Whatever paths we choose to take, there is our will on one side and the inscrutable ways of the Lord…or the way on the other.
With a light heart and eyes full of stars, we hit the road again but as soon as we leave Vézelay (Yonne), our reality as pilgrims catches up with us. Claire has pain in her left foot and wonders if she can continue. After walking more than 15,000 km, this is the first time this has happened to him. As the days go by, the pain becomes unbearable and we move very slowly. For my part, I take out my drone for the first time to take aerial photos and break it in the trees after half an hour. Each puts one foot in front of the other, and faces adversity.
In Chastellux-sur-Cure (Yonne), Claire can barely put her foot down. She then decides to take a car to go to the stage the next day, and thus give herself a chance to heal. For my part, by discovering the first forests of the Morvan, buried in a thick mist and despite my past as an adventurer, I take the measure of the adventure that awaits me. If I’m afraid to cross the Morvan and the Forez alone, I can’t even imagine how I could face the Sinai desert and the path of the Angels in Israel…
Dun-les-Places, in the Nièvre, the Lac des Settons, Anost in the Saône-et-Loire… Claire advances as she can, hitchhiking, on foot, by bus, and takes the opportunity to start her watercolours, read, rest . Me, I walk alone and, little by little, find my place in space and test my courage.
At Lac des Settons, I am exhausted by my ten times too heavy backpack which contains my photographic and cinematographic equipment. I trash everything and keep the essentials. In Anost, I find myself in a sad hotel room, alone, with a sore tendon. I cry all the tears in my body in the shower and invoke my Peruvian ancestors to give me the strength of my lineage: “Let my will not be shaken and… Camino provides (providence path)!”
A tailor-made guardian angel
I understand that, not once, had I considered failure… Arriving in Saint-Léon, in the Bourbonnais, Claire told me that if the next day, her condition did not improve, she would withdraw for a few stages and take a train to Le Puy-en-Velay. I receive the information without flinching, displaying a mine, like “not even afraid”. But inside, a cataclysm shakes me. I feel like a little girl lost in the dark forests of Forez. So for the first time in my life, I’m really going to pray…
Michel… “It seems that you are the big boss of the archangels. If you want to rally me to your cause, it’s now or never!”
Resuming my “queen bearing”, I take my shower, I put on my flip flops and go to the only small organic store where you can also drink a coffee. It was at this precise moment that, fresh as a roach, a Dutch pilgrim arrived, by the name of… (drum roll) Michel! Soon, he offers to join me to cross the Forez.
The archangel heard me… Really thank you with all my heart.
No coincidence: Camino provides! And I’m not yet aware to what extent Michel will be my guardian angel and I his. Fifty-something with a white beard, the turquoise-eyed archangel, father of two grown children, is coming out of a burnout. Cognitive psychologist, he fights against depression. I feel so small and defenseless in the face of this insolent nature that her presence reassures me and allows me to move forward, even if we don’t walk together all the time. It’s raining heavily, it’s cold, very cold, the temperatures drop to 2°C. and I’m not equipped for it. It was while walking six hours towards the Col du Béal during the Ice Saints weekend, in an opaque mist and icy rain, petrified by the cold and fear, without GPS or any connection… that the revelations occurred: Michel feel its inner strength and I understand that I am internally and physically armed to open the Via Magdalena.
At the end of this crucial ordeal where God, the path or the Pachamama – the “Mother Earth” – brought us together, Michel and I feel how much we need each other to move forward. The force is within us! May 15 around 2:50 p.m. We see the Notre-Dame de France statue at the end of a street. Tears of joy and pride flow down our cheeks: we have arrived at the Marian city of Le Puy-en-Velay, in Haute-Loire. We hug each other. I had to cross the dark woods, touch my vulnerability to understand that I am a strong and tall woman. I had to walk alone to feel that it is not with the spirit that I must seek Marie Madeleine but with my soul. Notre-Dame de France, all these trials have allowed me to discover you at the bend of a bend, what emotion! Black Virgin of Le Puy, it took me 36 days and 753 km to reach you, entrust you with the Via Magdala and question those who are hosting you.
Next step Rocamadour
Walking on the way to Santiago de Compostela at the foot of the Black Virgins, Le Puy and Rocamadour on the way to Jerusalem then Magdala, is also to question the place of women in our Western society through the prism of religion. Coming down the steps of Notre-Dame du Puy cathedral, for the first time after more than ten days, I see Claire again and we fall into each other’s arms… My teammate is not fully recovered and our paths will separate again to find us, I hope with all my heart, next to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour.