DISCLAIMER- ON PRESENCE
We are walking days ahead of my posts on this pilgrimage. I had several intentions for this Camino when I left. One was to, very simply, be- in the moment, on The Way. One was to soul search my past and contemplate my future on this planet. And one, was to reconnect with my muse and write. I am happy to say, all of these are happening in spades along with some daily belly laughs and really great wine. (Spanish wine does not make my heart race in the night or give me a hang over in the morning- a revelation!)
I’m tracking our journey in stages rather than days. Because that’s what they’re called on the Camino and also because we’re staying an extra night, every three or four days to rest, write and explore. At first, I was antsy on these days- ready to keep clocking kilometers. Now these rest days are a gift. They allow me to stay with my steps- to go offline and disconnect with the outside world while walking. And then piece together my reflections afterwards.
This is not turning out to be a linear experience. The Camino takes you along the coast, over mountains and through valleys. It takes you from villages into towns and through cities. But it also takes you upward, backward, outward, forward, and inward. It is a journey back into memories and forward into dreams. There is a very real sense of timelessness here. I find myself walking alongside people from all over the world- and people from all times of my life. I have been visited by friends and family who have passed and also, as I was today, drawn into reliving old pain that I thought I’d, long ago, let go. Turns out, it was alive and well- and, unfortunately, has some game when it comes to hiking hills.
Much of what I find myself writing here, along The Camino, is not right for social media. Some will be become book or blog. And some will never see the light of day- it will be burned or tossed, figuratively, to the wind when we reach the end of the world- our final destination, Finisterre.
I guess my disclaimer is this- that what I’m sharing here may have happened days ago or just an hour past; that these are not vacation updates but excerpts from an experience that is not necessarily happening in a straight line.
Someone asked me why I’m even posting on social media right now. For me, that’s an easy answer- because of the incredibly poignant messages, supportive comments and notes of gratitude I get, some from people I’ve never met- telling me my stories matters to them. I had a mentor, once, who taught me that you never know who’s life you may unwittingly impact by how you live your own. I know my life has certainly been changed and molded by what others have had the courage to write and share. So there you go- Ultreia et Suseia- onward, inward and upward. Whether you’re sipping coffee, getting ready to go to work, making dinner, mucking stalls or laying awake in the middle of the night… you are on your own Camino, whether you know it yet, or not.
THE CRUMBS WE CARRY
Today will be a traverse from Oia (now my favorite village ever with the 8 in the street, stone paddocks out to sea, and an unforgettable view from room 204) to a city with the beautiful name, Baiona. We pack no food. Our routine has been to eat very little of the free breakfast provided by most hotels and to instead, pack a “pilgrim’s lunch” of bread and cheese and fruit. Today, however, the breakfast guy is grumpy. There are warning signs over the cheese for pilgrims not to pack food and his threatening gaze and folded arms guard the apples. We know this will be a shorter day- if twelve miles can ever really be considered short while walking. So we step out the door, with whatever snacks are left in our packs from days before and plans to stop at a cafe along The Way.
We find ourselves back on the yellow brick road for a stint before heading upwards, into clouds. The first sleepy little town we come to has a cafe-but it is still asleep. Cerrado. No worries. Our map predicts another cafe in the next village- a little coffee cup marks the spot.
We wind up and down and around some beachy neighborhoods. We chat about childhood memories of travel- our road trip rituals as kids of parents and then as parents of kids. Our conversations are as varied and spontaneous as the terrain- but always guided by yellow arrows.
Presently, we come to the second cafe. We peek in the dark windows and push a little on the closed door. Cerrado. Mmmmmm…. We don’t really know what lies ahead, but we have no choice but to go on. We cross the road and head UP. We came across our first gate. I open it, easily. Old stones lead as we pass pilgrim after pilgrim along The Way. I’m not sure why, but as my body moves forward and up, my mind ventures back. Old wounds at thirteen, past pains at twenty seven and a friendship severed at forty six. My mood grows dim and pissy even as the views grew more beautiful. I push on though my body gets dizzy with hunger as we climb deeper and higher into the day.
Finally. The ancient stone tracks seem to crest at an incredible view overlooking what would be our next stop- Baiona. It is not lost on me that our hardest, highest climb yet, has come when we have almost no provisions.
My low mood matches my low blood sugar as we navigate our way to a boulder large enough for us to sit- and take in the view. Emily pulls out her last little tub of Nutella and we scrounge for pack-bruised bananas from some, days-ago, friendly breakfast in Portugal. As we share the crumbs we carry, I breathe in the high Spanish air and breathe out my pain. The thirteen year old and the twenty seven year old continue down the path ahead- set free. The forty-six year old sits with me on the rock and says, “Good riddance- let’s let that shit go.”
The crumbs we carried, fuel our trip down. The crumbs I carried continue to fall away into the tracks made by ancient wheels on ancient stones as we land in Baiona.
Baiona. My new favorite city. Narrow stone streets lined with wine bars; cheerful women making bread and passing it, smiling through shadowy doorways; an ancient castle connected to a modern marina by an inlet beach of shells- sorted and scrubbed by the sea into sand. Baiona is bustling but not busy. Both breath-taking and cozy. Why is this fairy tale land not famous, like Paris and Rome? My love for Baiona is too big for this page and is a story for another day.