May 29, 2017 BOOK: Steps Out of Time by Katherine B Soper
Out of the 3 memoir style accounts of their travels on the Camino Frances, this is by far the best. When anyone writes a memoir, the words and style reflect the artist more, maybe, than they realize. When they do not really know how to write or do not have a good editor, reading becomes a chore and that was how I found the first 2. I persisted because they described places I will be going to and what it is like to get from one to the other. Soper, however is a very good writer and somehow she has figured out how to make it about herself at the same time that she makes it about others with equal respect.
SONG: Long and Winding Road, sung by Billy Ocean on the album Suddenly
THOUGHT: When I am walking in a quiet area, I like the way I can hear the wind coming before it actually gets to me.
AND, as an extra suggestion, Julie Weschler suggested that I might enjoy a documentary called Losing Sight of Shore. A team of 6 women rowed from San Francisco to Australia and the story is truly amazing. I really recommend it as I think it is a very powerful story of teamwork and team support and strength! Netflix.
And now, for this installation, I will give you the brief history of The Camino de Santiago de Campostela (the Camino Frances version being the one I will take)
WHO? Saint James, one of the disciples of Jesus and one of the Apostles (first line followers who spent real time with him.) Around 40CE he went out to recruit followers and show infidels and pagans what a great idea it might be to come to Jesus. He is James, the Greater by contrast to James the Lesser who was shorter than him. Short James was from a nice, educated Roman family and he wrote the book for the Bible. Tall James wrote no book for the Bible, which I thought was a required homework for the special collection of 12.
Tall James made it to northern Spain with a couple of friends, but they did not do so well in getting good conversion numbers. In his disappointed he decided to go home (not his best career choice) and Herod who was in charge at the time was having a real thing against the Jesus folks. He cut off James head. Friends took his remains back to Spain and he was buried at Campostela (Field of Stars) where his friends thought he would be happy.
Several hundred years later, Charlemagne decided to get back all the territory he could to reinstate Christians as supreme leadership in the religion and power realm – a nice savage war in the name of sweet Jesus! When he rode into the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) which for 400 years had been governed by Moors (Muslims) and where Jews, Christians and Muslims had really gotten along nicely, become educated and generally lived well together. Lots of architecture with all faiths up front and present in the construction that still is there!!
Apparently, to bolster the invading Christian armies, tall James rose up from his grave trying to have yet another go at the infidels ands pagans. He miraculously showed up for Charlemagne. He arrived on the scene in flowing golden robes, curly hair blowing and glowing in the wind, sword in hand. He rode in on a beautiful white stallion and began “slewing” – a rich political tradition in tribal power grabs performed by both God himself and the Old Testament folks in general. New accolades came along with his miraculous appearance and all the slewn – he was forthwith as James the Moorslayer. Big thumbs up from Rome on this intervention and he was made a saint. Many paintings and works of art came along famously showing him riding thru the slewn…and probably this does not make the Way a big attraction for Muslims even at the adventure level.
WHERE? Northern Spain in the region of Galicia, south-ish of the Pyrenees Mtns. One of the routes to the burial place where James still “rests,” starts for the Camino Frances pilgrims in St Jean Pieds de Port. Leaving from there, the pilgrim goes over the mountain and makes a sharp turn west and proceeds the 500 miles to get to Campostela and the humble resting place of tall James.
WHY? Power in the Catholic Church goes through a hierarchy that is its own separate and lengthy other story. BUT, associating with saints and particularly this one and the walk to get to him, is said to wash away all your sins and possibly give you a miracle. 40% of the pilgrims do it for these reasons. The other 60% do it for the adventure and don’t figure out why until after they get home. I fall into that group. I will graciously accept any miracles that come my way.
WHAT? A very long walk, usually done with sticks! It goes over mountains, hills thru plains and generally is pretty challenging…at many levels. Refugio’s (hostels) are all along the route and serve the pilgrims with cheap housing and pilgrim meals. They are sometimes in convents, abbeys, homes and recently built dorm spaces to accommodate the large numbers of pilgrims who do it every year.
HOW? Planes trains, buses or bicycle but the journey is primarily by foot/a pied/a pe/oinez/a pie (English, Spanish, Basque, Galician – all the languages of the Way.) I do have my eye on a horseback ride to the summit of O Cebriero. (For a real visual on the geography, google Camino Santiago Frances
My next installation will be “The Runway” and I will feature and model the many ways to dress up and down for the adventure including the haute couture of socks!