Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Real "Camino"

My good friend, Rita Iorfida, went to Spain this summer to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostela this summer. I hope you'll find the following interview about her experience both informative and inspiring.
Garrotto: What is a "camino"?
Iorfida: Roughly translated, camino means “way” or “path.”  In Italian camino means a walk or a path or a route."  To early Christians pilgrims, it was a way or path to a sacred site, usually a church that housed a sacred relic.  The route was usually difficult and onerous. Pilgrims were housed by local farmers, given whatever meager food was available in exchange for work or payment.  These routes were designated by "way markers" or signs, which directed pilgrims along the route.

Garrotto: What motivated you to make this journey?
Iorfida: I have thought about this over many miles of walking, over months of training, over months of step by step reflection.  Why the camino, and why now?  I could say ‘because,’ but that is too easy.  As I thought and thought,  I realized that I did it to give thanks to God, Jesus Christ, to my family and my friends.  One of the songs that gave me comfort on my training walks was “Blessed” by Lucinda Williams.  Some of the words are as follows:
We were blessed by the mystic
Who turned water into wine
We were blessed by the watchmaker
Who gave up his time
We were blessed by the wounded man
Who felt no pain
By the wayfaring stranger
Who knew our names
We were blessed by the homeless man
Who showed us the way home
We were blessed by the hungry man
Who filled us with love
By the innocent baby
Who taught us the truth
We were blessed by the forlorn
Forsaken and abused
We were blessed
Yeah we were blessed

Each day, I wanted to define what 'blessed' meant for me that day, what I wanted to give thanks for.  I have learned so much since I started walking. It wasn’t just the camino itself. It was the journey to get there. I have learned how not to be alone, how to enjoy my thoughts, how not to be afraid of the ache, how to listen to myself, and most of all how to be at peace with myself. I have learned that there is so much more than what is happening to me—the birds, the changing of the seasons, the beat of putting one foot after the other, the beauty of the day whether it be sunset, sunrise or the heat of the day. There is so much more than the small world that we define for ourselves. 

Garrotto: What was your route in Spain? Why did you choose that route from among the others?
Iorfida: We chose the “Camino Ingles” for a variety of reasons. We were intrigued by the fact that this was the route that pilgrims from the British Isles and Ireland followed to reach the remains of Saint James in Santiago.  We also wanted to walk a route in its entirety.  The “English Way” was reported to be 120 km and could easily be completed in 5 days.  Another reason for choosing the "Camino Ingles" was that it was the “road less traveled.” That meant there would be less congestion on the route.

Garrotto: How far did you walk? In how many days?
Iorfida: The official guide said the route was 120 km. In actual fact, it was 150 km and we walked it in 5 days with no day of rest. We basically were on the road from 8 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m. We rarely stopped for lunch. We existed on fruit and nuts, energy bars, and water. Chia seeds proved to be important in maintaining hydration; electrolyte tablets restored lost salt.

Garrotto: What surprise you about the experience? (Something you hadn't anticipated)
Iorfida: I was surprised how personal the experience was.  I was with two of my close friends and my favorite young woman.  I expected a lot of talking, sharing, and bonding as we walked.  Yet I found it an intensely private experience and relished the moments that I walked ahead and could enjoy each step and each experience, including the pain.

Garrotto: How has the "camino" changed you?
Iorfida: I want to say I am more spiritual, but that is not true. I worry less about tomorrow and concentrate more on today. I try to give thanks for one thing daily. I try to be kind to strangers that I meet, since strangers helped us on our "camino," pointing us in the right direction, yelling across the fields, “Buen camino.” I smile more often.

Garrotto: Would you do it again? If yes, why? Same path or different?
Iorfida: I am seriously thinking of walking the Portuguese route next year.  It is 240 km. I am not certain I would do the whole route, but certainly a portion.

Garrotto: Why does the "camino" have such an appeal to people worldwide?
Iorfida: That is hard to answer. I have read several books about the "camino."

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You may also be interested in viewing the trailer for Emilio Estevez's camino-based film, "The Way," in which he stars with his father Martin Sheen.

Alfred J. Garrotto is the author of the suspense novel,

1 comment:

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