Marti and I have made it to Spain, in several uneventful and on time flights, which in this summer hustle and bustle is a miracle in and of itself. Some have said a pilgrimage begins the minute you dream of it. I think I would agree with that. And I would say the more particular part of our sabbatical pilgrimage actually started on July 5th, about a week before we boarded a plane to head to the Camino. The sabbatical actually started officially on July 4th. Like many of you around here on July 4th I stay put, don’t leave my house, and this one was no different. And then, promptly on July 5th, Marti and I were privileged to be invited to join the annual pilgrimage to Minidoka. If you don’t know what that is, that is one of many concentration camps set up by our government from 1942-1945 (some were held longer) for the express purpose of displacing all people of Japanese descent from the West Coast. Seattle plays notoriously in this, and in fact, many from Seattle went to Minidoka. Minidoka is outside of Twin Falls, Idaho. All of these camps were put in places, remote, often very different from anything that had been experienced by the people there. Minidoka held more than 10,000 people at its peak. This pilgrimage is a chance for people to return, people who were taken there, people who were born there, people who now share this legacy of injustice with their family, and for me, white allies, who are invited to attend, listen, and learn. This is the attitude I took, and I can only hope the witnesses feel I lived up to it, but one thing I can say emphatically is how much I did learn. The day of workshops and presentations was superb and the visit to the site was tremendously moving. This year was especially important as a new visitors center was dedicated as part of the pilgrimage and those of us there got to be among the first to see it. I very much encourage you to go if you can, and even if you can’t, to read, learn, be curious about how our government responded to fear and how important actions then are to our country today. There are haunting similarities to our treatment of people on our border, so much of it based on fear, and greed, and power. You can read about this years Minidoka event here: https://www.kmvt.com/content/news/Minidoka-Pilgrimage-wraups-up-annual–512439341.html
Please accept my apologies for cutting poor Polly Shigaki, out of this picture! She is the whole reason Marti and I were there.
We toured some of the barracks where families lived in very small places, like prison camps because this was one.
One of the most moving sights is the honor roll with the names of all those who fought and died in the wars and once lived in this camp. Not good enough to be trusted as citizens but certainly enough to fight and die for the country that imprisoned them. The 442nd, made up of people of Japanese descent, was among the most decorated in WWII.
In all ways, my pilgrimage sabbatical began at Minidoka for which I am so grateful.
The pilgrimage continues now with the Camino. Getting off the plane in Santiago my phone lit up with news of the earthquake. I was glad to hear damage was light and that no one was hurt, or at least that is the word I have gotten.
This particular journey, the Camino, has been on my “bucket list” for many years. I have thought about it, listened to others who have gone, wondered what it was like, and then finally had this opportunity to give it a try. I have to say I did have some anxiety about it all. Walking as many miles as we will each day is not something I do regularly, so that alone made me wonder. I can report that we have finished our first two days on the Camino as of today. The first was one of two that will be the longest for us at just about 14 miles. (I know some of you are laughing at that, but 14 miles up and down pretty much whipped us!). The second day was half that and luckily we get a few more of those before one more long one of a little more than 14 miles toward the end. The third day was the shortest at about 8 miles and we arrived just a bit ago in Palas de Rei.. Tomorrow our journey will mark a milestone as we will pass the half way point to Santiago. We hope to walk in there on Friday afternoon.
We flew into Santiago and then were immediately taken by van to Sarria, a usual starting point for those who are finishing just enough of the Camino to get the Compostela (certificate of completion) issued by the Cathedral when you arrive at the end of your pilgrimage. You have to get at least two stamps a day along your way on the Camino to prove you actually walked it. And yes, there are ways around that. One of the funny things I witnessed in these first two days were taxis camped out all along the way, looking for weary hikers who were ready to give up. Uber, Spain style! We saw two take advantage of it. One we knew had gotten all the stamps for the day and was moving on to his next hotel, which if you haven’t figured out yet, is not the way this is supposed to work. Like anything, this particular journey has it critics, its snobs, its purists, who are all to ready to tell you why the way you are doing it, “isn’t really a pilgrimage.” Here is a picture of graffiti on one of the many stone obelisks placed along the way to keep you on the path. If you can’t read it, it says, “Jesus didn’t start walking in Sarria.” (with a word added for emphasis, and I will let you figure tha tone out!) Indeed, but starting in Sarria is better than never starting, and everyone’s pilgrimage is the one traveling its pilgrimage. I have pretty much learned already that where you start is not nearly as important as what you do with the journey, what you learn while on it, how you use the time you have. Sounds like life huh??
Our second day began in a the wonderful town of Portamarin, on the banks of the River Mino. After making it in the day before just an hour before thunderstorms and lots of rain, (you can see the storms coming in here)
it was a cool overcast start, which we were grateful for, and though this day was short, it is also the steepest climb of our time, and we are glad to have that behind us. One of the sites is an old fort, the site of a famous battle between the Muslims and Christians, inhabited since before Jesus’ time.
Shortly after seeing this we came upon one of the many obelisks that mark the way so well, where someone had just decided to leave their shoes. On closer investigation the shoes definitely were blow outs.
Today, after finishing our 9 mile hike, we have been picked up and taken a bit off the trail, to stay at a wonderful old farmhouse in Montessoro, and what a great place it is. We are up much higher, so the weather is mild, and tonight it will be in the 50s a lot like home. Tomorrow they will take us back to where they picked us up, and off we will go again. The people here are warm, accommodating, helpful, truly wanting to insure your pilgrimage is a good one. Everyone that passes, whether on a bike, walking, in a car, has said, “Buen Camino”, that standard greeting and so far, it truly is. Makes me wonder why we don’t treat everyone we meet, every day, in our walks of life, the same, “may it be a good journey for you my friend.”
This third day was our shortest at about 8 miles. Today we met a man walking this entire span on bare feet. I wondered if those were his shoes we saw yesterday. He is in no hurry, carries very little with him, will get to wherever he gets. Kind of made Marti and I look at any complaints we had a whole lot differently.
Here is one thing I can tell you. I carry you, all of you that make up the Diocese of Olympia on this journey, as I go on these pilgrimages, I carry our work together in the past, where I believe we are together now, and now looking over some of where you think we are together now, and also, contemplating our future, my future. Journeys like this are good for that.
I send you this gift, one I took yesterday, seeing angels in the sky.
My legs are sore, my feet hurt, I am not sure what tomorrow morning will be like, but I am so grateful for being right here, right now.
Bless you all, and Buen Camino