For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pilgrims On This Earth

All of us are pilgrims on this earth. I have even heard it said that the earth itself is a pilgrim in the heavens. MAXIM GORKY


My Camino is done. On the way I befriended strangers, and strangers befriended me. Each night I slept in a different place, sometimes with other pilgrims in the same room. Families welcomed me into their homes and entrusted me with their children. Motorists wound down their car windows and wished me 'Bonne route!' and 'Bon courage!' Market stallholders gave me food for free, and villagers filled up my water bottles. Each day I became fitter and fitter, until mountains became mere hills, and 30 km seemed like a short but very beautiful walk in the park.

I passed churches and chapels, crosses and calvaries, shrines and sepulchres - the sacred places. I followed shell signs and stone markers. I had a mini-spiritual crisis at a hunting lodge in the middle of an ancient forest and wrote this poem about it. I did not pray much - I find it difficult to do so - but I had many prayerful silences and secular meditations. I remembered, and honoured in thought, my sister and my parents.

I met with the kindness of strangers and, hopefully, gave back some small thing in return, perhaps some reflected Camino glow, some bohemian rhapsody. I witnessed natural wonders which made my spirit soar and my heart sing. I encountered great beauty, and some of that beauty rubbed off on me, and touched my soul.

So, my Camino is done. And a new Camino begins. It is always thus. One door closes, another door opens. Or, as Eliot put it in Four Quartets, The end is where we start from. Already I feel a change happening in my life. On the practical, workaday level there's the glimmer of a possibility of a whole new career. And, on the more important spiritual level, I hope I've learnt a little about about giving, about friendship, about beauty, about love; and I keep faith that at least some of this fragile sense of love and beauty may leak out into everything I do in the usual and everyday world, the world outside the special 'bubble' that is the Camino.   


The thirst that from the soul doth rise / Doth ask a drink divine... BEN JONSON Song To Celia

11 comments:

Rachel Fox said...

30km... sounds like bliss.
It all sounds like bliss in fact.
x

ksam said...

Well, the leakage does continue already...to all of us lucky enough to have found our way here! We've been watered a little and I know I'm glad of it! Thanks!

George said...

I can only hope that my Camino will be as enriching as yours, Robert. I know that I speak for many of your friends when I say that I am inspired by your journeys, those of the heart no less than those of the feet.

pilgrimpace said...

Robert, thanks - very helpful reflection on what it means to finish walking a Camino and to return to everyday

Andy

Ruth said...

I think that if I had not first read Maxim Gorky’s statement that the earth itself is a pilgrim in the heavens, and also prepared myself that your camino was coming to an end, your first sentence would feel sadder than it does. But how could I not rejoice in your memories, the camaraderie you found with fellow pilgrims and even passers-by? When your prayers are silent ones, I wonder if they fly more lightly to God? And maybe it is those silent, free-flying prayers that return to you in your everyday life, after the bubble of the camino, and carry your feet a bit lighter on this pilgrim earth. We are flying so fast, and we don’t even feel it!

I’ve loved each step.

Goat said...

You sang some Queen to those poor people?! Hardly seems fair. ;)

Hope the glow lasts a long while and that the new career works out. And the new Camino...

The Solitary Walker said...

Rachel - yes, bliss - Karin - you are so kind - George - if my blog is inspirational, in any way, I feel deeply happy - Andy - thanks - Ruth - I've read your comment several times, it's so perfectly lovely - and Goat - ha! But I heard worse stuff sang back to me..! Thanks for your best wishes

Grace said...

How many km did you walk?

I'm curious to see what's in store for your next adventure.

I was reading about The Cathar Way (Sentier Cathare)and wondered if you have walked it?

The Solitary Walker said...

360 km, Grace.

Re. the Cathar Way, wasn't familiar with this so I've just checked it out. It looks fantastic!

No idea where I'll be going next - but it won't be for a while.

Loren said...

I appreciate these pictures and comments even more after seeing the movie The Way.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Loren. Must see that movie.