I’ve had a bit of fun lately thinking of myself as a pilgrim-to-be and of my preparations for the pilgrimage as a sort of pregnancy.  Up until recently, I had an approximate “due date” (“D-date” or “do it date” or, if you must, “departure date”) of early-to-mid April, but now all evidence (as in the recent purchase of plane tickets) points to the specific date of April 2.  A scheduled “C” (for “Camino”) session.

And consider this: the thought of becoming a pilgrim had flitted through my head for years as I witnessed some of my friends chosing pilgrimhood.  I, however, didn’t think I had what it took.  Then, as my biological clock began ticking away, I was filled with the realization that it was a matter of “now or never,” and the thought did more than flit through my head but rather took up residence not only there but–ah!  essential!–in my heart as well.  By late June I was committed.  So, you do the math: from the start of July through the end of March: no cutting corners; this will be a full-term pregnancy.

FIRST TRIMESTER: July – August – September

This was a time for getting used to the idea of being a pilgrim-to-be.  A time for seeing myself in a bit of a different light.  I began reading about others who had done the Camino and the life lessons learned from the experience.  I had a million questions and pursued answers through reading online forums and talking with Virginia and Antigone who had both just completed the Camino in June.  These one-on-one conversations were very reassuring and personal, allowing for questions, answers, and follow-up questions and clarifications.  Everything pointed to: “Don’t worry!  You will love it!”  The online forums, on the other hand, were a bit unsettling.  There might easily be ten or twenty or even forty answers to each question posed by any number of pilgrims-to-be, many answers being totally contradictory.  Most boiled down to: “It depends”…. I learned not to read the forums near bedtime lest my mind should whirl and work overtime, cutting into precious sleep.

In fact, if there was any particular and disagreeable symptom of this first trimester it was “difficulty sleeping.”  That symptom, however, disappeared when I began serious hiking.  The heat, along with the exercise, and the realization that I was taking concrete steps (literally and figuratively) to ready myself for pilgrimhood allowed me to fall into a much better sleeping pattern.

During this first trimester I made some major decisions regarding purchases I would need as a pilgrim.  Some of those purchases were put to immediate use.  We’re talking shoes, boots, and backpack.  Oh, and a new-to-me refurbished phone, which, while still several “generations” old, is an improvement on the one I had; it should serve me well in Spain.

No morning sickness to speak of.

SECOND TRIMESTER: October – November – December

A time of great contentment.  My body began to feel much more prepared. Little wonder, as it truly was!  During the first trimester I averaged 57 miles/month; during this second trimester, the average was up to 90 miles/month.  The contentment was the result, no doubt, of the many hours spent surrounded by beauty and in the company of a variety of friendly, energetic, nature-loving women who, like me, felt blessed to be able to be out on the trails.  October in Indiana is often “to die for.”  This year did not disappoint, and the month was even more glorious because daughter Maura was home for a week-plus visit and was eager to spend most of her time “playing” in nature.  Fall’s beauty lingered long into November.  First colorful leaves delighted our eyes; then their crunchiness underfoot became natural music for our ears.  Late fall hiking meant: no extreme heat, no spider webs through which to walk, no fear of those dreaded ticks.  A small price to pay in exchange for the need to wear blaze orange hats or vests and wonder what game was legal for hunters in any given week.  So, yes, contentment.  A body getting stronger for the upcoming task of pilgrimhood.

Also, more contact with other pilgrims.  (I first wrote “former pilgrims,” but then decided that “once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim,” at least in most cases.  Pilgrims learn new ways of seeing things, new ways of thinking and interacting, and those ways, with a bit of effort, remain long after the pilgrimage has been completed.)  More reading.  Some videos about the Camino.  See fear and apprehension decrease while enthusiasm builds.

It was in October or early November when Barb, who had been wavering, came on board.  The Camino had been on her bucket list before it ended up on mine, though she envisioned doing it “some fall.”  My decision to tackle pilgrimhood on the cusp of my 70th birthday prompted her to do the same.  (I will, however, remain her elder by almost half a year.)  It’s great to have someone with whom to discuss and share ideas, concerns, books, videos, and logistics.  My Spanish and her travel savvy, common sense, and better memory will complement each other.  Peace of mind.

Possibly the best trimester.

THIRD and FINAL TRIMESTER: January – February – March

And here we are, a few weeks into the third and final trimester.  This is real!  It’s not just “fun and games” anymore, not just “talk.”  It’s going to happen.  That reality hits home even more now that the airfare has been purchased.  There is no stopping this process.  (No, do not remind me that nothing in life is certain or promised, that life can change on a dime, etc., etc.  I can’t go there!)

So maybe it’s understandable that the sense of contentment recedes a bit and gives way to, once again, some anxiety and apprehension.  There are a lot of nitty-gritty things to deal with, decisions that have been set aside in favor of training and which cannot be postponed forever.  Many of these details involve aspects of overseas travel that I don’t understand all that well, like figuring out: what kind of SIM card I’ll get once in Spain and what kind of a data plan I’ll need for my phone; the best way to carry and to obtain money on a trek where cash is going to be king; how I’m going to pare it all down so that my pack is both light and–I hope, I hope!–able to be compressed and thus qualify as a “carry on”… while still bringing all those little things (clothespins, headlamp, chargers, toiletries, and the many, many “nice-to-have” things that fellow pilgrims suggest one bring along).  Yes, a bit anxiety-producing.  Said anxiety can be counterbalanced with some of those long back-to-back hikes that the training guides recommend for this final trimester… but squeezing them in as sub-zero or even single-digit temperatures threaten is a challenging prospect. Snow and ice could make it harder to get to the trail heads and, once there, harder to stay on the trails and safely negotiate them.  Say hello to a bit of indoor walking and stair-stepping I suppose….

And then these haunting, daunting, thought-provoking questions:  Will I measure up?  Will I be a good pilgrim?  Or a “good enough” pilgrim?  Do I understand that there’s no need to be a super-pilgrim?  I’m growing physically, but am I mentally and spiritually as open to possible changes as I might be?  Do I really know what I’m getting into?

At this juncture, some deep breathing is probably called for.  Plus some letting go.  Let it happen, Katy.  Let nature take its course.  And remember: regular, ordinary people have managed to become pilgrims for centuries upon centuries.  Indeed, pilgrimhood is one of the most natural, time-tested conditions of both body and soul. Get ready to join the club.  When it comes right down to it, it’s a very inclusive one, with room for all kinds of folks.

No turning back!  Stay tuned for April 2 and beyond.