Thursday, March 06, 2008

THE PILGRIMAGE ROAD TO SANTIAGO by David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson

The Book: David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, THE PILGRIMAGE ROAD TO SANTIAGO: The Complete Cultural Handbook. St. Martin's Griffin trade paperback, 2000. Good condition; slight water damage, as if the book had been left on a wet counter (which it probably was).
First read: 2001
Owned since: 2001

Yes, I'm still here -- just swamped this week, with multiple deadlines and rehearsals. Things will start to clear up tomorrow, but this whole month is going to be crazy. If you're in the Augusta area, come see Under Milk Wood at Johnson Hall on March 15 or 16, and Don't Dress for Dinner at Gaslight Theater March 20-22 or 27-29. Strangely enough, I play loose women in both productions.

And while we're on the subject of Walter Mitty-style fantasies, this book is another one. The shrine at Santiago de Compostela was the end point of one of three main pilgrimage routes during the Middle Ages (the others were Rome and Canterbury). According to legend, the remains of St. James the Greater were miraculously returned to northern Spain, where he had preached, after James was executed by Herod Agrippa. As with many miracles and relics, whether the remains in Compostela are actually James's is less important than the tradition of faith that has grown up around the story.

The Camino de Santiago is a set of routes that lead from the Pyrenees at the French-Spanish border to Galicia, the northwest coast of Spain. Pilgrims traditionally walk it or travel by horse, mule or bicycle. Along the way are many smaller shrines and towns that cater to pilgrims, who identify themselves by wearing a scallop badge, the symbol of St. James.

I don't remember when I first read about the Santiago pilgrimage, but it captured my imagination, and I hoped to make the trip in 2005, before my 40th birthday. I took a year of Spanish lessons, read this book and others, and researched hostels and charter flights.

In the end, I didn't go. By 2005 I'd moved to Maine, Mom's health was precarious, and a month-long pedestrian journey through rural Spain seemed impractical. Which, of course, is the point of a pilgrimage. I'd still like to go; maybe for my 45th birthday. Or my 50th.

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