Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Simple Life

Walking the Camino simplifies life. You get up early, pack up your few possessions, eat something, throw your pack on your back and head out. You walk, following the yellow arrows until you need to rest or eat and at last you stop somewhere for the night. You shower, wash your clothes, rest, eat, socialize if you have the energy, then sleep. And the next day you do it all again. This routine frees you for other things. At first you think about the scenery you're passing and the people you're meeting from all over the world. You try to remember how to order something besides tortilla at the bar for lunch, although you love it. And you try,really hard sometimes, not to think about how heavy your pack is or how much your feet hurt or how many kilometers still to go before that town you read about in the guide book.

Then it happens. You begin to ask yourself the questions. Why did you think this was a good idea is usually one of the first ones. And it occurs to you that maybe you won't be able to go all the way as you'd planned. What if that pain in your knee doesn't go away or gets worse? Whatever made you think you could walk across an entire country in the first place? When did you actually lose your mind?

Once you accept the fact that you're crazy (but no moreso than the others you're walking with), you can begin to relax. And then you start to think about more important things, like why you react to situations the way you do. Memories you hadn't thought about in years float up to the surface of your consciousness and you are by turns euphoric and on the verge of despair. Then you know the Camino has begun its work on you.

You are grateful for the wind that blows up suddenly to cool your face as you reach the top of a long, steep hill; for the butterfly that flutters in front of you in the path to distract you just when you think you've reached your limit; for the warm wet sweetness of blackberries or grapes plucked from the side of the path. Most of all, you're grateful for the kindness of strangers - both other pilgrims and the locals who go out of their way to help you or wish you 'Buen Camino!'.

The Camino turns your thoughts outward to the world you walk through, keeping you in the moment. And it turns them inward too, forcing you to see yourself and reflect on who you are. The Camino simplifies things, and at the same time, makes them more complicated than you would have imagined. And you revel in the experience, pain, beauty, and wonder that is revealed.

No comments: