I can’t believe I’ve been back for a
nearly three weeks. We had visitors for a week, then fiesta here in town (I know, when isn’t there a fiesta in town…), and then who knows what happened. Life. Laundry. Words With Friends. I dunno.
Plus, this is probably the fifth time I’ve started to write this post. I keep trying to summarize the Camino somehow, and every time realizing over and over how difficult that is to do. I’ve been asked about my favorite moment, or worst/best/funniest memory, and mostly I just answer that I can’t even nail down one! The thing about a favorite moment or specific memory is that it has a million little parts to it – the colors, the sounds, the smells, the people, what happened leading up to it, what happened afterwards, how you thought about it or reflected on it the next day – and therefore they are incredibly difficult to explain. They come out of my mouth sounding so much less than they are in my head.
So let’s see. In general. What did I love? Pretty much everything. I’d say my top three things were:
- The silence. I know, it sounds totally odd because I can be quite a yapper, and I was actually worried before we left that I was going to go crazy because C isn’t the yapper that I am and I thought “dear God I am going to lose my mind…or I am just going to have to find someone to talk to the whole time.” But after a few days, I just got used to it. And better, I really, really liked it. You hear the wind and the trees and birds and frogs (good heavens they were so loud), and the sort of hypnotic rhythm of your steps and your poles. By the end if there was a group of people talking a lot (the Spaniards for example, literally do not stop talking the whole time), we’d actually stop and let them get ahead of us so we didn’t have to listen to them! Don’t get me wrong, we would chat with each other or chat for a bit with other folks of course, but I realized that I liked listening to the Camino much more than I needed to hear my own voice. I loved the time to think (and was generally entertained by the stuff that popped into my head, my internal iPod, that I could spend 3 hours writing words to “The 40 Days of the Camino”), and was nearly always amazed at how fast the day went.
- The actual walking. I loved the exercise and the physical challenge of going up or down or flat (which is just as hard), and feeling your whole body just be TIRED. And after a few days, it’s sort of entertaining to feel the aches and pains move around from one hour to the next. One minute its the bottom of your left foot, and then it either stops (or you get distracted) and then later you realize that doesn’t hurt anymore but your shoulder is sort of sore. And things that hurt so badly you thought maybe you couldn’t walk anymore would suddenly just disappear by the time you woke up the next day.
- The people. Every kind you could imagine. Old, young, from every country, every language, fast, slow. And full of interesting stories and different perspectives and some of the most positive, optimistic, upbeat people I have ever met. Everyone talks to everyone, and you cross paths with some of the same people the whole time – one day you see them, then you don’t see them for a week, and these are all people that you immediately consider friends. Right away you have this experience you are all sharing, this great big commonality, and it doesn’t matter where you came from or what job you have or what kind of car you drive…it just doesn’t matter, no one cares. I can barely remember a conversation about someone’s job (other than the basis for discussing how much time someone had off). One guy said that the Camino wipes out your identity. What matters is the kind of person you are, your sense of humor, your ability to laugh at yourself, your openness to learning about others, your willingness to share, your honesty. What a lovely principle, right? And I didn’t meet one person I didn’t like.
And what did I learn?
- I can carry a 20 pound pack on my back for 40 days, and I can live for that long on what’s in there.
- You can judge and make assumptions about everybody, but why bother when the reality is that you don’t know a thing about someone until you talk to them. I knew this already, but I was reminded of it every single day.
- The body’s ability to adjust is pretty amazing. Scratch that. Incredibly amazing.
- 87 is not too old to walk 500 miles.
- Makeup and a hairdryer are really not necessary in life. In fact, they are both just time suckers.
- No matter how vigorously you hand wash clothes, it can’t wash out Eau de Camino.
- All mud is not created equal.
- I can pee anywhere. And I mean anywhere.
- I’m not particularly fond of someone trying to take a picture of me when I am struggling to make it up or down a very large hill.
- When you can’t find a common language with which to communicate, pointing and laughing work just as well.
- There are, oh, like 6 million churches in Spain just along the Camino, and not all of them are worth walking an extra 5 kilometers in the rain.
- The Camino is not PMS-proof.
- There are places in this world where you can leave all your belongings outside a bar, go in for a half hour, and come out and still find them all there.
- The best way to cure a blister on your foot is to thread a string through it. Gross, yes.
- There are actually people who snore JUST LIKE cartoon characters, and they aren’t all men.
And now I’m just trying to figure out when we can do it again.