By Christopher Nyerges
Susana Porras, a Pasadena native and the District Liaison for Pasadena City Councilmember John J. Kennedy, is also an inspired and inspiring poet.
Her new book, entitled “To Compostela and Beyond! A Poet’s Chronicle of the Camino de Santiago,” is a collection of 39 sonnets composed on 39 days and nights in 2018 when she and her father walked the Camino de Santiago, a network of paths for pilgrimages to the shrine of Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
“Walking the Camino had been on my bucket list since 2010, but I intended to walk it when I retired,” said Porras. “When my 73-year-old father expressed interest in the Camino, I moved it immediately up to the top of my list.”
The idea to write poetry during the pilgrimage came to her shortly before the trip. “I knew this journey with my father was going to be a unique experience,” she said. “I wanted to have a record of our trip that I could refer back to later in life as well as post regular updates of our journey for friends and family.”
The challenge, said Porras, was to differentiate her writing from countless other Camino blogs. “It occurred to me to use poetry,” she said. “I remembered the fun lyrical poetry I read as a kid and I thought it would be an enjoyable way to communicate with friends and family.”
Her greatest surprise on the path was the vegetation and variety of flowers, she said. In films and pictures she had seen of the Camino, the landscape was desolate and dry. But she and her father made their pilgrimage after a particularly rainy season, which produced an explosion of color and assortment of vegetation. “We walked under lush green trees, gawked at flowers in full bloom, admired the thriving grapevines, picked at the cherry trees burdened by the weight of their fruit, and were mercilessly taunted by scores of unripe figs,” she said with a smile.
Her greatest challenge on the journey was keeping up with her father, a lifelong walker who walks as far as eight miles on weekends. “Unlike me, the Camino came very naturally to him, he rose early, was eager to walk each day, and most days he wasn’t fazed by the distance,” said Porras.
Since the trip, walking has become a bigger part of Porras’s life. She and a friend, Tina Rowe, formed a Saturday morning hiking group called Wanderers and Gatherers. “We meet at various hiking locations,” said Porras, adding, “We just started an Instagram.”
“To Compostela and Beyond! A Poet’s Chronicle of the Camino de Santiago” is available in Pasadena at Vroman’s Bookstore, at Amazon, and from the publisher, Wipf and Stock.
Here’s an excerpt:
On the Way to Pamplona
June 5, 2018—19 km (11.8 mi.)
The peaceful tranquility of our walk,
Shattered by the bustle of modern life.
We gather with new friends and make small talk
About the region’s political strife.
We do as Hemingway and his friends did,
But opt for coffee instead of red wine
And find pleasure in staying off the grid
As we hear tales more engaging than mine.
We run and dodge imaginary bulls,
The unnerving feeling of facing death,
The slight chance of being trampled by hooves,
The warm, moist, forceful exhale of their breath.
We leave our handkerchiefs and grab our poles
To put more kilometers on our souls.
Christopher Nyerges is an educator, author, and journalist. His web site is www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.
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