Peregrino: the word seems to me, when adrift without context, to be a likely candidate for a brand of beer, a word that marketers might like because it sounds as if it has a slightly foreign air — that lifting ō at the end — and might be easily pronounced in many languages.     Per-i-grin-o:  it flows musically off my lips.  But it is not its lyrical sound that first drew me to it.

Athletic and adventurous are not words that spring quickly to mind as good descriptors of me.  Yet, in ’85 or ’86, when visiting recently transplanted friends in the Smokeys, we began discussing the Appalachian Trail.  We even spent part of an afternoon walking on a nearby portion of it.  I was intrigued by the idea of a long hike.  But, practicalities — then in my mid-20’s, and throughout the last two decades  — have always prevented me from doing anything more than daydream or live vicariously through stories told by those who have undertaken such treks.  Still, the dream of a long hike, the processing of placing one foot in front of the other for mile after mile, day after day, until a distant destination was reached, did not disappear.

About a year ago, at a board meeting, we were trying to determine a next meeting date.  When a specific date was mentioned, one member said “I may not be available.  My wife is going to be gone for a month, so I have some child care issues.”  I heard someone quickly ask if  his wife was going on a pilgrimage.  There was a quick confirmation that she would be walking the Camino de Santiago.  I don’t remember much else about that meeting.  I was immediately taken by the idea and could not wait to leave so that I could go find out more about this journey.  The seed was planted.

The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James or The French Way, is an ancient pilgrimage route that begins in France and continues across northern Spain to the  city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.  In the medieval era, pilgrims travelled from throughout Europe, beginning in their home villages, to the cathedral where, according to legend, the bones of the Apostle James are buried.  Although some modern-day pilgrims choose to walk a shorter trek,  the  common starting point of The French Way is in St. Jean Pied de Port, near the French-Spanish border, crossing the Pyrenees where Charlemagne did, at the Roncevaux Pass.  (If you studied French in school and read Le Chason de Roland, this is the location of the epic battle memorialized in that work.)  From there, The Way continues westward for about 500 miles to Santiago.  Some pilgrims continue on to Finisterre, the western most point in Spain.  Finisterre was also considered a holy place in the Middle Ages.  The Codex Calixtinus, considered to be the first tourist guide, was written about this route around 1140.

The route has remained unchanged, although most of the pilgrims — peregrinos — no longer walk for religious reasons.  I am planning to walk beginning in late August or early September.  I no longer have the constraints of children to care for — my son graduates from college in two weeks and will be off to begin his adult life shortly thereafter — nor do I have the constraints of a full-time job.  Without these concerns and with plenty of time, now seems like an ideal time to begin walking.

I look forward to seeing a part of the world that is unknown to me.  I welcome the long hours of solitude accompanying a rhythmic pace forward along the trail.   I anticipate meeting others from all parts of the world and figuring out how to communicate despite language barriers.  (I know no Spanish!)  I want to embrace the idea of a very physical goal — 500 miles! — and experience the satisfaction of having completed such an undertaking.   I want this to be both a closing chapter on my years raising a child mostly single-handedly and a beginning chapter to whatever it is that comes next in my life.  I’ll have a lot of steps to think through what that might be as I journey along The Way.

This post is part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is P. Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. You can find other A to Z participants by clicking on the graphic. You’ll find an index of all of my A to Z blog posts here.

12 responses to “Peregrino

  1. Awesome! All the best with your planning!

  2. I go for a walk most day so a long walk with beautiful scenery and introspection sounds good. But when I think of the practical aspects, I realize it is not for me. Barbara Samuel O’Neal is one of my favorite authors and I stumbled across her writing about her journey yesterday.
    I look forward to hearing more about your preparation and journey, plus photos.

    • Thanks so much to O’Neal’s website. I’ve been perusing the last several posts. I definitely plan on writing more about my journey. One of the questions that I have is how is this different from just walking every day? I walked approx 9 miles today, not quite as long as most days on the camino (and flatter, so far less time). Does introspection come from knowing that you will do the same tomorrow? That you will not be retracing your steps? That you will sleep in an unfamiliar place? That you will not see your loved ones? I don’t know, but I think those are some questions that I might find.

  3. Wow, this is awesome Anne! I have been wanting to do something like this but like Mobius I would be taking photography 24/7! lol….and it would take twice as long of a journey!. Im pretty sure you may know of the actress ” Shirley Mclaine”? Well seh did a pilgrimage like you and I’m not sure if its the same one but it might be and she wrote a book about it! It was wonderful, I couldn’t put it down! I think she did for finding her self and were she would be headed next in her life… Wish you the best! Can’t wait to hear the amazing journey! Be blessed!

    • I’ve heard that MacLaine wrote a book about this, but I have not read it. I should look into whether my library has it. There have been lots of books about this, including Paulo Coehlo’s first book, The Pilgramage. Emilio Estevez wrote & directed, and his father, Martin Sheen, starred in a film titled The Way that’s available on Netflix. Not the greatest movie in the world, and was more about the relationships between the four characters and each of them coming to some understanding about themselves than about the Camino, but it is central to the film.

  4. Buen viaje y buena suerte (Good trip and good luck).

  5. Nicely done. Based on what I saw in the video I’d never complete that journey because I’d be completely sidetracked by the factories and “crumbling” villages. As soon as someone organizes something – with a specific beginning and end – I’m outta there. Hahaha.. But of course that pretty much is the mark of my own life pilgrimage – maybe it’s the “rebel” in me. I never focus on the end, preferring instead, to just enjoy the journey along the way. Enjoy your journey and I look forward to reading your stories and seeing your photos along the way. 🙂

    • My husband keeps teasing me that it will take me three times as long because I’ll want to take pictures of everything. I’m already wondering how I can take along all of my lenses and a tripod. But, since weight is a consideration, I will just take one lens (I’d love to get an all-in-one, 18 – 270mm) and then carry a macro lens for an iphone. I don’t have that macro lens (or an iphone for that matter) but I’ve heard people say that they get amazingly good pictures with it. As for a tripod, well, even a light weight one will be too much for a 500 mile trek, so I’m going to experiment with using a rope tripod where you leverage your body & a length of rope to stabilize. Lots to do/think about as I plan this.

  6. Well, you definitely are inspiring. I have been thinking of going on a long…pilgrimage. Of course, I am in the middle of so much right now. Great to find you on A-Z and I look forward to reading about your adventures. 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by & commenting, Firedaisy. It may just be convenient to believe so, but I think that something like this has to happen when the timing is right. So many years I would have thought Wish I could do that but never would have considered it seriously because my life just wouldn’t have allowed it. But, now, everything seems to be falling into place for this to happen.