Today’s Walk

I’m in the Berkshire Mountains now, soaking up the fresh air. SA and I have taken his mother to her place here because she needs the help, and since I’m in this beautiful part of the world, I’m taking advantage of the country roads for some longish walks.

From West Stockbridge on Iron Ore Road I went up Cone Hill Road, turned right  on 41, and entered Richmond, about 6 miles.

Before leaving Iron Ore I walked around the neighborhood to see if anything had changed since I was here a year ago, but the same tidy houses with the same tidy lawns greeted me as I passed.

People here have lovely gardens of perennials–tiger lilies, Black-eyed Susans, sylvia, Queen Anne’s lace.

On highway 41 I picked up a menu at a barbecue place called Lakota, across the street from the Richmond fire station.

Crossing over the train tracks reminded me of a book I just finished called Bold Spirit, the story of Helga Estby and her daughter Clara and their walk in 1897 across the U.S.  from Spokane, WA to New York City. They walked most of the way along railroad tracks so they wouldn’t get lost.

They faced tremendous criticism for even going on such a walk because women were supposed to stay at home to raise their children. This was before women had the vote, and many men thought women were too weak to endure such an arduous trip.

Helga accepted the challenge to walk because the person who completed the journey would receive 10,000 dollars, money she would use to save the family homestead from bankruptcy.

I didn’t face one tenth of Helga’s hardships when I made my pilgrimage to Santiago, but traveling alone in Spain was not exactly easy. Women have to be on their guard while walking alone, even if we are no longer young.

On my way back to Katherine’s house I went along Furnace Road where former Governor Duval Patrick has built a home. He built on plot of land next to Mud Pond, an old quarry where we used to swim. Patrick bought up all the land around the quarry, so now there’s no access to it. Our sons would swing from a rope swing there along with many other locals. We would also swim out to a fallen tree floating in the center. It’s sad that now no one can swim in the cold, clean water just because one person wants privacy.


  
  
  

Day 3 of Camino 

Today I walked 21 km from Roncesvalles to Zubiri, a small town in Navarra. Navarra is part of the Basque region of Spain and France, and all the road and street signs are in Spanish and Euskera, the Basque language. It has been fun speaking Spanish again and reacquainting myself with the culture.

The Spanish consider Roncesvalles to be the start of the Camino de Santiago. There’s a very modern pilgrim’s shelter there, modernized in 2011. 

The shelter is located in what used to be an Augustinian monastery, and it’s attached to a church that was originally built in the twelfth century.

Last night I attended a special mass for pilgrims to receive a blessing, the same blessing that has passed down through the centuries since medieval times.

There was a beautiful gold light illuminating the altar, and above hung a statue of the Virgin Mary made of gold-plated walnut. 

The priest spoke of the mystery of the faith, of the word of God, but the mystery that he spoke of that touches my heart the most is the mystery of nature. That’s where I go to connect with what it means to be free and at peace. 

                 

Pamplona, Before the Camino

I decided to spend two days in Pamplona before heading to France to begin my walk. I’ve needed these last two days to adjust to the new time zone and to rest from the two days of travel.

When I landed in Madrid, I tried to connect to the free internet at the airport, and when I wasn’t able to, I panicked and bought a phone with a Spanish SIM card. My original plan had been to Skype with my husband through WiFi without needing a phone, and I hadn’t unlocked my iphone to use a new SIM card.

Long story short, I’ve found that I have no problem using WiFI as long as I enter a password. So now I have an android phone I don’t need. I’ll probably donate it to a women’s shelter when I get home. If I can figure out how to remove the SIM card, I’ll give it to one of the many people on the streets who are asking for money.

The other mistake I made was to purchase a bus ticket online for Pamplona. This would have been fine, except I bought a ticket for 1 o’clock in the morning when what I had needed was 13:00 h, international time.

The woman at the counter was obviously very sorry for me when she saw my distress. She offered to let me come to the front of the line if I couldn’t find a train ride up north.

In the end, I took a 3-hour train ride and made it to Pamplona at around 6:00 (18:00h!). I slept most of the way, exhausted after the eight hour flight and the mishaps at the airport.

Maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s my attitude, but I took these hitches as the Way once again teaching me patience and mindfulness. I’m on a pilgrimage, and if everything were easy, it wouldn’t be very meaningful.

                    

Gentle Hike to Cascade Falls

Over Memorial Day weekend I went on a four mile hike on the Pine Mountain trail at Roosevelt State Park, land that is connected to F.D.R.’s Little White House.

F.D.R. chose Warm Springs, GA as a getaway from Washington and the world stage because of the curative properties of thermal springs there. Polio had rendered him paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 39, and bathing in the springs helped him regain some of his strength.

He bought the land surrounding the springs in 1927 and converted the area into a rehabilitation center that is still thriving today. The waters are not available to the general public, but people in need still receive the benefits of the warm springs.

The Pine Mountain trail covers twenty-three miles of easy to moderate hiking through a gentle mountain range, hills mostly, south of Atlanta. The four miles we hiked took us from a radio tower and picnic area off a two-lane highway to a meandering creek-side path under the cover of oaks, pines, and rhododendron. Tiny waterfalls spilled over brown and gold rocks along the way.

We crossed the creek several times until we reached our destination, Cascade Falls. We took our boots off, waded into the cool water, and later watched a millipede crawl across the sand while we dried our feet in a patch of sunlight.

I scrambled up a twenty-five- or thirty-foot overhang just because it was there. I started climbing what seemed like a stone stairway, but about halfway up I realized I would have to pull myself up part of the way, which was a little scary. I should have taken the trail to the top. But I made it, and was relieved once I flopped myself over the ledge.