Tuesday, January 19, 2010

some good camino reads

Here we are, well into January, as I sit down to my first blog of the year. Clearly I am not a born blogger. Yet I must rouse myself, for there is much to blog about!

Fr'instance? Well, for all of you with Chapters/Indigo Christmas gift cards burning holes in your pockets, I have some Camino reading to recommend. It's always a struggle for me to start into yet-another-book-about-the-road-to-Santiago, I have read so many, yet once the journey's underway they're awfully hard to put down, the good ones, anyway. Two recent reads that took me back to Spain in all the right ways are Guy Thatcher's A Journey of Days and Arthur Paul Boers' The Way is Made by Walking.

Guy's account is lively, frank and utterly unpretentious, beautifully illustrated with the author's colour photos, and topped off with a thoughtful epilogue, "Life's Lessons Relearned." It was when I read Guy's final note, "What Happened to...", where he tells of the further adventures of some of the pilgrims he met on the way, that I realized how much I had been drawn into his Camino. I really felt like I was reading about people I knew personally! As Guy made his journey at the age of seventy, his book will be especially affirming to those who wonder if they've still got it in them to hike across Spain.

As for Arthur's book, I wasn't sure initially how well I would connect with it. Arthur, after all, is an ordained Mennonite Church minister and his understanding of the Camino falls very much within a religious paradigm that I don't share. If, for Guy, the Camino is about "Life's Lessons Relearned," for Arthur, it's "Christ's Lessons Relearned." But Arthur tells his stories well (with preacherly skill?), and breaks the usual Camino-book mold by arranging his material thematically rather than chronologically. Before long I was drawing parallels between my journey and his own.

I suspect that whatever religious tradition you belong (or don't belong) to, the lessons of the Camino are pretty much the same. Arthur's topic headings include: trusting, solidarity, traveling light, unintended consequences, moving at the speed of life, providential encounters... The usual suspects. My favourite part is his elucidation of the concept of "focal living" with its "four affirmations":

There is no place I would rather be.
There is nothing I would rather do.
There is no one I would rather be with.
This I will remember well.

Many of us could have made those affirmations on the Camino.

One more literary note. Pilgrim-author Brandon Wilson's Along the Templar Trail has been awarded the 2009 Society of American Travel Writers' Award for Best Travel Book. Bravo, Brandon!

Till next time.....