I’ve walked 600 KM across France and Spain and have only 200 KM left to Santiago. One thing is certain, everything I experience on the path is a metaphor for life. I jokingly told my friend, “No metaphors before breakfast.” As Santiago approaches, every step I take gets closer and further away from The Camino. I don’t pretend to know what the Camino means or what it will mean for me in the future but one of its great gifts is that I realize people in life come and go, the only constant is my relationship with The Lord.
Peligrinos, mostly men, are concerned with me walking alone. In one pueblo an elderly woman asks me to rush to join the group of pilgrims further up the road so “no estas sola” (so I am not alone). I give her a sonrisa (smile) and point to “el cielo” (the heavens) and tell her “Yo nunca estoy sola” (I am never alone). Her calm smile, beautiful sparkling eyes and greeting, “Buen Camino” is one of many beautiful moments of my pilgrimage because the fear left her eyes when I spoke with her. The Camino isn’t about rushing or safety. “Buen Camino” is a common greeting on The Way given by fellow peligrinos to each other and by the Spanish people who are our gracious hosts. A “Buen Camino.” A good walk. I believe I’ll continue to silently wish this to the people who cross my path after the Camino. A silent prayer.
An English lady I met in Burgos told me that there are three Caminos. The physical from St. Jean to Burgos, the mental from Burgos to Leon and The Camino I’m currently walking––the spiritual, between Leon and Santiago. For me the spiritual camino began before I arrived in St. Jean. I wanted to walk The Way to get closer to The Lord and His will for my life. I’ve enjoyed and have been thrilled by his playful, fun-loving, exciting and adventurous companionship.
That same night the English lady told me about the three Caminos, I decided to sleep in a teepee. I’ve always wanted to sleep in a teepee. There was a storm coming, but I didn’t care. I had the whole teepee to myself. I’ve never had a better nights sleep. Inside the dark teepee on the chilly night, I lit a candle and prayed. I stared at the millions of stars above me and thanked God for the moment. Later that night the rain came and I was warm and dry in my teepee. I could have said no to sleeping there but as a few people would point out that night, “How many times do you get to sleep in a teepee?” Um, never. It was one of The Lord’s magical, fun-loving moments on The Way. My Camino name changed from The Pretty Pilgrim to Pocohontas when the roosters awakened me the next morning.
I walked with a Hungarian man who shared his remedies for blisters. It turns out he walked with a “crazy” woman who walked fast but was also very beautiful. So he kept walking with her and developed ten blisters. Blister prevention and treatment is a common conversation among fellow pilgrims. At this point we are all walking in some sort of pain. The metaphor for life is powerful. We all walk in pain. Our ultimate happiness is determined by how we deal with our own pain and how much compassion and grace we have for those in pain and on the walk with us.
Of course, not all pain is physical. I met a man from Costa Rica whose wife of sixteen years died suddenly and tragically three years ago. He is angry with God. And then there is the first missing poster I saw in a tienda yesterday in Foncebadon for Denise, an Arizona woman who went missing on The Camino on the same stretch of road I walked a few days ago from Astorga through Gonso. That she is still missing after five months is on my mind as I pass the beautiful views she would never see. I pray that The Lord will bless her family with a miracle that will solve the mystery of Denise’s disappearance and reunite them soon.
The metaphors abound. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. Even when we are desperate for them. Beauty can sometimes blind us. What agony the loss of love can cause. Through it all, I must let God be God in the ambiguity. The beautiful ambiguity of the unknown. I will get closer to the beauty of the unknown and His grace on the walk. The Way. Ever forward.