Yesterday I drove to Pittsburgh to visit my daughter. She’s borrowing my backpack and in a couple of weeks she’s going to hike to Patagonia. It was exciting to talk with her about the Camino and her upcoming adventure.
Today driving home (4.5 hours) I was bombarded by the sight of so many trees along the highway and with the change of colors, bright copper, dark rhubarb, Pinot noir and marigold. But it was overwhelming. It was like a smorgasbord of food and I was going so fast grabbing everything and stuffing my mouth as quickly as possible until I felt sick. I wanted to stop and walk along the path and get close to the trees so I could trace the veins of the leaves. I thought of the buffet and savoring the taste, sight, texture, and smell of everything so that at the end I might be almost full and yet left wanting more.
I’m getting dressed this morning to go to Sunday school and I went to get one of the two tee-shirts I bought in Santiago as a souvenir of my pilgrimage.
I chose these shirts because they aren’t your typical touristy shirts. You know, the kind of shirt that says “I walked 790 km” and has a road sign on it. Plus I really wanted something to wear that wasn’t the blue shirt or the orange shirt.
Back to this morning…I couldn’t wear these shirts. I’m going someplace where people know I walked the Camino and even these shirts seem to scream “tourist” not “pilgrim”. I put on my necklace that I bought at the 100 km mark
and even that I have carefully tucked beneath a scarf.
This feeling seems connected to the fact that all week people have been asking me, “How was your trip?” And I don’t know how to answer. For one thing I feel like I’m still on this pilgrimage. For another the essence of the Camino, for me, cannot be distilled into a 140 character response and to say “the food was great” or “the country is beautiful” seems to reduce the Camino to little more than a “vacation”.
So what should be an easy task (getting dressed) has become for me a small light into a spiritual question.
What did I end up wearing?
It’s orange shirt day.
How am I supposed to put something away that never had a home?
Seriously I have a stack of clothes (albeit a small stack) that have never lived any place other than my backpack or on my body. There’s no spot in any of my drawers or closet for them. I’m not saying that my drawers and closet are so overflowing with clothes but this particular stack of clothing has never “belonged” in those places.
I can’t ignore it or get rid of it. These articles of clothing kept me warm, cool, covered, and protected from the sun, rain, and wind. I wore those two tee-shirts to walk, to dinner, and to bed. I lost my lime green hat on the Camino. That was supposed to protect my head and make me visible in a crowd. I can’t be that callous toward the orange hat that stepped to take its place.
And what about my non-clothing stuff? Where is my headlamp supposed to live? And when should I use it? If I get up before dawn I can just flip on a light. Even if I go outside I have lights around my home so I can see where I’m going. I suppose I could keep it by my bed in case of a power outage. I did use my headlamp in Carrion when the apartment we stayed in blew a fuse and it was pitch dark outside at 7:00 am.
I feel totally flummoxed by this conundrum.
Right now everything is neatly stacked and sitting on top of the dresser. Even being folded and stacked seems totally out of order. These items have been living in my Lilliputian sleeping bags*. Those I know what to do with. I’m sending to my daughter to use on her trip to Patagonia next month.
I guess for now I’ll have to keep pondering this issue.
A place for everything, everything in its place.
*By the way when people asked me what “Lilliputian” means I confidently related its from the book Robinson Crusoe. My new friend Viv boldly retorted, “You mean Gulliver’s Travels”. I stand corrected 😉
On the last day walking in to Santiago I didn’t know what to expect. I was told by other pilgrims that it is an emotional experience to arrival into Santiago after journeying from St. Jean Pied de Port. Even pilgrims who walked just the last 100 km said it was a big deal.
All day long I thought I would have an urge to hurry, to get to Santiago as soon as possible. I thought I would feel like tearing off the wrapping paper of a long hoped for present. And yet it wasn’t that way at all.
I walked with my friend Viv, one of the walking wounded so we took it slow. You might even say we tarried along the way. I waited for that sense of urgency that never came. Instead I had the feeling that Santiago was saying, “Take your time. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when you arrive.”
And so suddenly there I was in Santiago in front of the cathedral. The appropriate pictures were taken and familiars faces emerged all asking the same question, “How do you feel?”
The next day after being told a horror story about crowds at the pilgrims’ office and long waits to get our Compostela we set out to brave that trial. And still nothing stirring within me.
The Pilgrims’ Office is very serious about examining the credential to make sure that you have acquired the appropriate number of stamps in order to qualify. When I received my Compostela I was confused because my name was spelled “Michaelde”. So I asked about it and the woman said that is the Latin spelling. Ok. But then I looked at my last name. It was spelled incorrectly! And all of a sudden tears welled up in me from the depths of my gut. I walked 500 miles and my name is spelled wrong! I started to cry that big gulpy sobby cry. I managed to point out the error but I couldn’t stop crying. It was as if all the emotions of the past year of preparation and walking converged and came pouring out of me. It took me 10 minutes to get myself under some kind of control. A day later I still feel as if I’m in some kind of a post-camino daze.
I don’t have a picture of my Compostela because it’s packed away in a mailing tube but I will post one next week. For now I’m going to take some time off from posting but I will continue to write as the Camino continues to unfold within me.
My Camino friend Viv bought herself a beautiful silver ring to commemorate her Camino journey. It’s lovely and has all the Camino symbols around it: shell, arrow, even an umbrella for those rainy days. It was so beautiful that I decided to get one also.
When I looked I picked one out with all the symbols. However on the other side of the ring is the word Ultreia.
I didnt notice this word until after I had picked it out. I asked the shop owner what it meant. He didn’t speak any English but he gestured a lot and said “Camino” several times so I figured it was some variation on “Buen Camino”. Ok, I was more interested in the Camino symbols so I thought I’ll just wear the symbols side up.
When I got to my room that night I sent my friend a picture. I wasn’t paying attention so “Ultreia” was prominent. She texted back and asked what it means. I did a little research and found out that it another greeting on the Camino. It’s meaning is “beyond”. The real sense is to encourage a pilgrim to go “beyond” the physical act of walking the Camino.
If you click on the word “Ultreia” it will take you to a link with a better explanation than I can give.
But getting back to the point at hand (or finger I guess), I like it. Ultreia. Go beyond just walking Michelle. Go beyond.
Only two more days of walking. Tomorrow I will reach Santiago late in the day. I don’t know how I will feel.
It seems that the closer Santiago gets (or rather the closer I get to Santiago) reality crowds out the imaginings and leaves me with…something undefinable.
I look around the breakfast room this morning. It’s filled with other pilgrims. Some of them are chatting happily and others are silently contemplating their breakfasts.
I started this journey on September 1st and suddenly Santiago is in sight. I have to say “Santiago”. I can’t say the end or the goal or anything that implies that this journey is finite. I think Santiago is just a pause along the way.
Today I’m going to stand on my soapbox and make a statement about energy consumption.
I just got done doing some laundry. In my broken Spanish and the manager’s broken English I managed to find out where the hotel washer and dryer are. The washer is next door at the albergue (hostal) and the dryer is the rack set up on the hotel veranda where guests can sit in the sun and enjoy a late afternoon drink. Apparently they don’t mind sipping a glass of vino tinto while my bloomers flap in the breeze.
Everyone has a clothesline in their yard. The few apartments we’ve stayed in have washing machines but not dryers. They did each have a rack to set on a balcony or inside to dry clothes.
Couldn’t we cut back a little on energy consumption and hang our clothes in the sunshine? Think of the added benefit of how good clothes smell when they’ve been dried outside. You can even exercise while hanging laundry. Put some wrist weights on while you hang your wash.
Now that we’ve taken on the laundry we can start working on motion detector lighting in hallways and bathrooms.
Yesterday we walked to Palas de Rei on the Camino but were unable to get accommodations so we taxied off the Camino to a b&b with the intention of taxiing back in the morning to pick up where we left off.
As it happened the b&b was located right on the Camino Primitivo. It is said that in the 800s when the bones of St. James were discovered, Alfonso II (or Alfonso III, or the Bishop of Cluny, no one is sure who) went to Santiago to pay homage and the Primitivo is the route he took.
The Camino Frances has been really crowded with lots of new people arriving at Sarria and walking just the last 100 km. The quiet of the path is suddenly disrupted with excited new pilgrims. So walking the Primitivo today has been a dramatic change.
It has been so quiet. As we stepped into the primitivo a man passed us by
and with our presence the the Camino the population just increased 300%!
The Primitivo is very diverse. Within 2 kilometers you can walk through a pine forest, pastures, an orchard, a town, and an area that resembles the Blair Witch Project 😮. Spain is truly a beautiful country.
And one more thing…
Melide is known for its octopus so we went to one of the top two restaurants for lunch. Octopus is really delicious 🐙. It’s sautéed with a little hot paprika and drizzled in olive oil. Yummy!
When you spend an evening with friends that you’ve known for a long time your conversation is comfortable and dwells on the every day bits and pieces of lives: your children, your grandchildren, shopping, a new recipe, what’s going on at work and then sometimes just to spice it up a little bit you’ll hit on the topic of politics just to see how much you can rile up your friends. Because you know they’ll still be your friends at the end of the evening. But when you’re on the Camino you find yourself in situations with people you’ve never met before in your life.
Last night we had dinner with three complete strangers. This is a different kind of conversation. You are, to be honest, unlikely to see each other ever again and yet you find that you want to know each other on a deeper level. So you gloss through the mundane and settle quickly into bigger subjects.
We sat down to what is possibly one of the best meals of the camino at a bed & breakfast that exuded comfort and hospitality. Two older couples and one young woman (at different tables) shared our spiritual hopes for the Camino and experiences we have had along the way. A spiritual director would be asking the question, “Where is God in all this?” It was truly a spirit filled meal.
The chicken in a white wine sauce with rice was to die for. And my sardines on toast were delicious.
Share your Spirit stories with one another.
Buen Camino and Bon Appetit
Once again the air is filled with the sound of foreign voices. They’re excited, they want to talk. Sometimes they ask where I’ve started. When I say St. Jean I hear a little sucking in of the breath and then a low “Wow, you’re doing the whole thing.”
And I say to myself, “I have been doing this for quite a while.” My rhythm is that of the Camino.
Walk Wash Eat Sleep
What will my rhythm be when I return home?
I did hit a milestone today.
100 kilometers to the Cathedral of Santiago.