My Camino, at home

Janelle's artwork, photography, poetry, the spiritual life

Two years ago I kept a poetry blog for the summer. My life at the time had begun to feel like a pilgrimage, with many unexpected twists and turns. I’ve been on pilgrimages before (hello World Youth Days in Toronto and Cologne) so I clearly recognized the intensity, the mystery, and the healing involved.

Yet I was anchored. I wasn’t going much of anywhere, and I wasn’t living or travelling abroad like I wanted. I was, however, being asked to be fully present to what showed up in front of me and pay attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was like I was on my very own Camino, at home.

There is a series of ancient pilgrim routes cutting across Spain known as the Camino de Santiago, translated as the Way of Saint James, all leading to the town of Compostela in the northwestern region. For years it has resonated with me as a pilgrimage I feel called one day to make and, more recently, an inspiration for meeting my rooted life with the same sort of surrender and transformation as one encounters on the open road.

Written in 2016, and republished here with minor edits, this poem came out of trying to articulate and make sense of this distinct call to Presence in front of me.

For a wonderful sampling of medieval music to go along with it, I recommend the haunting album Llibre Vermell, a collection of 14th Century pilgrim songs from the monastery of Our Lady of Montserrat, the other popular pilgrimage site in Spain at that time. I’ve put my favorite song first, Imperayntz (de la ciutat joyosa) [translationEmpress of the joyous city of paradise for any other linguist nerds out there]. It is by Sarband from Germany who are one of the best early music ensembles I’ve come across.


My Camino, at home

Today* and every day
the Spanish Camino calls to me
lilting melodies of ages past
haunting heart cries
of thirty generations of pilgrims
who wander and worship
through the Galician countryside
longing for heaven and healing

A Pilgrimage
reflects my own desires
to wander and to worship
the journey inward
through the journey outward

I wonder, watch and wait
for fulfillment of longings
too deep for me to name
but He has named them
the Father has named me
and He asks me
with a twinkle in His eye
to bring my desires to Him
and I dream of walking
the long road to Santiago

Yet here I remain
settled, rooted for now
the Spirit says wait here
hold my hand, follow my lead
weeks turn into months
and through a mysterious
journey of shifts and surrender
I realize, here at home
what has been happening
I find myself on my very own Camino
my path is one of attention
of being, of learning to be here
and I see that I am making
step by trembling step
a Pilgrimage of Presence

walking a road down Mount Erie, Washington

the journey inward through the journey outward

The heart encounters
they come unexpected
stretch my capacity
to love without fear
to share without shutting down
to give without counting the cost
to be present without holding on

And the soul encounters
push me beyond my comfort
to trust in God’s guidance
to have mercy with myself
to remember to seek joy
to re-learn how to rest

This odyssey, ongoing,
is as deep and as powerful
as those I have made abroad
This Camino, at home
stretches and challenges me
I stay put, then I am moved
I wait, then I jolt forward
I get tired, I get crabby
I lose my peace, I find it again
I push through, I rest and recover
and watch with awe
the unfolding of my Pilgrimage
the journey outward
through the journey inward

The Spanish Camino calls to me still
but my Pilgrimage of Presence
calls me to be here, now
on a path set before me
as unknown as any other
but full of promise
of lilting melodies
of fellow pilgrims
of heaven and healing


*today ~July 25th~ is the feast day of St. James, catalyst of the Camino and patron saint of pilgrims

Sliver Moons and the melancholy joy of summer

Janelle's artwork, photography, poetry

Here we are smack in the middle of summer and I keep hearing about autumn just around the corner and getting ready for back to school… when here in Seattle summer literally just started! How disconcerting.

Last week I made this photograph of the always stunning Olympic Mountains with a sweet sliver of a moon. Around the same time I was noticing how very melancholy I feel these days, yet also incredibly joyful. I must say, it’s a rather bizarre combination.
So I wrote a poem about it.

Moon and the Olympic Mountains

sliver moons speak to me of new beginnings

Sliver Moons and the melancholy joy of summer

Sliver moons speak to me of new beginnings

something about the summer time
and the twists and turns of life
reveal a melancholy
a melancholia
amidst a deep joy

and how strange this contrast

when one season of life appears to be over
and into the next we take with us
this peculiar mixture
of grief and excitement
a melancholy joy

how do we live this tension?

the deep moan of the ferry whistle
signaling a moving onward
a mourning of the past season

the passing of seasons

joy for the miracles that have transpired

though they came veiled
in packages of suffering,
there is healing gifted deep within

and now… what comes next?

to move into what’s next, we need courage

words of the new season
fortify me daily…
stand straight and tall

in courage, confidence and strength

all is unsettled
but why this peace?
beyond all my understanding

either way, it is completely mysterious

my destination unknown
only the sense that
where I am headed
is toward Love
for Love
in Love

with Love

this melancholy joy
will be my companion
as I sail toward the horizon
graced with the wind

kissing my face

the wistful sliver moon
lighting my way