This morning, I drew a card from the Sacred Traveler Deck in preparation for our Portuguese Camino walk just days away. The card was the Wandering Path. It asked me to accept the fact that life’s path is circuitous and meandering and always for my highest good. That gave me pause and I wondered, how did the idea of walking the Camino come to me? The inkling of the idea goes back much further than I thought. It began with Paulo Coelho’s entrance into my life.
March 29, 1995, Elliot and I traveled to Cambria to meet our family and friends for our wedding, April 2. On April 1, after the rehearsal, we strolled around the quaint village and came across a bookshop tucked in among other shops. Bookshops are my addiction, so we had to go in. Walking down one of the aisles deeply engrossed in reading titles and dust jackets, a book fell from the top shelf and hit me in the head. Being a little superstitious I bought it. The book? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
A month or so later, I read it and loved it. And as is my nature, I bought it for friends. On Friday, October 13 of the same year, I entered another bookshop, Bookstar, in Woodland Hills. I told you I had an addiction. A large sign stood in the entry as I walked in the door. It read: Bookstar Welcomes Paulo Coelho Author of The Valkyries, Reading and Signing 4-6 pm. It was 4:30 and the only three people in the store were the clerk, Paulo, and me. He was standing near a desk with his books. I took a deep inhale and approached him. I shared my story of The Alchemist and he told me about his first book, The Pilgrimage. I asked him to hold a copy of it while I went home to get my copy of The Alchemist for signing. I’m sure I made the ten-minute drive in record time. Returning, he told me he was in Southern California to talk about optioning The Alchemist for a movie. He signed both books for me, and I floated out of the store.
Yesterday, I chose to reread The Pilgrimage documenting Paulo’s journey on the Camino in the 80’s. I took another sharp inhale when I saw that the flyer announcing that October book signing served as my bookmark. Twenty-one years exactly after meeting Paulo Coelho, I’ll be on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. Did my direction shift the day I met him, or had that plan always existed? Whatever the story, I’ll wander the path and enjoy the journey.
Bom Camino, October 2021
P.S. A Camino tradition is to carry something to be blessed at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago, journey’s end. This afternoon, my mother’s Book of Common Prayer came to mind, I hadn’t thought of it in years. She’d held it along with a single orchid the day she married my dad. I found the box and removed the book carefully. The book naturally opened to the Epistle of St. James and pressed against his words was her orchid.