Walk in a Relaxed Manner - Joyce Rupp
Reviewed by Austin Repath
Book Review of Walk In A Relaxed Manner by Joyce Rupp reviewed by Austin Repath Having more than once walked the Camino De Santiago pilgrim's route in Spain, I approached Walk In A Relaxed Manner, Rupp's account of her Camino, with a critical eye. However, after reading the first few chapters, I could barely contain my enthusiasm for her book. In fact I could barely stop myself from leaping out of my chair and taking the next flight back to Spain.
Her book captures the essence of the walk like no other book I have read. She does so not in the expected fashion of a chronological telling of her walk, but by framing her journey within a series of thematic chapters that offer the reader a direct way of relating her experience to their own. In the chapter,'Live in the Now' she shares her preoccupation with getting to the end of the day's walking, her worry about getting to Santiago in her allotted time, her thinking ahead to getting a place to sleep at day's end. This always looking ahead is the quintessential preoccupation of the pilgrim, as it is for most of us as we travel through life. It is her struggle to keep herself in the present, to be in the now that every reader can identify with.
But most of all Rupp has an amazing ability to transform the mundane into that something more, that one might call sacred. On the first day of her pilgrimage she arrives with her fellow pilgrim, Tom Pfeffer,in the ancient town of Roncesvalles. It is late in the evening and they just manage to get a place in the pilgrim refugio before curfew. Dead tired, she crawls up into her bunk bed in the crowded dormitory. There she is kept awake by that bane of every Pilgrim, the Snorer, and his fellow travelers: "coughers, puffers, wheezers." This chapter, 'Hum Of Humanity', takes the reader through her process of annoyance, irritation, ear plugs, 'unkind thoughts' until by the end of the pilgrimage, she has come to see this noisy cacophony as simply the hum of humanity. No small miracle! This gift the author brings to the telling of her walk reminds us all that the irritations along our way can also be transformed.
Finally there is that subtle quality of good writing called transparency. A long forgotten English teacher of mine told our class that a book should do two things. One is to act like a mirror and reflect the world around us. The other is to act like as a window that opens into the world of the author and should the author turn on the inner light you will be privileged to see the soul of the writer. This book does just that. We see reflected in Rupp's writing the highs and lows of the pilgrim's way. We experience with her, her disgust, the irritations, her delight in the world , her love for others, her wonderful willingness to enter into the daily experience of the way. And most important of all her struggle to walk the pilgrimage in a consciousness manner. And when she turns on the light within, we are given the privilege to see a soul, luminous and courageously walking forward to-wards the Sacred City. To be privy to such a journey with someone like Joyce Rupp is a very special gift.
Reviewed Oct. 21, 2005 by Austin Repath, pilgrim, writer