Marc and I purposely decided to wait for a sufficient amount of time to pass before attempting to share a final post with our personal reflections on our experience of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James) to close out the blog of our Camino journey. This has proven, at least to me, to have been an unforeseen and fortuitously wise choice. I say this because upon my return my attempt to reflect on and give voice to my Camino experience has occurred simultaneously with several painful events that have and still are taking place in the church of my faith tradition and the politics of the country which I called home but which no longer feel like they are. The specifics of these events and the accompanying emotions that surfaced in me needn’t be spelled out here and not because they are inconsequential. Quite the opposite in fact. They have tested what I believe, and for the record still do, the Camino was for me- a solitary prayerful journey going deep into my heart and soul where I believe God makes his home in me. It was a deep and abiding re-affirmation of my spiritual life, practice, core beliefs and being. Thus, I owe my Camino pilgrimage a debt of gratitude for this gift and reminder of who I am where I am.
On its surface the Camino was many things. Instead of being the single pilgrimage I set out on and believed it would be, in the daily and sometimes surprising routines of pilgrim life a realization emerged that there were in fact many journeys, many pilgrimages all happening simultaneously. There was the communal journey, the random bringing together of all those who came from all over the world to hike the same Camino path at the same time Marc and I were, the personal journeys of all these peregrinos (pilgrims), the joint journey Marc and I were making together as spouses and finally the individual and very personal journey unique to Marc and to me as well. There was a palpable sense of community, an interplay of all these journeys, an impact made upon self and other in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. If I were to use an analogy I would liken what the Camino gives, shapes, confronts and sometimes takes away from you to the process of rock tumbling if you are in any way familiar with this craft and process. You put rocks of different shapes, sizes, colors, textures, some rough, some smoother into a barrel tumbler, turn it on so that the rocks all bump into and rub up against one another and after the process is complete and you take the rocks out each has been transformed into a new, smooth but different and unique thing of beauty. Immersed in the tumble of Camino life one never knew what one would bump into or rub up against- joy, suffering, beauty, anger, frustration, depression, peace, chaos, pain, your past, your present, the unknowns of your future, your inevitable death. You just never knew.
It would be too difficult and quite impossible for me to sift through every event, emotion, physical landscape, thing, person or experience to convey to you how deeply I was affected and forever changed by my Camino pilgrimage and continue to be. I did some journaling on the Camino and while words hardly seem adequate to the task they are all I have to try and convey a tiny glimpse into my Camino Way. So, I’ll close with just one journal entry and leave it at that.
Day 29, Tuesday, October 3rd, 2016
before a single word
ever forms upon my lip
or thought in me
dares to arise
Embraced upon my arrival
my only honest raiment
we’ve danced this dance before.
as only the heart can know
in the tiniest
whisper of a breeze
you are with me
that gave me name and life.
I bow to rest in you.
Ed and I decided ahead of time to go to Spain with no expectations or pre conceived ideas of what should happen. We went with the idea that we would simply be open to whatever each day would bring and let the Camino be the Camino rather than trying to make the Camino fit into what we wanted it to be.
For me this trip was more than I had expected or hoped for. Spiritually it was a very intense daily meditation practice, a long walking meditation where I was aware of every step and where my mind was free to reflect on whatever thoughts arose. And arise they did. Some thoughts were pleasant and uplifting as we climbed high into the Pyrenees or walking through amazing medieval villages that have barely changed in hundreds of years and were just overwhelmed with the beauty all around us. Some thoughts were purely neutral as we walked across wheatfields and through eucalyptus forests and chestnut groves with no particular thoughts occupying my mind. And some thoughts were penetrating and difficult as there was plenty of time to look back over my life and see patterns of behavior that I was not always proud of but also those good things that had formed me into the person that I have become. I think the biggest truth that I came away with was the need for each of us to be aware of the needs of those around us and offer whatever help we can.
Life becomes very simple – everything you need is being carried on your back. And you begin to realize that there is so very little that you need to be truly happy.