My Camino Story pt 9

30th October: 

Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Belorado

Remembering this Camino now, five years later,  is sometimes  unsettling for me, walking has become such an integral part of my life now, that I can forget how stunning  this experience was…

how wondrous…

In the act of writing the story I have re-lived some of the intensity  I experienced at the time but, having  just looked back over the past eight posts, I had not fully appreciated just how much of a roller coaster the journey was until I saw the words written down.

Today, I will concentrate on the beginning of the end.

Although my ankle is really hurting now and my pace is very slow, somehow,  walking eases the pain My slowness means  I experience much of the day walking alone, but  I also, gradually, gain perspective on my direction today, it is a sobering experience but also gently  liberating.

 “When we want something, we have to have a clear purpose in mind for the thing that we want. The only reason for seeking a reward is to know what to do with that reward”

Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

In the book, Paulo makes his pilgrimage because he is seeking a sword that will confirm him as a member of the mystical order of RAM (although what he actually gains is much more)

 In truth; I did not know what I wanted when I started on the Camino… I had no sword to seek… not at the time,  not consciously… and I have found that, for me, clarity of purpose is sometimes only available in retrospect, stumbled across… remembered..

but I did want something…

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something magical…

My purpose was unclear, but  I know I wanted freedom, to move on in my life, not to feel the pull of my past,

I feel the small, smooth stone in my pocket…

 I wanted  to know that I could step forward on my own, trusting my instincts and depending on my own resources.

I feel how easy  my Rucksack sits on my shoulders now…

 I had been a person who believed that in order to live in the world the best option was to blend in, to  sit out of the limelight, to follow rather than to lead…

I feel how strongly my heart beats in my chest

The people on this Camino, the help they have given me, something magical

Before coming on the Camino I had seen my life as set of stark polarities… you were either up or down, ahead or behind, good or bad…

Today the Camino teaches me that my life is only constrained in this way, by me.

We meet for breakfast in the village of Granon ( by now we have become used to walking for 3 or 4 miles before breakfast) and as we sip our coffee and eat our Bocadillos, Paul plays with a puppy tethered outside the cafe by a leash.  There is such joy and freedom in both of them, even though the puppy is restrained, he leaps and snaps playfully at Paul who is equally enthusiastic in his play…

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Play…

I contrast the earnestness I have felt at various stages of this journey with how relaxed and joyful I feel just watching Paul playing with the dog … the dog playing with Paul…

There are now only two days before we reach the city of  Burgos.  I have still not made my mind up about whether or not to complete the Camino now, or stick to my original plan.  I talk to Angela about how I put of making the Camino for so long, because I thought you had  to do it in one journey or not at all. I  tell her about how I had rung the Confraternity of St James in London who were the first to suggest that “you could do it in stages?”  and she tells me that for many  their Camino starts from the day they  decide to do it and they mark their starting point as their own front door rather than St Jean or any other official start point.

I realise how much my fixation with doing the Camino the  “right” way, stopped me starting it for many years.

Later, as I am walking alone across the border from La Rioja into the largest region of Spain, Castilla y Leon, I look up and see a Red Kite circling high above me, gaining height, perfect in its solitude.  I feel a kinship to this bird searching for prey in this arid land…

“The path with no obstacles is not worth travelling”

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I realise the struggle we all face to find sustenance both physical and spiritual in this world, I feel sad that it I can find it so hard to feel acceptance in this search…

“The path with no obstacles is not worth travelling”

I feel the dogs leash straining around my neck…

I realise I am looking for the perfect experience, the perfect Camino, the search for perfection is always there… for me it is my leash and my yearning…

my restraint and my freedom.

I limp on, I remember by this stage I was fully leaning on my stick, reliant on it for my meagre progress…

When I arrive late at Belorado I have made up my mind.

“When we want something, we have to have a clear purpose in mind for the thing that we want. The only reason for seeking a reward is to know what to do with that reward”

Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

I am suddenly clear that this Camino will take me further if I leave in two days, because I know it is right for me to complete it in stages, I have received all the sustenance I need from this journey, for now,  and yes, the leash I feel is restraint.  Because off the leash, at this time I will bounce with the joy of a puppy, for a while, before understanding that I have missed the opportunity to see the bigger picture, the greater view of the red kite.

I see: I am both the Puppy and Red Kite (of the earth and the air) both must be attended to and for now I must see how the lessons of both may become manifest in my life outside this Camino, if I stay and walk now, I will be walking someone else’s path, not mine.

With this realisation I sit down to rest, on a bench  near the church in Vilamayor del Rio, and  I see  an elderly Spanish lady walking carefully up from the copse of trees to my right, holding some unknown, precious cargo in her apron, she stops when she see me sitting…

” peregrino?” she asks

” sí señora”  I smile… somewhat weary from the days walking, she smiles warmly back…

“Abre tu mochila” she says, motioning me to open the top of my rucksack, I do so and she unfurls her apron to let dozens of fresh Walnuts fall into my open bag…

Walnuts are said to symbolise the activation of…

“… hidden wisdom within our own life circumstances. Their appearance alerts us to pay attention. We will begin to hear and see things that have been going on around us but had not noticed before.”

Nature-Speak Ted Andrews 

and I understand I have made the right choice

…this way…

 

That night I talk to Anna and try to explain that I have to stick to my original plan to leave at Burgos and return home, where my Camino will continue, before I hope to return to carry on with this Camino next year.

To her this seems a strange decision and we have a heated discussion, I do not sleep well and early in the morning I hear Anna leave the Albergue while it is still dark, I feel the sadness but I don’t try to stop her.

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