Monday, September 12, 2011

BENNY WALKS THE CAMINO



Attentive readers may remember a friend of mine I mentioned some months back: Benny McCabe. Benny is a traveler and citizen of the world, a tango dancer, a poet, a political activist, a psychotherapist, and the owner of The Beehive Hut.

I never know where Benny will turn up. I won't hear from him for months and then suddenly I'll receive some crazy beautiful e-mail from him describing the birds, the various kinds of rain, and the hills through which he just rode a horse on a remote estate in South Africa. Or suddenly it will transpire he's flown over from Dublin to spend a month at the L.A. Catholic Worker. Or he'll be off to Vermont to stay for a week with a couple he met on some far-flung train who take in Russian orphans, whittle dulcimers, write haiku, and raise llamas (I made that last one up--I think--but you get the idea).

Anyway, I hadn't heard from in awhile and then out of the blue the other day I received the below and learned that Benny has taken it upon himself to walk the Way of St. James aka the El Camino de Santiago de Compestela, the centuries-old pilgrim route that (if you do the whole thing) begins in the French Pyrenees and ends in Galicia, Spain, where the remains of St. James are said to be buried.

Tickled pink, I asked him if I could share his thoughts (which I reproduce verbatim) and he said by all means and he'd get to Rioja the next day and would drink a glass for me. I said Drink two, and I hope you'll be able to see why:

Day 4 Puente La Reina

A beautiful old town with cobblestone streets and great architecture.
Tonight will sleep in an ancient pilgrim hostel/hospital in a room with 10 others, some nights its with 100.
Now the daily rythm involves rising at 6 am to be on the road by 7 am.
Each morning into the darkness, unknown landscapes and conversations ahead.
My body becomes strong and slowly the neurotic mind calms.
In the early mornings I am reminded of similiar feelings of the times I spent in the mountains of Nicaragua,
I remember, am re membered ( and reassured)
Each day glimpses of fellow pilgrims lives
stories from Calcutta, Ghana, Ethiopia, 
Conversations which last for 10 minutes or continue for days
I met the Queen of Mars in a cafe in Pamplona, in her Earthly guise she is called Kiara and hails from Canada, studies space science in Belgium.
As the King of Potatoes I empathised with her in her Courtly responsibilities.
Now covering 20 plus kms daily without too much exertion
On the first night In St Juan the young man in the bunk overhead asked me within a minute of meeting "WHAT AGE are you" When I asked him to guess and he replied maybe 45 I told him how he had made my day and when I told him what age I am he exclimed in disbelief.
The following day which was the first and maybe the most difficult, 27 kms climing into the Pyrnees across passes of 1000 plus metres he blazed a trail and I was relieved and delighted that I was able to keep up with him,
When did this journey begin? Now I realise it had many beginnigs
I remember Mary Olivers poem " THe Journey" "ONe day you finally knew what you had to do,
and began, it was already late enough....
I read Mertons Raids on the Unspeakable.
Sometimes the question is posed among fellow pilgrims
"Whay are you on the Camino"?
A rich variety of responses, sense of a shared humanity.
Food for Body, soul, imagination and Spirit

I remember the song "Gracias a la Vida...Thanks be to life which has given me so much

With love

Benny

8th Sept 2011

6 comments:

  1. Spain is a beautiful place and worth a visit if you have the means. I had the opportunity to visit it while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany when I took leave there for about a week. If you can't visit there, I recommend a book--Iberia by James Michener. It will take you there for a lot less money and you will know the country through his eyes including the way of St. James.

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  2. thanks for sharing this. Inspiring. Makes me wonder what pilgrimage I might make in my own backyard. At least, this awakens a longing I didn't know I had, to make a pilgrimage, along unknown paths toward somewhere, requiring discipline and encountering other pilgrims, sharing unique journeys.

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  3. Nice. I can't wait to make the pilgrimage myself. I am planning around Oct 2013.

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  4. Thanks for sharing Benny's account, and I wish him "buen Camino!"

    A small point: the Camino doesn't actually have a beginning; one begins the pilgrimage when leaving his or her own home. To earn a compostela (certificate of completion of religious pilgrimage) it is only required to have walked 100 km or bicycled 200 km. Many do walk from the French border, but many more walk much shorter distances. Also, there are several paths that converge on Santiago de Compostela; the path from the Pyrenees is the most common, however.

    My husband and I rode bicycles halfway across Spain on the Camino earlier this summer, and the pilgrimage was truly life-changing for us.

    There's a Martin Sheen movie about the Camino, called The Way, coming out in the US in just a few weeks; I haven't seen it, but I will be interested to see how it shows the pilgrimage experience.

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  5. Thanks for the feedback, corrections, reading tips, and news of prospective pilgrimages, folks! I feel like we are always on pilgrimage, but maybe one of these days I will actually make it to the Way of St. James myself.

    Meanwhile, here's an update from Benny:


    Viana

    Day 7

    Today the landscape became the forground,the shape of the fields,the sounds,the smells.

    Mind becomes background,the thoughts of getting a bus to Madrid then a flight to Morocco to
    watch the night sky from the desert, which had become the temptation over the past days as I struggled uphills with 10 kgs on my back in 35 degress fade.

    At at 12th century church built by the Knights Templar with an 8 pointed star roof I peruse the questions

    If our life is a reflection of our temple to whom have we dedicated it?

    And what have we placed on its altar?

    I remember the the young girl who walked as a mendicant without money dependent on the goodness of humanity for food and shelter, she would accept the offer of a meal or a bed but not money.

    Then the fiesta!!

    We arrive in this small town to find it is its national day of festival, bulls running up and down the main st, music, dance, food.

    A taste of how life can be when one moves beyond the safety of the predictible.

    Something to do with faith, perhaps?

    Sept 11th

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I WELCOME your comments!!!