Henri Craemer | An Interlude of Recovery and Meditation in Spoleto
After an exhausting hike through a deluge of rain from Fonti del Clitunno to Spoleto on the Way of St Francis, Henri Craemer recovers by using relaxation and meditation.
Spoleto, meditation, relaxation, Dylan, Bob Dylan,St Francis Way, Way of St Francis
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St Francis ministering to the birds (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

An Interlude of Recovery and Meditation in Spoleto

10 September 2017, about 13:40. Stage 18 part 1 and part 2 completed. We unpack. Thankfully, not a drop of rain got through the waterproofing of my KWAY Venture 50 backpack.

Rest and Recovery

Niels is in the shower. I take off all my sodden wet clothes. The warm dry air of the room has an energising effect on me. After he’s done in the bathroom, a hot shower brings me back to life. I relish the feel of clean dry clothes on my body.

After the shower, I still only want to rest. The weight of the effort has caught up with me. We only took two breaks to check our direction. It took us around three hours to walk the distance. Not only am I dog-tired, there are new blisters on my feet. Thank God for Niels’ kindness in doctoring my feet.

I turn on my phone and see messages from Lydia. I’ve really missed her terribly since the walk began. However, now it’s not because of wanting to share the beauty of Italy with her. I truly long for the comfort her mere presence can offer. She has sent me weather satellite pictures of Italy and South Africa. The weather of the two places cannot be in sharper contrast.

Niels says he’s going sightseeing, regardless of my plans. I ask him to give me a half hour. I’ll see how I feel then, before deciding to join him or not. He agrees. Pensively looking at the map of Spoleto, he points out how important the town was during Roman times. There are many important Roman sites in the city. I still insist on resting for now, but in my heart of hearts, I’ve already decided to join him.



Lying on my bed, I let the full flow of total relaxation take me. It’s the kind of relaxation that feels almost like an out of body experience. It leads me into a kind of sleep-sided unreality where thoughts hang and drift across one’s consciousness. Visuals of the day’s path come and go.

Florence (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Florence, where we started the Way of St Francis. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)


I think again of Bob Dylan’s song, “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall.” The song poses five questions from a mother (or less likely, a father) to a son: Where have you been? What did you see? What did you hear? Who did you meet? What’ll you do now?

I can see my late mother standing in front of me, asking me these questions. Why her, and not my late dad? She was the one who really took to Bob Dylan. She even had a poster of him in her study at a time when it was very unusual for people of her generation to like the pop- rock- and folk music of the 1960s and 70s.

My mind returns to the first question. All the beauty of the journey rolls like a movie through my mind. (My photos hardly do it justice.) The pain and exhaustion of the effort, as well as the ecstasy of seeing the beauty of the journey – all of it leads to a deep satisfaction of knowing that I am where I’m meant to be. The meaning of one’s experience does not always translate into words.

The answers to the five questions of the song are filled with symbols that reflect a wide variety of experiences. They all lead me back to question the meaning of my own experience.

La Verna, End of Phase 1 of the Way of St Francis (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

La Verna, End of Phase 1 of the Way of St Francis (Photo: © Henri Craemer)


The last question, in particular, stirs me. What’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son? What’ll you do now, my darling young one?

It’s not about simply completing this pilgrimage. It’s about what it means. How can I take this into the rest of my life? At 63yrs of age, some will say it’s almost over. Niels himself said we’re rapidly running out of time to do this kind of thing. I agree. Yet my family on average have always had a life expectancy of 83 plus. Twenty years is still a very long time to live.

Basilica di San Francesco, end of the second phase of the Way of St Francis. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Basilica di San Francesco, end of the second phase of the Way of St Francis. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)


Peace returns as I am reminded that I am not alone. I have Divine Presence for company, a Light that shines within me that nothing can put out. I don’t have to have conscious answers to everything. However, this does not mean I must ever stop searching or learning.

At 15:00 I feel revitalised by the rest and meditation. I’m ready for action.

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