Pilgrimages come in many shapes and sizes: Malcolm X journeyed to Mecca in 1964. A year later, Martin Luther King led the freedom march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. More recently, Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist, while Shirley MacLaine wrote The Camino, each inspired by their 500-mile pilgrimages along Spain's El Camino de Santiago.
Last Saturday, Reverend Nori Rost set out on the same sojourn as Coelho and MacLaine, following in the footsteps of the Christian pilgrims who've been making the journey to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela for more than a thousand years.
"I had a six-month sabbatical that I'm doing over the course of two summers," explains the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church minister. "So last year, I ran four half-marathons — when I say 'running,' think more of 'controlled stumbling' — I'm extraordinarily slow. But that was kind of a pilgrimage, too. It really moved some emotions through my body, and made me realize I could do something that I never would have thought I could do."
For her current pilgrimage, Rost decided she would go the distance on her own, forgoing fellow travelers in search of a more reflective experience. Her sojourn started in the French Pyrenees and continues all the way across Northern Spain to the cathedral where the bones of Saint James are believed to be buried.
"The trail has been steep, rocky and arduous," says Rost, by email, following the first two days of her trek. "I am averaging about 15 miles a day and will be on the trail 35 days."
In addition to a laptop for blogging, Rost is also bringing along a scallop shell, the traditional symbol of the pilgrimage, in her backpack.
"In ancient times, the pilgrims would bring scallop shells and wear them around their necks to show that they're pilgrims, and not highway robbers or, you know, other people who were up to no good."
Rost is chronicling her journey with daily online updates at revrost.blogspot.com.