A Walk On The Wild Side

Steve Cooper To Read For OPWC

By Ginny Masullo

Steve Cooper walked from one end of the world to the other; that is if you define the ends of the world as starting at Italy’s Fini Bus (which means end of the earth in Latin) and ending, 2,000 miles later, in Spain’s Finisterra, also the end of the earth.

Taking a sabbatical from NorthWest Arkansas Community College where he serves as chairman of the Depart- ment of Visual and Performing Arts, Cooper embarked on this solo jour- ney on Jan. 12, 2007. In his 35-pound backpack, he carried his laptop and camera, taking photos and notes along the way.

The rewards of Cooper’s trip were many. He said he daily experienced a profound sense of gratitude. He wrote and published “Six Months Walking the Wilds (of Western Europe): The Long Way to Santiago” and composed “Santiago Suite” as a tribute to the final 500 miles which is known as El Camino de Santiago Compostela or St. James Way.

Cooper said that “Walking the Wilds of Western Europe” is tongue- in-cheek because despite the cold rain, destroyed boots, aching blistered feet and sonorous hostel roommates, “this is some of the cushiest hiking possible.”

The hikers, or pilgrims as the walk- ers are particularly described on the Santiago section, are a “protected spe- cies,” Cooper said. The residents along the way greet them with warmth and curiosity. Town plazas and fountains are open oases for the trekkers. A pilgrim might walk for two or three hours and then rest in a cafe, drink a cappuccino and visit with all kinds of remarkable locals and fellow travel- ers.

On his 2,000 mile walk, which began in the heel of Italy’s boot and ran up through Rome and northward toward Genoa, then passing Monte Carlo and turning west across France and over the Pyrenees, Cooper spent much of his time alone until he reached Pam- plona, Spain. This marked the begin- ning of El Camino de Santiago.

While considered for over a thou- sand years to be a religious pilgrim- age, the Santiago is for the young, old, fit, unfit, religious or otherwise. Cooper fits in the latter, calling him- self a spiritual heathen but nonethe- less a pilgrim. Having now walked El Camino de Santiago five times, Cooper finds he has friends all over Western Europe. Preferring to set out alone because “it’s just easier to meet people when you are alone,” Cooper said that he often forms a kind of fam- ily with other hikers.

Cooper will be reading from his book as the featured reader at 7 p.m. Tuesday for Ozark Poets and Writers Collective, which meets the last Tues- day of the month at Hammontree’s inside Nightbird Books on Dickson Street. Audience members are encour- aged to stick around for the open mic, which will take place both before and after Cooper reads. There’s also the chance to win a book from the Uni- versity of Arkansas Press. A hat will be passed to help pay for expenses. Join OPWC and Steve Cooper for a walk on the wild side of western Europe.

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