Nine days done, twenty-one to go


The panoramas are unbelievable. This is taken from Citerna toward Citta di Castello, tomorrow’s destination.

All year I’ve been gearing myself toward thirty critical days, the four weeks plus two days in which I would actually walk the route that is the subject of my upcoming guidebook. It’s hard to believe that I’m nearly one-third of the way through. I’ve learned a lot about a wonderful and quirky GPS device, about a great camera on loan to me, about myself, and about the difficult and beautiful way I’m walking from Florence to Assisi to Rome.

I should say first of all that I’m fine, my health is fine, all my gear is intact, I’m not lost (at the moment) and I’m having a good time. I should also say that in the last few days I have been dealing with very hot temperatures, long days of walking and some poor way marking that has meant I’ve sometimes had to invent my own way to get from one stop to another. And let me say too that there has been some good company along the way. Dear Jacqueline has been with me since La Verna, three days ago, but unfortunately her knee has given out and she’ll be taking the bus or train to Gubbio and then on to Assisi, skipping ahead about five days and then heading back to Vienna. I’ve met other pilgrim friends — three Italians, a Frenchman, an older German couple and three fun mental health professionals from Lübeck, Germany.

But this walk is different than any other walk I’ve done. What makes it most different is that I’m working as I walk. I walk with the GPS in my right hand, with my iPhone in my left hand, and with my camera strapped around my neck. Every step I’m looking for a good photograph, making sure I don’t miss a turn in the way for the GPX way marks I’m creating, and describing it all into a dictation program on my iPhone.

Every day I learn more about the GPS device. I learned yesterday that if I stop the stopwatch function I also stop the track recording. This is bad. In my futile attempt to save battery I just erased the steps I’d walked (though I later found a way to recover them).

As I walk, though, I find that I’m thinking not about myself but am thinking about how best to describe what I’m going through for future pilgrims who will read The Way of St. Francis.   I’m taking the sights of this walk and trying to explain it in words that will go on a page, along with a few maps and photos. How do I condense all this experience into a book small enough that pilgrims will be willing to toss it into their backpack with them? How do I make sure they don’t get lost (like I have 3-4 times in 9 days)? How can I be certain I haven’t missed a turn or a landmark that will be explain where they’re at and where they should go? How also do I represent the amazing sights along the way, like the serene Santuario della Verna, nestled atop a mountain in the Central Apennines?

So many questions, and as I walk ahead and blindly speak into my iPhone I recognize I won’t have the answers until I finally sit down with all the material at the end of my walk and begin to flesh out what can and can’t go into the guidebook. At that point I will probably be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the trails that are the source material for the book, and I will just have my recordings, my photos, a pile of receipts and some random memories of hot, long, beautiful days in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio.

Oh, and I’m using my Italian every day. I wish I’d listened better to Flora, David and Maria of Comitato Linguistico in Perugia. But even though I wasn’t the best student I’m putting their helpful lessons to work all the time, and my Italian is getting better.

7 thoughts on “Nine days done, twenty-one to go

  1. Capture every single thing that you can: pix, impressions, gps data, twists and turns, conversations, everything you experience , within reason, of course. You can and will always edit, edit, and edit. Don’t omit anything, keep walking by putting one foot in front of another. Keep working by writing one word after another. In time you will get there. Be well. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  2. …I politely suggest that you get yourself a time-line/flow chart done of your walk as soon as possible–if not sooner. That way you would hopefully find where your recordings, the way marks that your GPS is generating, and your general thoughts belong without getting confused about anything in the long run–if you know what I mean.

    The route you are doing is mostly un-charted as far as I have come to know. Or nobody has had the fortitude to write an English guidebook for the route you are trying to do. Therefore, your responsibility to your readers will be to let them know that at some points they have to be moving forward by simply living out-of-the-box on their way to Roma/Assisi in the long haul. Your honesty will make your guidebook a very powerfull, and indispensable to anyone accordingly there-of–to say the least.

    One more thing, I sincerely hope that you will not forget to methodically interject some needed humour throughout the pages of your guidebook. A dry guidebook for a pilgrim walking this difficult route shall be a painfull curse in disguise–if I may say so. You must invent some humour on every page–if at all needed! Try to put yourself in your reader’s shoes by having to read your guidebook for some 30 days at hand. No humour, no inspiration at all! Can you live with that? I think not, my Dear Friend. Somehow your humour should be of encouraging variety, and inspiring as well all the way through. By accepting to write a very difficult guidebook of this nature, you have simply begun to touch the surface of an iceberg–if you know what I mean.

    God bless you infinitely…

  3. Sounds like a lot of work, but WOW, you’ll REALLY know this Camino by the time that you’re done!! Sorry about Jacqueline’s knee 😦

  4. Funny post Sandy. Not funna ha ha, but funny because a couple Sundays ago I visited a church, One I planned on sitting back and drink in the words of every song, scripture and message. I felt like a sponge ready for refueling. Well, not so much, I found myself at “work”. Watching for ideas to bring home, writting down songs I never heard so they too could come home with me. I watched the pastor and critiqed his movements, I counted his ands, buts and as wells. At the Amen I had nothing…. for my spiritual self….yet for the WFUMC worship service I got plenty. I was reminded of a concert I went to in the 70’s to see Fleetwood Mac at the paramount….. oh better not tell that story. Anyway back to your blog. Here is the funny part… I was thinking about you on the way home from that experience (church visit not the concert) wondering if you found your walk much different then the others. More like a work walk.

    Then this morning I opened your Blog…..”But this walk is different than any other walk I’ve done. What makes it most different is that I’m working as I walk.”

    Heres to finding your balance……..

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