I had a weird dream last night. I went to a photography studio to get my picture taken. It was kind of a combination of high school senior photos and my wedding. Tom Colicchio a famous U.S. chef who can be seen on the show Top Chef was there. My former boss from the University of Washington was there. Once I got to the studio, I realized that I had left my shoes at home. I asked how much time there was left until it was my turn for Senior/wedding photos. I was told 30 minutes. I decided to go back home for the shoes. In an Elizabeth dream first, someone loaned me some sort of jet pack like device and I was able to fly all of the way home and most of the way back to the studio. (My daughter has lots of flying dreams. This was my first. I am growing as a person in my dreams.) Unfortunately, I ran out of fuel and had to run most of the way back. By the time I got to the studio, I realized that I’d again forgotten my shoes. I was also rather disheveled from running and had no make-up to freshen up. And for whatever reason, I was wearing a men’s sport coat over a white wedding dress. (Now that sounds more like a typical dream for me.) My old boss would be thrilled to hear that in my dream he helped me out by fixing my hair. The photographer was a sweet woman who let me borrow some shoes in my size as well as a tube of lipstick that she said was, “just my color.” Friends and strangers helped me out and put me back together again.

I think I am an imaginative person but I don’t fantasize a great deal. Well actually, I fantasize but my fantasies are usually pretty realistic. They are things that could really happen. I think this is one of the reasons I enjoy documentaries so much, especially those about every day people having meaningful experiences that are in the range of possibility for many. Last night, I saw the documentary, Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago with my former Internet-only friend, Meredyth and her friend, Liz. We belong to a photography group on Facebook. The group includes a couple hundred people from all over the world. Meredyth and Liz live in nearby Vancouver, BC. They came down for the weekend and Meredyth invited me to the movie. We had the best time. There are a lot of lovely and interesting people in the world. Meredyth and Liz are both teachers and I can tell that they are very excellent teachers. It was nice to share our mutual love and commitment to children and their development. Liz, as it turns out, also belongs to the photo group but I have not seen her photos or interacted with her previously. Meredyth posted a photo to the group last night and awoke to a number of charming comments from group members about how happy they were that the three of us had met in “real” life. Most of the people in the group have never met one another in person. Meredyth and Liz were the first group members that I have encountered in the tangible world. I hope to meet more of my cyber friends in the future. It was a very special experience.

The documentary followed a group of people from all over the world, most of whom had never met previously. They were people who traveled to Spain to complete the Camino de Santiago, a long distance spiritual walk from one end of Spain to the other. Pilgrims have been making this walk for over 1000 years. The walk meant different things to each person followed for this documentary. Most of the pilgrims came alone. One set of pilgrims was a young mother, her brother, and her young son. They walked the entire trail, though the mountains, the plains, and the forests, pushing a stroller!

The pilgrims made new friends and were met with great kindness along the trail. People who fed them, housed them, and washed their feet. At one point, one of the pilgrims was so moved by the generosity of at stranger that she cried tears of joy and self-reflection. She was sure that she had never treated another person with the kindness that she had received. It was a beautiful moment because instead of beating herself up for not measuring up, she looked moved and inspired. The pilgrims also experienced ecstasy, times of great mindfulness of their surroundings, love, and lots and lots of struggle with their minds and the rest of their bodies.

A beauty of the film was that not only does the walk serve as a metaphor for life but the film also shows individuals having the day to day experience of transformation over the course of a month or so. I found myself thinking about how different pilgrims might integrate their transformation into the rest of their lives and for how long would they feel transformed and connected to something much larger than themselves or the small worries that consume us on a daily basis. I know that the answer to that question is different for every pilgrim and the answer changes over time.

I am still fighting the treadmill right now. I’m not going to lie to you. I am still feeling the sting of disappointment that my dream of taking my own pilgrimage to see all of my dear friends back East is just not going to happen any time soon due to responsibilities and financial realities. I also told my husband last night that it is unlikely that I will be able to contribute enough to our family income for us to save up for a big trip for our 25th wedding anniversary, which is in 13 months. I know this is a trip on which his heart was set. It was actually supposed to happen last summer so it’s already been postponed once.

Life is like walking the Camino, so is breast cancer. I have experienced both struggle and transformation. I have been the recipient of great kindness and generosity from both old and new loved ones in my life. These are the realities than inspire actual dreams of being unprepared for life and receiving help! (Although I believe I will be able to do my own hair and not need help from my former boss at U.W.)  I have learned the powerful and gentle gifts that come from walking outside. As one of the pilgrims in the film commented after having walked for hours through heavy rain (paraphrasing), “I saw the raindrops hanging from blades of grass. Painters paint this and I get to see it.”

I know why I like documentaries. I know why I steep myself in reality. I love life. Life is transformative, powerful, spiritual, inspiring, energizing, exhausting, loud, quiet, painful, scary, and at times very very boring. But life has everything.

Meredyth and me at the movies transforming cyber friendship to something more.

Meredyth and me at the movies transforming cyber friendship to something more.