Day 59: Barbara Kriesel

Dear Barbara,

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-4-52-36-amWe’d crossed paths on occasion but never spent much quality time with one another until that overnight in Terradillos, just short of the Camino’s halfway point. My new friend Marie and I were captivated with your story from just a few nights before when you encountered an experience every pilgrim fears. Chinches. You showed us the evidence: a half-dozen moderate to severe bedbug bites, the red, swollen marks along the arms, ears and neck now insufferably itchy and a constant painful distraction.

But it was the story you told as we walked together the following day on that beautiful, crisp fall morning that really got my attention.

Barbara Kriesel

Barbara Kriesel

Nearing your sixtieth birthday, you’d experienced a series of illnesses in recent years that resulted in a complete energy depletion. Doctors said you had about 10 percent the energy of an average person your age. Determined for a remedy, you traveled from home in Germany to Sri Lanka for promising non-traditional treatments that, in fact, restored you to new energy levels, near 70 percent. It was enough, you thought, to challenge yourself on Camino pilgrimage, and when we met, you’d already walked more than 250 miles.

You came to the Camino with a simple goal. Just move. That was it. The idea of taking the initiative and putting yourself in a radically challenging situation was satisfying enough early on, but not any more. Your thoughts now turned to more transcendent notions. Alas, attempting the hard thing, and the courage in that decision to try just wasn’t enough.

“It was just about the moving in the beginning, and it was so very difficult crossing the Pyrenees. It took a few more days than I thought to recover, but over time I became more serious about the walking. Now, I’ve gone beyond even that, and my number of days here is limited, but I’ve begun to let myself think about arriving,” you said.

You’d gone from a goal of moving, to a new goal of walking, now, to new purpose – arriving. It’s that certain look a person gets in her eyes when a cause is planted in her heart. Barbara decided she had the wherewithal to finish. I loved seeing that look in your eyes and hearing that tone in your voice. And I love that you finished. Ultimately, Barbara arrived.

Move. Walk. Arrive.

Thank you for a great lesson you shared with me that day, Barbara.

Sometimes, there’s no substitute for the Power of Arrival.

A fellow pilgrim still looking to arrive,

Steve Watkins


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