My sister Celena didn’t used to be interested in walking pilgrimages.
I once called her from a phone booth from somewhere on the Chemin du Puy—I think it was St-Côme d’Olt. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it must have been about the gîte d’étape accommodations or how far I’d walked that day.
“I’m so glad it’s you there and not me,” Celena said.
“Me, too.” The sincerity in my voice must have impressed her, because she still tells that story today. But it didn’t make her any more interested in pilgrimage.
For the past few months, though, Celena has been proof-reading the majority of my blog posts, and even allowing me to interrogate her afterwards. (“Does it really make sense?” “Are you sure it’s not too long?” “Are you absolutely completely positive I don’t sound whiny?”)
And finally, after reading my interview with Brandon Wilson, she announced that she would like to go on a pilgrimage with me someday.
The blog posts must have got to her. I hardly had to proselytize at all.
Last week, Celena told me I should write about pilgrim revelations. She wanted to know what walking pilgrims learn along along the way.
“It isn’t really like that,” I said. “I didn’t meet anyone who’d discovered the meaning of life, anyway.”
“I know that, ya hoser.” (She really talks like this.) “Write about the small revelations.”
I gave her my best don’t-you-ya-hoser-me glare. But I thought about what she’d said.
“I don’t know if I had any revelations, exactly. It was more experiences that really mattered, but I’m not sure exactly why.”
“But you must have learned something that could help other people in all that eternity you’ve been writing about.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, in some ways that’s what my blog is about—trying to figure out why the Camino was so important to me. But I can’t just wrap up ‘my Camino lessons’ in a tidy box and hand them over. It’s something you have to experience.”
But Celena wanted to know more about those experiences—not just mine, but pilgrims’ in general.
I directed her to All the Good Pilgrims. Robert Ward does an amazing job of describing those little moments that are somehow important, I told her.
“Is there an audiobook?”
“Not as far as I know.” And that was the end of that. Celena is raising a two-year-old and running a horse training business. She doesn’t have time to read books these days: she listens to them while doing other things.
“You should talk to your blog readers,” Celena said. “Ask them what they learned while they were walking.”
So, what say you, gentle readers? Do you have any answers for Celena? What revelations, large or small, did you have while walking, or on some other adventure? What experiences mattered?
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