“Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys.” Richard R. Niebuhr
On our evening walk last night I asked my American Husband, “what should I write about tomorrow?” He pondered for a few moments as is his way, then answered thoughtfully.
“We are outside, walking in nature. There are no electronic gadgets or distractions. We can hear the birds and the creek and each other. And we can hear our own thoughts. Maybe you could write about that.” Yeah. Maybe I could.
Any of you who know me know that I abhor exercising just for the sake of exercising. I would never join a gym or buy a stair master, thigh master or any other kind of master and I would cross the street to avoid running into a personal trainer. Of course I understand the importance of exercise and being fit, but I refuse to suffer on purpose.
Instead I find ways to be active that I can also enjoy. I love to swim in a lake under the sun, or dance in the kitchen while I am cooking. And like Freddy Mercury, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I love to get out in the yard and push a mower around, cut limbs from trees, dig in the dirt and carry large bales of peet moss, all whilst singing a jaunty tune about being a Lumberjack and that’s okay.
But more than any of that, I love to walk. I am a walking fool. Walking connects me to the earth and to nature. I love the automatic way my feet follow each other, step by step, along a path to somewhere. I love the way walking quiets the monkey in my mind and how I often gain a meditative state as I simply put one foot in front of the other.
Perhaps that is why I have recently become obsessed with the idea of walking the Camino. The Camino de Santiago, aka the Way of St James is the pilgrimage along various routes through mostly France and Spain that ends up at Santiago de Compostela, where the apostle Saint James is said to be laid to rest.
While I am not Catholic (or of any religious denomination) I am inexplicably drawn to walk The Way. Maybe it is taking two things that I love, walking and spirituality, and combining them for 800 kilometers. Maybe it is because sometimes when I have been walking for a long time I feel like I never want to stop, a la Forrest Gump. Maybe it is the austerity of the lifestyle the Camino offers that cranks my wheel. It all seems pretty cool. Right?
So as in any decision, big or small, that comes my way, I have decided I need to write a list of:
Pros and Cons
Pro: 1 – 2 months away from society, internet, TV, news, gossip, people, life.
Con: 1 – 2 months away from society, internet, TV, news, gossip, people, life.
Pro: This would the adventure of a lifetime.
Con: Could I really see myself sleeping in a refugio amongst dozens of strangers, dealing with epic snoring wars, suspect plumbing, fleas, bedbugs and various other pests?
Pro: Walking that distance, through all conditions, over mountains, through mud, surely I would find myself along the Way. Wouldn’t I?
Con: Mountains. Mud. Rain. Scorching sun… etc. I would need a damn good hat.
Pro: I would be able to walk along the road that my one true beloved St. Francis of Assisi walked 800 years ago.
Con: Did you not hear me? THE St.Francis walked it!
Pro: It would be physically, mentally, and spiritually challenging. It would force me to grow.
Con: I would be harder than anything I have ever tried. Do I really want to challenge myself that much?
The list of good and bad points is bound to grow and shift as I continue to ponder. I do know this about myself: When I am led to something, whether it is to speak my truth, write the damn letter, or walk the Way, I typically need to just get it done so the well meaning but persistent voice of my highest and best Self will be silenced.
To be a pilgrim, to walk the Way of Saint James, to willingly subject myself to the difficulties and hardships of this austere journey, is this my idea of a dream vacation?
I think it just might be.
Now, to find a good pair of hiking boots….