give to my five group members to tie to their backpacks as a symbol that they are pilgrims and we are on a pilgrimage . . . to Santiago. I still have my shell from 2014. For me, this symbol represents the changed life one can expect from walking the Camino.
3. The Walking Stick. Every pilgrim needs help walking. You learn on the Camino that a good walking stick definitely helps lighten the load of the trek. For me, I used French-made walking poles with spring to them. They were priceless for my journey. Who are the people in your life that serve as walking sticks for your life journey? How can each of us be a walking stick to another person? We will meet amazing people along our journey. We shall be inspired. We shall serve.
4. The Bandage. As we travel the Camino, we can expect blisters, sprains, wounds, and other injuries. Certainly physical, sometimes mental, sometimes spiritual. We will be tending to ourselves and each other constantly. Such is life. How do we respond to these many types of injuries? What life wounds are we refusing to deal with?
5. The Backpack. Wow, this was another powerful symbol. When you have to live out of a backpack for six weeks, every little ounce matters. And then you get home and you think: there is so much in my life that I don’t need. How can I lighten my load? We all have excessive baggage. For this trip, I shall travel light and, when I get home, I’m going to again—lighten my load.
I’d like to thank the La Fuente del Peregrino group in Ligonde, Galicia, Spain. When I came upon their little Albergue at 73.5 Km along the Francés route in 2014, I felt saved, refreshed, spiritually strengthened and ready to carry on. And I reflected on the words they poured over my life, and these five symbols that they brought to my attention . . . at just the right time.
And I loved the question they asked me after I left:
What comes after the Camino?
. . .