For the past three years Lesley and I have been walking the Camino de Santiago throughout Spain and Portugal listening to the Songlines of the world we live in.
The first walk was roughly 1200 km from the French Pyrenees to Finisterre on the northwest coast of Spain. Since then we have walked from Lisbon to Santiago on the Camino Portuguese and part of the Via de la Plata originating in Seville.
The Camino is a remarkable journey that fills your mind with beautiful possibilities while physically challenging you in ways that strengthens you. Each peregrino has their own pace and story as they navigate this deeply personal landscape, often reflecting on “the end is the beginning”. The Beautiful Boot Project is a “beginning” we discovered on the Camino.
Along the way, we have come to discover the meaning of Songlines or “Dream Tracks” revered by indigenous people. These are songs that come from the pathway, its stones, earth, flowers, trees and sky. The melodic contours of the song describe the nature of the land over which the song passes. Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this Songline and observing the land. When sung by the walkers, these Songlines tell the story of the path and its direction, allowing the journeyers to navigate great distances. It is believed that these songs must be sung to keep the land alive. We have discovered our Songline in The Beautiful Boot Project.
Our present journey begins here.
I had spent 25 years in journalism with CTV Television based in Washington, Jerusalem, Beijing and Moscow before returning to Canada to work for W-Five for ten years. I returned to university in 2009 to complete a Masters program in International Development Studies at Saint Mary’s University focusing on Food Security and Food Sovereignty.
Lesley has spent her life as an entrepreneur running several businesses and as an independent corporate consultant earning the recognition as one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Canada”.
Our passion now is walking the Camino’s Songlines. We travel light with rucksacks weighing 24 lbs. Each day we average 20 km before arriving at a hostel/albergue where we lay out our sleeping bags, shower, eat, talk and finally sleep. But not before we put old newspapers into our beautiful boots to wick out the sweat from the day’s walk.
Our Camino’s Songlines have started a conversation with the community we have encountered both on and off the Camino path. The conversations are centered on a simple thought. Where do we go from here as individuals and community?
The growing awareness and concern around global imbalances and interconnectivity dominate these conversations. Economic, social and political concerns grate against climate change, food cost, education and medical cost. These in turn raise flags demanding attention on energy needs, population growth and unsustainable consumerism.
These conversations followed us down a path into the Minho region of northern Portugal in the spring of 2010.
On this day a small hold farm came into view. An abandoned stone farmhouse sat cradled in a little valley surrounded by pastures, vineyards and olive trees. Sheep were grazing in one pasture and water was flowing freely from a number of natural sources. The late afternoon sunlight was dancing on the trees surrounding the farm and the hills of Spain dominated the northern horizon.
We felt as though we had just walked into the temple of sustainability. The Minho has a 9 month growing season and great winter rains. Fig, kiwi, orange, olive and persimmon trees abound, along with oak, cork, chestnut, pine and the ubiquitous eucalyptus tree. Everywhere we looked were chicken coops, vegetable gardens, vineyards and flocks of sheep.
Over the past six months we have been negotiating the purchase of this farm and we now sit in the shade of a beautiful chestnut tree pondering the task ahead. We have engaged an architect, Paulo, to assist us in the design of the hostel/albergue and facilitate the permits we require for the restoration. We are also in talks with a local builder, Carlos, on repair work as we wait for permits.
Our intent is to start a conversation with a community of people who would like to engage in developing a shared Songline and to build a story based on sustainability.
Our first thoughts are to convert part of the farmhouse into a hostel/albergue to support the perigrinos on their journey to Santiago. The Camino de Santiago path runs alongside the entire length of the farm. We wish to be an organic farm producing all our own basic foods and to engage the permaculture philosophy of respect and use of resources available on the farm. Our hope is to build a community who share the pursuits of the Beautiful Boot Project.
Our present assets/resources are 6 acres of well established fertile land for growing vegetables, grazing sheep, 300 grapevines, 6 olive trees, some old apple trees, too many chestnut trees, plenty of water, 210 days of sun and 27,000 peregrinos who pass by our front door each year. One of our most important resources is the Portuguese community around us who are endlessly helping us in ways that are hard to imagine. The other vital ingredients are those who are willing to participate in a belief that we can re-imagine how we engage with the world in which we live.
So if you wish to join us in discovering a shared Songline for the Beautiful Boot Project we would like to walk with you. We can start by sharing ideas!