Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Following the Yellow Arrows

Following the Yellow Arrows*

At last night’s meeting of the writer’s guild someone tossed off a remark to me. The off-hand comment was a little like a sprinkling of fresh, cool water on seeds still warming in the dark, dank earth.

I stopped in my tracks. The idea was perfect. I could never have thought of it on my own! The casual suggestion mirrored thoughts I had been having, but took my ideas one step further.

I sat silently, taking a moment to absorb the synchronicity of this event. I took another moment to say a quick prayer of gratitude to God, and then moved on with the business at hand.

I felt buoyant when I left that meeting and now I am eager to move forward on this fledgling project. I can clearly see the direction I need to go in order to move forward.

The remark was unexpected, but grabbed my attention and seemed as bold and bright as any of the many yellow arrows (flechas amarillo*) I followed on my almost-1000K pilgrimage-walk across northern Spain.

On the Camino, I travelled for 40 days with a minimum of things in my backpack – a map was not among my belongings. I knew I could follow the yellow arrows that served to mark the path to Santiago de Compostela. For me, walking this pilgrimage was about trust and faith. There were days when I walked and walked and walked, never seeing a yellow arrow, or even another pilgrim. I would almost give up hope. I would feel a small panic (OK, maybe a large panic!), thinking that I had missed a turn or failed to see one of the arrows. But I would calm my panic, re-commit, and simply move forward with grace and faith, like a sheep, following my shepherd.

Surrounded by chattering pilgrims, or pilgrims who used GPS (global positioning systems) to navigate or others who had designed elaborate schemes for their journey, it would have been easy to be caught up in the planning and implementing, the business of the journey. It would be easy to be distracted or take short-cuts or even to ignore the humble yellow arrows. And there were days when I did share my walk with other pilgrims. But ultimately, I preferred to without that human need to orchestrate and say “what if…?” and to plan for every contingency. It is humbling and takes character. (Did I mention that my MA is in Organizational Management and I am a Virgo and career military – all of which makes me vulnerable to having plans, strategies, etc…this pilgrimage represented quite a leap of faith for me!)

My Camino was about trust in something bigger than myself. It was about listening for that still, small voice and being attentive to those yellow arrows. I wanted to move forward in faith.

I know that sometimes “what is essential is invisible to the eye,” (The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). Love is certainly an essential we cannot see. And so is faith. That is what faith is all about – faith does not demand proof. Faith demands a willingness to be humble, to listen and accept. The path unfolds in unexpected ways and it is my job to simply trust and move forward, with thanksgiving and joy.

So at the meeting last night, that unexpected, off-hand remark represented a lovely yellow arrow pointing to a grand vista ahead! Today, I am moving forward on that project; step-by-step I am getting closer to my destination.

Buen Camino Peregrino! (Our Camino NEVER ends!)
*Flechas amarillo, or yellow arrows mark the various ancient pilgrimage routes on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. (It is often called the Way of St. James.) At the risk of sounding irreverent: following the yellow arrows over the mountains and through the woods and cities I felt much like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz when she was told to just “follow the yellow brick road!”


Anonymous said...

I'm hoping to do this walk in 2012...thanks for the insights! ~Sherry~

Cynthia R. said...

I love your blog! I just finished my own (although I only did the last 160 km). You can see my own experiences on

It was unforgettable, for sure. I am looking for more such adventures!


Anonymous said...

Your blog was inspiring and brought me back to why I'm embarking on this walk in less than a week. In preparation for this walk I have swayed between rigorous preparation and faith and just going with the flow.Many on here talk of preparing for the months prior working up your strength and I can see the wisdom in that but whilst I've been going to the gym, cycling .walking as I usually do anyway I like the comment made ..`don't walk the Camino before you walk the Camino! When I start to panic that it's the wrong time of year .too many people?..should I take a different route to avoid the hoards?,.too hot am I prepared?..I come back to ...just go with the flow and the journey will unfold if I have faith and ears to listen!., ah yes! This is the reason for my walk. To come back to that place of peace that I've somehow left by allowing the cares of this very sensory world to lead me away from faith. THIS is way I've been lead to walk the walk of St
James. The way back to my Creator, the all knowing, ever loving and faithful Greater power. I will glean fron the many's experience and wisdom...then having done all I can do...have faith. Thanks be to God.

Virginia ("Ginn") said...

Thanks for the kind comments! I just re-vised and re-posted my 42 posts from the actual walk on my Facebook Notes page. I made a new post today, because I have been kind of re-living that experience as I sifted trhough my old Camino notes. The Camino starts with the walking, but seems to keep working on pilgrims long after they take their shoes off! Buen Camino, Anonymous! <3 - Ginn