In 2008 Elizabeth Sheehan found herself called to walk the ancient pilgrim route across Spain known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Millions of souls have walked this path for over a thousand years, and the Camino called Elizabeth to be in this company.
We waved her off from the farm with just a small pack on her back, knowing she needed to get herself from London to the rather obscure Camino trailhead in St Jean Pied de Port in the foothills of the french Pyrenees with not a lick of french, and that was just to start her trek.
2008 was the summer I broke my arm so I was truly an armchair quarterback, watching her set off into parts unknown from a chair in the gardens. Many weeks later, she returned to us with a larger than life tale of adventure as well as an amazing collection of Flower Essences that we would come to call the Camino Collection.
As the dust settled from her journey, it became clear that the Camino was not yet done with Elizabeth. In fact, the Camino was nudging Elizabeth rather forcefully to sit down and write about her journey.
Anyone who has known Elizabeth for more than ten minutes knows that she is much happier in motion than at rest. The writing of this book went very much against the grain of her personality, and yet she sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote for basically THREE YEARS!
All through her writing process I was lucky enough to get to read the many drafts. The towns she came to know, the international community she walked with and the Camino herself became companions of mine as well, and I loved every twist and turn of the plot, even on my tenth read through.
The Camino, a place of mystery, intense history, and magic born in part from an unusual convergence with the Milky Way gave Elizabeth a profound as well as playful journey on the edge of divine mystery and in thanks, Elizabeth gave the Camino back this book.
I hope you all have as much fun reading this story as I have- because yes, the book is newly published, and we have it to share!
Call or email us to get a copy or check out the web pages Elizabeth created to share more about the Camino and her book.
I asked Elizabeth to write a blog to introduce her book. No blog could begin to tell the story she tells in her book, but I hope this whets your appetite for her tale!
In the spring of 2008 I found myself at a crossroads. Bennington and the dance training that had been the heart of my college years had receded in the distance. The community Iâ€™d danced with had gone to NYC to find their place in the arts scene. Yet after a winter in the city, Iâ€™d known this race was not for me. Iâ€™d worked for a year as a teaching intern but that too was behind me, and a relationship begun at that school had died as well. I was at loose ends, searching for my place in the world, unsure who I wanted to be and where I belonged.
A book falling off the shelf, a synchronicity of symbols and the siren song of a placed called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela was all it took for me to leap and the trail on which I landed proved my path forward from the crossroads.
This memoir, three years in the making, is the story of my journey, but it is much more than my story. It is the story of an ancient land, of pilgrims and of walking. It is a story of the Camino herself.
The Camino is a trail. She is a pathway of dirt and rock, pavement and grass. She is narrow and treacherous. She is wide and generous. She is France. She is Spain. She is very long and very old. She is the length of countries and breadth of a continent. She has cradled pilgrims for over a thousand years. She is sunrise warming oneâ€™s back and sunset in oneâ€™s eyes. She is a place to be alone. And she is a current of many souls moving along, through and by. But most assuredly the Camino is a question. Or maybe the spark for many questions.
Some questions are universal. What am I doing with my life? Why have I come here? And some questions are personal. Is my body strong enough? Will heartache dog my every step?
Some are mundane. Is my rain jacket really waterproof and how soon before I find out? Is it possible to survive on chocolate bars alone? Some are profound. Can land hold an energy of healing that resonates with people across religious boundaries and national borders? Are these people walking with me vital players in the next chapter of my life, keys to the future, or are they echoes of my history?
Some questions are about the past. Why did that love affair fail? How long do the aftershocks last? And some are about the future. Will the physical life of the trail revive me?
Some are vague. What will each day hold? Can I communicate with people who donâ€™t speak English and just how good is my Spanish?
Some are precise. How many steps to the place I will sleep for the night? How many ounces does my pack weigh? How many snoring pilgrims will be in my room tonight?
Some are about physical health. Are these shoes destined to give me blisters? When does dehydration really kick in and are hallucinations a bad sign?
Some are about emotional health. Will I crack under the pressure of this new life? Is every pilgrim a bit crazy to be on this pathway, ever marching toward some mythic end?
Some are about the land. What will the mountains feel like in the muscles of my legs? What is it like to walk barren lands for days on end?
Some are about oneâ€™s fellow pilgrims. Where will they come from? Who will they be? Will there be friends and maybe even a lover among them?
Some questions are too scary to whisper aloud. Will I find my place in a world of strangers in an unknown land? Will I be as lost at the end as I was at the beginning?
And some questions are shared, not just by those along the trail, but by us all. Where does this journey lead? What lies ahead? And will joy, balance and the comfort of true companionship greet us along the way?
This is my tale of the Camino. A tale filled with many questions and maybe even a few answers.