(To read the pre-Camino de Santiago blog post, which explains in detail why we’re on this pilgrimage, please click here.)
Today was Day 3 of our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. I went it alone today. The trek was 18 miles, which included lots of miles of hiking in torrential rain, quite a bit of walking on pavement, and almost 3,000’ of elevation gain in the last four miles. Because the boys are dealing with some sore/tender achilles tendons and knees, and given the 90% chance of rain in today’s forecast and the significant climb that wouldn’t come until after 13 miles were on their legs, Jerry and I opted to give them the day off. The boys slept in, and then Jerry and the boys caught a cab to our next stop, O’Cebreiro, a quaint village at the top of a mountain. They met me at the “finish line” of today’s hike, which was my favorite part of the day. I would have preferred to have my family with me today, and yet I am certain we made the right decision to give them a rest day, especially given we have 7 days of pilgrimage left. (If you want to go directly to the fun stuff – about the pilgrims I met, feel free to skip past this next, more personal bit… )
I had a meaningful hike. Fitbit says I walked 45,000 steps, and most of them were introspective, especially because of the fog and low clouds and pitter patter of rain on my umbrella. I hike alone a lot, and it’s not because I can’t find anyone to hike with. I just love Solitude. While we can learn a lot about ourselves when we’re with others, and based on how others respond to us, I learn the most about myself when I’m alone, listening to my thoughts, and processing and reflecting.
I often have tears of gratitude, in front of people and alone, but the other kind of tears (from sadness or struggle) are usually saved for my solo hikes. That was certainly the case today… First off, the top of my left foot was killing me. (I have had this issue before—when we visited Europe two years ago and walked miles, day after day, on concrete sidewalks and stood for long periods on marble floors in museums, etc.)
There is a lot of concrete walking on the Camino, and add to that we walked on cement and marble floors in Paris before arriving to the Camino. My foot has been protesting ever since… For the first few miles I couldn’t distract my attention from the pain in my left foot. So that was a bit of a rough start…
To help direct my attention away from the pain, and to bring purpose to today’s solo hike, I worked on memorizing something I’ve been meditating on a lot lately – On Children, by Kahlil Gibran. If you aren’t familiar with it, here it is:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
By mile 6, I had it memorized. It is such a beautiful essay. I am completely sold on its message, yet struggle with implementing it.
Since the beginning of this year, I have been memorizing my favorite poems. This is not only so I can recite from memory my favorite poems whenever I want, but also because I find solace in the practice of reading and re-reading favorite poems. Doing so serves as a sort of prayer-like meditation for me.
I mentioned in my post from Day 1 the Cruz de Ferro – the iron cross on a hill where pilgrims bring a rock from their homeland and deposit it at the base of the cross as a symbol for a burden or habit they want to shed and leave behind. The thing I’m working most on, personally, is letting go. Because our oldest son, Wolf, will leave “the nest” next year, and Hayden the year after, I find myself grasping more. I’m trying to hold tightly to them, and their time. I sense myself doing this, and I don’t want to… I know when I grasp that it’s self-absorbed. But they’re young men and they want and need their independence. I know I need to grasp less, but it’s hard for me to do… So, that’s why I focused on, and worked to memorize, the words from the On Children essay. It made for a rich journey today! But enough about that…
I should mention I met some really neat people on today’s trek!!! During my third mile, as it rained, I walked on a path for the Camino that parallels the highway. It was raining softly and I was listening to the abundant bird song and trying to distract my attention from the pain of my left foot when I heard whistling. The whistling was professional! It was spectacular. I seriously wondered if there was a flute player hiding in the shrubbery I walked by. :)I looked behind me and all around me, but could see nobody. The whistling continued and sounded almost as if it was playing on surround sound. But I couldn’t spy a single soul anywhere. There was a river to my left, and a highway to my right and I couldn’t see any other pilgrims.
After about 10 minutes of hearing whistling, I began to wonder if I was losing my mind. I pulled over to remove my raincoat in exchange for my using my umbrella to stay dry, and I needed to drink some water. Soon, a man passed me. A pilgrim. I asked him if he was whistling, and he said “Yes! I am a whistler!” We walked together for about a half of a mile. His name is Zole (sp?), and he’s from Hungary. He is doing the entire Camino – 720km/500 miles –- and is on Day 23. He hopes to finish in Santiago de Compostela in 6 days. He’s an electrician and just finished a big project in Black Forest, Germany, and explained, “Right now I have money and time.” He’s turning 45 this year (in October), and decided to walk the Camino as a birthday gift to himself. When he realized I am an American he excitedly asked me if I am a fan of Western movies. He grew up watching John Wayne, and is a big fan of American movies. He speaks German, Italian and Spanish, and his English was pretty good too.
Zole said the song he was whistling is called Katyusha, a Russian folk song. Zole explained that he’s not normally a walker or a hiker. He prefers road cycling. He says he’s so hungry from walking that he’s always eating, and yet he never feels like he gets enough food. Since the start of his pilgrimage, he’s lost about 20 pounds, despite eating all the time. As we walked and talked, we passed an adorable dog that was too lazy or unimpressed to get up or even wag his tail or notice us. We both laughed at how mellow, and uninterested, the dog was. Then, Zole said, “Three days ago I walked by three little dogs who tried to bark me.” LOL.
I also met Mary, from Denver, who is 61 and bought a one-way ticket to Spain. She is trekking the entire Camino and doesn’t want the pressure of a deadline so she hasn’t booked a return ticket. She told us she is going to visit Paris, and then Italy, and possibly Greece after she completes the Camino, and that these trips are serving as an incentive for her to continue her trek. She took a photo of our family because she, like me, is the mother of three sons.
On the muddy uphill today, I walked for a bit with Paul, who is from Toledo, OH, and recently graduated from college at University of Pennsylvania. He’s walking the Camino and then he’ll go to Italy. Then, he’s going to do a “work away” at a winery in Italy. He explained that he’ll work 5 hours a day for 5 days a week, and in exchange he’ll get room and board. “I just graduated and I know once I take my first job, time will be short.” He added he is Catholic, and wanted to do something that might bolster his faith. He said he’s never said so many rosaries in his life, and each day, he prays for his family and all of the pilgrims he met the day before.
Jerry and the boys greeted me at the end of my hike – at the top of the mountain, and that was wonderful! We then checked into our amazing rooms in this quaint village that has a population of 50, and is situated on top of a mountain. As I write this, Jerry is reading, and the boys are watching Netflix. Chilling, which is something we don’t do often, and is needed and appreciated right now. Even though we’re trekking many days and logging lots of miles, we have enjoyed da lot of down time every day, which is wonderful. As I look out our window right now, I see we are in the clouds… It’s magical, really. I prayed a lot today for all of my family and friends and blessings. I know life won’t always be this amazing, that life has good times and bad.
But for now, I’m taking it all in. Which calls to mind a favorite Walt Whitman quote: “Happiness, not in another place, but this place, not for another hour, but for this hour.”
Thank you for following along.
RELATED BLOG POSTS:
Read about Day 1 on the Camino de Santiago.
Read about Day 2 on the Camino de Santiago.
Video of me reciting, from memory, the On Children essay referenced above, during an epic hike in Wyoming, about one month after the above day’s trek on the Camino.)
VIDEOS FROM DAY 3: