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Sherrie Frank: My Camino

Dear friends: I had the opportunity to take time this past month to go on a four-week journey to walk the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. This network of paths covers hundreds of miles of steep and beautiful terrain, and all routes lead to Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St. James are buried. I was asked to share a little of my experience with you and am so happy to do so, wondering if maybe the Camino will call to you one day as well. It begins with awareness. xo—Sherrie

 

The Camino

A pilgrim walks the Camino.

I have known about the Camino for 13 years and knew I would walk it one day. I had my first inkling it was the right time in the March PES during a quiet moment when I closed my eyes and saw myself looking down at my feet in hiking shoes standing on a beach with the waves lapping my shoes.

Today I leave home,
to journey Home to myself,
to walk and listen.

I wrote this haiku on May 17 as a prayer. It was the morning I left home to begin my 4-week journey to walk the pilgrimage of the Camino. My journey was restorative and renewing. It was more than and nothing I expected.

Posing with the statue of the weary pilgrim in Burgos, my first day back on the Camino after five days in bed with the flu. (Photo by Tiera St. Clair)

Posing with the statue of the weary pilgrim in Burgos, my first day back on the Camino after five days in bed with the flu. (Photo by Tiera St. Claire)

Like all pilgrims, I began walking. I walked for three days. It felt hard and amazing to be on the path. And then …  I came down with the flu — a bad, five-day flu that demanded I stop walking and rest. I did so in a little hostel. This was not what I thought I wanted on the Camino, and you can image I might have felt some resistance to this experience. I did finally surrender (aka fell asleep) and woke up days later feeling better than I had in years. I felt strong and resilient in my body, excited and ready to walk on. This unexpected experience challenged any idea I might have been carrying about “walking the Camino perfectly.” Instead, I let go and learned the gift it is in life to simply walk on.

The wisdom of “walking on” continued for me as I listened to pilgrims who shared stories of extreme loss. One shared how he had lost all of his considerable wealth. He told me, “After this loss, I came to the Camino to walk with my problems, in the end I realized I had no problems.” I learned this wisdom too from a Venezuelan family who became refugees as they fled their home and history for the safety of the unknown. Their story, like so many in life, is paradoxical in its sadness and powerful in its faith, trust, and love.

I was reminded over and over on the Camino that life can be brutal at times. Even now, in our civilized nation, children are suffering unimaginable brutality and injustice in the name of law. We are failing to take care of each other. It can be disabling to think about and I feel hopeless at times. These pilgrims’ real-life stories reminded me we humans are resilient and we can walk on with courage and support from each other.

We journey as one,
moments of sacred grace shared,
walking our hearts home.

Messages along the path help walk our hearts home. (Photo by Tiera St. Claire)

Messages along the path help walk our hearts home. (Photo by Tiera St. Claire)

There were so many synchronistic moments on the Camino, many I experienced and many I heard about. There is also magic. Some days walking was easy on the Camino. It seemed it had its own energy and shared it freely with me. And then there were days that I felt like I was walking with bricks in my shoes. I felt so weighted down and thought it was impossible to walk on. I experienced my life engaging me in a daily conversation, and as the days “walked on,” I was learning how to quiet my mind and listen to the deeper meaning each experienced offered.

This moment is mine
and mine alone forever
I breathe into it.

I felt a little bit of magic as I spotted the writing on this marker.

I felt a little bit of magic as I spotted the writing on this marker. (Photo by Tiera St. Claire)

I know what a privilege it was to walk each day without much of an agenda other than taking care of my feet, keeping water in my bottle and fuel in my body. The simplicity of these days rekindled my sense of wonder.  I came back home to myself with a profound appreciation for my life, family, friends and work.

Like Dorothy in Oz, I left home for a time and remembered once again there is no place like home.

I walk in oneness
I am everything I love
and everything else.

The people of Spain greet pilgrims with the words “Buen Camino!”, which translates as “Good Camino!” It is a blessing they offer… a little support for a tired pilgrim. Day-to-day life is like the Camino, some days more difficult than others. Let’s remember to offer words of kindness and encouragement to each other, if for no other reason than the recognition of the courage it takes to awaken each day and walk on.

Some pilgrims start their day at sunrise.

Some pilgrims start their day at sunrise.

Along the way, pilgrims offer up prayers and blessings.

Along the way, pilgrims offer up prayers and blessings.

Yellow arrows and seashells help guide pilgrims on their journey.

Yellow arrows and seashells help guide pilgrims on their journey.

In the end, I actualized my vision.

In the end, I actualized my vision.

Sherrie Frank is program director for Wings Seminars.

7 Comments
  1. Such a wonderful experience. I dream of this for myself one-day.

  2. Hello Sherrie. Thank you for your wonderful words and photos. I walked the Camino Finisterre and the Camino Portuguese this Spring and found that the “keep on walking” message was powerful for me as well. Both on and off the Camino!

  3. How wonderful to read about your experience. I walked SJPP to Santiago in 2016: much the same as you describe and much different…but also lifechanging! Bienvenidos – welcome home!

  4. Thank you for sharing. I <3 the Camino!

  5. Marvelous Sherrie!

  6. Sherrie thanks for your beautiful article I and three friends from Eugene walked 80 miles of the Camino to Santiago in June. 20 years ago we were going to do the full thing. Now we’re all over 70 so we did 10 days of it. It was beautiful powerful and I’m grateful for everything I learned. Although we started in Sarria, We did walk four miles before that to the iron cross.
    I am still coaching Spirited Walkers to walk the Eugene half marathon and that training has stood me in good stead for years.
    I first did PES in 1983 and volunteered for years on back up teams. I’m grateful that it exists now in its new incarnation. Much love and blessings to you all. Kay Porter

  7. Sherrie,

    Loved hearing about your journey and seeing the beautiful pictures.
    Congratulations! Love, Elizabeth

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