You lovely group of seekers, you wonderful searchers, you perfect strangers who take up your burdens and choose to walk forward, one step at a time. Some of you stuff your lives in packs and walk across Spain, for healing, for grace, for adventure, for guidance. Some of you embody the camino by simply moving forward through life, through illness, through sorrow, through joy, through the unknown. An either case, once you decided to pick up those burdens and dreams, you became forever pilgrim.
The root of the word “pilgrim” is stranger, as Rev. Andy pointed out to us on Sunday at the Pilgrim’s Service organized at St. John’s for post-camino reflection. This weekend, during our little Summit County Camino, I saw strangers helping each other, sharing their truths, and rallying to support our purpose for hosting the event. Phil’s Camino, a documentary produced by Annie O’Neil, is the story of a pilgrim who creates the Camino de Santiago in his backyard. Walking a closed loop, tracking the miles as if he were on the camino, he moves through chemotherapy with the dream of someday going to Spain. When finally he gets the chance to do so, the film crew tracks his journey.
Annie came to Breckenridge last weekend for a fundraising push to get Phil’s Camino finished. All of you fine strangers pitched in, buying tickets to a dinner, coming to watch Annie’s previous film in the Speakeasy, attending presentations, buying coffee, painting scallop shells, gathering for breakfast, and best of all walking together along our very own Summit County Camino.
After breakfast, the Summit County Pilgrims headed off to walk a five-mile route in Breckenridge. Annie and I walked most of the way together, splitting off at Ski Hill Road. At the scenic point, I took off my pack and sat on the rock ledge in the sunshine. It had been almost a year since my own camino in Spain, and this moment very much reminded me of sitting on the shores of Finisterre, at mile marker 0.0, the end of the world. I was struggling inside with feelings of not-enoughness. Having wanted this weekend to be about raising big funds for Phil’s Camino, the turn out wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.
I closed my eyes and paused to feel the wind in my hair, the Earth under my feet, the water coursing through my veins, and the fire in my heart. Breathe in, breathe out.
When at last I opened my eyes, it was like seeing the mountains for the first time. The clouds doing a slow dance in the sky and the town of Breckenridge below filled my soul. This is enough, this is all enough. What happened yesterday doesn’t matter, what happens tomorrow can’t be known. This day, this moment of grace and the privilege to just be alive, this is enough.
Just as I’d done in Finisterre, I left my hat on that rock ledge, some shells and bread stuffed inside. I also left my expectations, my anxieties, and at least some ego up there, too. Arriving back in town, at St. John’s, you group of seekers were there, smiling and happy and fused into a camino family. Just like in Spain, it only takes a day of walking together to form a special bond. Pilgrims united.
And it was easy to see then that this weekend was not about money. It was about strangers finding a common bond, about discovering that walking a camino can be done anywhere in the world. On the Camino de Santiago in Spain, in Breckenridge, in a backyard on Vashon Island, in the pages of a book.
Thank you Phil for bringing us pilgrims, us strangers, together. Now I need to get a new hat.