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

Friday, 19 February 2010

Carlos And Anita

I caught up with them on the way to the next refugio. Let's call them Carlos and Anita. We all paused for a rest by some rocks on the bleak, saturated grassland above the pueblo. Carlos rolled a cigarette. Anita looked tired. She was limping - the result of some knock with a car just north of Seville. She had a persistent cough. Their packs were much too heavy, for they carried a tent, and had sometimes slept in it.

We met up again later in the refugio. We talked in broken Spanish and broken English. They were Spanish pilgrims from Alicante. They'd begun the Camino in Seville on 1st January and were walking slowly, poco a poco, from one albergue to the next. They were two of a growing band of the working-class Spanish unemployed. Why sit around waiting for a job that doesn't exist? So they'd set off on the Camino.

The refugio was small and spartan, with no kitchen. It was cold. Very cold. There were several bunk beds with mattresses, but precious few blankets. There was a shower with hot water, and a radiator, but it gave out little heat.

We shared what meagre food we had. They insisted I took some of the huge bocadillo they'd prepared from tinned fish, lettuce and mayonnaise - the cheapest ingredients. Carlos had flattened and warmed the bread on the radiator. It was delicious. We were ravenously hungry.

They had little money, and stayed only in the free or donation-only albergues, always buying their own food, never able to afford to eat out. Sometimes they ate no hot food for days. They were poor, but they were happy. They loved the whole of the Camino, all its landscapes and all its aspects, despite the hardships - the cold, the damp, the heavy backpacks.

Later they snuggled up together in their clothes under a blanket on a single mattress, and talked and giggled quietly, until their voices became softer and softer, and we all fell asleep in the icy darkness.

They were proud, spontaneous, child-like, happy. For me, that night, they were the very heart and soul of the Camino. I was only playing at the vagabond life. They were living it for real.

They were some of the sweetest, kindest, most generous people I have ever met.

(Posted from Puebla de Sanabria, on the Camino Sanabrés, Spain.)


verena said...

the heart and soul of the Camino


Steve said...

Very nice post. I've been reading your blog for a long time now. Keep going with the journey!

I nearly got organised to do a bit of the camino a couple of years ago when I had no job, but then something came up and it was put on hold. Still think about it. Cheers for the inspiration and the poetry pointers.

Alan Sloman said...

An uplifting post!
I am thoroughly enjoying your camino. Stay well!

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

You just never know, do you? We get so caught up in our own lives and troubles, that we think the entire universe spins round with us as its center point. But one of the most wonderful realizations in life—though a lesson we often seem to have to relearn—is that happiness doesn't require stuff, or success, or even future…all it requires is a choice, the willingness to savor the moment, to delight in the most basic pleasure or simplest gifts. The willingness to be open and share and kind. I allow your spirit the freedom to soar.

Tramp said...

Yes, our lives can be enriched by encounters with such people.

The Solitary Walker said...

Seem to be relearning lots of stuff, Grizzled. I've realised you don't just learn one lesson then on to the next - in some kind of gradual ascent towards enlightenment and wisdom. It ain't like that at all. You forget things, and are constantly taken aback by your own folly and ignorance.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. And welcome, Steve!

Tim Shey said...

"Spontaneous, child-like, happy." I couldn't have said it any better myself.

When people live on the edge, when they live on the fringes of society, they see more and hear more and experience more of God's Spirit and Creation.

Life isn't necessarily a series of destinations that we reach, but it is the road not travelled by the madding crowd.

I think, therefore I am? I walk therefore I am; I breath, therefore I am; I obey the Lord, therefore I am.

Every step we make, every breath we take can be eternal. The Kingdom of Heaven is near you. "Be still and know that I am God."

"O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust."

--T.S. Eliot, "Choruses from 'The Rock'