Pilgrims' Potpourri

Reflections on our journey with God

Go Up to the Mountain Joyful bearer of Good News October 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 1:05 pm

Shout with a full voice our God is near. Those who hope in the Lord find their strength renewed. They fly like an eagle like an eagle they soar.

It isn´t Advent yet but this hopeful, joyous tune keeps coming to mind as we see the mountains ahead and start the ascent. Trusting God is the theme on our hearts. Some of you may know our daughter Sarah fell and hit her head Sunday evening causing her to have two subdermal hematomas. She was admitted to the ICU at St. Peter´s for observation because she was also sick to her stomach. She underwent many tests and our daughter Elizabeth came from Buffalo to advocate and oversee her care while Hilarie provided moral support by phone.   

It has challenged the parent in us to continue on the Camino and let God take care of our family. Depending on our children and extended family to lend a hand is not how we typically handle things. Trust is a necessary part of this journey as we go to places we have never been and walk when we are not sure the way. We sleep next to people we do not know and share all facilities with them. We are unaware of the weather forecast when we arise. We send one of our bags filled with all our belongings with total strangers each day and trust it will arrive at our next destination. We choose the destination without knowing if we will actually arrive there. “God willing¨ is a staple in our conversation when we meet other pilgrims and they ask where we plan to end our day, we say the name of the village, God willing.

We have walked 342 miles and have left 155 miles to Santiago. This journey challenges us to trust God more deeply and be dependent at a whole new level. Proverbs 3:5,6

We are grateful for your prayers and comments. We pray God meets each of you in the place of your deepest need today.


Rabanal del Camino a rainy day covered with rainbows

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 12:58 pm

We have just begun the ascent to Mt. Irago, the highest point on the camino. Today we walked a short 13 miles in a light rain for over half of the way.  The mountains were in front of  us, daring us to cross them. The city of Astorga was to our back, a familiar place where we had rested.  It is always difficult to leave the familiar to venture out to the unknown, ye t God always seems to invite us to unfamiliar places.  At the half way point in our walk, we came up to a small hill.  In front of us was a beautiful medieval village, like so many we have seen along the way, with its little tiled houses and church steeple reaching to the heavens.  In the sky to the right of the church steeple was an enormous rainbow.   We reached for our camera, but it would not work so we could not take the picture–The church steeple and the rainbow together.  God has many ways to speak to us.  In that moment, the rainbow filled us with the presence of God.  It was God speaking the covenant to us: I will be your God; you will be my people. Of course, that is what this pilgrimage is all about-  just letting God be God and delighting in the tender care God always provides, even if we are in unfamiliar territory.  For the remainder of our walk in the rain, we saw the rainbow painted on the ever present camino signs pointing the way west to Santiago.  We smiled and realized that even in the rainiest of days, God’s rainbow is there, an eternal promise to be with us always.

May your day be filled with rainbows.


Astorga The city below the mountains October 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 12:59 pm

We arrived in Astorga yesterday after a strenous 19 mile walk.  It took us almost 9 hours.  Karen’s heel blister is still giving her some problems.  Despite its length, the walk was so beautiful–the moonlit sky, the slow dawning of the sun and the ever-changing landscape.  We  are always walking west so though it is very cold each morning, the sun eventually gets the upper hand and warms our backs and our spirits.  Our walk took us toward a mountain range, a range that we will begin to climb tomorrow.  It will take us to the highest point on the Camino, about 4,900 feet.   We decided we both needed some rest so were are staying in Astorga two nights.  Yesterday´s long walk brought us some wonderful surprises, just as we were both beginning to feel the drain of the long journey.  As we climbed through some apple orchards, two women were leaving the orchards with buckets in hand.  The older woman, with a rugged and weather-beaten face, approaced us. She reached into her folded apron and shared some apples and freshly picked chestnuts with us.  We struggled to converse and thanked her for her generosity.  She wished us “buen camino” and then, we believe, asked us to pray for her when we arrived in Santiago.  At that moment in the orchard in a foreign land, we recalled another place and time in creation–in the garden.   The garden where our God had set all of creation´s goodness as a banquet for us; a garden which through selfishness and greed has been turned into a  wasteland in some places.  That nameless woman, so generous and hospitable, filled us with a sense that the garden is being restored.  In every act of goodness, hospitality, justice, and  peace-making, the garden of Eden is coming back to life.  With spirits renewed and bodies refreshed we look forward to our climb to the high places tomorrow.

Blessings of peace, love and joy, and abundant gratitude for your friendship.


Leon– snoring, singing and the contemplative life October 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 4:42 pm

On Sunday we were in an Alberque in Mansilla de las Mulas.  We shared our room with three other Frenchmen.  We were very tired and desperately needed some sleep.  Ed had a sense that the night would be difficult when one of the Frenchman confessed, in French, that he was a very loud snorer.  His friend laughed and said he would win the prize for snoring.  As Ed tried to go to sleep the snoring symphony began.  It was like the overture of the 1812 in that room. Ed tried not to loose his composure but between the noise and the fact that he did not fit in the small twin bed, he passed most of the night reading, singing to himself and hoping morning would arrive soon.

We arrived in Leon the next day and went to an alberque called Santa Maria de Carbajalas, run by Benedictine nuns.   Next to the albergue was a hotel operated by the sisters.  Since we were exhausted and a bit sleep deprived we spent the night at the hotel, which was part of the monastery. It was called the Pax hotel.  And it was well named.  It was the quietest night we have had since we began-no snoring, no teeth grinding, no coughing or sneezing. We were in heaven.  But the best part of all is that we were able to say vespers and night prayer with the sisters.  Their sweet chanting of the psalms and warm welcome to the pilgrims was like a balm that soothed our nerves and brought back the peace that we have experienced on the camino.  They even had copies of prayer books in various languages so we could pray with them.  Miles from home in a foreign land, we connected with a familar ritual in our faith tradition and our God spoke to us.  The message was loud and clear. I am your peace, pax, pace.   Seek me first and come to me in the quiet and I will give  you rest.  We rested indeed in body, mind and spirit.  Today, refreshed and renewed,  we journeed  to Vilar de Mazarife where we will spend the night.  We had much to contemplate as we walked.  Holy silence is indeed a powerful place to find yourself and find God.

Blessings of peace and quiet to each of you who are traveling with us in spirit.



The heavens are telling the Glory of God October 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 5:02 pm

and all creation is shouting for joy. Come dance in the forest come pláy in the fields and sing sing to the glory of the Lord!!

 These last few mornings the horizon has been visible in every direction and as the sun rises there is a rosey glow of pink, peach and yellow followed by purple then blue as the sun enters a new day. It is the best gift one who has a color appreciation could be given and touches our hearts each time we see it. The trees stand with branches uplifted and the birds sing cheerfully greeting the new day. I am then inspired to sing. Songs are getting me through when I grow weary at the end of our walks and set the tone at the start of our day. Then we stop to eat something and proceed with the rosary.

We stop again to eat lunch, first aid work on my feet and then continue to the next town. We fill our water bottles at fuentes along the way. Some are fancy water spickets some plain and we drink so much water along the way. I could not survive without my pstyle. I had no idea how I would depend on it.

When we arrive at the alburgue we take off our shoes and get our credentials stamped. Each design is unique and makes a patchwork of our credentials. Then we get assigned a bed to sleep in for the night (Karen is usually on the top bunk Ed on the bottom). We get a tour of the alburgue to see the bathrooms, showers, laundry area and possibly kitchen. We are informed when the doors are locked and lights are out and when we can arise and we usually need to be on the way by 8am. We are usually long gone by then.

We make our beds, set out our laundry and what we need for our shower. We wash our clothes by hand and hang them out to dry and pray there is enough sunlight left to dry them before dark so that we do not have to hang them from our bags in the morning to dry all day along the path swinging in the wind as we go. It is quite a routine.

Ed heads out after his shower to shop for fruit, bread, yogurt or cheese or tuna for the next days lunch and breakfast if the stores are still open. If not we wait for shopping until siesta is over and journal and plan our stop for the next evening. We eat dinner at about 7 pm. It is the pilgrims menu consisting of 3 courses soup, salad or pasta appetizer a meat or fish main course usually with fries and desert. A bottle of wine and water are always on the able as well. Then we collapse into bed and look forward to the next day. We pray no one snores, grinds their teeth or coughs in the night or that the outdoor lights are not too bright. We give thanks to God for another amazing day and snore ourselves.

We miss pumpkins and the vibrant colors of the northeastern fall and all of you.

Blessings to each of you on your journeys and know you are in our prayers,

Love, Karen and Ed


Mansilla de las Mulas, Love the Universal Language

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 4:18 pm

Last night we arrived in a very small town, Hermanos De La Calzada.  The alberque was quite small but when we entered we felt we were at home.  It has been cold these past weeks, the nights dip down into the 40’s and the hostals are not heated at this time of the year.   We sleep in our sleeping bags, sometimes with all of our clothes on to keep warm. In this little hostal we were welcomed by the hospitalero, a man in his 70’s with the broadest and warmest smile we had ever seen.  This man exuded hospitality.  He was from Barcelona and spoke only Spanish and Castillian, the language of Barcelona.  Yet, we had no trouble communicating with him.  We struggled to use our Spanish to converse and he struggled to undertand. We communicated much more than words can ever convey.  There was between us a bond of spirit. This man and his wife were rooted deeply in their love of God and of God´s people.  They had done the camino and now volunteered to help others keep going.  At this stage in the journey, we have fleeting thoughts of quitting and coming back to finish another year.  Our friend´s kindness reminded us that God has much in store for us if only we trust and let God be God.  The hospitalero roasted chestnuts for us on the little wood stove that warmed the alberque during the day.  We had purchased a variety of fresh vegetables at a farm market in town and prepared a stir fry with fresh brocolli, spinach, chard and garlic. The garlic was given to us by the farmer because he knew we werre peregrinos, pilgrims.  Another act of God´s goodness.  We shared our meal with 2 other pilgrims and sang Chestnuts Roasting on the open fire to the delight of our angel hospitalero.  There was in the air last evening a deep sense that all of us are on a journey and that our work is to help one another along the way.  God provided some incredible help in our friend whose name we do not even know.  Maybe that is better.  We will call him Gabriel, Raphael or Michael, one of the angels.  When we left, we gave him a big hug and, deep within us, we knew that one day we would sing  and share a meal with this beautiful human being again.

With all of our love to you and thanks for your prayers, your encouragement and your love which we feel across the sea as strongly as if you were here with us.  But then again, you are with us!


Terradillos de los Templarios — Church and Sheep Bells October 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dcnedsol @ 2:37 pm

Today we are at the half way mark to Santiago.  We have passed through some very desolate landscape marked only by vast fields, undulating hillsides and a few trees.  It has been a time for contemplation without the distraction of little towns and ever changing scenery.  The juxtaposition of ringing church bells and ringing sheep bells has given us food for thought over these past few days.  We eagerly anticipate a view of the church tower in each town and the bells that toll every 15 minutes to mark the passing of time. The ringing bells also remind us that we are on holy ground.  Every scene, every landscape, every creature and each pilgrim is on holy ground. Ground that has been tread by our God and by the many seekers whose feet have trod the camino.  Last evening we stayed in a Monastery operated by the Sisters of St. Clare, a monastery that it is believed St. Francis stayed in as he walked the Camino.  We were so blessed to be in that setting and prayed the rosary and vespers with the cloistered sisters who, of course, prayed in Spanish.  We look forward to the bells ringing as we leave in the morning dark and to the distant bells beckoning us to keep walking on God´s path wherever it leads.

We have seen many shepherds leading their flocks in the fields, but last evening in Carrion de los Condes, a flock of about 200  sheep paraded right through the town´s crowded streets faithfully following their shepherd.  Many of the sheep have bells to alert the shepherd should they stray from their path.

Church bells keep us centered on the reason for this pilgrimage- to see the Lord more clearly, follow the Lord more nearly, love him more dearly, day by day.( as the song goes).  The sheep bells remind us that each of us too has a bell which alerts our Good Shepherd when we go astray.  God will never let us out of sight; we will never get lost;  we are always in God´s tender embrace.

Next time the alarm goes off, a church bell sounds, or the  phone rings, we will be blessed to recall the church and the sheep bells ringing.

Thanks for your comments and prayers on our blog. Since we only have limited internet access, we cannot respond  to each one, but please know they are like bells ringing to us.

With all our love,

Ed and Karen