Friday, August 29, 2014

sifting & shifting

I wrote several weeks ago about processing my camino experiences.  The internal discovery parallels the external discovery; as one meets special, deliberate, committed people they, in turn, move the internal cogs of understanding the mystical and magical forces of faith and belief and of learning to love others for who they are.  One kind of person you'll meet on the camino (over and over) is the man or woman who is walking the camino for the second, third, fourth, sometimes tenth time.  While I walked, I struggled to understand this type of person.  Why did they do it over and over?  It's hard.  It's so very challenging on every level: emotionally, physically, spiritually & intellectually.

For weeks now, I believed that I would probably never be one of those who feel the call of the camino more than once.  That changed a few days ago.  On a tuesday afternoon, while doing the regular things that I do - in this case - quietly weaving bracelets for my jewelry business, I felt the pang of longing out of nowhere.  I wanted to be back on the trail, living the hard, but simple and rewarding life of a pilgrim.  I longed for the sense of belonging on this planet with the wind, the wild flowers, the birdsong, the peaks and the valleys, carrying everything I need in a pack strapped to my back.  I craved the immediacy of emotional intimacy with fellow pilgrims; sharing what is most important to us in all of the world in the first ten minutes of our first meeting and conversation.  I imagined the utter peace I felt sitting in a hard pew in any of the stunning cathedrals along the Way.  I recalled the absolute quiet of small villages in the last moments before falling into the deep sleep of one who has expected much from their physical body each day.  I even longed for the healing tears that sprung up, unbidden and generally for no particular reason as I walked and walked.

So, as I sift through my camino experiences, there is a shift.  I'm leaning more and more into that girl who evolved from fears and uncertainties into capable, committed and emotionally and intellectually engaged with the bigger picture.  And the bigger picture is beautiful.  May you walk your way with ultimate guide in your heart wherever you walk: Love.

Love yourselves -
Love each other -
Love y'all


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

the power of tears

I don't cry often.  Even when there is an understandable, compelling reason for tears.  Be it from fear, beauty, grief, gratitude - my emotional responses to being alive were tangible and evident as I walked.  I often wondered about this after my frequently, sudden, powerful tears on the camino de santiago.  I still wonder about it.  Now that I'm back home, the tears seem to have receded again.  Was I more tender in the newness of my experience?  Was I more open; my heart aching for the depth of all of my experiences?  In learning to embrace vulnerability, perhaps I was learning to be more accepting of all of the different parts of me that make up the whole.

My first day of traveling involved flying overnight to Paris.  When I arrived, I needed to find the train station inside of the airport and I did.  Then I needed to purchase a ticket to St. Jean Pied de Port without knowing French, and I did.  My debit card was denied; fortunately I had enough Euros on me to pay for my ticket.  That afternoon, my train was delayed en-route, so I missed my connection in Bordeaux, and again, I figured out in my non-existent french how and where to catch the next train to Bayonne which would arrive there at 10:30 pm and I did.  This meant that I would have to travel the final leg to St. Jean Pied de Port the following morning.  When I arrived in Bayonne, very much sleep deprived, I needed to find a place to sleep... yup, in french.  My debit card was denied and again I used Euros that I had, but I did get a room.  When I finally got into my room and locked the door behind me a steady stream of tears silently slid down my cheeks, and I brushed my teeth then cried myself to sleep.  The next morning I spent thirty minutes on the phone getting my bank (which I had already spoken with about travel plans and then confirmed before I left) on board so that I wouldn't be denied traveling money.  I found the correct bus which would take me to my launch point; St. Jean Pied de Port, and when I arrived I walked until I found the Pilgrim's office.

In the Pilgrim's office, I presented my USA passport and my Pilgrim's credentials.  I answered the questions I was asked - how are you traveling  - on foot - and where are you walking to - Santiago De Compostela.  I watched as man helping me first wrote my name, my country of residence and my passport number in a log, then he placed the first stamp in my Pilgrim's passport and the tears began again.  This was the first time of many that I watched someone, a stranger, make a record of me and where I was located in the world and the first time of many that this simple moment had me on my knees emotionally.  There is something so basically affirming about being made a record of; about mattering; the tears, I think, were from the comfort of being accounted for even as I felt so alone and far from 'home', as well as from the joy of fulfilling a commitment I had made to myself.  Blurry eyed and grinning, I looked at my first stamp: 16 Maio, 2014.

Day one, and my steps take me up, up, up, over, then down, down, down a mountain in the Pyrenees, nearly 27 kilometers in total.  I realized quickly that all of the training I had done wasn't enough to prepare me for this.  I also didn't realize that down was much more challenging than up, and my tears began somewhere in about the 22nd kilometer.... I was sure that I wouldn't make it, and I would be looking for a place to lay down in the forest for the night.  I was aching physically, and my fears threatened to overwhelm me.  I did make it to Roncesvalles before nightfall, and I watched as the second stamp was placed in my Pilgrim's passport with hot tears falling from my eyes.

Birds calling, sunrise and sunset, seeking shelter in a cathedral, weaving a cross into a fence in memory of my dad, knowing I was alive, gratitude for every little kindness I was shown, making it up a steep ascent, making it down a steep descent, the relief of be able, finding a bench or even a flat stone to sit on while attending to blisters, biting into an apple, fields of unending red poppies, coming around a bend and finding a village with a cafe, getting a bed for the night.... each of these little things held the power to unleash my tears and cleanse my heart.

When I walked into Santiago de Compostela the morning of 29 June, 2014 and entered the plaza in front of the cathedral my joy, my relief, and even a little sadness had me weeping magnificently.  I was overwhelmed to feel so completely and utterly alive; I felt satisfied in a way that I can't describe very well.  I found my way to the Official Pilgrim's Office and waited in line for a little under an hour to get my final stamp on my Pilgrim's credential as well as my compostela - official document saying that I, Kerstin Hanson, had completed my pilgrimage.  Oh the joy, oh the sense of a deeper knowing, oh the tears.  Sweet, beautiful tears.

Love yourselves.
Love each other.
Love y'all -