Friday, December 26, 2014

I Heart Pilgrimage

Evidence mounts that I really will be walking to Montreal in May. For the first seven weeks of planning, or since I restarted this blog November 1, most communications about my pilgrimage were outgoing, like bottled messages thrown into the surf. Return comments were few or none.

Now I’ve begun receiving word back. The omens are favorable. Three examples:

One. At a holiday gathering the other night, I eavesdropped on a college freshman telling her boyfriend that, You see that guy over there, the man talking with my mom? He is walking to Montreal! She might even have added, Can you believe it? As I glanced furtively in her direction, I saw that she was smiling at me kindly, the way you would if you were eighteen and some old codger across the room was going to do something as admirable as it was daft.

Two. I went walking with an old friend who had read excerpts from my memoir posted on this blog. Knowing whereof he spoke, my friend began by declaring the “Europe” chapter “partial,” a euphemism for slanted, biased, unfair. He then upped the alarm, calling the chapter “damning.” I agreed that it was. We had to talk about this for the next thirty minutes as we circled down to Lynch Park and back.

But something settled in my friend’s head about what I had written, and the following day he e-mailed to say that I would be welcome to spend a weekend in his vacation home up-country while en route to Montreal. He even said he would meet me there. Wow, I was thrilled. He is a good old friend, and I am happy to have this expression of his support.

Three. My daughter, the one who walked the Camino de Santiago with me in 2012, gave me my favorite Christmas gift yesterday—one that made my next pilgrimage a certainty, if anything is certain. To tell you about it I should tell you a story from the Camino—no, wait, you can just read this post about it.

In 2012, as that post explains, I met a Brazilian oncologist three days out from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, who gave me a plush red heart with a smiley face sewn on that he asked me to carry to Santiago de Compostela for him. The heart was from a friend and had a story of its own. I accomplished his mission, as the photo above attests.

My daughter, who saw this story unfold in 2012, gave me a new heart for my new pilgrimage, one she sewed herself. With a new job in an exciting field, she will not have five weeks to spare to walk with her old man next spring. So her heart will go with me.

The new heart has no smiley face. It’s just red and velvety and beautiful. I will carry it to Montreal, where, God willing, I will leave it near the heart of Brother St. André Bessette.

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