The city is robed in green

At last

The winter was long and dark. Spring was a poor,cold thing but in her last few days she has redeemed herself. She whispers, shamefaced, “You complained of the rain, but look now at what it brought you.”

Green life springing from the dead

Last years reeds are overtaken by new life. Red-winged blackbirds, finches, robins, ducks, all relieved at last to feel sun on their feathers, to turn all their energy to new life.

Fine leaves of the Willow

Turned from the delicate yellow of a few weeks ago. Yellow that hardly covered the fine twigs and branches, now brand-new sappy green!

Honeysuckle and some unknown white flower

Elbowing Spring out of the way before she even has a chance to take a full breath – showy Summer never waiting her turn

The little stream in its green bed

when I turn towards home, bidding me on my way as it hurries to its business with the great river a little way off. “Good evening, good green evening” it wishes me and I leave the green park for another time.

And here it is Spring

New leaves
Trout Lily

A real sign of spring for me. They have that name because of the brown spots on the leaves that supposedly look like the skin of a trout. In the large park adjacent to my home I saw the start of new life.

Willow tendrils and tiny catkins

White and blue violets are out too and that brash and beloved sign of spring, dandelion!

Bees, enjoy!

The temperature was just right and it was good to get back to my regular walk. The peace and quiet was particularly welcome since they have been testing the fire alarm in my building all afternoon!

My friends have told me all about the ice storm of a few weeks ago and I could see evidence of it. Among the new growth were plenty of fallen trees

New life to replace what has fallen

My lemon trees are out on the balcony and a curious squirrel took one look at my evil eye and turned tail ( literally).An opening salvo in my war on these critters.

Back at Home

From the plane May 2

This is just before landing on Tuesday evening. It’s now Friday morning. I love this picture with the huge river, the farmland still not awake to spring. When I am in Europe part of me feels at home. When I walk some paths that thousands walked, enter a cathedral where millions lit a candle or let a prayer arise like incense, order a coffee and sit on the sun on an ancient square, I feel part of a long story.

But like so many in Montreal, where I live, I am now a page torn out and stitched, patched together in another book. The cover of that book is a harsh climate, vast spaces that, even today, are not quite tamed by technology. The pages of our story are written in different languages, sometimes ragged and torn, sometimes brilliantly illustrated.

In my little apartment, I am surrounded by pictures of my European family, souvenirs of my “ adventures”, art family members created. I sleep in my own bed, walk in the park near my home. The phone rings… “welcome home”

The Camino saying goodbye

Emerging from the must

The day finally dawned about two hours after we set off and revealed this . Somehow it was familiar. As the bus took a slightly diagonal route, it was leaving Galicia behind. Daybreak unveiled spectacular mountains as strong sunlight burned off the mist. We drove through Astoria, the ornate cathedral emerged, unmistakable and a breathtaking surprise.

With apologies to my seat mate. I was focused on the background!

As we left the town a narrow, obviously older road, ran below our route. The scenery looked so familiar! Surely I knew that river running beside the road. I had walked there two years ago with a Spanish pilgrim, Carmen. Yes, Tricastel was the name of the place and there was one of the castles flashing by too quickly for me to capture it on my phone

But here’s my picture from 2021..

Peering down a steep slope, my face lit up as I realized the bus route was cutting through the classic Camino Frances route. I even caught sight of the way market with the half sun and yellow arrow on a bright blue background. It was set up in a rest area with picnic tables. I distinctly remember lying down in the cool grass there listening to the endless sound of the stream.

Still flowing along

I had a wonderful conviction that the Camino of two years ago, the Camino that had been such a different experience was greeting me, encouraging me, “ Remember, you walked here. You experienced this joy. It’s still here, still in you to recall and relive whenever you want.”

I’ve never bought into many of the Camino cliches, or catchphrases. However, just at that moment it seemed to me that the Camino was giving me just what I needed -a sweet farewell from an old trusted friend.


I told you I needed someone to take care of me!

He’s a bit set in his ways, but, who’s perfect? I was originally booked to return 11 May but since I couldn’t use the extra days to walk I managed to book an early return -for tomorrow. I could only get a flight out of Madrid which also suited since I didn’t have to worry about the pesky SIM cards and phone numbers for different countries.

Next puzzle.. how to go to Madrid. Spain has great train and bus services, when they’re not on or threatening strike action. I consider it a triumph of my poor grandmotherly tech skills that I managed to book transport directly onto the Madrid airport for the 1st and a flight to Canada on the 2nd. Getting to Madrid on the same day as the flight would have driven my anxiety through the roof so… here I am in the Madrid airport with a whole night to kill.

Bus station locked up in the morning!

The cross-country bus was to leave at 5:45. Ok I have British blood so I bugged and wheedled the alberge owner to book me a taxi for 4:30 am. Of course I woke up every hour of the night for fear of missing it. The taxi showed up on time of course. “Why so early?” he asked. “The bus terminal doesn’t open until 5 “

I practiced my meditation and Jesus prayer for half an hour. At 5:02 a taxi driver came through the darkness with a baby seat and managed to get in by flagging a security guard. No mere mortals like me could enter. In a torrent of Galician ( imagine Spanish spoken in broad Scots) he motioned for me to come downstairs to the bus bays. After insisting a few times that I must speak German-I don’t, he managed to get across that the terminal would open at 5:30 instead of the usual 5 am because it was a holiday! Only 15 minutes to get on board! The bus bays were all locked up. In the meantime I was lugging my backpack now beefed up with a few interesting tomes, and my hip was starting to act up. A teenager obviously the worse for a hangover dragged me back upstairs where the magic eye motion detecting doors were now working and I hobbled in. Not a soul to be seen!

Fortunately one day last week I had gone to the station to scope out which bays handled local busses and which long distance once’s so I was pretty sure the Madrid bus would come to bay 18. It did! With trembling fingers I retrieved my electronic ticket and the blasé driver shooed me upstairs. A double-decker! I was the first of about five passengers and …,he left five minutes early.

A bit spooky

We hurtled through pitch black for almost two hours but my spirits were soaring. I was going to get to Madrid to catch my plane. More about this weird airport next time

How did that happen?

You see that lectern on my left

Yes, behind the velvet rope you never go beyond? Well, I did go behind it and I read the lesson at the moon Pilgrim mass! At the Pilgrim masses the epistle is always read in Spanish and some other language -often English.

If you have read this blog for a couple of weeks you will know that my Portuguese Camino was not a resounding success. I developed hip pain and tremendous anxiety about transporting my pack, finding accommodation, and handling the inherent loneliness such an undertaking involves. I bailed and bussed it to Santiago, a city I love. It is, of course, full of gleefull pilgrims who in spite of blisters and sunburns made it and collected their certificates. I know this floaty feeling as I did finish the Camino Frances two years ago.

There are some very nice nuns and priests who take care of pilgrims. Even the triumphant ones can feel reluctant to just pack up and go back to work, mowing the lawn, playing bridge. I met a couple of these ladies and had tea with them after the daily mass in the little chapel adjacent to the office where the certificates are handed out.

One day, sister Alicia asked me if I had ever read the lesson at liturgy. I had and she asked me if I would do so for the little congregation in chapel – ten people tops. It went well and two or three days later she upped the ante.

Would I read in the cathedral…on Sunday….at the moon pilgrim mass? Now we’re talking organ blasting, ten officiants, choir, incense burner… the whole thing. I gulped and played for time. I contacted my own priest who was agreeable. I am a member of an Orthodox community remember.

We had a little coaching session with a nun attached to the cathedral before the service started. I was teamed with a boy of about fifteen who at least could understand the cues of when we were to go up. He was to read first, in Spanish. Then there would be some singing and I would read my passage. St Peter’s first letter. I had been practicing all week and she looked askance at my crumpled sheet. A pristine one was in the book of service. (I still kept mine in my pocket… you never know!) it was 1Peter 2:20b-25). It went off quite well and since it takes place early in the service, we could both relax.

This is at the end when the butafumero is swung.

That’s the flashy part when service is over and people are allowed to take pictures.

So that’s the how but I’ve been puzzling over the why. Was it a consolation to make up for the walk having been such a mess? A call to duty, to say “ yes” when called? A reminder that wonderful surprises can still happen? Whatever the reason was, even though I was scared stiff sometimes, I’m glad I did it.

This is a film but I can’t make it play on the blog. I’m a bit hopeless with videos. I should take a course. Basically there men have to haul on a rope and make the incense burner swing like crazy.

I bought a book about the cathedral

So that’s a special memory. I’ll try to be like my young friend, Lucas and distill the meaning of it.

The first picture in this post was taken by a man who has a window cleaning firm in England. He cleans the windows in Norwich Cathedral. “ Nice to hear a bit of English. How’d you nab that job then?” So that’s why I wrote this.

Yesterday, Showers and wonders

I had an early coffee get-together with friends from my shirt stretch on the Portuguese Camino. Then I felt overwhelmed by the crowds in the centre of town and spend a little time in a park close to my lodgings. The skies were mixed as is so often the case in Galicia. The owner of my Alberge seems to have tapped into my mood. He thrust an umbrella into my hand and encouraged me to take a short hike up a nearby hill.

An apple tree in bloom
Holly in bloom

See the little white fuzzy things. I had never thought about it but the berries come from somewhere!

No idea! A fur tree with red blooms. What is this?
I got a bit lost in a wood but here was the fairy tale gate to get out
From the top of the hill
Someone got his compostella!

This is not the first pup I have seen who accompanied his master or mistress and was accorded his certificate!

Lucas from Portugal!

As I was chatting with a friend in the alberge in the evening a familiar voice called out “ Isobel”! Lucas and I worked together in the alberge in Porto. What were the chances that he would be spending the night here before moving on to his next assignment outside of Pamplona. A real “ soul” – it was a joy to talk with him again and to wish him all the best for the rest of the summer and in his academic future, now secured with a place in a Dutch university. What a happy surprise!

Last day in Santiago today!

Coincidence ? Camino Magic?

Friends from Casa Fernanda

There is a famous alberge on the Portuguese Camino. It’s famous to me because that’s where I bailed from my Camino. The lovely lady in pink was already an acquaintance from the Porto Alberge, Alexandra. When she arrived in Santiago we arranged to meet for coffee. It was quite early ( for Spaniards) and so we had to walk a little to find a place that was open.

After a chat and a cup of coffee, Alexandra waved and called over… Charlie, another alumnus from the Casa. Before long Alexandra got a call from two other walkers who had shared the wonderful supper that is part of the Casa Fernanda tradition. We settled down for a second cup and a chat. What a coincidence that the five of us had been able to meet up! And there he was! A sixth member of the group, David from England! By this time there was hardly any room at the table and one by one we departed, one to the bus station, two to the alberge to rest, one to start the walk to Finisterre, one to visit the cathedral and I to my walk on the green hill in the middle of town.

In the middle of town

Somehow Santiago retains a touch of the country and beside the stream, this poem about washerwomen’s I believe… in Gallego… Duolingo here I come again!