In my last post, I wrote about the challenges facing the organizers of the 2020 Camino Gathering—coronavirus multiplied by a snow storm. Those two factors made for a very different Gathering from previous years, a fact that the president of the board of American Pilgrims on the Camino, David Donselar, remarked on, as did others who had previously attended Gatherings.
Despite the challenges faced by the organizers, and the difficult decisions that each of us had to make–such as about whether to go at all given the pandemic underway or about how long to stay given the snow storm—I found the Gathering very worthwhile. Now, some seven weeks after the close of the Gathering and having passed through a very bad six weeks of being ill, I am still glad I attended.
The beautiful schedule arranged by the organizers had numerous, sometimes overlapping events beginning Thursday, March 12, at 3:30 pm and lasting until noon on Sunday, March 15. Unfortunately, a lot of the announced schedule had to be scrapped.
Group Photo: It seems a bit funny to say that having a group photo taken was a highlight—but it was. The number of attendees at the Gathering was at its maximum for the photo, and the jokes and comradeship while we organized ourselves for the photo made me feel the Camino spirit.
Zephyr Point: The weather was at its best on Thursday and Friday morning, and views of Lake Tahoe were spectacular. The location itself became a character in our Gathering drama.
Putting Faces to Names: It was great to be introduced to the board of American Pilgrims and to begin to match their faces with their names. The board members would be an important resource throughout the following days. They all clearly put their hearts and souls into making the Gathering a success, despite the challenges. All hail the organizers!
Friday and Saturday Highlights
By Thursday evening, it became clear that the weather was not going to cooperate, so Sara Gradwohl (the Gathering Chair), Dave Donselar, and other organizers tore up the published schedule for the following days. Their announced goal was to cram as much as possible of the more popular talks and activities into Friday. Friday was accordingly jam-packed with great activities, and many attendees indeed departed at some point during the day or after the evening’s activities.
I can’t really remember what activities happened on which days, since sessions were being cut and added and there was no printed schedule, but here is my personal list of favorites
George Greenia: Spoke once each day, and both of his talks were great. His first talk, on silence and sound along the Camino, was wonderful. His second presentation focused more on history, and I loved that one, too.
Yosmar Martinez on Camino Food : My mouth was watering at each photo.
Barbara Zang and Linnea Hendrickson on the Via Francigena: It was great to learn about a different Camino route, and to hear about its history.
Lynn Talbot on the Camino during the Franco Dictatorship: I love history, and I found this to be a fascinating look into religion in Spain and the Camino as a political tool.
Father Steve Rindahl on Warriors on the Way: I was so glad to learn about this fascinating organization, which uses travel on the Camino as a way to treat post-tramatic stress disorder of veterans.
Raffle and Silent Auction: What fun this was! I didn’t do too well in the raffle, but thanks to the Silent Auction I managed to obtain a beautiful photograph of the nave of the Collegiate Church of Santa María in Roncevalles, which I cherish.
Dan Mullins, the Singing Pilgrim: Dan performed both Friday and Saturday nights, and truly both performances were outstanding. His theme song, “Somewhere along the Way” was fabulous. When he actually started singing “Kumbaya” on Saturday night, everyone still in attendance got up to sing and sway. Dan had walked the Camino with his guitar on his back, which is exactly what my son did—so I felt an instant connection with this marvelous Australian who came to share our Gathering.
I know I am forgetting a lot, so I will probably post again about the Gathering next week.