Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 200 - So simple...

Walking the Camino is going to be a deeply spiritual experience for me. As the months go by I become more and more impatient and a couple of weeks ago I almost booked a ticket to Spain, bringing my journey forward more than a year. But somehow I managed to stop myself.

For some reason I keep getting the overwhelming feeling that the months leading up to June 2012 are going to be filled with lessons and messages that I simply have to absorb, cherish and apply in my life. Patience - perhaps one of the biggest lessons of all. We live in a world where everything has to happen now.

Not only does it have to happen now, it also has to happen according to our own wishes and demands. I have a funny suspicion that part of what I'm supposed to learn through this experience is that I have to let go and let God...

Listen for a change - is what I keep hearing. So I'll wait. Reading the accounts of all the people who are walking right now, Servaas, Sabine and Anna-Marie - the people who have walked already - Bev, Annie, Ermanno, Christie, Sil and Robert - the people who are planning to walk again soon - Karin and Jeremiah - is sufficient for me right now. Their accounts fuel my own desire to walk and serves as affirmation to me that I'm heading in the right direction.

I am truly thankful that there are so many people who are prepared to share so generously! Without their stories, I for one would never have known of the existence of the Camino and all the possibilities that it holds!

I'm also thankful that this journey is bringing me closer to God than I've ever been. Reading the Bible attentively and being open to the messages that I'm supposed to receive has become a way of life for me now.  I know that I never open the Bible on any specific page by accident.

In fact, sometimes I simply stare at the pages in almost disbelief, as it is hard at times to believe how a certain piece fits exactly into specific situations. Questions that no one could answer are answered in one sentence, precisely at the time that you needed it answered.

So I'd like to share something special with you on this, the 200th day of the life of this blog, and I can't think of anything more special than what I read in Ephesians 4 and 5 last night.

'Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.'

It continues:

'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.'

Walking the Camino for more than a month is going to provide a wonderful opportunity to put all of the above in practice.  I suspect it is going to be relatively easy to behave in this way towards strangers who are mostly going to be attempting to do exactly what you are doing - as it is a pilgrimage after all. The real challenge is going to be to uphold these principles in everyday life.

Just imagine what life would be like if every single person on this earth subscribed to the above! Summarised in a handful of words - so simple, yet so powerful!

I'm still very far from Spain but on day 200 I truly feel as if I've already walked part of the Camino!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 199 - A perfect day on the mountain...

                                                                 Photo: Irene Vermeulen

We spent another wonderful day hiking on Table Mountain yesterday. To see some of our photos - click here.

Tomorrow it will be exactly 200 days since I started this blog. I am very happy to say that I am more motivated than ever to tackle the Camino! Keeping this blog has kept me motivated, led me to new friends who have also fallen in love with the idea of this pilgrimage and has educated me on the origin, history and traditions of El Camino.

So. What do I write about on my 200th day? Well suffice to say that I don't have a clue at this stage but somehow I feel that it should be something worth reading!

Lets hope that nightfall brings a backpack full of inspiration!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 194 - A big week for my boys.

This week was pretty special for two of the young men in my life. Firstly - my son managed to complete his first ever Ultra marathon yesterday - an achievement that has put him in a very different category as a runner!

I couldn't have been happier as we walked towards the start line of the Two Oceans marathon here in Cape Town at 05:30 yesterday morning. When we got to the t-junction in the road where the half marathon runners turned right and those partaking in the ultra had to head left, my husband and I wished him well and I had to swallow very hard as I watched him disappear amongst the thousands of other competitors.

As for myself, I had started off with all the good intentions in the world when I started 'training' for my own 21 km run a few weeks ago. I had however, I'm afraid to say, once again fallen of the bus as far as my training goes. All my good intentions remained exactly that and the few runs I managed to squeeze in certainly wasn't enough to prepare me for what lay ahead. As always, when I do this to myself, I make a silent promise that it will never happen again!

Anyway, there wasn't much I could do about it and feeling a bit like a lamb being led to the slaughterhouse, I followed my husband to the start. Luckily for me, he is a devoted cyclist and even though he's not really running fit, his commitment to his cycling ensures that he is pretty fit anyway and for the first time ever, he stayed with me for almost the entire race, encouraging me and helping up the hills that seemed never ending!

I finished in 2hrs 38minutes and am glad to say, I was still standing at the end of it all! Thanks to my husband and a generous supply of energy drinks and gels, I can now say that I have completed five half marathons! Who would have thought!

As for my child - he was still standing after a gruelling 56 kilometres on the road! He ran it in 6hrs 26minutes - I am SO proud of him! Despite suffering from severe cramps the entire final 25 kilometres, he finished with a smile and I'm sure if there was a roof over the stadium, it would have blown right off when he came in, we shouted so loud! 

He lives abroad and being part of this truly special event in his life has been something that will make this 2011 Easter memorable for us for many years to come!

As for the other young man in my life - my little grandson went to the movies for the first time ever. My daughter and her friend took their two boys, who happen to be best buddies, to see their first big screen movie, complete with the customary boxes of popcorn!

All went well and they sat through the entire movie, hardly visible behind the massive popcorn boxes!

Another milestone reached. Looking at the expressions on the faces of the two proud mums, I know exactly what they're feeling! After all, it wasn't that long ago that I sat through 'The Little Mermaid' with a certain little girl and a massive box of popcorn myself!

Friends forever!
 (My grandson is on the right here - those boots even have to be put under the blankets with him when he goes to sleep at night!)

As you can see, we are having a blessed Easter indeed! I have all my chicks at home and all's well. I can't help thinking how incredible it would be to one day walk the Camino with all of them in tow!

A happy and peaceful Easter to you all, wherever you may be!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 183 - Words

This was forwarded to me by a friend - really got me thinking. Indeed, words are more powerful than many of us care to admit. So, before you say something that you can't take back - stop, think for a while. Is it really worth it?

Silence might sometimes be better.

The opposite is just as true though, isn't it? Saying that nice thing that you might have been thinking, but didn't voice, that might be the one thing that makes someone else's day.

People tell me that when you wear your little scallop shell board on the camino it means you don't want to talk. I'm really looking forward to that. Meditating whilst walking, surrounded by people. Seems like a challenge. Time to think about how I use my words.

May you take in the kind words that come your way and in turn pass on kindness, compassion and love through the words you choose to utter this day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 182 - Walking with God

'Hear my cry, o God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against my foe.

I long to dwell in your tent for ever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.'

 ~Psalm 61

This is the Psalm that was given to me when I was in a state of panic on Kilimanjaro last year. I was sitting in a tiny little tent with my companion, the wind was howling and the air we were breathing was thin and ice cold. When you know what still lies ahead of you and that the air is going to get even thinner, panic can easily take control of your mind.

When this happened to me I knew that alone I would never be able to conquer that mountain. I closed my eyes and pleaded with God to send me a message. A message of hope, a message of encouragement, anything, I just needed to know that He was there with me - weak human being that I am!

I opened my little Bible and the Psalm above, one that I had never, ever read before that day, jumped out at me. I could not have asked for a clearer, more loving, reassuring message! I truly and firmly believe that God hears every single request that we send up - we only have to believe that He will answer! I also know that our time isn't God's time. So to receive an answer just like that, in a situation where I really needed it desperately, is a blessing indeed! Some of the things we ask for might only be answered when we've given up hope - but that's how God works and who are we to demand answers/solutions/suggestions anyway!

So this is why I can't understand how and where atheists draw their strength from when needed. I am always amazed when I hear atheists profess almost proudly that they don't believe in God. I don't get it. What has amazed me even more is the comment I read on a camino forum recently written by a person who said he was a believer when he started walking the camino but that by the time he reached Santiago, he no longer believed there was a God.

I must add that that was the only such statement I have discovered so far. There are more accounts of the opposite taking place - thank goodness!

Tony Kevin writes: 'Now, as Santiago was finally approaching, I felt that my heart was cleansed and refreshed and open to God as it was ever likely to be in this life on earth, and I was happy.'

If I ever had a wish for myself, it would be that at the end of my camino, I can say the same, word for word!

When I started writing this blog I said to myself, this is the start of my camino. Today it is 182 days since I posted for the first time. In these 182 days I feel that I have truly embarked on a blessed journey. Blessed in the fact that God has brought people into my life who are adding real value in so many ways to the person I am, to the person that I am becoming! We share an interest and a love for this very special pilgrimage and I'm discovering that the gift of the camino is one that seems to continue giving!

Right now there are three people walking in Spain that I have come to know since I've started blogging and I eagerly wait for their news every day! Anna-Marie, for example, writes the most informative and interesting blog on the Camino - she has been walking for about a week now (not her first time on the camino either!), her updates can be found by clicking here. Do drop her a line!

As for my own pilgrimage - this time I received the message before the actual journey - or is the reality that I'm much more in tune with what God has to say to me at this stage of my life? He's given me Psalm 91. Clearly, plainly, undoubtedly. I know that I'll be walking with Him and that I'll be safe. Every step of the way. I have little feathers raining down on my path, almost every day. I know they've always been there, I just haven't always seen them.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 172 - The week that was

What a great week this was. We covered almost 5000km travelling from Cape Town to the Kruger National Park and back. Visiting the park is like escaping from real life - an average day (if you're lucky) includes close-up encounters with leopard, lion, buffalo, rhino and elephant. And that's just counting the Big Five - there are a host of other creatures, big and small, who make regular guest appearances.

We've been going there since I can remember and still, after all these years, there is nothing more magical than sitting next to a campfire, listening to a symphony of hundreds of little night creatures, each singing to his own tune. 

One cannot deny the sense of sadness that comes over you on the last day when you drive through the big gates for the last time. Returning to a jungle of another kind - thank goodness for these havens of nature, as God intended it to be, that we are so privileged to still enjoy.

Here are some of the pictures I took - unfortunately most of these were taken from the car and I still have just a basic 18-55mm lens but nevertheless, I think the essence was captured. How I envied the massive lenses I saw peering out of some of the vehicles that we passed!! Some of the most spectacular sightings, such as the two young leopards frolicking in dense grass and a raptor eating a massive leguan high up in a tree was best enjoyed through the lens of my binoculars. One day though - that 70-200mm lens with built-in image stabilizer is going to find a home underneath my Christmas tree!

We headed home via the long and winding N1 highway than runs from north to south in our country. How sad it was to see how many of the small towns are looking sad and in need of a revamp of sorts. One such town is a sleepy little place called Richmond. Someone had the great idea to make this a book haven of sorts. In an otherwise very dreary looking, tired town, one finds a collection of bookstores, filled with the most magical collections of old Africana and gems you never dreamt you'd find again. If you've ever been in a shop filled with old books, you'll be familiar with the characteristic smell of such a place. Wonderful!

I always feel a tremendous sense of respect and expectancy when I'm in such a shop and this time was no different. I was on a mission to find some of Robert Carrier's old cookbooks. You can imagine my absolute delight when I found four of his books, all in reasonably good condition in the first shop I walked into!

My very best friend in the world and I have been friends since 1973. Her dad is one of the best cooks I have ever known and Robert Carrier was one of his favourite chefs. So many of his dishes were influenced by Carrier and for me, finding some of his recipe books in this manner was truly special. Already I've experimented with one of his recipes - last night I prepared some crayfish tails and I can attest to the fact that the sherry and butter sauce, flavoured with cayenne pepper and paprika that I found on page 106 of one of my four new gems is simply divine!

I managed to get my camera out to capture the finished product - trust me, a few seconds after I took this picture the dish was empty! Carrier - you're a star! Jamie, Gordon, Marco - sorry to say, my loyalties lies elsewhere from now on. Can't wait to try out the 'Sherried Mushroom Tartlets', the 'Vitello Tonnato' and the 'Chocolate Beer Cake'!

And finally - probably more precious than anything - the time we spent with my mother and father will be treasured forever. Hours in the car and around the fire. Laughing and remembering old times and great people who've shared our respective lives. Thanking God that they have been spared to enjoy their grandchildren and their first great grandchild - something they never thought they'd get to experience.

The sadness that comes over me when I see all the tablets that also came along in the suitcase, the quiet that floods my soul when I help my mother walk a few meters at a time, that I prefer not to write about.

Instead I prefer to say a silent thank you. Thank you for so many things. Thank you that we are indeed blessed. Blessed in more ways than we care to acknowledge at times.

This week I was blessed with a Camino of a different kind.

Indeed, I celebrate life today!