The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

The Camino

on July 17, 2017

I walked 5 days of the Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as the Camino.  It’s been a dream of mine for 10 ? –  12 years.   Since maybe my 10th Artist’s Way class when dreams are floating in the air to be recognized, when I want to are being identified.  I was having dinner with a neighbor from my teenage years who just returned from her second Camino walk,  this time with her granddaughter.

I was captivated.  I read books.  I watched, The Way. I included it in my wish list every subsequent time I hosted the Artist’s Way.

The Camino door opened a crack when I signed up to go with my granddaughter and daughter on the school trip to France.  I was so close to the Camino.  Already across the Atlantic.  The countries right next door.  I pushed that door open.  I figured it out.  I arranged plane transportation.   I got my cousins to sign on to walk with me.  I made it happen.

I walked my Camino. Five days. 50 miles.  Planes, trains, buses, taxis and feet! And a great deal of determination.

From the plane flying from Nice to Madrid, above the clouds the terrain looked like I could be anywhere.  Irregular forests, angular fields.  Roads.  Rivers.  Hills and prairies.  No language barriers.  Few differences.  From above all looks equal, similar and peaceful and I stare out the little window wonder why we humans can’t figure out how to get along with each other.  And I was so stressed about going to a foreign country alone (meeting my cousins later that day at a prearranged hotel for the night).  And I found them.  And I overcame all the waterfall of fears the scenery did not reflect!

I met my companions and we had dinner in old Madrid surrounded by a huge Gay Pride celebration.  Rainbow flags and clothing and fountains.  A solid initiation.

The next morning we took a taxi and a 5 hour bus and another taxi to Portomarin where we joined the peregrinos/pilgrims the next morning.

First Camino lesson I learned was that backpacking is way more advanced than walking.  I am a walker, an occasional hiker NOT a backpacker.

I learned that an experienced backpacker can carry extra items for the unprepared.  Brenda and Kevin helped carry my load.  I had worked and worked to get small in my baggage ans still, my backpack not one for a hiker was not doable.

We began our walk across a bridge and up a hill.  And the hills never stopped!  And neither did the scenery.  We walked an incredible path, often feeling I had been transported back centuries to a much simpler time when one was much closer to the earth.

Be in the present moment. Love the present moment. Carry your burdens courageously. Keep walking. Discard what you can. Be in the moment. Listen.

I learned to keep searching for what you want and if the hills get too tough – rest.  Include rest in the journey.
Several times the music called me in. The owls. the journey song. The bagpipes.
Bless the trees for providing shade,
the farmers for providing food,
the cooks for sumptuously preparing it,
the housekeepers for clean rooms,
the baristas for cafe con leche,
the centuries of peregrinos for paving the way.

For those who walked before me and those to follow, dedicated to the Spirit of the human condition.

I heard no news, no political discord, no my side or your side.  Only the focus of the walk.  Where are we right now?  Santiago the goal.

Buen Camino to those resting, to those pacing ahead, to those in service to peregrinos.  The kinship of the shared journey, breaking barriers of language, age, gender, race.  it’s all bout the journey.

We shared the wide path with those who were driven and fast paced.  We shared the wide path with those who were meandering; with those  who were limping and those peddling, cruising or pumping.

Each vista was new, waiting to be unfurled upon searching eyes.  Each hill presented and conquered.  Each downhill achieved.  The straight stretches – a gift.  Remembering to look out and up, not just down.  Finding a comfortable pace.  Passing and being passed.  One foot in front of the other.  Buen Camino to each pilgrim on their own walk.

Groups of every size and individuals.  Irish.  South African.  German.  French.  Asian.  Spanish.  Oh, the strong legs.  Each focused on the goal, Santiago.

Sticks and hats.  Back pack packs and water bottles. Clicking, pacing across path worn footsteps from centuries of seekers.

I witnessed a culture that is strongly attached to food.  Every homestead in the villages and hamlets and many in the cities grew gardens.  Not just flowers but food gardens.  Beautiful gardens.  All through the villages and hamlets were chickens, lots of chickens, cows – the smell so natural there was no offense.  There were goats and sheep.  Cats and dogs.  Seldom did we share a path with motorized vehicles.

Evidenced by the structures, people lived close to the land and used what nature provided.  Stone roofs.  Tree branches for fence posts.  What I loved were bed springs for trellising!  Laundry was dried outside in the sun in the country and in the cities.

No matter how rustic or empty of human habitation our basic needs were absolutely provided for.  Crystal clear spring water ran from  fountains all along the way.  Cold and refreshing and clearly delicious. Rooms were sparse and clean.  Cafes offered plentiful and fabulously fresh and full of life food and cafe con leche.  Ham and cheese.  Eggs and veggies.  Bread.

We saw stone houses with the barns attached.  Bridges made of huge rocks.  Roman bridges.  Crosses and religious symbolism  stood to mark “the way” like sentries, guides or guardians.  The little churches offering shade, beautiful art work and holy water in dabbed on my heart and head – yes, and on my knees!

Many of the columnar directional markers with the shell and arrow were adorned with rocks, pieces of memorabilia, worn out shoes, notes and encouraging graffiti.  One section bore the words, line by line, of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Through the rain, the sun, the exhaustion there was no place to quit.  No choice but to continue on.  Forward towards the goal.  And that goal was sometimes the next cafe!  Quit, however, not an option.

Yes, there were moments of WTF Camino? and not Buen Camino.  Is my lesson here that around each corner life brings another big hill, another difficult section to struggle across?  Pounding heart?  Tired legs?  Why did I want to do this?  Who am I fooling?  I’m definitely too old to do this.  I can’t.  Rest and look around and reassess.  Water from the fountain down my neck.

One foot ahead of the other.  Being the present moment.    I am in the present moment.  All I have is the present moment.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can.

And while I walked “only” 5 days/50 miles, I can not compare my journey with those walking 100 miles in 8 days, or walking 500 miles for the third time.  Or finishing the walk after doing sections every summer for the last 10 years.  My Camino is mine.  Just like theirs is theirs!

We taxied to the city limits of Santiago from Arua because we wanted to make the noon mass celebrated each day for all walkers.  I am not Catholic and it was awesome to share space and sing with a thousand other people from all over the world in an ancient structure with it’s ancient ritual.  Sacred in a community way, unlike the sacredness of the small, quiet places of worship and community we had passed through

Even the camaraderie of the Camino didn’t last far into Santiago, past the noon mass.  Few Buen Camino’s.

As we mingle with tourists and locals the focus is blurred, the goals now to varied except to share a common space, entranced by a common marvel of ancient engineering, worship and geography.  We are here and the so are the tour groups.  Some  dazed looking walkers still hefting backpacks, sticks and blisters.  Many tired pilgrims refreshed and bathed, now shopping and eating and celebrating. Resting in the city.    The bikers mingle with police who carry automatic weapons  The beggars and the souvenir sellers. The tourist and those who live by the tourist’s visit.  Movement but peaceful still, a hushed chatter not a still quiet, as sacred as in the forest but hushed sounds of sacred space interspersed with street musicians, laughter and traffic.  Delivery trucks.  Commuters.  Street cafe’s and relaxed eating, rest and proceed to the next stop.

Home? or onward to Finesterre?

I am home.  And grateful.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago

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5 responses to “The Camino

  1. yogaleigh says:

    It’s been fun following along both on FB via photos and now with this fuller description of the feelings and what it meant…

    Like

  2. Leigh, You were so helpful in sending me the trigger point, release, yoga instructions. Helped me unwind the tight muscles. THANK YOU AGAIN.
    For you all who aren’t familiar you can find her book on Amazon for Kindle.

    Like

  3. Love that you are sharing this — I have dreamt of walking the Camino since I was a little girl — I worry now my feet may not be able to, but… I am still aiming to walk it next year. My mind said, you are not walking it unless you do the full 800 (I am a bit compulsive). Reading your post I realized, one week is good too!

    Thank you!

    Like

  4. In the planning stages I encouraged my cousins to walk further. And I am very satisfied with what we walked. We did not get the official certificate because we didn’t walk 100 miles. And I have my “passport” with the stamps from all of our stops.
    To each their own Camino! No matter how many miles.
    I encourage you to go even if just for a few days. So so worth the experience.

    Like

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