My mind and my heart have been filled with the idea of walking el Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) for a couple of years.  I decided to do it out of love, in celebration and gratefulness during this sixtieth year of my life, 2008.

Preparing means to ready yourself.  The last eight months have been of intense preparation for a physical and emotional challenge at a time in my life when it would be delightful and infinitely easier to stay home enjoying my family, visiting with friends and reading good books.  But, do I do the easy thing?  Of course not!  I love pushing beyond the comfort zone.  It’s the only way that I have found to grow.

Readying myself meant reading all I could find about the pilgrimage; learning about blister prevention and hiking  socks and boots; deciding on technical clothing that wicks away sweat from the body and dries off quickly; trying on multiple backpacks, day-packs, and lumbar packs; getting familiar with trekking poles and wind-resistant jackets; trying on dozens of hiking sandals; struggling to understand a digital compass/altimeter/barometer/dual-zone alarm watch; and, most amazing for a non-athlete like me, getting up at 5:30 most mornings to hit the gym, the treadmill, the Pilates reformer or the Yoga mat before starting my day at the office.  I have been invigorated by the effort.  My body is stronger that it has been in years, my gear is ready, and I feel excited and fearful as the trip gets nearer.

I am ready physically, but, am I ready emotionally?  I forgot to prepare for this.  I don’t know how.  I am coming, because the Camino calls.  Is that enough?  I go in search of a me that got herself lost amid being too busy and accepting too many obligations.  Will I find a different me along the way?

I  have done a lot in the years I’ve been given.   And I have never regretted the things  I did; only what I was too afraid to do.   I am scared about the journey ahead.  But I’ll be darned if I turn my back on an opportunity as juicy as this one.  No, I will not decline life’s invitation to participate in a thousand-year-old ritual of pilgrims seeking something larger than themselves.  For me, the journey is about love and gratefulness: love for the Energy that gives me life; love for the Maggie that works too hard; love for the people whose pain and joy intersect with mine every day.  And gratefulness for the God that lives in me, and for all the goodness and hurt I have experienced.  And most of all, this pilgrimage is a celebration of my being alive.  It isn’t every day that a 60 year old grandmother gets the chance to go meet herself.


I’m writing this as I ride in a van, surrounded by 17 other neophyte peregrinos, all excited to start our journey to Santiago. We are going to the border with France to begin walking from there, each at our own pace, although we will meet again as a group for dinner later tonight.

The weather is overcast and rainy; it is cold too.
I will write more tonight.
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Subject: May 1 – Najera to …. Where am I? I think Santo Domingo de la Calzada

I can’t even think straight. Did 16 kilometers today, which seems a short
distance compared to the last two days, but it was hot and sunny, and no shade
at all. Had to pee behind some brush!!
The views were quite beautiful, mostly farmland with snow capped mountains to
the southwest. Green rolling terrain except for two steep uphills, which I
managed well. My legs and lower back are sore, as are the backs of my upper
arms, from using the walking sticks. My hips are stiff and it is difficult to
bend down to pick up anything that happens to fall down, which happens a lot
while I’m unpacking, tired and sweaty.

Fell asleep while taking a bath, and still had to wash clothes in the sink, but
after a little rest had enough energy to go into town to see the Cathedral and
have dinner. Nice food and great wine in this region of Rioja.

Today I dedicated the walk to my first serious boyfriend, Juan Perez Bouza, a
Spaniard from La Coruna, who was killed during student riots in Paris on May 1
around 1965 or 66. My plan is to look for his tomb after I finish my pilgrimage
in Santiago, since La Coruna is just an hour away.

Carried Hugo’s stone, which I will carry again tomorrow. And I left Susan’s
crystal at the cave of the Virgin in the Monastery at Najera. This particular
virgin sits with white lillies, a candle and soft bells ringing, because
according to legend, a famous king found her like that in that same cave and she
gave him strength to win a big battle against the Moors, considered then the
dark forces. The king dedicated the monastery to the virgin, and now Susan’s
crystal is there to gather strength for the battles ahead.


Did a bit more than 22 km today. That’s about 13, 14 miles. It was pretty easy terrain, gentle slopes and cooler weather. My leg held out OK and by the end I could not feel any pain at all. Thank you all for your prayers and healings. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Left stones I carried for Lisbeth, Ruth, and Vanessa Ch., on marker along the way. Carried the stones I brought from Colombia and Miami, and a stone for Fred, plus the ones given to me by Julian, Alexandra, Dorothy, and Mikael, to the top of the Iron Cross. Emotional.
Went to Mass today. Its Mother’s Day in Spain, so had thoughts of love for my mother and all the women and men I know who are so nurturing and loving. There are two nuns, a priest and a retired bishop (all fron Canada) in our van group. It’s very nice.

Tomorrow is the climb to O’ Cebreiro. Pray for me!
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Subject: May 5 – Ambasmestas to O’ Cebreiro and Samos Casa de Diaz

I had been looking forward to the climb to O’ Cebreiro and had also been afraid
of it. Many accounts of the ascent describe its difficulty. And it was very
hard, but it was also glorious!

We climbed for about 4.5 hours, from Ambasmestas, which is at about1200 feet
high, to O’ Cebreiro, at 3900 feet. The day was cool and clear, so the ground
was dry in most places, which made it easier to climb. My lungs are still at
sea level mode, but my legs are stronger, even with my recent injury.
Something strange happened to me yesterday and today; aches and pains stopped
hurting after a while of walking. When there is no option to call the rescue
vehicle, like today on the mountain, the only choice left is to keep going.

There were birds, insects and streams accompanying me on the ascent, along with
the occasional cow bell and the faraway barking of dogs. The mountains were
covered in purple heather and green grass. White and yellow sprays of wild
spring flowers spread their aroma into the pure, clean air. Each time I looked
up and saw the unending path continuing to rise, I would turn around to see how
very far I’ d come already. The views were spectacular. There is a most
special feeling to know that your feet have carried you such a long distance.
Just like in life: how far you’ve come is how far you’ve carried yourself.

We had a great communal lunch at O’ Cebreiro. Everyone was happy and feeling
good about having accomplished the climb. There was much laughter, and animated
conversations sprung everywhere like the spring flowers on the path. The food
and the wine kept coming, brought out by the friendly relatives of the priest
who brought back the culture of the Camino fifty years ago.

There is a small, simple church at the summit, called Santa Maria la Real. God lives there.



We walked directly from our hotel, Casa Diaz, a beautiful casa rural, after a breakfast of cafe con leche, peasant bread, three different types of home made jams, soft cheese, flourless amazing cakes, and fruit.

Did about 7 miles to Sarria. I reinjured my right leg on a missed step and had to rest this afternoon, but was able to get a massage and some tips on stretching. Plan to walk tomorrow’s 24 km. From now on, no van is used except in emergencies, more info

because the last 100 km must be walked without assistance. Pray that my leg holds up!

Yesterday, on my way to O’ Cebreiro, I carried stones for Marina and Jill and placed them on a marker. This morning I carried a stone for Sandy, which I will place tomorrow.

I realized today, because it was the first time I could access internet on a PC, that my blogs are posting scrambled. Sorry about that. Please read the comments.
More tomorrow.
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What a day! 25 kilometers, eight long hours, beautiful farm country and rain for the first time!
Glad I carried my poncho. I thought it would be hot under it, but it was actually pleasant to walk under the cool rain after so many hours in the hot sun.
My hands and the back of my neck are turning a very dark brown, and I can already see sun spots on my face, in spite of heavy sunscreen. I sweat so much, it doesn’t last very long.. Not pretty! But I guess it is what pilgrims look like.

Today was hard, but it feels good now, after a hot bath and a self healing BodyTalk session and a leg and lower back rub (also self administered) with Voltaren gel, whiich I discovered here in Spain and has helped a lot!

Each day, the routine gets easier. Get up at 7, pack, decide what goes in the pockets and hanging from carabiners (metal loops) from my belt ( each day I numberswiki.com

try to carry less). Must have three liters of water, sunscreen, energy bars, some fruit, my US passport and my Pilgrim’s passport, some money, my Tilley hat, a bandana, toilet paper, and my walking sticks. Also carry a pedometer, a camera, and a compass watch. And, of course, the day’s route mapped out. It is a lot to carry, but I’m getting the hang of it.
Breakfast is usually cafe con leche, yogurt, fruit, and bread. Then, a quick bathroom trip, because it will be hours before the next toilet is found (had to go in the bushes once), and off I go.
Lunch around 1:30 or 2, and more walking untill 4 or 5. A place to stay, a hot bath, washing the day’s clothes and finding where to hang it so it is dry by morning, followed by tending to the feet and legs, something to eat, blogging about the day, and bedtime. Not a lot of time for anything but walking. That’s my day!


I am still processing this experience. I am grateful to all who took the time to write and to pray for me; to Gail Marshall and Linda Lewis, who supported me both spiritually and with their long distance BT treatments; and especially to my husband, Fred, for his unfailing support and his willingness to gather resources so I could continue in spite of injury, illness and exhaustion.
More to come. .

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