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The Way of the Stars

The Way of the Stars: Journeys on the Camino de Santiago

Robert C. Sibley
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Way of the Stars
    Book Description:

    Since medieval times, pilgrimages have been a popular religious or spiritual undertaking. Even today, between seventy and one hundred million people a year make pilgrimages, if not for expressly religious reasons, then for an alternative to secular goals and the preoccupation with consumption and entertainment characteristic of contemporary life. InThe Way of the Stars,the journalist Robert Sibley, motivated at least in part by his own sense of discontent, recounts his walks on one of the most well-known pilgrimages in the Western world-the Camino de Santiago.

    A medieval route that crosses northern Spain and leads to the town of Santiago de Compostela, the Camino has for hundreds of years provided for pilgrims the practice, the place, and the circumstances that allow for spiritual rejuvenation, reflection, and introspection. Sibley, who made the five-hundred-mile trek twice-initially on his own, and then eight years later with his son-offers a personal narrative not only of the outward journey of a pilgrim's experience on the road to Santiago but also of the inward journey afforded by an interlude of solitude and a respite from the daily demands of ordinary life. The month-long trip put the author on a path through his own memories, dreams, and self-perceptions as well as through the sights and sounds, the tastes and sensations, of the Camino itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3316-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-6)

    I couldn’t see my son. He was somewhere ahead of me on the mountain, but I’d lost sight of him as I labored up the muddy, leaf-slippery slope, following the trail as it wound through a copse of mist-shrouded oak and beech trees. We had started out together, Daniel and I, two hours earlier, leaving Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to take the Napoleon Route across the mountains to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side of the border. It was still dark, but the trek to Roncesvalles would take eight or nine hours and even longer if we...

  6. 1 PRAYER
    (pp. 7-25)

    In Roncesvalles I prayed for the first time since childhood. I wasn’t very good at it. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed. The words and ritual gestures had grown rusty with disuse and, it must be said, disbelief. I made the effort nevertheless, imitating others as they crossed themselves and genuflected in front of the altar. In part, it was a matter of wanting to be polite and not look out of place. But I also recalled the Catholic apologist C. S. Lewis once saying that faith is an act of will as well as belief. You sometimes have to act...

  7. 2 PAIN
    (pp. 26-41)

    The sun was shining when I left Roncesvalles in the morning. I interpreted that as a good sign, compensation for the misery of the previous day. Even better, the bar of the Hostal Casa Sabina opened at 7 a.m., allowing me a leisurely breakfast. My pretty waitress was nowhere to be seen, so I settled for a balding bartender to take an order for what became a favorite breakfast during my pilgrimage: a large café con leche and a couple of chocolate churros, sugared sticks of fried pastry for dipping into the coffee. I also imitated another patron by having...

  8. 3 PATHS
    (pp. 42-57)

    I sterilized the needle with my trusty Zippo lighter. I was careful to keep the flame away from my fingers, but it didn’t occur to me that the needle would get too hot to hold. Only after I dropped it on the floor and was sucking my left thumb and forefinger did I remember the lesson from junior high science class about metal conducting heat. Clearly I hadn’t been paying attention then, and I wasn’t thinking too clearly now.

    I picked up the needle and tried to sterilize it again, this time holding it with a pair of tweezers from...

  9. 4 TIME
    (pp. 58-68)

    I left Logroño in the morning to walk alone for the next week. Each day took me to another town or village—Navarrete, Nájera, Azofra, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Belorado, Villafranca Montes de Orca, and San Juan de Ortega—where I’d meet other pilgrims at the refugios and, perhaps, share a meal or drink. But the walking was a solitary venture, and as happens with solitude, it started to work on my head. It seemed to me the Camino was laying its claim on my psyche.

    It was a bit confusing at times. I found I couldn’t recall without...

    (pp. 69-82)

    I still felt content when I walked out of Santo Domingo in the morning, if a little fuzzy in the head from the succession of beers the night before. When I left my hotel, I lost sight of the yellow arrows and ended up wandering back and forth along some street until an elderly man emerged from his shop and gestured toward a maze of alleys, “El Camino, el Camino.” “Gracias, señor,” I shouted as I headed up the street in the direction he indicated. When I spotted a much-faded yellow arrow, I looked back to wave at the old...

  11. 6 GIFTS
    (pp. 83-96)

    I woke to the sound of horns and cymbals and thumping drums. By coincidence I’d arrived in Astorga on the eve of Santa Semana, Holy Week. Bands were forming in the Plaza de Eduardo Castro below my window for a Palm Sunday procession. It seemed a good omen, and I decided to join the ceremony and give myself a day of rest. I showered and dressed and went downstairs for breakfast in the dining room. I felt very content to linger over my café con leche by the window and watch the preparations for the festivities.

    After breakfast, I joined...

  12. 7 VISIONS
    (pp. 97-111)

    I strained to see through the fog, trying to spot a yellow arrow or a splotch of paint to convince myself I wasn’t lost. I’d been walking for nearly four hours since leaving Villafranca del Bierzo early that morning, following the Camino route to Trabadelo and Vega de Valcárce. It had rained hard most of the way, but now, only a dismal drizzle.

    The route follows the Río Valcárce as it cascades down a steep-sided, wooded valley that cuts through the last set of mountains before Galicia. It might have been a pleasant walk if not for the rain and...

    (pp. 112-124)

    As I walked out of Sarria in the morning, crossing the Río Celeiro over the Ponte Aspera, the Camino carried me into the realm of thecorredoirasthat lace the Galician countryside like threads in a tapestry. The path wound through woodlands of chestnuts and oaks, birch and pine, and here and there copses of tall, smooth-trunked eucalyptus. The trees were flush with new leaves. Shifting patterns of light and shade dappled the trail. An occasional breeze ruffled the trees, showering me with remnants of last night’s rain. The air was fresh and sweet with the smell of damp earth....

    (pp. 125-140)

    The tolling of bells awakened me. Voices and laughter drifted up from the street and through the window of my room. Somewhere in the distance I heard the plaintive wail of bagpipes. It was dark. I lay on the bed, trying to fathom the fact that I’d actually walked—okay, mostly walked—the Camino de Santiago.

    I had reached the city a couple of hours earlier, after walking for about forty kilometers—the longest stretch of my pilgrimage. I wobbled with fatigue. Wandering the labyrinth of cobblestone streets, I eventually stumbled into Rúa do Vilar where by coincidence, or so...

  15. 10 HOME
    (pp. 141-148)

    The Hotel Suso bar was smoky and noisy with students and office workers. I was enjoying a glass ofvino tintoat a table by the window. Outside it was dark, and the wet cobblestones shone with the light from the shop windows along Ruá do Vilar. Inside, I had my Aurelio Zen novel and a notebook at the ready in case I had a bright idea. After seeing Eva off at the train station and walking back to the old city, it was pleasant to be sitting warm and dry in a bar, watching the street and listening to...

    (pp. 149-152)

    On a fine sunny day in late May, I was walking out of Santiago de Compostela to meet my son as he completed his first pilgrimage. I ambled through the Porto do Camiño and followed the road beyond the old city. Eight years earlier, I’d stumbled along these same streets as I came into Santiago on the last day of my first pilgrimage. But that was then and this was now.

    Daniel and I had started out together a month earlier at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, climbing the Pyrenees over the Napoleon Route into Roncesvalles. But eventually I decided I didn’t want to...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 153-162)
    (pp. 163-166)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 167-172)