The adventure/life pause/search/ throwing all cards in the air officially began in Paris early March and moved down to St Jean Pied de Port at the end for the start of the Camino. The ancient Pilgrimage I’d first heard about 2 years before and which had begun its relentless call 18 months before.
I’m going away to be alone. I’m coming back with answers.
Don’t try to call my telephone. It’s disconnected.
Words off one of the tracks on my mp3 day 2 of the camino. Never really payed attention before that so much hearty laughing ensued followed by this prayer of gratitude in the cold of the morning climbing a hill, pristine views …
For a body and spirit that can do this.
and this is how it all began. Over the course of the Camino .. that belief sometimes wavered. About the heart, mind and spirit…never. About the body. Absolutely. On two occasions I was given a way out and on a third had to make a decision. Keep going.. on pure faith that I could make it because it wasn’t looking good or stop with a valid reason to back up that choice. That is where I saw part of my character shine through and give me a wink and a smile and I so kept going.. faith in hand.
I thought I would go for long walk. Think big thoughts. Finish expanded and enlightened. I had no concept even with research of what I would be putting my body through. You can read about it .. experiencing it is something else. Clueless would be an appropriate description. The difference between knowing and understanding. Weather according to the locals not common or usual, I would spend much of my Camino wading through mud and water and on occasions snow and ice. Negotiating flooded paths and fields. Up and down more hills and mountains than I could count in all kinds of terrain. In wind and rain and snow and hail a couple of times just to round things out. But when the sun shone…. it was glorious! My body was kind of a distant thought in the planning and in life .. entirely too common I realised. Until I’m forcibly reminded. I did train but there’s a lot more to looking after your body than that. Mind and spirit, needs and wants…. check. My body is like “Yo Dude! Down here carrying those 2 around remember! Can I get some love and attention!” I have been taught this lesson many times but am obviously a slow learner.
The Trinity of the Camino is rumoured to be. The first part is for the body. 2nd part the mind and 3rdly the spirit and that it continues OR starts to teach its lessons after you finish. Did I think big thoughts? Sometimes, sure. I know I spent a lot more time thinking about my feet though. Expanding .. Enlightenment? Not like I expected but yes and I’m interested to see what comes. What did I find or learn.. grief I hadn’t processed or realised was there. Thankfulness for things ended, started, gone, arrived that I would never have expected to be thankful for. A releasing. Clarifiication or understanding. Rubbing up against my own intolerances or limitations and finding them uncomfortable. A quiet still peace. Some stuff for the future. Joy. Some realisations of what was important to me – that I really knew already but was reminded of.
But mostly I learnt more about myself. Ultimately I think the Camino is always a personal journey more than anything .. you just happen to do it in Spain while walking a really, really long way. You will be stretched much further than you ever considered. Its not all deep and meaningful days and thoughts and in fact most of it isn’t. Much of it is new ways, new food, new places, new people. Divinely beautiful scenery. Shrines. Pilgrims masses. Beautiful town after beautiful town. Moments of pure joy, of peace, of heart bursting happiness… just because … for no reason. All the beauty and life of nature. Many, many great people, conversations and experiences. Eating, sleeping and finding places and ways to do those things.
Lots of laughing, some crying, raging and resignation. Personal challenges. A deep love/hate affair with your feet .. you can take that as a universal fact for about 98% of the pilgrims. You will spend many many hours taking care of or preparing your feet. You’ll pay attention to weather forecasts like never before. It’s walking for hours and hours and hours, week after week.. even when you just want to stop and sit and rest. By the end you can usually spot the pilgrims amongst others … the signs … and tell if they’re walking in pain. Supporting others.. often strangers… and having them support you. Days of company and times of isolation, nobody but you and the road .. for hours or days. Instant connections with others, fast friendships, life stories. For those a spiritual nature there is often also a confirmation of sorts that there is more at work in this world than what we can feel and touch and show. The Camino provides. And you will meet some of the most incredible people. Some of whom you’ll keep in contact with even when you’re done.
Now I’m done. For me nearly 1,000 km. Walking, exploring, learning, meeting. There are new adventures/challenges to plan. That last day though in front of that church in Santiago .. my thoughts and prayer sent heavenward…
For a body and spirit that could do this.
Forever grateful. Ever x
PS: You can see the fun, photos and stories as I walked the Camino over on my Instagram. Some of the people I met, things I saw, towns I stopped at along the way. Which is where I posted sans laptop. Find me under Ever Belsant.