PC #39 – The path you can’t see…

Anyone who’s walked the Camino will know this – after you return home, weeks and months and possible years later, you get flashes of moments during your pilgrimage that, at the time, seemed inconsequential. Yet later, those moments take on new meaning.

That happened to me just now.

I remember walking out of Ciraqui early one morning, before sunrise. It was at a stage in the walk where I was in enormous pain from my knee. I was walking along a very narrow track, studded with rocks. An old Roman track. And each step hurt like hell, because I was treading on these big clumps of rock.

Because it was dark still, I had my headlamp on, and I could only see a short distance in front of me. But it seemed that this track just went on and on… It wasn’t going to end soon.

But then on the edge of the lamp’s throw I thought I saw a track running parallel. A paved track. There was brush in between though, and a big ditch, and I couldn’t quite see it clearly. I certainly couldn’t get to it.

I kept walking on this hard and difficult rock strewn track. That’s where the yellow arrows had pointed me, and they were still there, letting me know I was going the right way.

But still every now and then I got a glimpse of this level paved track on the other side of the brush and the ditch.

I finally found a gap in the brush and I climbed the ditch, and looked ahead of me. The track was paved. It was level, and it seemed to be running parallel to the rocky path.

But there were no yellow arrows.

I was worried that it might veer off and lead in the wrong direction, and then I’d have to back track.

So I went back through the gap in the brush and continued on the hard and difficult way. Each step excruciating because of my knee.

Finally, I thought: This is really stupid. The clear path must be a new path. It must be part of the Camino. So I found a way through the brush. over the ditch, and I began walking on the paved track.

Immediately my knee felt better. And I began to walk with greater ease.

After about a kilometre or so I saw a yellow arrow. It had been a new path, and it was the Camino, and all that time I’d been trudging along the rocky difficult path.

So this morning, it came to me out of the blue, (my PGS!) how like life that was.

We spend all our time struggling through difficulty, hauling ourselves painfully along a particular path because we believe that’s the right way to go – that’s the way we’ve been directed to go. And yet right beside us, within our sight, is a clear level path that we can travel on, without pain and difficulty.

But to get there, we have to believe.

And we have to overcome our fear.

(Sometime after my Camino, it’s still reaching into my soul and teaching me.)

Rocky path

50 thoughts on “PC #39 – The path you can’t see…

  1. Hi Bill
    It doesn’t seem to matter what you are doing in life-because there is always going to be that person who has to do everyhing the hard way. You can point out an easier way, or even offer to take on some of their problems, making their lives easier,but it doesn’t matter. There is just that type of person who choose to suffer through hard choices no matter what. Some of them seem to think you can’t have a truly valid insight or experience without suffering. Of course for Christians there is a third option that reveals itself in the moment of Grace-choose to let go, and trust God to take care of everything for you. Its known as that ‘leap of faith,’and I promise it works,even down to the smallest details. In so many ways, believing is the beginning of a dream coming true.


    • Dear Sister –

      that’s a wonderful reply to the post – thank you.

      Your Christian “leap of faith” is my trusting my PGS – and following.

      I fall into that category of person who believes nothing of any worth can be achieved without suffering. I am suspicious of easy success.

      It’s something I hoped the Camino would rectify. Not sure that it has entirely, given that I walked the whole way, almost, in pain.

      Did I bring it on to purposefully make it difficult for myself? I hope not.



      • Bill you say

        I fall into that category of person who believes nothing of any worth can be achieved without suffering. I am suspicious of easy success.

        The grace (easy as the concept sounds) that Sister Simon discusses is not an easy solution solution or easy success is the sense that it came at great price and immense suffering to the One who offered it.

        As for whether you went out looking for trouble…..shorter days may have diminished your personal suffering, but I don’t recall you mentioning whipping yourself along the way;-) Difficulty can come whether you look for it or not.


        • You make some good points, Rachel. Please note though, that I am referring to the ‘moment of Grace’, ie the moment when God invites us to believe in Him, or not. Because He has given us free will, the choice of faith is ours to choose, or reject, whichever we decide.No one would suggest that Christ’s sacrifices were easy or that He didn’t suffer horribly when we crucified Him-still He accepted that ‘cup’ because in His Perfect Heart, He loves us so much that He chose to do what He had to do to save us from the worst of ourselves. None of it is, or was easy, but it can be a very beautiful way to embrace life( which in itself is an ongoing labour!)


        • Rachel,

          I didn’t mean easy success in the way you’re translating it – I meant if something fell into my lap without me really having to work for it.

          As to whether I “whipped” myself, there were days I pushed myself hard. Sure. Several 30km+ days, and a couple of 40km days. Is that whipping myself? You tell me.

          Certainly I could have done shorter days, but I didn’t. I walked the pilgrimage I chose to walk.



      • Bill, if making a leap of faith was easy, it would be called a skip of faith, instead. Its very hard, no matter how much you want to do it. And I find that like happiness, it has to be chosen again and worked on, every day. Absolute trust is hard, and when we have such difficulty trusting others, its no wonder we struggle with letting go and trusting God, Whom we can’t even see. But as a bonus, seeing, feeling and hearing God does follow this particular leap of faith, in time. Its not easy, but its simple-and thats a more joyful approach than struggling every waking moment to achieve something that wants to arrive as a gift!


      • I should add that for many many years I made choosing the hard way almost a profession! Its a very deliberate and concentrated task to change that, but it can be done. I also spent most of my adult life as one of those sad creatures who just can’t ask for help when we need it. But God helped me make progress in both areas, thankfully!


        • Sister,

          I’m standing in a queue in a supermarket reading these last two comments of yours.

          Your thoughts, and world experience, reach into every little corner of my world, and I’m sure many others’ too.



      • Rachael,

        I’ve just read my reply to you and I think I probably came across as brusque.

        I’m sorry. It was not intended.

        I was waiting to go in and see the Neurologist about the numbness in my foot, and I was very tense. I think that came across in my reply to you. (This numbness issue has been freaking me out, thinking I’ve got diabetes, MS, etc… Terrible,how we let our emotional body run our lives, isn’t it!)

        Anyway, again, I’m sorry.

        Your points are very valid. I think if I were to do the Camino again, I would take it very very slowly – not for health or injury reasons, but just to SAVOUR it. To take it all in. I would have less fear about completing it, less anxiety.

        I would enjoy it more.

        That said, I don’t know that I would walk the Camino Frances again (got my sights set on Portuguese) because I have such strong and vivid memories, affectionate memories, and I would hate to do the walk again and not have it as good as it was the first time around.



  2. Wow… (yes I have said wow before on here) but this is another amazing post that has resonated into my heart.
    I haven’t quite made the transition that Sister has made to asking for help yet. I cant seem to do that easily. I pride myself on being self -sufficient and hate asking for any type of help. And I am seeing how this is going to back fire on me for my Camino.
    I was so proud of myself when I created my packing list last year at how short it was and how un-cluttered. I was going to lead the way in being the ultimate in packing light.

    Now…as the day approaches (31 days left) I find I am adding stuff to my pack….adding extra plasters, soap, zip lock bags, nappy pins, carabineers….I mean honestly…..nappy pins??…..am I planning on running my own laundry over there. :-0
    But in my head…..I want to be self-sufficient….I don’t want to have to ask anyone for anything….I don’t want to have to try and find some random item in a shop….I don’t want to be caught out un-prepared.

    And what makes it worse is I have been on the Camino before…I know I wont need all of this.

    Now….analysing myself…….I know it stems from a horrible incident in 2007, in which I didn’t heed the advice my PGS was shouting at me. It all went so wrong.

    Bill a post you made the other night about when you first understood your PGS really spoke to me….not for the reason you stated…because it got me thinking……
    I have felt since 2007 that my PGS was broken, or it had abandoned me…I honestly couldn’t hear it anymore. In 2009, I kinda found it when I walk my first Camino for 10 days….but I lost it again when I returned

    And then this blog came along……I read all your lovely stories…and Bill your Blog titles seem to me to be a script sent from God for me to see.

    As you know…I discovered that I had a tumour some weeks back….and it knocked me for six. My whole world came crashing down.. The surgeon wanted to cut me open, slice out things and put me on all sorts of drugs. And it just felt so very wrong…but you aren’t suppose to argue with Dr’s.
    Anyway…I did. I declined the surgery, declined the drugs…and on the day I was suppose to have the surgery I received the results of a blood test in the mail that said “my malignancy factor was low” . So highly likely no cancer…although I still have a mass. But MY GOSH….as I write this I am balling my eyes out…because making that decision to not go under the knife felt so right….and since then….its like my PGS has started whispering to me again like an old friend….and now its telling me to trust that all will be provided on the Camino….and there is no need to carry such a heavy load and I’m going to listen to it.

    OK…so I know this post is really long….and Im sorry for that….but I really wanted to share this and what a miracle finding you Bill and you Sister and the rest of you has been. I guess I reached out…..and you helped me.

    Aroha Nui (Big Love ) to you all.

    Ummm I may have strayed off topic a bit tonight…hope that’s OK.. 🙂


    • Abbey, first I rejoice in the good news about the mass, and then I congratulate you on reconnecting with your PGS again. Sometimes its voice goes from a shout to a whisper, and sometimes it seems silent. But its only asking you to stop, sit down, stay quiet and look all around you- and trust that it can speak to you in silence, through the movement in your heart. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you feel disconnected.Sometimes we need a little objectivity to help us hear, and trust that small voice. We’re all here for you, so don’t forget, you are never alone-pilgrims are everywhere!


    • Dear Abbey, like Sister Clare states, we’re here for you (and I’ve no doubt there are / will be others out there for you too), and please DO ask; strangers or not; on the Camino or elsewhere. It’s definitely not a weakness and through asking, you’re actually giving something to the other person and that’s really important. We all want to be (not just seen to be!) compassionate and helpful, so when you ask someone else for help, you give them the gift of being compassionate and helpful and less selfish … a very powerful present to give to someone. So check it out, ask and see what the universe (or God) provides!!


      • Thanks everyone….
        And backatcha to.

        Sister/Bhasma…..you raise good points. Bhasma, you explained it so well with the gift of compassion.


  3. Bill, are you nuts? You’re in Sydney to catch up with your family and to talk to your neurologist … and you’re still blogging … in the supermarket …!!!


        • Hi and excuse the interruption.I was asked to fill in some blanks about myself around the time of the goat dinner. I haven’t suddenly gone rude and decided to ignore you- its just that I have no clue about what anyone would want to know. I’m happy to answer any questions , but otherwise don’t want to just dive in and bore everyone to tears.Also its important to consider that this is Bill’s blog about the Camino, not the drone about my very ordinary life. So, if its topic related,feel free to ask and I’ll try to fill you in.


          • Hi Sister – and everyone:

            this is a perfect opportunity for you to flip across to the forum if you wish.


            There is a forum there for matters relating to Spirituality & Religion –

            Sister, feel free to post any topic there – and of course here too if you wish!



          • Thanks Bill! There was only one person who asked,though, so its not thread-worthy.


  4. I have the same thoughts as Abbey. Wow! another amazing post that so resonated with me, Bill, thank you! And Sister’s very insightful words also resonated with me as always 🙂
    Abbey, I am so glad that you listened to your PGS and that now you are hearing it again. Thank you for sharing your story. I will be looking forward to hearing about your Camino. Which route are you walking? The Frances?
    Love and Light


      • BILL!!!! dem fighting words. :0)
        But given that we still have dial up in some areas….you probably aren’t wrong and we only have about 50km of real motorway.

        All I have to say to that is……
        Rugby World Cup….;-)

        oh and sorry for the Robbie Deans thing…. heheheheh


        • Ok, let’s talk cricket…

          And who is Robbie Deans?

          Haha –

          We always knew he was an All Blacks plant…

          NZ is a gorgeous place. Just gorgeous. I love this statistic – NZ has 4m people. The first Lord of the Rings film had 12m admissions.

          Everyone went to see the film three times!



      • Yeah. ..I cant believe you guys didn’t catch onto that sooner…

        Mind you….. I see you are trying the same tactic with Vicki Wilson jumping the ditch to help coach the Silver Ferns.

        Tit for tat I think 🙂

        And yes…..we have gone a little crazy about the Lord of the Rings.
        I have a friend who has been working on the Hobbit 2. In fact in NZ…there is only about two degrees separation between you and someone working on or in the movie.

        And has for cricket…..she is a no brainer. You guys rock at that.
        That young number 10 (?) had an outstanding performance recently.


        • You’re quite a sports fan aren’t you!

          Have to say the All Blacks are incredible. Dan Carter should have an airport, or an island, named after him!

          By the way Abbey, just catching up on the posts and wanted to thank you for your kind words re the blog.



      • Yeah…Dan Carter (apart from being super hot) he is an outstanding player. I would say even better than Grant Fox. He and Richie Mc will be really missed when they leave the All Blacks.

        I look forward to consoling you gently after the Bledisloe cup 🙂

        Anywho…back to the blog…MY PLEASURE…..You are a wonderful Man Bill for keeping this blog going.

        Nitey nite :0)


        • Don’t write us off with the Bledisloe – although you guys ave a fairly firm lock on it!

          And with the blog, I’m enjoying it! Plus I have some wonderful collaborators – including the very unusual Sister!



  5. Bill to say it simply-you continually amaze with your insightful thoughts and reflections. It is so clear that the Camino had and continues to have a tremendous impact on your life.
    The parallel you draw in this analogy of the two paths is very beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and I also want to say again how I enjoy your writing.

    My first thought was pretty much exactly as Sister Clare says so well-we are invited with love and open arms to the feast table of the King, but somehow we can’t quite believe it can be true. It seems too simple. It has to cost something surely? So we are afraid, not knowing what awaits us on the other side of the “ditch”.
    I believe each of us is called in our own time and in a voice that only we can hear. When we hear that voice calling-irresistible, deep in the heart-fear is conquered, falls away, and we step out in perfect faith.

    Dear Abbey, thank you for sharing your good news, I can’t imagine what you have been through! May your Camino lead you to much healing, in body, mind and spirit. It would be wonderful to meet you enroute….if you are walking the Frances…however if you are leaving in August you may be ahead of me…I leave from St.Jean PdP on Sept 2nd.



    • Hi Debra

      I am leaving SJPDP on the 20th August.
      I will be taking it very slowly over the first 10 days…..so there is an excellent chance you will bump into me.

      I will be the Kiwi that looks like a Kiwi. Short, round and with frizzy brown hair 🙂

      Happy trails 🙂


  6. In that case, Bill, will just have to see who the winning team is tonight. Much as I grew up in Denmark, I’ve lived nearly all my years in Australia in NSW!! Can I suggest that whatever the outcome, don’t jump up and down too much on those neurologically affected limbs, and may the best team win just for once …


    • Haha Britta,

      It’s going to be a cracker game. With Gallen out, it’s going to be harder for NSW, but QLD are such a strong team.

      I don’t follow League – my footy of choice is AFL, in particular the Swannies.



          • Hi Sister –

            RE how the book’s going – I finished that chapter late this morning, but realised that I now need one more chapter to complete the book, which is what I’m working on now before slipping off to get this EMG done.

            The word count for the book is currently 77,838 – so once this last chapter is done, it will come in at over 80,000.

            I will then over the next month or so go through a rigorous edit and and bring it back to about 72,000 – 75,000 words.

            It’s not a replication of the blog in any way shape or form. It’s a completely original work, which of course draws on incidents from the blog, because that’s what happened, but it goes much deeper into the emotions, and the interpretations of what happened.

            It also explores themes in greater detail, and it’s actually very funny in parts. The humour is coming through very strongly. So I will probably finish the final chapter by Friday my time, given that I’ll have to drive back to Mudgee tomorrow and will lose most of the day traveling.

            But I’m happy with it – this draft.

            I notice that someone has posted on Ivar’s forum that he’s just written a book based on his walking the Camino in May June 2013. that’s one month after me. He’d self published and is selling it on Kindle for $4.99. I bought it and had a look. It’s basically just a cut and paste of his blog, with pictures. That’s not what I’m doing. From page one this is an original work.



          • Frankly I’m getting bored with the Amazon cut and paste books. Yours sounds like something I want to read- the rest are so repetitious.


          • Bill, you sound worried about this nerve test and the needles. Think of this while you’re there. Every week for the last ten years I’ve gone to the clinic twice a week for treatments that comprise 50 injections each time. And I’m alive to tell the tale. I’ve had the test you’re going for, and its not bad at all.


          • Hey Bill……I have sensed a tension as well about your knee. Its amazing how much worries can weigh us down more that an over loaded Camino packpack. I know that there is not much that can be said to ease those worries……..accept that I and everyone else is walking beside you.

            Kia Kaha (Stay stronge)


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