1. Love. Love. Love.
2. Human beings are the kindest, most amazing creatures I know.
3. Human beings are the neediest, most-complaining creatures I know. *saving for a different post*
4. Were it not for the selfless kindness of human beings, I'm not sure that I would've completed the camino. (See #1)
Inside of my experience on the Camino Frances my two major take-aways are these: an open spirit of love (as in spirituality, faith, hope & belief ) is never not there - it's omnipresent, and the very, very best of human nature is most vivid when giving selflessly and fearlessly and allowing yourself to genuinely and fearlessly receive from others. All of the other shit just. doesn't. matter. that. much.
In the past I've written that I am a very spiritual woman, but not a very religious woman. It's still evident to me after visiting many astoundingly beautiful, tear-provoking cathedrals and attending masses that my ears didn't understand yet my heart understood completely, that I fall solidly in the belief that world-over what we want; what the Search is for, what we say we believe in, is one and the same. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, Fuck the Rules. God is everywhere, no matter what He or She is called, and nowhere is it more obvious than in one's own heart. I'm ascending and ascending and ascending and my pack is painfully heavy, my blister-riddled feet want nothing more than to go home to the USA, and I'm feeling past the point of being able to carry on .... and then I come out of a curve in the trail to a lovely bench in the middle of nowhere. Shoes and socks come off, I happily wiggle my toes....in minutes all is right again and I'm strong and I'm capable and I'm beautiful. Every time something similar to that happened on my journey it made me smile and giggle out loud. My heart smiled. Love resides within. Love gave me countless experiences and gifts that made me feel like I could keep on going. I believe in Love.
I was about two and a half weeks into my pilgrimage, and having a particularly challenging day. My body hurt, it was cold, it rained off and on, the wind blew, I walked alone and my heart was heavy. My pack felt heavy, too. I approached a small village; so small that there wasn't a tienda (small store), a cafe, a bar....but there was a sign for a private alberque '200 meters' off the trail. I followed the signs to the alberque and read the hand written sign on the door; open at 14:30 for peregrines. It was almost 13:00 and I had walked around 19 kilometers so far. I sat on a wet bench for a few minutes after I removed my rain poncho and my pack. I decided I could walk four more kilometers to the next village in the same time I would wait so I put my pack back on and did my awkward rain poncho moves to get that back on over my pack and I set off. Soon I was out of the village. I came around a curve in the trail and stared down a long, steep descent. I stood there for awhile just contemplating my current level of pain. The I turned around and went back to the bench. I added a kilometer for that nonsense.
When the door was opened (& it was a little before 14:30) I paid for my bed, removed my boots and poncho in the small entry room walled on three sides and blanketed on the fourth, I was invited through the blankets to the coziest, coolest, most comforting private living room. Then he led me through their kitchen/dining room to a back room that had exactly 10 beds, a fire-heater, and a coed bathroom with two showers, one sink, one laundry sink a three commodes. I chose a bed, showered, got my journal and a pen a returned to the table in the dining room. I asked for a beer - 1 Euro, and a cup of tea - donativo - and I sat down with those three things and I began to weep. His wife entered and looked into my eyes with most kind expression hers. I apologized for the tears that were entirely out of my control. She smiled, touched my arm gently, and told me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be; tears and all. She didn't try to fix anything, and she was so comfortable with my emotion. She gave me her Love, and for once in my life, I accepted it gracefully.
That afternoon my senses were caressed by incense, by soothing music, by coloring my very own mandala and as the afternoon wore on, a handful of peregrines made their way into this magical oasis and we shared dinner together st the one table in the home in spite of five different languages. I was sad to say goodbye to that Love the next morning, even as I was better prepared than I had been before that experience for my pilgrimage.
That's two small stories. I have more, and maybe I'll share them as the days unfold. If you're reading this because you're scouring the internet (as I did before my pilgrimage) for whatever you can find on doing your own camino - please don't take my words as gold nuggets, instead, take them as tiny launch points to your own discoveries.
Love each other-
Camino Frances, leaving St. Jean Pied de Port France on May 17, 2014 -arriving Santaigo de Compostela, Spain June 29, 2014