A Camino Love Story by James Portelli
James is a guest contributor to The Camino Provides, and also the author of the new book Camino de Santiago: Microcosm of Life. I walked the Camino Primitivo in 2018 with James and his wife Rituccia after visiting them in Malta. Their love for walking predates their encounter with the Camino de Santiago. But embarking on their first Camino signaled a new phase in the journey together, and resulted in the birth of XirCammini, a voluntary organization focusing on ancient Caminos in Europe. It is an honor to add their unique love story—which spans continents and decades—to the collection of Camino love stories featured on this blog.
Love: Chemistry and Commitment in Equal Measure
By James Portelli
Love is essentially woven into the route of the journey called life.
It is life’s greatest adventure. It is often at the root of our uphill struggles and is one’s walking sticks on a steep downhill or slippery slope. It is our support when we falter. Love guides one through the quagmire. It casts certainty at a crossroad, and yet, imbues hesitation and introspection where fools rush in.
Love is a waymark by the side of one’s road guiding us on the journey.
Love is in the youthful exhilaration when peaks are conquered and rewarded with panoramas of what lay behind and what lies ahead.
Some pilgrims on this journey are truly blessed and I count myself among them. Love is embodied in our companion on this journey called life; a companion that walks sometimes with us and beside us, sometimes ahead, and at other times behind. Whether walking physically together or journeying apart, we are never absent in mind and heart.
Through love joy multiplies.
May 2016 Finisterre at the “0” km Waymark
Hola amigos. As usual, our chapter kicks off each month with the Lake Merritt walk on the first Saturday, rain or shine. For the first time since I’ve been on this Camino kick, the walk falls on my birthday! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate: walking and talking with pilgrims, then having a few beers over lunch—just like a typical day on the Camino. 🙂
I wanted to help a charitable organization for people to make donations in lieu of gifts, and I found a cause that is very close to my heart. I work at a non-profit called International House at UC Berkeley, which houses nearly 600 students from 70 different countries. Our mission is to promote peace, friendship and cultural understanding through programs, leadership training, and the simple act of living together under one roof. I have taken pilgrims here for lunch and hikes, and they marvel at the Spanish architecture, especially a few Camino shells carved into the decor! Each year, we have an online fundraising blitz called The Big Give, and this year it takes place on 3.14 (yes, on Pi day!). This year, there is a special VIP access to donate early to International House. If you are looking for a great organization to support, consider making a donation of $10 or more at biggive.berkeley.edu/VIP. Gifts of all sizes are greatly appreciated.
Go to: biggive.berkeley.edu/VIP
Enter $ amount, click Continue.
Click Browse List. Make sure you click the Programs button!
Choose a Program, scroll to > International House
Choose a Giving Opportunity, scroll to > The Fund for I-House, as pictured below:
Friends, this is a very worthy cause. And you would be doing me, the residents, and a historic institution a great service. The donations go where the need is greatest, including scholarships for deserving students in developing countries. The world the I-House experience now more than ever. Thanks for your consideration.
Click the link below for upcoming hikes and Camino events.
I hope this finds you well and ringing in the new year in the best possible ways, enjoying it with the people you love, wherever you may be. I’m publishing this early because for those in the Bay Area, there’s a great hike you can take on New Year’s Day in Oakland. I couldn’t think of a better way to start a new year, and get some Camino training in! Also, just a quick reminder to have your 12 lucky grapes ready for midnight so you can celebrate the way Spaniards do on New Year’s Eve. For each strike of the bell, eating a green grape is said bring good luck every month of the coming year.
12 Grapes for good luck (credit: aleteia.org/)
The tradition of “la uva de la suerte” dates back to 1909 when the prolific harvest of grapes in the Alicante region of Spain let some vineyard owners widely distribute the fruit to fellow townsmen. Are you feeling lucky?
Free Hiking Tour on New Year’s Day
Tuesday, January 1, 2019, 9 am
Dimond District in Oakland, CA
Free Hiking Tour led by Stan Dodson
Join a great hike from Oakland’s Dimond District up to Joaquin Miller Park. Primarily an uphill route, this beautiful hike will go through Oakland’s Dimond Canyon and Joaquin Miller Park, and will finish at the top of the ridge at the Chabot Space & Science Center. Hikers may choose to catch an earlier bus at mile 4, though the hiking tour leaders will complete the 6-mile hike.
New Year’s Day at 9:00 am Details
Note: This is the full version of the article published in the December 2018 newsletter for American Pilgrims on the Camino (See “Letting Go” on page 7 of La Concha).
While there are many lessons that the Camino has provided, the greatest one for me has been to let go, both literally and figuratively. I am filled with gratitude for the lessons.
First, the literal letting go of stuff. After my first Camino, I had the urge to purge my closets. I realized that if I could survive with just a few items in a backpack, I really didn’t need all these clothes, some of which hadn’t been worn in years. I hadn’t noticed that I accumulated an embarrassing amount of stuff over 20 years of living in the same house. During the “Great Purge of 2016,” I divvied up piles and offered them to my workmates, consignment shops and Goodwill. It felt good to know that someone can use stuff I didn’t need. The reward of having less made my choices easier. Whew! I vowed to not buy more and continue the purge on an ongoing basis.
May you keep this day sacred and find peace in your hearts throughout the year.
Greetings! It’s the time of year to share a selection of Camino-inspired gifts for the holidays. I try to find gifts created within the last year, or that have not been featured on my previous posts. This is an ode to the Camino creatives tribe, which I mentioned in a previous post. These are pilgrims who have been so inspired by their experience on the Camino that they have turned their creative ideas and hobbies into films, books, artwork, crafts, jewelry, and more. I always enjoy hearing their stories and sharing their labors of love. I am super excited because I just received the new patches for 2019, which are pictured at the end of this post. Browse the gifts for the pilgrims on your list, and perhaps pick something out for yourself! You’ve been a good pilgrim all year, haven’t you? If not, I won’t tell St. Nick, or St. James. 😉
Buen Camino Calendar 2019
A desktop calendar for 2019 with pictures taken on the Camino Francés and quotes for contemplation each month. $12
This is a new offering from the lovely couple from Mt. Shasta, California who made the Buen Camino board game. Get 20% off your order from Buen Camino Shop when you spend $15 or more. Code XMAS2018 Discount applied at checkout. This calendar will sell out soon. Continue reading
Greetings amigos! I hope you are enjoying the holiday festivities.
In case you missed it, one of the challenges of walking the Camino is the re-entry into our everyday life at the conclusion of our pilgrimage. If you would like to see a presentation on the topic from our recent Welcome Home event, I filmed it and added the accompanying workbook to this post, Returning Home: The Journey Continues.
Below are some upcoming hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and an announcement about PBS airings of the beloved documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago.
Holiday Walk from Rockridge BART in Oakland
Saturday, December 8, 2 – 5:30 PM
Note: This is the full version of the article published in the September 2018 newsletter for American Pilgrims on the Camino (See page 14: La Concha).
I was a little nervous when I attended my first Camino chapter event in the spring of 2015. That was when the idea of walking the Camino was daunting, yet surprisingly appealing. Out of my comfort zone, I drove through a tunnel and suburbs to get to a church where the Northern California chapter’s annual shell blessing ceremony was to place. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I would be the only newbie, and the activities would be overtly religious. To my surprise, there were a few of us Camino “virgins” there, and nobody preached! But just in case it were to start feeling like a cult, I picked a table by the door.
My first Camino event on March 28, 2015
The food spread in the potluck brunch was outstanding. Wine, of course, helped break the ice, and there was plenty of it. I learned quickly that pilgrims like to party! After the potluck came the shell blessing and the sharing of stories. These stories were inspiring to me. That was my initiation into the NorCal tribe of pilgrims, and I was hooked.
Greetings from sunny Oakland, and happy November! Below is lineup of upcoming Camino-related events and hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area. You will also find a sneak preview of NorCal Chapter T-shirts that I’ve been working on. And for those who might enjoy some different ways to alleviate stress, check out my November Yoga & Wellness Tribe Newsletter. As always, our chapter kicks off each month with the Lake Merritt walk on the first Saturday. Experienced and virgin pilgrims are always welcome.
Lake Merritt Walk, October 6, 2018
Lake Merritt Walk
Saturday, November 3, 2018 10:30 AM
Join our walk that takes place on the first Saturday of the month, rain or shine. We meet at the Pergola (aka “The Columns”) on the east side of Oakland’s Lake Merritt at 10:30 AM and start walking by 10:45 AM. It’s a level, 3.3-mile walk around the lake that takes about an hour. Whether you’re a newbie or Camino veteran, everyone is welcome. Bring your questions, answers and pilgrim spirit!
Directions: Take BART to the Lake Merritt or 19th Street Oakland station and navigate your way to the Pergola.
If you drive, make sure to give yourself enough time to find parking, as there are many activities on Saturday mornings in the Lake Merritt area. FYI: There is a small fee lot at the corner of Euclid and Grand Avenues that is close to the Pergola.
RSVP not required, but if you’re on the NorCal Facebook group, join event.