Even as I walked through mountains, villages, fields, suburbs, and giant cities I was on the path in the singular serenity of being and being seen as a pilgrim in contemplative mind while walking through life around me. I determined to feel the path as a whole.
“Buen Camino!” came the cheerful call of the first pilgrim I saw on the path on my second day walking the Camino across Spain.
“Buen Camino” echoed my response. This call and response was repeated hundreds of times each day on meeting each person on the path, like a chant of welcome to being human on this earth.
With those I spoke with for a bit longer, during a rest stop while eyeing blistered feet, taking in the view, or passing a night in the bunk above them there was the inevitable farewell “Adios”. This lovely word that can seem so simple or even mundane took on deeper dimensions in the liminal world of the pilgrim as I realized that each person who materialized on my path and then disappeared from my life had come from dios (“god”) and was being set back to dios, arising and disappearing out of my reality back into the unknown.
On that second day, now slathered in mud to my knees, following that first day of snow I stopped for a moment in cool morning sunlight in a wood of trees with the fresh new leaves of spring. Pulling out sun cream to put on my nose I realized I had stopped near several German women companionably helping each other secure items tied to their packs. Just then some women of Jewish and Italian decent stopped to drink water nearby. There we stood, we whose ancestors have slaughtered , burned and tortured each other from the destruction of the great world trees by the Romans conquering the tribes of Germany to the horrors of the concentration camps of World War II. We all smiled saying “Buen Camino” to each other. No simple words, but a deep welcome to being here on a path of healing and re-envisioning our world. It took my breath away.
Onward in the mud, rain and gorgeous mountains, knowing that if I stopped I would get too wet and cold. I needed my body heat. When I came to a little town I hoped to stay in I sloshed up to the stark public hostel. I discovered that I was to be on top bunk in a room of some 50 people, sleeping shoulder to shoulder with an unknown Japanese man in the narrow upper bunk next to me. At least the bathrooms were divided by sex, but I did not dare wash my wet pants knowing I only had one other pair to wear. My solution – go eat in a really warm local restaurant and let the mud dry on my legs. That worked despite the mixture of odd and kindly looks from other folks in the restaurant, but returning back to the hostel I realized that I really better take a shower and wash the pants. Heck, I figured, they would never dry on such a cold wet night and I would have to walk on the next day getting the second pair wet while the first pair did not dry in the incessant rain. Oh well, to sleep packed in with strangers with barely an inch to move in. By the middle of the night, when I woke to crawl over bunks and bodies to make a bolt to the outdoor toilets, I knew that I loved and needed the body, the collective body, of my fellow pilgrims. They had made the room warm enough to sleep, most of us in sleeping bags as thin as sheets, on a freezing night and they, we, had collectively dried 50 pair of pants and soaking wet shoes with our body heat alone! Gratitude!
Onward, Ultrea! To walk the land.