Every Scene By Heart

Peri in front of our albergue in Belorado, Spain

Peri Zahnd has written a book about her experience on the Camino de Santiago that she and I walked last fall. The book is entitled Every Scene By Heart. It’s a beautifully written and deeply spiritual memoir that takes the reader on the five hundred mile journey with Peri. I’m thrilled to say that Every Scene By Heart is now available! And to help celebrate I would like to share some thoughts from the afterword Peri asked me to write for her enchanting book.

Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast

-Bob Dylan


Brian Zahnd

It was a long walk across Spain — and it was the best days of our lives. We knew it while we were doing it. Even when we were beset with blisters and worn down by fatigue, we would turn to one another and say, “this is the best thing we’ve ever done.” While walking thousand year old paths made holy by the feet of millions of pilgrims, we found respite “far from the madding crowd” of modernity. For forty days and forty nights our lives were reduced to the blessed simplicity of walking from town to town, from church to church, from shelter to shelter, always moving a bit closer to Santiago. We didn’t dart here and there, back and forth in a frenzy; we didn’t speed through the world in cars, trains, and planes; we just moved steadily westward, no faster than foot speed. And with the simplicity and the slowing down came that which we miss most in our high-speed, high-tech, high-stress age: Peace.

We had come to the Camino to escape the quadrennial madness that falls upon America during presidential elections. We had come to the Camino for our first sabbatical in thirty-five years of ministry. We had come to the Camino in hope of finding healing for our over-wrought souls. And on the Camino we found all we were looking for and more. It’s not often that a much anticipated experience exceeds our expectations, but the Camino de Santiago was better than we had dared to hope. It was a gift from God; a five-hundred mile walk deep into the grace of Christ.

As it became known that we planned to walk the Camino, people who had already had their own Camino contacted us; they were as eager to tell us of their experience as we were to gain what advice we could. Over time I noticed that these Camino veterans tended to say the same three things in their own way:

1. It’s harder than you think.
2. You will love it.
3. It will change you.

Today, nine months after our arrival in Santiago, I can say that all three prophecies were precisely true. It was harder than I anticipated — as Peri’s book makes clear. And I did love it. Even when I had seventeen blisters I was aware that I loved the privilege of being a pilgrim on this wonderful journey. And, most importantly, I believe the Camino has changed me. I found a peace on the Camino that I’m still consciously aware of today.

Over those five-hundred miles I shed a layer of skin — a layer that was too easily blistered by anxiety. At Cruz de Ferro I laid down a burden I have not retrieved — I left it at the base of an ancient iron cross and there it will remain. Those long walks through the lovely mountains of the Pyrenees, the vineyards of Navarra, the plains of the Meseta, and the wooded hills of Galicia brought me to a new place of calm and contentedness. This was an answer to prayer. The Camino was a forty day, five-hundred mile prayer, and with the Amen offered in the Cathedral of Santiago I found a new depth of the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Thank you, Camino. Thank you, Peri. Thank you, Jesus.

Buen Camino.