Connecting with The Camino Spirit!

I believe there is a Spirit on The Camino. A guardian angel of sorts that if you calm yourself and open your heart and soul she will provide. On September 5 I connected with her.

My story starts the day before. I was walking from Belorado to Ages and met up with Jessica from Boulder, Colorado who I had seen often over the past few days as we both started walking early between 5:30 and 6:00 and moved at a similar pace. She had told me a few days earlier about her father’s recent death and the death of a sibling in a motorcycle accident many years ago. My dad died two years ago and my sister in an auto accident 27 years ago so we had a connection. She also told me about walking up to Alto del Perdon, a peak on The Camino 13K past Pamplona. She did it in the dark to be there for the sunrise and had a deeply emotional experience.

This conversation caused me to change plans. We passed Ages and walked to Atapuerca where I now planned to leave the next morning at 5:45 so I would get to the peak Matagrande around 6:30 to enjoy the nighttime sky fading into daybreak instead of just the sunrise.

I slept at Albergue Hutte in Atapuerca. Anna a young Polish girl sleeps in the bunk on my right, John (not his real name to protect the guilty) on my left and Jessica in the bunk above me. I awake at 5:15 and am stumbling around in the dark and trip and put my hand on Anna’s bed to keep from falling. She pops up and I apologize explaining what happened in a whisper. The guy on my left lets out a loud fart with an accompanying nasty odor. I say, “What a beautiful way to start the day”. Anna giggles. So I exit the Albergue at 5:57 in the dark and walk through town down the road a bit and then up 150 meters or so in the dark. As I am walking up Matagrande on the Camino Frances I realize today is September 5 the birthday of my dead father, Francis, and my deceased sister, Frances.

The Cross on Matagrande

Anyway I get to the top and there is a cross. Following my ritual of transferring a stone and my prayers across 1900 kilometers of The Camino I take the stone from my pocket and place it on the pile beneath the cross, then take a stone from the pile and place it in my pocket for the next cross or cairn. Then saying my usual prayers for people with Sjogren’s Syndrome, Addiction problems, my wife and kids, my family and friends and for all the peregrinos and a specific few like the German girl, Ulrike, who I met in St. Jean Pied-de-Port.  Over dinner she told me her best friend was killed in that horrific plane crash in France when the copilot deliberately crashed killing everyone on it. She also has MS which means walking across the room is a difficult task for her. She had told me her doctor told her she was insane to be walking The Camino. I loved her reply. “I’m not going to stop living. I simply just take one step at a time”. I was so touched by this woman and have thought of her often when walking and praying.

Sitting in the stone labyrinth at sunrise on Matagrande

Later, I walked over to the large stone Prayer Circle that takes 5 minutes to get to the center and I take my backpack off and sit down. It is 6:42 and still very dark. I enjoy the star filled sky watching the peregrinos walking by me in the dark not noticing me and feeling sad they don’t see the Prayer Circle. I continued to sit in silence breathing deeply, meditating.

The night sky is fading into a deep blue with fiery red and oranges amidst the wispy clouds. A Dutchman who overheard me telling my plans to someone the night before walks up and says he understands why I wanted to stop here and sits down next to me remaining until just before sunset. We never said another word to each other other than “Buen Camino” when he leaves. The sky is changing growing increasingly more colorful and beautiful as the sun nears the horizon.

Sunrise on Matagrande

The night sky is fading into a deep blue with fiery red and oranges amidst the wispy clouds. A Dutchman who overheard me telling my plans to someone the night before walks up and says he understands why I wanted to stop here and sits down next to me remaining until just before sunset. We never said another word to each other other than “Buen Camino” when he leaves. The sky is changing growing increasingly more colorful and beautiful as the sun nears the horizon.

While I sit a deep calmness overcomes me. I think of my father and sister and feel their presence. Then other ancestors. I feel sadness and cry but then so much joy and more tears. I feel intensely alive in love with nature, my family, The Camino and fellow peregrinos.

At one point I feel so humbled by this sight and realize I am worthless and nothing which surprisingly brings me joy. A conversation with a fellow peregrino a few days before comes to mind. Walking down from another peak, Alto del Perdon, I am chatting with Ivan, an Inuit Greenlander currently living in Sweden. He is of the Baha’i religion and tells me a story of a King who wanted to be loved by his people like the head of the Baha’i religion who is a humble monk. The King said “What should I do? My desire to be at the top conflicts with being like you.” The monk said, “Perhaps you should seek something higher than being King”. The King said, “But there is NOTHING higher than being King”. The Monk said, “Exactly”.

Sunrise on Matagrande

About an hour after arriving I stand concentrating on my breathing and feel one last surge of joy as the sun appears. More tears. I’d like to stay in this beautiful place but I am a peregrino and feel the strong urge to get back on The Camino. First I walk circularly exiting the Prayer Circle seeing my young German friend, Matthias, walking by. We wish each other a friendly Buen Camino and walk down Matagrande towards Burgos.

Later in the day it has gotten very hot 93/34 as I approach my destination Tardajos. Remembering it was Jessica who was in the bunk above me last night who gave me the idea to go up early to Matagrande, I hope to meet her again to thank her and let her know that she and her father and brother are now in my prayers as I transfer my prayer stones across 1900 kilometers of The Camino.

Arriving in Tardajos late around 4:30 I walk over to the local bar with a fellow peregrino and run into Jessica and I get my wish to thank her with a big hug.

We go into the bar and get our drinks and sit down and it suddenly dawns on me to text my German friend Falko who is walking from Berlin but I’ve not seen in weeks.  I was thinking that he might be around where the German girl with MS was and there might be a chance they meet however slight.

So I take a minute or two to text Falko about Ulrike and let him know I’ve been thinking of her and praying for her and to keep his eyes and ears open for her. He responded shortly afterwards with this:

“I met the woman with ms 2 Minutes before you write me…….crazy?………she feels really good but she goes home in the next few  days………she was really happy to hear that you ask for her.”

I believe getting the idea to spend extended time on Matagrande, the meeting with Jessica afterwards to thank her and “my” idea to text Falko was a message, or perhaps a gift, from The Camino Spirit. I suppose the whole day was a gift.

Buen Camino!

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2 thoughts on “Connecting with The Camino Spirit!”

  1. Hey Kevin, your experience shared is so beautiful from the heart. I admire your spirit of oneness with your deceased family. I was reminded of the ancient spirits who walked the way before us all and think their presence is always near. I feel so grateful to you for sharing your truth. Buen camino amigo. Liz x

  2. Thank you for posting such a deep and very meaningful experience. I truly believe that the Camino is a Soul path.

    All my best,

    Bonnie Ruiz

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