A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Poles Together

A word about my walking poles. The one in my right hand is Iago - named after St James, the patron saint of Spain, the saint of Santiago de Compostela, where all the Caminos lead. The one in my left is Thérèse - named after St Thérèse of Lisieux and St Teresa of Avila. (The name also gives a nod to Mother Theresa and recalls, too, Fernando and Tere, the sweet brother and sister couple I met in Pamplona on my first Camino, and continued to bump into all the way to Belorado.)

Iago I bought for my first Camino. I hadn´t ever had trekking poles before. It took a day or two to get used to him, to accustom myself to this strange extra limb. But he soon felt like an old friend. In Conques a kind girl in the tourist office gave me Thérèse - she´d been left behind by an American pilgrim - and I quickly found out that two poles were much better than one. Thérèse lost her pointed tip some time ago, but she still performs well.

Iago and Thérèse, my right hand and my left hand. I really couldn´t manage without them. They help me up and down steep mountain slopes, they stabilize me on rock and in mud, they protect my knees from strain and injury. They give me confidence to ford rivers and streams. They warn off any dogs which turn out to be aggressive rather than simply curious. They embody the polar principles of the very Camino itself, both its yin and its yang, its sun and its moon, its positive and its negative. They are poles working together, always in rhythmic harmony, never apart. They are both the Spanish and the French halves of the Camino´s soul. They connect me with the earth below, yet also point up to the sky above. They keep me grounded, yet also promise the radiance of the stars.
(Posted from Cáceres, on the Vía de la Plata, Spain.)


Timecheck said...

I don't know why I haven't thought of my hiking sticks in that manner. I do other things. The vanilla plant started by my ex wife some 40 years ago is Vanilla. My car is a she. For a while I carved stories on hiking sticks I had found in the forest. I still have them in the garage, but they are genderless. My current ones are carbon fiber, very light, but definitely no anthropomorphic connotations.

am said...

"They are both the Spanish and the French halves of the Camino´s soul."

Calves are baby cows. Are halves baby hows as in "how many Caminos must a man walk down?"

(Stop me!! I was inspired by your playing with words, "Poles Together.")

Looking at my map, I can see that you are approaching the impressive-looking Tagus River. Am enjoying your writing and am looking forward to seeing your photos. I am remembering that you said that this journey is dedicated to your father and am finding this journey quite moving.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I keep seeing hikers and walkers with a pair of those ski-pole type staffs…but don't think I could ever come to like the arrangement.

I always use a walking stick, mind you. My favorite ones are light, very strong (hickory, osage orange, etc.) and most I've capped with a copper tip. But I wouldn't want anything metal or composite in my hands, or to have a metal shaft to bang around—in addition to the "unnaturnalness" of it's look and feel. Plus I'm constantly doing something with at least one hand (holding binoculars, camera, water bottle, bandana, whatever) so with two poles, I'd have to either stop or have a way to secure it quickly while on the move.

And, yeah, I'm probably just old and set in my ways…

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

Not sure I´m crossing the Tagus, am - isn´t that further east towards Toledo? However I just crossed the Roman Bridge over the river Tormes yesterday on entering Salamanca.

Most rivers and streams I´ve been able to ford OK - though sometimes getting wet feet. However two were just too deep, even the stepping stones submerged, so I had to take long detours by road.