Over the past several days I have been collecting random thoughts while walking on the Camino and writing them down in my notebook. Here, in no particular are a few of them…
We have been frequently seeing travelers (tourists?) on the Camino that we are referring to as “sin mochillas”, meaning “without backpacks.” These are people who send their luggage forward, often by taxi, to their next destination and then hike on the Camino with only perhaps a light daypack and a bottle of water. We have referred to them before in previous posts. We stayed at an albergue in Villatuerte that seemed to cater to these “pilgrims.” Most of the people at this albergue looked like they would have been more at home in a Marriott than in an albergue, but they were making the best of it. When we left in the morning we saw a pile of backpacks in the lobby with labels on them to let the taxis know where to deliver them later in the day. Clint pointed out that not only are these people not carrying their packs on the Camino. They are not even carrying them out to the taxis! Those of us who are carrying our packs try to be charitable to these folks but honestly, it is difficult. They are clean. Their clothes look fresh and recently laundered. They don’t smell. In fact, they often smell quite nice. They are dressed well and they are cheerful. Uggghh!!! We, on the other hand, are the antithesis of this. We are dirty, smelly, sweaty, achy, grumpy, and tired. But, we also feel that we are making this pilgrimage in the true spirit of the Camino. The Camino is not supposed to be easy. It is expected that there will be sacrifices in body and spirit. The benefits of a pilgrimage are due, in part, to the pain and effort that you have expended.
The key to the Camino is perseverance. Just…keep…going! One foot in front of the other.
The trail has been lined with blackberries for the past several days. Many pilgrims have been harvesting them as they move along. But, I am used to the bountiful, plump, wild blackberries near our summer farm up in Washington State. In contrast, the berries we see here are dusty and rather puny. I’ve been passing them by, for the most part.
Today we crossed over from the state of Navarre to the state of Rioja famous, of course for its wine growing prowess. So, here’s a photo of some of the vines. I don’t think we ate any from this particular plant.
I have trying to remember to lift my head up and look around while walking. The tendency is to keep my head down and only look at the 20 or so feet in front of me as I walk. While it is important to ensure you have solid footing, I also realize that it is equally important to get your head up and look at the passing scenery. It would be a shame to miss the gorgeous landscape because I am more concerned with the few feet in front of me. This is something I am currently working on.
I have been amazed at the number of people of all ages, nationalities, and genders who have actually decided to take the time out of their lives hike the 790 kilometers across Spain to Santiago. Every day we are joined on the Camino with large numbers (hundreds) of other pilgrims. I thought this would be sort of an individual thing, but I am quickly recognizing that there are many, many others who share the same dream and goal we do. This pleases me greatly, but also keeps me wondering and pondering.
As I walk along the Camino, I often find that the rhythmic motion of my walking, along with the motion of my trekking poles, is conducive to various kinds of meditation, especially related to music. I have found myself repeating snippets of hymns over and over in my mind along with the rhythm of my walking. In addition to hymns, I have found portions of Ola Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass, a work I sang with the San Diego Masterwork Chorale last spring, recurring over and over again. This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of modern choral music, and I intend to send Ola email about this after I return to San Diego. His music has moved me and greatly enhanced my spiritual enjoyment of the Camino.
I have seen many women hiking the Camino on their own. At first I was a little apprehensive for these women, but after 10 days on the Camino I have come to believe that the Camino and albergues are safe places to be and I would encourage any women who might be thinking about hiking it alone to go for it. You won’t really be alone. There is almost no time that you are not within view of at least one other pilgrim and everyone is there to help you, if needed. This is an experience not to be missed.
Clint and I have been philosophizing for days now about the directional signs on the Camino. It is really quite difficult to get lost on the Camino. At every crucial fork or turn in the path there is a marker showing the way. It might be a Camino monument, or just a yellow arrow painted on a tree or a rock, or just a yellow splotch on a rock. But the sign is always there if you will see it. Often, there are many signs pointing out the way. If you search for the signs they will show you the way. Often you find yourself temporarily lost and then, upon a moment’s further looking, you will see several markers where there previously didn’t seem to be any. The way is always there to be seen. It is always clearly marked. We just have to look for the signs and follow them. Most of the time the signs are easy to see. At other times you have to look a little harder to see the way. You can choose to not follow the signs. If you are distracted or not paying attention to the signs you might find yourself lost. Just as we need to follow the signs that show us the way on the Camino, we also need to follow the signs in life that lead us to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Those signs are also there if we will only look and see and follow them.