All of us stand in a line under the eaves of this outdoor pavilion—some wearing backpacks, others excited expressions—anticipating our imminent departure on pilgrimage.
We face a row of smiling pilgrims holding laminated sheets of paper.
Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you find that the Camino opens your eyes to the unseen.
Kind faces and clear voices read these benedictions aloud for all to hear.
Blessed are you, pilgrim, if your backpack empties of things, as your heart doesn’t know how to fit so many emotions.
Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you discover that a step backwards to help another is more valuable than a hundred forward without awareness of those at your side.
Blessed are you, pilgrim, when you have no words to give thanks for all the wonders in every nook of the Camino.
Blessed are you, pilgrim, if you search for the truth and make of your Camino a life, and of your life a Camino.
Blessed are you, pilgrim, because you have discovered that the true Camino begins at its end.
Here, in the middle of a Portland park, we call to the Divine who is always in our midst and bless each other. This is holy ground. Every step is. Nancy grins at me.
And, then a woman presents the box of scallop shells tied with red cords.
One by one, our host calls our names. I step forward.
Jennifer, receive this scallop shell, the badge of the pilgrim, that all may recognize you as a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela.
I accept the shell and shake his hand. My eyes mist.
The whole company cheers, and I grin and fight tears. This. This moment means everything. I’ve been commissioned, blessed, and sent. Now the only thing to do is walk.
(Eight days to go!)