Solitary Cochrane pilgrim was never alone along Camino

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 20, 2013

Marie-Linda Plante on the Camino de Santiago

Clockwise from upper left: Marie-Linda Plante walked the Camino de Santiago from France across northern Spain and into Portugal. The treasured destination of the Way is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. A solitary tree, accompanied by path, people and panorama, reminded her that, though she walked alone, she was never really alone.
Photos courtesy Marie-Linda Plante

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In the 2010 film The Way, Martin Sheen plays a distracted grieving American eye doctor who discovers the meaning of companionship while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), the ancient Christian pilgrimage route across northern Spain.

This journey of companionship was very much part of the real-life experience of Cochrane healthcare professional Marie-Linda Plante one year ago. She walked the Camino from March 12 to April 24, 43 days that included the Christian Holy Week that commemorates Jesus’ solitary journey to the cross of Good Friday and the companionship of the Easter resurrection life beyond.

Over coffee with me recently she shared highlights from her journey.

She started along the Camino in France, walked west across Spain to the pilgrimage’s traditional destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and from there took a side trip south to Portugal.

The Cathedral of Santiago was the highpoint of her Camino, she says. There she, too, like Sheen’s character, felt the fragmented pieces of her hectic life in Cochrane yield to a sense of wholeness and meaning.

“It gave me a moment of silence, prayer and reflection. Life is the Camino,” she says.

“There are times in our lives when we sit down and wonder where our lives will lead us. We too often get so caught up in our job, family obligations and daily routine, that we forget what we truly represent.”

Throughout the 1,300-plus km trek from France to Portugal, “I walked by myself and I never felt alone,” she says. In addition to the friendly villagers and other pilgrims along the Way, she carried with her a photo of her beloved aunt. She sensed her guardian angel.

“I really felt guided and protected. On occasion I would see a little creature on my path; I laughed and said out loud: ‘And I thought I was alone!’”

For Marie-Linda, the Camino de Santiago provided an opportunity to step out of her every-day life and reflect. “It is a journey within,” she says. “Alone, but never alone.”

© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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