Paula and I were visiting Maureen and Stephen at their country home in Chapell Hill on a rainy day in November 2019. We were on the way to San Antonio to spend the weekend with Michael and Chappell Hill is almost right on the way. Even in the drizzly overcast weather, it is a beautiful place and their home is very warm and comfortable. Maureen has furnished it with some items Mom and Dad left behind which brought back memories of my childhood. For example, there is a round leather-covered coffee table with six similar stools, all engraved with Incan motifs. As children we would spend hours waxing and polishing that table.
By the way, their home is nestled on high ground surrounded by trees and gently sloping land. We commented that it was a very special place, surrounded as it was by gently nodding trees in which dwelled the protective spirits who welcome them to live together in harmony.
That evening, after dinner, the conversation turned to my planned walk on The Camino, the ancient pilgrim’s trail in northern Spain. “Why in the world would you go all the way to Spain to walk 15 miles a day for 35 days?” Stephen asked. I had not been asked this question before and I don’t think I came up with a very convincing reason. Why does anyone write or paint or cook or travel? There are some things you do because you have to, but when you are free to chose, you do what you want to do. For many years I have wanted to walk the Camino.
Earlier that year— it must have been in March— I was chatting with Katita about doing the Camino. We thought how interesting it would be to follow the lead of Jonee, who, a couple years earlier, had forged, at least on behalf of the Carroll clan, the trail by walking for several days along the Camino. Katita and I thought we should definitely do it the following year. Well, about a week later she announced she was not waiting any longer and was leaving in a week! We got word she had landed in Madrid and soon I was excitedly and enviously following her blog and vicariously walking the Camino with her, meeting her friends and sharing her morning coffee and croissant.
A couple years have now gone by, and I prepare for my Camino. Hopefully, this blog will help refresh my memory of the experience in the years to come. For example, the following passages were written prior to my first attempt at the Camino in 2020:
“…I write these words at a coffee shop on Sukhumvit in Bangkok, arriving from Shanghai a couple days ago. I have been fascinated by the Wanderer, the Traveller, the Seafarer, and all those fellows whose goals may be lofty or noble or misguided or foolish, but who will live or die or find happiness or misery as a consequence of their actions, which may be selfish or altruistic, taken in the name of God or made under the deception of some trickster. I sail with Odysseus upon the wine dark sea and I share a saddle with Sancho alongside Don Quixote. And soon, I will join a one-thousand year old trek of pilgrims who have gained some kind of inner experience, perhaps quite unexpected, after reaching the bones of St James.
There is one more thing that must be mentioned here. As everyone knows, Paula is the walker in this family. As I originally contemplated the Camino, I was certain this would be a joint effort and if anything, I would be holding Paula back. However, she does not want to walk fifteen miles a day for thirty days. She also prefers to help JP and Jen with Juliette [and Jemma and Joelle]. When she told me, I knew that was the way it was meant to be. I will travel the trail alone but for unknown pilgrims and innkeepers, at my pace, unhurried, discovering my path and accepting its destination. And at the end, when I reunite with my Penelope, my Dulcinea, my Paula, it will be a moment to rejoice and celebrate and, copa de vino en mano, share stories.”