I’m finally back to writing here and have started a couple of reflections sparked by the need to write up a couple of things to go along with pictures we are giving as gifts this Christmas. This one accompanies a photo Kat took of a beautiful pink rose framed by a barbed wire fence.

This photo embodies the contrast of the Camino de Santiago for us in many ways. For those that don’t know and haven’t read my previous postings from long ago, Kat and I took some extended time away in May and June this year (2012) and walked the Camino de Santiago from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago in the northwest corner of Spain. We took 28 days to walk the 650 kilometers. This was nearly the entire Camino with a few urban areas breezed through by bus or train.

All together, it was a truly glorious journey with beautiful scenery, amazing history, and fascinating people encountered along the way. We discovered things about ourselves, both individually and together, that have altered our lives from that point forward. We discovered those things not only through the beauty represented by this rose but perhaps more so through the adversity represented by the barbs on the rusty fence.

It was not all a peaches and cream journey, as you may note if you read through some of the postings I made along the way. We certainly didn’t suffer like the peregrinos of old or even as much as some of our modern age companions. We spent some extra money, due to our relatively comfortable circumstances, to spend nights in better accommodations after deciding that the average municipal albergue was really not to our liking. But we did struggle through blistered feet, days and days of being sick with colds but carrying on anyway, and a few points where our worst behaviors toward each other got the better of us.

All in all, though, I don’t believe either of us would trade the good times or the bad for just about anything. We experienced many lessons that we’re continuing to recall and experience anew on our way to actually learning them; one of the most poignant for me being the lesson of tranquilo. You’ll have to read more about that one in my blog, but it is a word that has come to embody much of what the Camino tried to impart to us. It represents a state of being that eludes me most times in the busy lives that we seem to lead normally. I am many times outwardly tranquilo while being inwardly chaotic. The Camino helped to strip away that ability to be something different than we really were in the moment, and I am ofttimes left searching for another opportunity to find that same place in my life back home.

The Camino left us with the ability to recall tranquilo – what it felt like and what it means – both personally and to each other. It’s a shared experience between Kat and I that we continue to feed with energy and new meaning when we again face trial and adversity. It reminds us to take a deep breath, look up to the horizon and beyond our immediate circumstance, remember who we really are, and relax in the knowledge that we are valued and loved.

If you ever get the chance to walk the Camino de Santiago yourself, don’t think twice – go and walk The Way and experience your own journey and lessons. If you don’t get that chance, then my hope for you is that you will chart for yourself a pilgrimage in some shape or form. Along your own way, I hope that you will remember to stop sometimes, look up beyond your circumstance, and remember that tranquility can be found right between life’s most challenging barbs.

Find this online at http://skybristol.com/2012/12/reflections-on-camino-contrasts.html.