Little Camino: Day 13, Becoming Human Beings

(Keeping to my pledge to write thirty-four blogs, one every Monday, on how the Camino continues to affect my life– the same number as the days I walked the 500-mile pilgrimage)

It’s our two weeks of autumn here in Alaska. Just a short season from when the leaves turn golden, the tundra turns red, and the tips of the mountain peaks bear their first dusting of snow– to when a strong chinook blows all the leaves off in a fabulous fury, and the valley lies naked until snowfall. I’ve been hiking with a certain intensity this week, wanting to feel the rustle of leaves under my shoes, and and watch those quivering leaves do their final dance to the ground. Driving up Eagle River Valley during these two weeks is a daily pilgrimage for me, drinking in the colors and vibrancy just before the vegetation completes its summer cycle, knowing it is a precious and brief brief moment–which makes it all the sweeter. I pass car after car stopped along the road, people taking pictures, or just standing dumbstruck like me at the sheer resounding beauty of the slopes, and the grey glacier river running through.

I walked down to the river yesterday with six other friends, wearing colorful scarves, holding flowers in our hands and sharing sweet memories about our dear friend who died two years ago on this day. She was as golden as those leaves and beautiful as those mountain peaks. She too completed her season on this earth in autumn, in the middle of the night while the wind blew like a banshee, echoing our grief.

When we reached the river, we read words from her journal, summing up what she had experienced after a pilgrimage we took together in 2009 to sacred sites in France, Scotland and Ireland. She wrote:

“I choose to believe in grace, which is to me a gifting of life in every moment. A life we create out of an unlimited abundance of choices. We come into this world a unique being, dust to dust, and yet with a continuing essence of Being that has moved in all of creation and appears it always will. So what is the purpose to life? In this moment my heart says it is to open our hearts to the oneness of all, and to receive the gifts and joys of this reality, as well as to share our unique gifts and joys with unconditional love.”

You see why I miss her so.

As I left the Santiago cathedral after Pentecost Mass, completing our journey, I was struck by the oneness Linda described as the very purpose of life, being in a pilgrim mass stuffed with people from all over the globe, all who arrived as we did, tired and elated. And on Pentecost, the holy day that remembers when people of many nations and languages gathered to hear about the message of Jesus. Again the oneness.

Linda and I leaving on our sacred sites pilgrimage 2009.

My little Camino will forever be to see my fellow human beings as all members of this Earth tribe–we privileged ones who are kept alive by this generous planet. We humans have the potential to destroy the earth and each other, but also the potential, and I think our birthright, to love beyond any condition, to give with no expectation of return, to create a sanctuary here where all belong and are welcomed. We realize our possibility as a human being and, as Linda wrote, make choices that bring about a dream we hold collectively– of peace and justice, beauty and truth. To walk the Camino of becoming fully human and all one.

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