Friday, September 18, 2009

Camino rhythms......

I´ve always been a slow learner. That seems to hold true even on Camino. After 19 days of walking and some 235 miles later, I think I finally "get" it.

Caroline got it sooner than I did: "You sleep, you walk, you eat, you walk some more. That´s all you really have time to do, isn´t it?" She´s from a small town outside of Cambridge, England, so she inflected the question as if the answer were obvious -- at least obvious to all but the slow. In my case, the very slow.

We left Caroline and her husband before Burgos, the end of their Camino. They hadn´t intended to do the whole route, just the piece of it that left them in Burgos to meet their son. He´d departed on bicycle from St. Jean Pied de Port some days after they´d launched their walk. They were due to rendezvous in Burgos. We kept finding Caroline and her husband Richard in all the churches we´d visited, and we´d struck up a friendship. We´d comment on the latest crucifix or iteration of the Virgin, who really is the Saint that guides the pilgrims´steps along the way. We´d part in the church of the day, saying: "See you at the next Nuestra Senora."

And it was true: we´d get to the next town, walk into the church -- there they were. We´d been walking with them for a few days, trading stories and good fiction, making the hot afternoons cooler with conversation.

But Caroline was right: sleeping, walking, eating, more walking. That´s all you really have time for.

For days I compulsively kept a journal, noting each day's route, the distance we walked, the towns we passed through, the people we´d met. It´s a fabulous record. And the last entry is Day 11. A week ago.

It´s not that we haven´t covered any distance since then. It´s not that we haven´t passed through towns, one more lyrical than the last. It´s not that we haven´t met anyone. It´s just that I haven´t recorded it all.

I´ve been living it and enjoying it instead.

Dorothy watched me in Ages on Day 11, the last day of my journal entries. I was writing away. When I caught her watching, we fell into easy conversation. An hour later, as she turned to her French novel, she said very drily: "My goodness, I hadn´t meant to interrupt your research."

She knew Lisa and I had a grant. She knew we had a blog. She´d probably guessed how hyper-vigilant I was about all that. And she was nudging me gently: don´t see the Camino through the grant. Don´t see it through the blog. Don´t even see it through your writing. Just look. See it as it is, unfiltered and raw.

Or as Caroline put it: sleep, walk, eat, walk some more. Make that all you really have time for.

They´re so right, of course. Retreat directors talk about how people checking in for an eight-day retreat need at least three days to sleep, shed the skin of their other lives, and be ready for prayer. It took me longer -- and my feet got sorer. But at least it happened.

I´m ready for Camino. Finally.

It´s all I really have time for.

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