Friday, July 15, 2016

Somehow We Get There

Camino Day 35

I am experiencing one of those (not too) rare moments of cognitive dissonance when outside reality tells me something must be true but inside it feels completely impossible; tomorrow morning I will walk the final 8+ miles to Santiago. I will leave Amenal, my final stopping point on this pilgrimage, around 815 so that I can arrive in plenty of time to make the daily Pilgrim’s Mass at 12 noon.
I confess, I feel a certain sense of nostalgia, already, a poignant sense of loss. These past few days I have gotten very verklempt at the idea of this journey coming to an end; it has made me once again reconnect to the trees, the flowers, the fields that grow next to my Way, the rocks underfoot.  
In some regard, this is very similar to the way I felt when my son, Sam, turned 18. I was suddenly panicked as I realized he had, as they used to say, reached the age of majority. I realized my definition as mom was going to change. I frantically thought back over the first 18 years of his life: had I hugged him enough? Had I told him I loved him enough? Had I shown him I loved him enough? Did I do the best I could to prepare him for this next step for both of us? Wait! I wanted to shout out to the Universe, This has gone much faster than it should! I still need time to read to him before bed, to carry him sleeping from the car after a long day.

Of course, the chance for that was gone. I had to content myself, to make peace with myself in accepting that it was what it was. 
And the same is true for this pilgrimage. I have had moments of panic as I realize it’s drawing to a close. Have I learned what I need to learn? Have I experienced what I need to experience. Again,I want to shout to the Universe, Wait! This has gone much faster than it should! I am not quite done experiencing all this.

And yet I must be, right? Because I have less than 15km to go. I was thinking yesterday about this long journey, this short experience and the lessons learned. I wryly remembered the ridiculous old joke: why did the chicken cross the road?
I thought, that’s what this can be classified as: why did the peregrina cross Northern Spain? To get to the other side.
And I knew in my bones it was as simple, and as complicated, as that.

To get to the other side not just geographically, but metaphysically as well. The terrain I’ve crossed, the blisters (three) I’ve gotten, the pain I’ve experienced and the strength I’ve gained, have not been experienced merely in the physical realm.  I have crossed a span of not just miles but milestones.

A few days ago I posted some pics that seemed to show dueling Camino yellow arrows. Some signs (official, concrete signs) seemed to point left and some seemed to point right. What was a peregrin@ to do? 
Luckily, a new friend I had met on the Camino, Masha, from Russia, had told me about this cool app called It is an amazingly accurate GPS app that doesn’t’ require cellular or wifi connections to work. I just have to type in the name of the hotel and specific walking and it not only shows me the route, but also gives an ETA. Hah! That is based on an 18 minute mile which I haven’t attained, even on a good day. My average is about 2.95 miles an hour—which does include photo stops. Still, it is useful when I come upon these mixed messages. 
After I saw the first one of these, the day before yesterday, I was musing on how this was Camino 2.0. Now that I had learned to follow the signs, I was being asked to interpret them. Would I go left or right? Would I trust the pilgrims I could see ahead of me on one path or take the other? 
Ultimately, honestly, I would look at and scale it so I could see the road to come not just right where I was, and follow that. I thought of the wisdom of spiritual leader Abaham. Hicks, who has said, any path is good.You cannot get it wrong, Abraham says, so just choose!
And that was a great metaphor for a few hours. Then I ran into a woman I had walked with several days earlier. Miriam, a Flemish woman from Belgium, and I had had a great conversation last Friday but then we parted ways and I hadn’t seen her since.
Suddenly, on Wednesday, there she was!! It was so great to see her. She told me she had gotten an infection in a toe nail and had had to take buses the past four days. She was traveling with a group and so couldn’t just stay on her own to heal. She was as excited to see me as I was to see. She said, “It gives me energy seeing you again!”
We walked along again. She was with a group of 13 Flemish peregrin@s who had begun in Astorga. At one point, she pointed to a man about my age—we had been crossing paths for several days—and said, “he is our group leader!.”
So then the three of us fell in together and the leader (whose name I didn’t get!) told me that the confusing signs were due to the fact that the Camino de Santiago had been given historical, cultural standing (much like my church, All Souls, in Colorado Springs, Co, has been given recognition as a State Historical Society) but in order to keep that recognition the province of Galicia had to restore the Camino to its original route. Evidently, over the past 1000+ years, there have been changes made; shortcuts, perhaps, or accommodations to modern life and the Way has subtly shifted. The tour leader said that they finished re-vamping the route just last year.
He also said that this added 8km to the Galician part of the Camino!! I knew it!!!! But, at any rate, it is true to its core now.
I thought, then, about how easy it is, through the years, to get slightly off center, to let the beliefs of others, or the things we tell ourselves, lead us, slowly, almost imperceptibly, away from the core of who we are. And how good it is to stop, every now and again, to get our bearings, to find our true north, to see where we need to make course corrections, to get back to the road that leads to our center, to our core.
This Camino has certainly been a way for me to do that. And to recognize, as well, that all roads will eventually get us there. Some may be longer, some may be more scenic.
Today, I came across a Spanish family at just such a crossroads. Here was an “official” sign pointing left and here was an equally official sign pointing right. There was much consternation in this family, as they tried to determine the right way. I showed them my page which said to go right. They were not convinced. I wished them Buen Camino and went to the right (one of the few times I will admit that!!!) Not far up the road, I saw where both options now converged. Both worked, it’s just that one was more true to the core. 

But somehow we get there, as Melissa Ferrick reminds us. We just have to get going, to keep forgiving ourselves for our missteps, to keep relying on grace—Grace given freely to us from ourselves, from others, from those who love us, and those who will never know us but wish us Buen Camino, Good Journey, blessings, blessings, love love, love, more love, Mas amor, por favor. And somehow, we get there, no matter how far—500 miles or 50 or the distance between a thought and a healing. 

And tomorrow: Santiago. And the next day? Well, we’ll see.   

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