October 14, 2013
In Movement There Is Peace by Elaine Foster & Joseph Foster
I'd never heard of The Camino De Santiago before reading this book. The Appalachian Trail, yes. The Camino, no. Maybe that's because even though it is a 800 km trek, it's more of a spiritual journey than a physical one. After all, you're supposed to receive forgiveness at the end and it's considered a pilgrimage.
Elaine Foster, a Psychologist, takes an early retirement to work on her own issues. Her husband, Joe, encourages her to walk the Camino with him. So they get ready to travel and fly over to Spain to begin their journey. Aside from the brutal physical aspect of it, it proves to be an emotional journey for them. They learn things about themselves, relationships, and other people and also meet quite a few eclectic people also traveling the Camino for their own reasons.
Elaine and Joe both take turns writing this book. It's broken up into each day (or almost each day, not every single one is here) and they both tell what they experience in that day in their own sections (labeled as who is narrating). They actually must be well suited for one another as I found their "voice" to be quite similar. They both focus on the emotional aspects of the journey and the introspection they experience. Joe tends to focus a little more on the food they encounter while Elaine focuses a tad more on the people. They're both brutally honest about their feelings and own perceived shortcomings and I think it was courageous that they could talk about their weaknesses like that. Perhaps that freedom is just one of the many things they learned on the Camino. I also liked some of the people they got to meet along the way. It was such a varied group and they all seemed like good people. I can't really recall any mean person that they encountered.
The dual writing style was a bit repetitive at first, but as the book got further in they had different things to talk about. In addition to their feelings of walking the Camino, they shared a little bit about equipment, a lot about the different places they stayed every night, and there were even a couple of recipes included in the book. In fact, the only thing that didn't have a lot of description was the trail itself. I was a bit saddened at the lack of scenery and mountain trails in the writing. There was a little, but the hostels they stayed at generally got more description than the beauty of nature. I understand that it was a spiritual journey, so emotions and people were of utmost importance to write about, but surrounded by all that beauty I just can't imagine not writing chapters upon chapters about it. It was still good writing though and it kept you engaged throughout the entire book. In fact, I'm not religious at all (and religion was a theme in this book) but there were several passages that really moved me, and one most poignantly right now "No matter how prepared we try to make ourselves for the inevitable reality of death, the work of true grief will always feel raw and painful. Accepting this truth helps to separate pain from unnecessary layers of suffering (pg.161)." I have a pet that was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. And it doesn't matter that I knew she was growing old, it still hurts to know that I'll be losing her at some point when she's been the only real constant in my life. But this sentence helped me to realize that even though it hurts, I can still enjoy what time I have. Maybe not what the author intended by this lesson, but still one that helped me.
Will I be hiking the Camino any time soon myself? No, probably not. I'm not at the point yet where I can just up and go because of responsibilities that keep me tied down. But it's always a possibility in the future and I am very grateful to this book for not only showing me the emotional path it offers, but letting me know of its existence in the first place! This is an excellent read for the traveler, self-help aficionado or lover of non-fiction journeys.
In Movement There Is Peace