Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Here in Suburbia. Walking My Own Camino.

I have the day off while our sons are in school. It's been a day full of frustration and reflection. Thanks to my friend Webster's blog post (He's blogging as he walks the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrims' walking route in Northern Spain, with his adult daughter) I actually found something to say about all this.

My morning was, well, wasted, because it had been so long since I'd shopped at Wegman's that I got lost driving there. Then, I headed to my local Costco, spent an hour buying more than $200 worth of groceries, only to discover my pin number on my ATM card is messed up. So I left the store with nothing more than what I walked in with. This is when my day got really interesting.

My third effort to buy groceries found me at my local grocery store where I was approached by  L., an acquaintance of mine, someone with whom I had been in the same playgroup when my youngest was a baby. She asked me what I knew about our mutual family practitioner, a woman who this year abruptly closed her practice.

She is a magnificent physician who has cared for our entire family for more than a decade, but I have no clue why she shut her doors. L. told me the physician had been "screwed over" by someone, but she didn't want to offer details because what she had heard were rumors and nothing more.

I told L. I felt a great loss at her closing her practice and about how my family still hasn't found a new family practitioner. L. then said something that shook me out of myself.

"It is hard for me and you to find a new doctor, but we will. What she is left with - well, it is going to take her a long time to rebuild her life. This is a lot more than an inconvenience to her."

You know, I don't believe in coincidences. I feel like God speaks to us through the people we encounter. I was meant to run into L. and to hear, however vaguely, about the woman who had cared for both our families so well and for so long and to realize the challenges I face are transient.

After I dropped the groceries off at the house, I headed to the local coffee shop, which has air conditioning far better than our century-plus-year old house can provide on a sultry spring day. I began grading papers and sipping an iced latte.

Perhaps it is the old journalist in me, but I'm a compulsive eavesdropper. I can grade papers and listen to entire narratives circling around me. I don't know if this is a good trait or bad, but it's how I am wired.

As I graded the papers, I could hear a conversation between two men, graduate students who did not know one another well. Both single men, probably in their early thirties, they sounded so lost, maybe the way I was when I was in graduate school. By the time they left, I had graded all the research papers and had learned one man saw both a therapist and a psychiatrist, that the other had tried therapy and was now dabbling in Eastern mysticism as well as video-game theory. And that he has a date tonight with a tattooed librarian. I said a little prayer for them both as they both walked out, a prayer that they would find a clearer way to meaning.

Papers graded, I logged onto the internet to read what Webster has been up to. As I mentioned, he is walking the Camino with his adult daughter. Tonight he writes the meaning of pilgrimage in this post-modern age.

He writes: I understand going to Rome and to Jerusalem, but Santiago de Compostela? We Christians are no longer driving Moors out of Spain, like our fathers in the faith Charlemagne and El Cid. There´s no need to keep this route open for political or military reasons. We are walking to the purported final resting place of an Apostle of Jesus, St. James, when even many Catholic authors question whether his bones are even there. Why do this thing at all? 

The Camino prompts this kind of question, especially during the long midsection of its itinerary on which we are now launched. 

Webster, who brought me into the blogging world and also introduced me to CL, goes on to talk about those pilgrims on the Camino who send their baggages ahead, who jump into taxies to avoid the hard parts, or who spend their evenings with wine bottles, getting sloshed in town squares. And he expects the Camino in coming years, will become more fraudulent, not less. 

Being an English teacher, I am always looking for allegories, for metaphors. If our lives are pilgrimages, how often are we distracting ourselves with wine, or food, or television? How often am I skipping the tougher parts and calling a cab? 

How much do I walk, step after step, into the life and the path in front of me? 


  1. Hey Allison, Great post and thanks for alerting your readers to our Camino and my posts about it. Today we hit day 17, probably the midpoint or just past it, and I have already begun to think about "bringing the Camino home with me." I mean, when we get to Santiago de Compostela, do we just get a gold star and a ticket home, there to resume our "old lives"? Your writing about "coincidences" is particularly interesting. On the Camino, where you are walking a trail without being able to control your "meeting schedule," it's uncanny who you meet when and where. Among other things I hope to bring home a greater openness to the signs that surround me every living day.

  2. What did you do when the time that you have know that the pin messed up? By the way,you have a great blog.

    ATM for remote area

    1. Thanks for stopping by from Cebu and reading!

  3. I enjoyed catching up with you! It's been a while! I especially enjoyed this one. Some days are just like that, and it is always good when we can find the good in all of the aggravation.

  4. I finally figured out how to leave a comment with your new layout. I guess the comment link doesn't appear unless you click directly on the post (or the time you wrote the post). Anyway, this is a very beautiful reflection, Allison. I was starting to feel your pain at the Costco but then you turned it into a happy ending :) I am glad you found God's real plan in your day. Great lesson to learn each and every day!

  5. Thanks for reading Sarah - and Karen - so good to hear from you. It has been a while. I didn't know adding a comment was tricky and am glad Sarah you figured it out.


  6. Allison, I have joined this camino :)