Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Camino Day 11

I have survived the two long days followed by two shorter days. My feet seem to be resigning themselves to the long walk; they still hurt mightily at day’s end, but not quite so much as before. 

I guess that’s a consolation.

For the two long days, I taped both feet with kinesio tape I already knew how to search for that instructional video on YouTube, being a fan of the tape since my half marathon days last summer when the long distance running led to intense pain in my right knee. I brought the tape along thinking I might need it for my knee again, with so many steep hills to climb up and down, but my knees have been fine. So, I looked up “Ball of feet pain” and found the official YouTube video on how to apply. The guy ( a PT, I think) who leads the demonstration always gives suggestions for what could be causing this particular pain. On my video he mentioned running long distances on hard surface and overuse.

No shit.

Anyway, I taped up my feet and held to a regimen of ibuprofen and off I went! It was difficult to know the way out of Logronos. It is a fairly large city for the Camino (155,000) and I was in the middle of the town, away from the traditional signs for the Camino. These can be anything from an official sign with a yellow scallop shell, an official yellow arrow sign, blue signs that say Camino de Santiago—some giving how many more km it is to get there. Pamplona and other larger cities even had metal scallop shells embedded in their sidewalks. In many places, however, the only signs were yellow arrows spray painted onto sidewalks, street signs, utility poles, trees, rocks, or anything else that could be spray painted at an intersection.
And Logronos had those, too, along with embedded metal shells but neither type of sign could be found very frequently. In fact, my guidebook warned that the way marks might be disturbed and not as frequent due to road improvements. 
As I stood on one corner looking uncertainly around, a citizen said, “Camino—and motioned to turn right. Almost as soon as he’d said that, I noticed a yellow arrow across the street on the sidewalk. I followed along but soon came to another busy intersection with no apparent way mark. I was turning around in circles, when three other peregrin@s approached. I told them I lost the signs and one of them pointed to another yellow arrow, about half a block away. So I began following them, not too close so I wouldn’t appear stalkerish but not too far behind, either, since they clearly had better eyes in the city than I did.
I was also looking around, admiring the mixture of modern and Middle Ages architecture, and then would also look down for the signs. As I crossed one intersection, I noticed a stylized yellow arrow embedded into the sidewalk, pointing left. I followed along but after only going about a half of a block, realized that the three pilgrims I had been following were no longer in front of me. Looking back, I could see them just disappearing around the corner in the opposite direction.
I was torn. Did they miss the sign? Should I try to reach them? They were walking much faster than I was and were already more than a block away at that point. Finally, I turned back around and continued on my way. But the question remained with me? Should I have tried to let them know? I felt particularly indebted since they had helped me earlier. But maybe they weren’t lost at all; maybe they were heading to an ATM machine or to grab a bite to eat before leaving the city. 
At any rate, the opportunity had passed. I consoled myself with the knowledge that if they were lost, it wouldn’t be for long and they could ask virtually any person on the street for directions back to the Camino.
Still, I’ve been thinking about the signs as I’ve travelled these past few days. It’s a marvel, really, that these way marks will lead me almost 500 miles to Compostela de Santiago. And I’ve become adept at looking up and around when I approach an intersection---whether in a busy city or a deserted trail in the countryside—to look for the sign pointing the way that I should go. Sometimes, they aren’t visible right away and I’ve learned to pause and to search carefully, not choosing a path until I’m sure it’s the right one.
And then there’s that whole level of trust, isn’t there? I mean—yellow arrows spray painted on a variety of surfaces; someone could really mislead us—all it takes is a can of paint and the desire to point pilgrims away from the path.
As I was first seeking, then following these signs, I reflected on how often in my life, I haven’t  want to stop and look. I wanted to plunge ahead! I wanted  to go left or right—any direction! Just so long as I kept moving! In her book, “When Things Fall Apart,” Pema Chodron talks about this all too human inclination. She says that sometimes what is needed is to be still, to sit on the edge of a razor and wait before making a choice. It’s hard; we feel unsettled, or out of control, if we think we’re lost or if we aren’t moving in some direction, but the reality is that sometimes we miss the signs, blundering past them in our desire to be someplace else.

And pausing invites us to trust that there is a way for us, maybe not mapped out as completely as the Camino—where I know where I will end up if I follow the signs—but that a way exists for us, a path, a Camino is being mapped out foot step by footstep, sometimes with only the next step seen, not knowing what lies around the bend or beyond the steep incline, but knowing there is something there.
Of course, I don’t want to be paralyzed into inaction because I’m not sure of the way, and I don’t think we need to wait for a sign before we take any steps; it’s more about living mindfully, intentionally, paying attention to the road upon which we find ourselves. It’s about letting go of the need to control, living open-heartedly, trusting that life has good things in store for us, rather than cynically, or fearfully, worrying about what might be lurking behind the next big rock.
Sometimes, sadly, things do lurk there—or jump out from behind a tree. Big, scary things like a diagnosis, or a divorce, or death, or any number of smaller things. We are living a life, after all, the unabridged version. But I’ve learned, am learning, will always be learning that life offers sweetness and joy abundantly.  It’s just we’re so often on the lookout for danger signs that we walk right past the signs to happiness in that moment. I want to walk daily on the Camino de Joy, where I see the signs I look for and trust that they’re for me and thank the Source, Universe, for putting them millennia ago, so that I can find them now.

1 comment:

Brenda Thornton said...

Yes. Life in the here and now.