Canoe to work, Atchafalaya Pilgrimage and a long walk ahead

Atchafalaya PilgrimageA week ago, I canoed to work.
It seemed like the logical thing to do.
My husband’s car was getting new brakes. I needed to get to the office. We live on the river. As the crow flies, my office is about 200 yards away from the other side of the river directly across from my house.
I looked out the window, knew I needed to get to work and thought, “Why not?”
A friend and I got the canoe in the river, with my briefcase between my feet, and like a Venetian gondolier, she canoed me right across the Vermilion. I walked the rest of the way and got to work more quickly than it takes to drive.
Such was the start of what has always been one of my favorite weeks of the year.
Today is my birthday, and I believe in celebrating as much as possible. Throughout my life, I’ve loved that first week of spring. I feel like everything’s coming to life in sync with my birthday.
To continue my week of celebrating, last weekend another friend and I took what I called an Atchafalaya Pilgrimage. We walked along the levee for a long afternoon, from Butte La Rose almost back to Henderson. We saw sights and heard sounds that we miss when we’re going faster than walking allows.
Next year at this time, I’ll have what most consider to be a significant birthday. I’ll turn 50. There’s a connection between the walking I’m doing now and next year’s birthday. To mark and celebrate 50 trips around the sun, a friend (who was born a few days after me) and I are planning to go to Spain and walk the last 287 miles of the Camino de Santiago. In English, it’s called the Way of St. James.
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that dates back to the Middle Ages and has many routes from points across Europe. All of its various paths lead to a cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, in the northwestern corner of Spain. The route has been walked continuously since the remains of St. James were discovered and the shrine was created.
To earn a compostela (a certificate of accomplishment), pilgrims need to walk at least 100 kilometers (about 62 miles). Based on my short Atchafalaya Pilgrimage, I may suggest that we readjust our plans! Maybe walking 100 miles would be a happy medium?
In Spain, pilgrims who reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela prove they’ve walked the path by keeping what’s called a pilgrim’s passport and collecting necessary stamps along the way. Bright blue tiles with yellow scallops making an arrow mark the Camino de Santiago all over Europe. Like me, you may have seen them before and wondered what they signified.
Now I know. They mark the way of Saint James.
Though I’ve known all along that walking would be an arduous and incredible journey, I’ve thought, “It’s just walking. How bad can it be? I long for a day when all I have to do is walk.”
My Atchafalaya Pilgrimage gave me a reality wake-up call. I’ve known I need to prepare for the journey. However, as is so often the case when reality sets in, I now know that I need to prepare more than I thought. My friend and I have been planning this trip for three years. It’s getting closer to the time for the rubber to meet the road.
Literally.
I have work to do.
Even the longest journey begins with a single step.

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