Sacred Rite of the Camino Welcome Home Event

The Northern California chapter held its annual Welcome Home Celebration and Potluck event on November 11th in Oakland. This year’s presentations included Camino routes “beyond the Francés.” First-time pilgrims and Camino veterans alike were given the opportunity to share highlights at the gathering of nearly eighty pilgrims. It was a fun way to learn about less popular routes—off the beaten path.

We presented in 10×10 format—ten slides in ten minutes. Seven Camino routes were represented: Aragones, Inglés, Le Puy, Norte, Portugués Coastal, Primitivo, and Via de la Plata.  I presented on the Camino Inglés, and I have to admit it was challenging for us to select photos and to speak for only ten minutes. We are all very passionate about our Camino experiences!

Audience watching the 10x10 presentations. Photo by Guy Joaquin.

Audience watching the 10×10 presentations. Photo by Guy Joaquin.

You can find the presentations on our NorCal chapter page, or my camino routes page.

After the presentations, the potluck lunch opened, and we were all ready to feast! Bay Area pilgrims put on quite a spread, and some of the entrées were inspired by the Camino. I was happy to see favorites, such as Manchego cheese, Jamón ibérico, and Tarta de Santiago. And of course, it wouldn’t be a pilgrim gathering without plenty of vino! Spanish Albariño and Tempranillo and Portuguese Vinho Verde were in the mix with some local California varietals.

After lunch, we gathered for “Class of” photos, a tradition our chapter started last year. Below are the photos of people who walked a Camino over the last few years.  Photos by Merula Furtado.

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We even had a few pilgrims who walked the Camino in the 1990s, before it was cool!

Then, the sacred rite of sharing Camino experiences began. Table by table, pilgrims were invited to share a story, a favorite memory, a lesson learned. This is, perhaps, the most important ritual a pilgrim can attend, whether they choose to speak, or simply listen and reflect on their own Camino. It wasn’t about backpacks and blisters. People spoke of friendship, serendipitous meetings, funny situations, and transformation the Camino provided. Camaraderie flowed, and new bonds were made.

Brooke Taylor went around the room taking photos of people holding a message for Rennie Archibald, the founding member of our chapter, who retired to Spain earlier this year.

The event concluded with Emilio Escudero reading Antonio Machado’s poem “Caminante, no hay Camino” in Spanish, followed by Susan Alcorn reading it in English. A perfect way to end the day! If you aren’t familiar with this poem by one of Spain’s favorite poets, here it is:

Caminante, No Hay Camino

by Antonio Machado

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.

Wanderer, your footprints are
the path, and nothing else;
wanderer, there is no path,
the path is made by walking.
Walking makes the path,
and on glancing back
one sees the path
that will never trod again.
Wanderer, there is no path—
Just steles in the sea.

More photos from Merula’s camera and my phone.

It was a lot of work to plan and set up this event in the morning. Afterward, many pilgrims stayed to help break down everything we had set up. Within twenty minutes, the potluck items were packed, the kitchen cleaned, tables and chairs returned to storage, and the AV gear stowed until our next big event.  This example of cooperation is typical of pilgrims, and was much appreciated by our chapter’s event organizers. Pilgrims rock!

I am forever grateful to be part of this tribe of pilgrims, and to have the opportunity to walk the Camino.

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