Four weeks ago I returned from my pilgrimage along the Camino Frances from Burgos to Santiago de Compostella. As much as one can return in such a situation. I still find it difficult to write about it, or to talk about it. To a fellow pilgrim a glance, or a sigh can convey the enormity of the experience, but how can I discern the place in you that I can latch on to, so that I may show you?
I could start with the external structure:
Duration: 21 days
Distance walked /day: 20-28 km
Distance travled motorized: 42 km
Total distance: 500 km
Daily schedule: get up at 6:30am, start walking at 8am, stop every ca 4 km or every hour, arrive at 2-5pm, shower, start snacking and talking, 7pm dinner, 9-10pm go sleep
Places stayed: Hornillos del Camino, Castrojeriz, Frómista, Carrión de los Condes, Terradillos de los Templarios, Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, Mansilla de las Mulas, Leon, Villar de Mazarife, Astorga, Rabanal, Ponferrada, Villafranca del Bierzo, La Faba, Triacastela, Sarria, Portomarin, Palas de Rei, Ribadiso, Santiago
Foot problems: Inflamed achilles heel left foot, blisters under toenails on second toe right and left foot
Backpack: Weight 9kg with food and water, sent ahead several times
Then I could regal you with stories of people met and places visited.
Like Hermann, who saved Joe’s life and then almost died himself.
Or of Soler who lost his voice to cancer and walks the Camino for his dead wife.
Or of Sabrina a sweet girl who just goes out and gets things done, because they need doing.
Or Hannah who was a bit like me.
Or of Bjorn who is the sort of friend you only find once every thousand years.
Or the story of the old man who gave us candy.
Or the story of the nuns in Carrion who’s love radiates so brightly that it penetrated all my walls and lit up my soul.
Or the story of walking 18km of straight road on a plain and then some.
Or the story of the most beautiful valley in the entire world.
Or of highways and city suburbs.
Or of mountains.
Or of rain and spanish pilgrim masses.
Or of the nun who sang the mass in Santiago Cathedral.
And now, if you are not tired, I could continue telling you how I felt. The anxiety and panic, the relaxation, the bone tiredness, the annoyance, the hilarity, the enlightenment, the mindfulness, the love and the excitement.
And at this point my voice would become quiet and hesitant. We could touch on how experiences like this leave on changed. My eyes could well up and I could laugh a small laugh. In my mind I would relive the pure energy of arriving physically at the cathedral in Santiago and spiritually arriving at my Self. I would think back on that one perfect afternoon that I was fully in sync, totally congruent. And then I could try to find words. I could tell you about how I learned that everyone and everything is connected by love, in an an infinite redundant web that will catch you no matter what connection is weakened. We might cringe at the word love with its mundane associations, its stunted connotation and still use it, because it is what it is. I could try and explain that I believe that this web will bring you exactly what you need, not what you think you need, if you are willing to let your need go into the web. I could try and convey the feeling of standing physically and spiritually concentric and realizing that at my core is an interminable radiant well of love that flows outward and out of which I can and must give freely. And that this love comes with patience and clarity and strength. That my walls instead of protecting that well make it grow dark and dank, so that the love is perverted into anxiety and fear.
Finally I could look you in the eye and maybe I would see understanding. Or maybe I had lost you at my description of places and people. But it wouldn’t matter, because at my core is a radiant well of love that doesn’t require understanding, or anything really, because everything is good as it is.