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

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

My Camino

It's now more than 3 months since I returned from Santiago, Spain, at the end of my Camino. But in many ways I feel I'm just at the beginning of my journey. Its significance hasn't revealed itself in a blinding flash. Its true meaning will perhaps only come to me slowly over the next months or even years. All I know is that I think about the pilgrimage I made every night before I go to sleep, I dream about it, and it's never far from my thoughts during the day.

Many have written about the Camino - it's spiritual connotations, its promise of companionship, the intimate conversations with fellow pilgrims, the gaining of an intense self-awareness. The Internet is full of such stuff. There are books by Paulo Coelho and Shirley MacLaine, and other writers famous and not so famous. Fables, stories, histories abound, some of them bordering on the mystical, the transcendental and the just plain crazy. How to find a still centre, a personal meaning which makes sense to you amidst all this madness?

When I started the walk I just lived from day to day. I wasn't even sure I would finish it until I was half-way across northern Spain. Sometimes I was lonely, sometimes I was in company (certainly most evenings), often I was alone but not lonely. I adjusted quickly into a simple routine of sleeping in a strange bed, getting up, walking 25 - 30 km through often beautiful and remote landscapes, having a picnic lunch in the early or mid- afternoon, finding a simple hostel or refuge to stay in overnight, eating a cheap, hot evening meal either prepared by myself or the warden of the hostel, wriggling into my sleeping bag at an early hour. Doing this all over for 60 days. For me there was a perfect, mindless balance of freedom and discipline in this lifestyle I found immensely appealing. But I'm still struggling with such questions as: Was this a selfish thing to do? Was I just trying to escape the 'real world'? Was the whole experience nothing more than a glorified, extended holiday which I had the good fortune to enjoy because I had some free time? My heart keeps insisting on the answer 'no' to these questions.

What I've found is this. I scratched a spiritual, wanderlust itch. But now the itch is even more insistent. The thirst I had, far from being assuaged, is even greater. This is why pilgrims return again and again to the Camino, or variations of it - twice, three times. a dozen times. To top up their spiritual reservoir. To scratch again at that everlasting itch. An itch that will not go away.

The photo shows a polychrome wooden sculpture in the abbey church at Moissac.


am said...

After reading your post, I found this:

¿Cuántos CAMINOS debe un hombre camina hacia abajo,
Antes de llamar él un hombre?
Sí, y cuántos mares debe una sabia paloma vela
Antes de que ella duerme en la arena?
Sí, y cuántas veces deben volar un canon bolas
Antes de que están prohibidas para siempre?
La respuesta, mi amigo, está soplando en el viento
La respuesta está soplando en el viento.

¿Cuántos años puede existir una montaña,
Antes de que se lava al mar?
Sí, y cómo mnay años pueden algunas personas existir,
Antes de que están autorizados a ser libres?
Sí, y ¿cuántas veces puede un hombre girar su cabeza,
Y pretender que sólo él no ve?
La respuesta, mi amigo, está soplando en el viento.
La respuesta está soplando en el viento.
La respuesta está soplando en el viento.
La respuesta está soplando ...
En el viento.

¿Cuántas veces debe un hombre mirar hacia arriba
Antes de que pueda ver el cielo?
¿Y cuántos oídos debe tener un hombre,
Antes de que pueda oír a la gente llorar?
Sí y cuántas muertes se tarda hasta él sabe
Que demasiadas personas han muerto?
La respuesta, mi amigo, está soplando en el viento.
La respuesta está soplando en el viento.


Still appreciate when you post photos from your journey on the Camino. This one especially.

The Solitary Walker said...

Lovely in Spanish, am! Even I don't need a Spanish dictionary for this! Yes, yes and yes. This song, which I've heard a million times now, I've just re-read and re-considered in the 'Bob Dylan Lyrics' book. And discovered yet another whole new meaning. Thank you so much for this.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem a particularly self-indulgent thing to do. Everyone needs their way of finding spiritual sustenance and if you are then bringing that back into your everyday existence all the better. I'd love to be able to go on some kind of pilgrimage but I suppose all of life can be a pilgrimage if we make it so.

The Solitary Walker said...

Certainly all of life can be considered a pilgrimage. Re the 'guilt' and self questioning, it's a hang-over from my religious-authoritarian upbringing and childhood which, even now, I find hard to eliminate completely!

Anonymous said...


I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He's the first best-selling
author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!


Two yards of lard said...

How I would love to scratch that itch! One day. I posted a quote about Wanderlust that I thought you might appreciate. (It's on my wordpress site: http://beatingthebounds.wordpress.com/ can't seem to leave a comment other than using my google/blogger identity though)