I am a Wyoming ranch girl who migrated to the East Coast and is now firmly rooted in New Hampshire. I have two grown daughters who migrated West and they are my inspiration. I walked El Camino de Santiago de Compostela when I was 66 and it was the most transformative experience of my lifetime (so far). I love to travel, I love hiking and camping. I am sailor and I have my private pilot's license. Photography and writing are the two ways I express myself best.
Walking from Here to There: Finding My Way on El Camino is about what I experienced doing the 500 mile Pilgrimage across northern Spain. It is full of facts, details, reflection, and information. I met Pilgrims from age 8 to 78 and from 40 countries. I offer suggestions and I hope to inspire others to reach for their own stars. We are all on a pilgrimage our whole lives, always searching for meaning, always connecting with other people. I want my book to speak to people who plan to go and people who know they won't and want to know what it is like. Transformation is a powerful word and the Pilgrimage of The Way of St. James is truly transforming. It was hard and it was amazing and I hope my book captures this for the reader.
This book is equal parts reflection, factual account of the challenges and joys of the Pilgrimage, and practical advice for preparing for it and making it the best experience possible. Read it if you are planning to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Read it if you know you never will and want to know what it is like. If you like first-person accounts full of facts and reflection, you will like Walking from Here to There.
The third day of my Pilgrimage, April 25
This is a picture of the beautiful town of Cirauqui and I took it on the third day of my Pilgrimage, April 25. I chose it for the cover of my book because it represents so many things about El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I think it looks quintessentially Spanish. You know you are not somewhere else in Europe. It gives a sense of how long the walk is each day. Sometimes it was exhausting to look that far ahead and it became necessary to get back to the reality of one foot in front of the other. I remember looking at the hill going up to the old part of the town and thinking, oh must I?There are many things about the Pilgrimage that this picture shows. You are always directed to the medieval part of the town and to the oldest church, and they are clearly visible on the horizon. Much of the geography is also apparent. There are vineyards, olive groves, and fields of canola. Spring was a delightful time to be on El Camino because life is bursting out all over. The fields are tilled and made ready for wheat, rye, and other grains. Alfalfa was starting to grow. Farmers were out in their fields on tractors or working in their gardens. Alas, you don’t see any of the numerous horses, cattle, and sheep that you frequently see in the pastures along the Way.
Look closely and you can even see Pilgrims on the path! I passed through Cirauqui in the middle of the day. The first weeks of the Pilgrimage are in many ways the hardest because, no matter how much you trained and prepared, you are on a steep learning and conditioning curve. You are finding out whether your gear is working for you and your body gets some intense conditioning. What was amazing was how an afternoon of rest and a good night’s sleep always restored you to set out the next day.
Santiago is how you say St. James in Spanish
Since El Camino de Santiago de Compostela is The Way of St. James, you are not surprised to encounter many images of him. There are statues of him guiding you along the Way. There are murals on walls. Obviously there are lots of images of him in churches and cathedrals. There are numerous images of him in the museums. In the cathedral in Santiago, there are stairs behind the altar that you walk up so that you can hug the massive, jewel-encrusted statue of Santiago that looks out over the congregation. Over the course of your Pilgrimage, you develop a great fondness for Santiago. You have felt somehow protected by him. As I hugged the statue, I found myself thanking him for watching over me on the Way.This picture is of a clay statue of St. James which I saw in the museum in León. It was one of my favorite images of him. The scallop shell, which is his symbol, is prominently shown on his hat. He has the traditional Pilgrim’s staff. The statue exhibits quite a lot of damage and it looks like the staff, which would have a hook at the top with water gourds tied on, has been broken off. The statues and the painting mostly represent him as kindly and gentle, as this one does. He often looks like he is deep in thought. There are war-like images too, which contradict this representation, of St. James on a white charger, slaying Moors and helping drive them out of Spain. That didn’t seem very saint-like to me so I wondered about it. It was interesting to try to reconcile these two images, the latter one being mythical, the former historical. Nero had St. James beheaded when he got back to Jerusalem from the Iberian Peninsula, where he had been proselytizing. There was one especially grisly painting of this moment in the Knights Templar church in Villacázar de Sirga. I prefer to think of him not as the martyr but rather the earthly man for whom El Camino de Santiago de Compostela is walked. Perhaps there were times that my footsteps traced his exactly.