(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

March 13, 2005
Day 14: Fromista to Carrion, 21.7 km/13.5 m

The Fromista refuge didn’t have heat or hot water. I’d slept well but obviously opted to pass on the shower. And I was looking forward to a short walk to Carrion—an easy, flat 13 miles. It had been two long days across the flatlands of the meseta, but it had been blessedly warm with winds that kept it from getting hot. I couldn’t imagine walking the Camino in the summer. Much as I’d been surprised by the cold, it seemed far preferable to the heat of summer.

I exited the refuge and stopped in the plaza outside the church one last time to admire the trees—trees whose branches reached out and clasped each other creating a fingered canopy. Not one tree stood isolated and alone; instead they were all linked together. I smiled, appreciating the beauty of nature that so aptly reflected my web of community and our intricate interconnections.

After I’d exited the smoky bar the night before, I found Simon sitting among the trees watching the last vestiges of light disappear with the setting sun. I sat down next to him, and we enjoyed our dinner together. We’d each been to the store, and we laughed when we discovered that we’d gotten the same thing: a baguette, a can of tuna, a tomato and a chunk of cheese. It was becoming our meal of choice because it was readily available, inexpensive, light, easy to carry and filling. Instead of slicing the bread in half for our sandwich, we carved a V into the top to create a crevice that held everything more easily. It was one of my favorite discoveries on the Camino.

As I began my day of walking, I thought maybe I should take a break from the internet. It was Sunday, and everything would likely be closed anyway. I wondered if communicating by email was cheating in some way. I had noticed that the longer I spent in silence, without internet or companionship, the more I began to sink. And I wondered if I was keeping myself from accessing those darker places by communicating.

The trail to Carrion was a well-marked path that grew tedious in its barrenness. I walked with my head down, watching my shoes move across the sand-colored terrain. And that’s when I spotted it, a stone that seemed to be a natural replica of the Camino. I had to have it.

When I entered Carrion, I sat down on a bench to write in my journal.

Out here with myself all day. Walking. Thinking. The days are so long. It’s Sunday. I don’t know if there’s internet here, but I’ve been thinking maybe I shouldn’t rely on it so much. It gives me doses of home. I wonder if I should be more isolated. So far there have been people. Company. It’s been a great comfort, but I wonder if it’s been a crutch. The sporadic days of relative quiet and solitude has changed my mood a bit. I feel tired right now. And a bit lonely. All the thoughts of home keep me going. And thoughts of communicating next—sending and receiving emails.

I’ve walked 250 miles. That’s halfway by the crow’s flight but I’m adding miles with the terrain.

My journaling was interrupted by a man with a backpack who stopped to talk with me. He was walking the Camino backward. He started in Santiago the same day I started in St. Jean Pied de Port, and we’d met at the mid-point. He, however, was walking all the way to Holland—1700 miles! As we spoke, he talked about the importance of community. It amazed me, again, that if I had a question on the Camino, it would be answered. The man pointed to a shop across the street that was not only open during siesta but it was open on Sunday—and it had a computer with internet access. And that’s all the confirmation I needed. After we finished our conversation, I wrote a few more thoughts in my journal before racing off to that shop.

In every moment it comes, doesn’t it? I just wrote that I’m lonely, and an angel comes to spread sunshine.

I try not to want so much to be finished. I try not to think so much of it being over. The Holland man, too, talks of being finished. He started the same day as me. Two weeks. I’m half way. He’s not even a quarter. An eighth? Goodness. Why do we do this? Why do I do this? I try all day to commune with God, but really, it’s been about mileage, about walking, about moving forward, watching the road, watching the landscape, seeing the progress. Just walking. Why do I walk?

It’s Sunday. What is everyone doing at home today? Just getting up, reading the paper, what?

What is there for me to discover in the next two weeks?

I checked in at the refuge before heading back to the shop with the computer. When I entered, I grinned: it was just my kind of place—chocolates and baked goods and coffee. And better yet, I was the only one in the place besides the woman behind the counter. There was a television that hung from the ceiling in the corner, which was easy enough to tune out since I couldn’t understand it. I was so happy to know that I could take my time; I had nowhere else to be.

Subject: Re: intrepid trekker
Date: Sun Mar 13 03:09:23 2005

Brenda, oh Brenda…

Your email to me—another gem, like flowers in the desert reaching out to me, bringing nourishment. Thank you.

I hope you get to the desert during this extraordinary time of blossoming. I think it’s right for you to go.

I’m both stunned and not surprised at all that your hairdresser is from Spain, and his mum has a pensione. How fantastic. How perfect. I want to meet this man. I want to read his work. I want to hug him for his concern and his heart. So beautiful. I have needed to heal my feelings for Spain, and slowly, as I walk, as I find the heart of the people, I am doing that. It’s a strange place. I had imagined something different—more people, more towns, more commercialism. It is so remote, so slow, so inefficient in so many ways. So not the United States. How refreshing!

I am holed up in a tiny town inside a “chocolateria” drinking coffee and typing away. It’s the first I’ve gotten to a place so early and felt as though I had totally unencumbered time.

Oh my goodness, what do I have to say after a couple long days of solace and companionship and walking and SUNSHINE! Yesterday I actually stripped down to one layer! A miracle. At this point I can’t tell if my pants are big because I’m getting smaller or because I’m not wearing three layers underneath them. Or both. I have no sense of how much weight I’m losing though I can tell you I’m not eating well. Oh, the food. They cook with some horrid orange grease, everything goes in that grease, and it has wreaked a bit of havoc through me. I’ve decided to carry more food than I’d expected just to normalize my poor stomach.

I met a beautiful man the other day in Burgos. I’m still thinking of him. He’s from Spain but lived for years in the US. In fact, he was working in the US a few years ago, was at a cocktail party and realized that he had everything he could possibly want, but he felt so empty. So he stopped everything, quit his job, went home to Spain, walked the Camino and everything changed for him. He’s volunteering at the refuge in Burgos perhaps until his savings runs out. He said that he’s developed the power to feel people’s life energy through their hands. When I met him, he, like so many others, thought I had cancer, but when he touched my hands, he was struck by how much life I have, how much happiness I have and how much love I carry. It was so beautiful talking with him.

It’s amazing what is coming to me out here. I wonder if I’ll ever doubt anything again. I have a thought, and then there it comes—some sort of answer or manifestation or confirmation. You have helped to plant these seeds in me with our beach walks and our cultivating. I feel so deep. Also sore and tired but very well cared for, even when there’s no heat at the inn! It’s the bed that’s vital though. I fall into these tiny beds at the end of the long days and get 9 or 10 or 11 hours of sleep, the hardest, most repairing sleep I’ve ever gotten.

I still contemplate why I’m here and why I’m doing this. Maybe I’ll never know. Every day I get up, and I wonder how far I’ll walk and what will come to me during the day. It’s Sunday, and this is my church: connecting, touching you, holding your hand, touching all of my friends who are sending me notes, thinking about me, praying for me and walking with me. I feel such happiness. Such peace. Tomorrow it rains. It would be wrong for me to leave the plains of Spain without rain, no? I guess I don’t have nearly enough mud on my shoes yet.

You are such a good writer, Brenda. You must continue to write and to speak, fearlessly, from your uterus. It’s all so good. Tonight at the refuge, I’m sitting down and opening up envelope number three. It’s perfect that I am in a little cloister attached to the church in a tiny room with tiny beds. I will meet a new woman who was not there when I arrived but I was told she was there, from Switzerland. I may have seen her in the plaza writing in her journal.

I will go now. I am thinking so much of you, every day. Thank you for being here!

Your uterus stuns me with its beauty.

The next note I sent to my literary manager who had loved my screenplay and was hopefully hard at work selling it.

Subject: Hola de España!
Date: Sun Mar 13 03:12:27 2005

Liz, Liz, Liz:

Wow. A whirlwind. I’ve walked 250 miles, and the only thing that stuns me more than that is that it’s HALF way! Hah.

I’m having a wild, wonderful time. Every moment. Every feeling. I think so much about working, doing good work, having good people in my life. I feel so grateful for you, to be walking with you (everything is about walking right now!).

Soon, I’ll be back. Ready. Full. Wanting so much to contribute.

I hope you’re well. I just wanted you to know that you are here in Spain with me. And we are laughing.


Then I had to respond to my friend Rob’s email and his lighting of the candle for me at St. John the Divine.

Subject: Re: Kisses to the Camino!
Date: Sun Mar 13 06:03:45 2005


Finally, a real moment and a real keyboard in which to properly write. Thank you again, and again, for your thoughts and your love and your wishes and your prayers and your friendship and your match on the candle. All of them, very sustaining. I am so blessed, so grateful.

I dreamt about all of you last night. It was a long dream, and I woke up telling myself to remember it and then could only remember the smallest part of it. I’m so fatigued by the end of the day that I am not remembering my dreams. This is only the second. The first one was prophetic so I think this one is, too.

You had a house by the beach. And I was over for dinner and another friend was coming and all of us were playing in the sand having the most fabulous treasure hunt, very elaborate, very well planned, oh we were laughing and having such fun. And at dinner Marcella said, “That was so good we’re still going to be talking about it in 30 years.”

I have had a short day today after many long days. My body is thanking me. Tomorrow the forecast is for rain. I’ll gear up and prepare for a long day in the mud. I’m actually looking forward to it.

Love, love, hugs and big sloppy kisses to you and Amy and Marcella!

And speaking of dreaming, in my in box was this sweet note from my friend Holly.

Subject: Dream
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2005 11:19:25

Hey walking womyn!

Hope you’re strutting well out there. Just had had to share last night’s dream with you. Very simply, I was sitting next to you thinking to myself how amazingly beautiful and bright you are.

Hope the camino is treating you well!
Mucho basitos, Holly

And this, from Lauren.

Subject: Saturday
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 14:13:37 EST

Hey there!

I’m so happy with how your journey is going. It sounds like a nice mix between internal time, social things (including a boy or two) and the essentials of life. I’m also so glad that your body is holding up!!

I know this sounds odd, but I feel like my world is transforming as you walk your walk. I know that part of your intention in doing this walk was to usher in your new life. A new body image, a new start to your career with the book and movie, and maybe even a new start to love. And, somehow through our connection, I feel like those things are happening in a very real way in my life too. Something is significantly different in my energy. I feel new.

Thank you for walking this walk and taking me with you. I can’t believe you are over half finished. Time is flying. Is it flying for you? I imagine you are in some zone by now.

Sending you love,

I finished up my time online with a response.

Subject: Re: Saturday
Date: Sun Mar 13 03:55:25 2005

Hi honey:

Ah, the internet. What would I do without it? What would I do without you! I was just sitting outside, the sun is finally shining and spring might actually be here (though it will rain tomorrow), writing in my journal that perhaps I was relying too much on my communication with the outside world via the internet. I was writing about feeling lonely, and a man with a backpack walked up and spoke with me. What amazes me is my ability to manifest what I need and to also receive confirmation. Here I was writing about maybe not relying on the internet, not reaching out to my people, and you write me about how you are here walking the walk with me, and I know that I need to do this, I need to connect. I’ve spent long, long years in solitude, and this is my time for connection.

Oh, and how funny that your subject headings are by day. I have no idea what day it is! Only that today is Sunday because everything is closed. But otherwise, I have no sense of it.

Loving you,


I’d spent a little over two hours amongst the baked goods getting my fill of the internet, which had made me nourished and full. When I returned to the refuge, I met the woman from Switzerland, Fela. Actually, her name was much longer than that but too much for me to fully understand so we left it at Fela. She was so lovely. About 45, deep, sweet eyes. Some sadness in her. Heaviness. She’d started the Camino years ago, got as far as Burgos and had to stop. This time, she’d returned and started in Burgos, just a few days before, and she was continuing onward. She was an anthropologist but her job was iffy. Things at work hadn’t been good, and she wasn’t sure she’d have a job when she returned. I was just easing into a conversation with her when Tanya from Germany and her boyfriend showed up. I’d met them in Burgos and spent an incredible night of talking and laughing with them, and so seeing them again was a blessed reunion. I’d had an immediate connection with Tanya. She had a lovely face, an open smile, an easy laugh. She and Andreas were both students and lived together in Cologne.

We set out together to wander the city looking for an open market or an early meal. I was thinking about getting pasta at a shop somewhere. All I really wanted was a mound of pasta and a bottle of wine. But it was Sunday and there was nothing open except a place with bread so I bought a small loaf, and I was just going to put some tuna on it. Again.

When we returned to the refuge, I began opening cupboards in the kitchen only to discover that someone had left a full bag of spaghetti and a can of tomato sauce! Fela contributed a red pepper and Tanya had garlic. I got pots and pans out, excited. It was exactly what I’d wanted, and once again I felt the power of immediate manifestation. I started boiling water and sautéing the pepper and garlic. It was a feast already. Only lacking a bottle of wine.

Tanya and Andreas decided to go out to dinner. Fela went upstairs to change. When she returned she said, “Oh, it smells just like a five-star hotel.” And it really did. We found a votive candle, and we sat down to dinner in the dank, unheated kitchen feeling like it was the lap of luxury. And really, it couldn’t have been more beautiful. We had an amazing conversation about getting older and becoming more rooted in our bodies. Fela had been taking a dance class. I talked about having been physical my whole life, but I was getting to the point now where I wanted my 40s to be physical in a different way—one that was integrated with my spiritual and my emotional life so that I could be more expressive in my sensuality. As she spoke, I wondered if dance was the next thing for me. I wanted to find something that would fully root me inside myself. Dance. Yoga. Something.

Fela talked about having a difficult time with her feet. So many people I’d met were struggling. Even Tanya had been plagued by blisters. I felt very lucky that so far, my body had held up incredibly well.

I loved our evening of adult conversation. It was so refreshing meeting someone my age. We spent an hour or more in that cold kitchen before meeting Tanya and Andreas for a glass of wine where another few hours of incredible connection unfolded. We talked about our individual Camino experiences, and then we began telling stories about Fernando, the goofy man Tanya, Andreas and I had met in the Burgos refuge. Fernando was a little too eager for conversation and had apparently annoyed everyone. I had my own story. As I was washing my clothes and hanging them on the radiators, he said, “I don’t think it’s fair to put your clothes on the radiator. It steals heat from the room and goes into your clothes.”


Fela and Tanya and Andreas and I ended up staying in the bar until 9:30 talking and laughing. It wasn’t just the latest night I’d had out; it was the most nourishing.