Guest post: Mark Seidler – soon to walk the Camino…

Mark Seidler has the bug. He’s got it bad.

The Camino bug.

He hasn’t been able to shake it. So he’s walking in July. His first time. I suspect, like others who have been similarly afflicted, that it won’t be his only time.

He’s already bought his boots, and sleeping bag. Next on his list is his backpack. (Osprey Kestrel, 38ltr, I suggested…)

He contacted me not long ago. He’d read my book. He was very kind.

We swapped a few emails and he seemed to have a way with words, so I thought it might be interesting to get his perspective for this blog – principally tackling the hoary question: Why are you doing this? 

So here’s his post. And I welcome him to this blog…


So, why the Camino? It is, after all, a reasonable question. And the one probably most asked when one mentions that he or she is planning on hiking it.

We are all reasonable adults, after all, have our feet planted fairly solidly on the ground. And yet, we plan on walking 800 kilometers across northern Spain for reasons which are not at all clear. At least, in my case.

 It is more than just planning to go. In some very real sense, I need to do it. Like so many before me, something about it beckons and try as I might, the feeling won’t go away.

 At sixty four, I have lived a wonderful life. Seven years ago, I made this enormous leap after twenty years in the corporate world, and opened, of all things, a restaurant.

It was a gutsy thing to do, scary as all get out, especially so since I had no prior restaurant experience. It was the craziest thing I have ever done, yet with the exception of having my kids, the best. It moved my entire center of gravity, from my head, where it had always resided, to my arms and my chest and my hands.

Though excruciatingly difficult at times, it set me on a course from which I have never looked back.

What I know is that since that day, I have been on a path of internal growth. It is a miracle that I have been courageous enough, lucky enough, to have pulled it off, this new life of mine.

I live now a very happy life for all intents and purposes. It isn’t extravagant by any stretch, but I have figured out a way to make do with less, have gotten my priorities in line with what is important to me, and gotten rid of a whole lot of baggage, both material and emotional.

There have been lapses to be sure. I lapse all of the time. Yet, I have finally finally finally begun to be in charge of the path that my life takes. It is a wonderful feeling, both liberating and exhilarating.

Which brings me full circle to the Camino. Despite my newfound growth, there are so many things I don’t know about still, so many ways that I need to grow.

What has the Camino in store for me? I am not quite sure. What I feel, what I crave, is the opportunity to assess, in beauty and in solitude and on a well worn path, what has gone right in my life as well as what has not.

And most importantly, what lies ahead.

I am not a religious person. I’ve spent the better part of a year now trying to figure out what this life is about; that sort of thing happens when one begins to come to grips with one’s mortality. How did I get here? Where am I going once it is done?

I have turned to reading rather voraciously subjects like cosmology and physics – looking into quantum mechanics in one direction for an inkling about the meaning of life, and the very edge of our expanding universe, some eight billion light years away, in the other.

I don’t expect to find God on the Camino. But I do know that there is a whole heck of a lot of room for looking at life from other vantage points.

There is a wonderful quote from Rumi which says, “Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart.”  

And there are a lot of unseens out there.

The Camino beckons…

Mark Seidler

Mark Seidler

28 thoughts on “Guest post: Mark Seidler – soon to walk the Camino…

  1. Welcome Mark
    Sounds like your life has changed a lot in the last few years and it’s about to change more. My husband and I have been back from our Camino one and a half years now and not a day goes by that we don’t think of something to do with the camino. It’s like a virus but one we are glad to have. Once you’re back you will probably start planning your next Camino. I am just starting into the quest for “a higher self”. There’s so much information out there. Have gotten some book lists from Bill but would be interested in which books or material you suggest also. A couple years ago I started wondering some of the same questions you have but have just been stumbling trying to figure out where to start. I’m reading some books on Buddhism at the present and have ordered many of Bill’s suggestions.
    Are you starting in St Jean? You are going to have the time of your life. Just watch your feet andtake time to smell the roses errr sunflowers! Ha
    Buen Camino

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mark –

    Thank you for your wonderful post. When I read it I thought of a poem that’s on the wall in the hallway to the kitchen at Refugio Gaucelmo (the CSJ refugio) at Rabanal, which is one of the most welcoming and ancient refugios on the Camino, parts of the building having been in existence since the 12th century. Try to stay there if you possibly can – you won’t be sorry.

    It’s a very beautiful poem and I think it sums up a lot of what you’re feeling now and may feel once you have completed your camino. Noting Lynda’s problem with spam, I thought that as it’s a long poem, that I would post the link to it … here it is:

    I acknowledge Piers Nicholson and the people at Interworks Ltd for permission to share this poem.

    Take joy in every step Mark, and Buen Camino –

    Cheers – Jenny

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny – here is that poem…

      The Camino

      When we started, we did not know – exactly – why we were doing it
      We had lives which were – more or less – satisfactory
      We had friends known much of our lives
      We had children – changed from chrysalis to butterflies
      We had things:
      things like machines
      things like music
      things like pictures
      things like shelves full of books
      things like money and pensions and security
      We did not have one thing – and maybe that was why we started

      When we started, we put one foot in front of the other
      We still did not know – precisely – why we were doing it
      The miles passed – many of them pleasantly
      Our feet blistered and were slow to heal
      Our ankles turned on loose stones
      The rain beat its way through our clothes
      The cold chilled the marrow of our bones
      Some nights, refuge was hard to find
      Some days, miles of hot dust had no fountains

      When the first few of many long days had passed
      We found – without words – that we no longer walked together
      That together we spoke in our own tongues –
      and often of things we had left behind where we began
      That together we shut out new experience with the wall of our togetherness
      That alone we spoke in other tongues and of our common experience
      That alone we were open – open with interest and curiosity.
      Often we met – with gladness – at the end of the day
      To know our paths went on together was enough

      When we got to the cathedral we sat down
      We saw – through the eyes of those long before us
      The blinding faith, the crucial thirst for salvation
      The tower slowly closing off the sky
      And we counted our blessings – several hundred of them
      Starting with the kindness of ordinary people on the way
      And with the warmth of other travellers on the road
      Travellers not at all like us – not in age, not in origin, not in interests
      But warm across all these distancings
      And ending with the friendship and love
      We had left behind where we began.

      When we got to the sea at the end of the world
      We sat down on the beach at sunset
      We knew why we had done it
      To know our lives less important than just one grain of sand
      To know that we did not need the things we had left behind us
      To know the we would nevertheless return to them
      To know that we needed to be where we belonged
      To know that kindness and friendship and love is all one needs
      To know that we did not – after all – have to make this long journey to find this out
      To know that – for us – it certainly helped

      written near Sanguesa, Navarra, September 2003

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny,
      Beautiful poem. We stayed at Gaucelmo on our Camino. Arrived just in time for the tea and munchies in the yard. Loved it. When do you start your bicycle Camino?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Lynda –
        Ta muchly for your message. The afternoon tea at Gaucelmo is a wonderful tradition – it was the highlight of our working day there.
        Mike and I start our bike camino on September 7, from Pamplona. We’ve got no idea how long it’s going to take us to get out to Finisterre – we’re just taking each day really slowly and leisurely so we can make the most of every day.
        We hope to stay at Gaucelmo if there’s room for us – fingers crossed there will be.
        Cheers – Jenny x x


        • I’m sure there will be room for you, their best hospitalero.!! Are you taking a thick, cushy, fluffy seat cushion? Ha! Ha! My rear hurts just thinking of nearly 500 miles on a bike.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Lynda! Thanks for your terrific message.
            The seat cushion? Hooly dooly! I wish! I do have a great bike seat though … specially designed for women cyclists which takes all the pressure off the important bits, thank goodness! This cycling world is a whole new world! Lots to learn but it’s all great fun.
            Cheers and hugs to you and Dale –
            Jenny x x

            Liked by 1 person

  3. OHHH Mark, you’re obviously smitten! Can’t wait to hear more of your journey – both pre and on The Way 🙂


  4. Mark let me know if you want when you arrive in saint jean, I will be happy to greet you there or even in biarritz if I can, depending of work schedule, I n any case if i can help for anything just let me know, be happy to help a peregrino if I can.
    buen camino.


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