Less than forty kilometres to go until Santiago and the rain has begun… And my goodness Galicia can even compete with Ireland for that! Curiously though, there has been a sudden shift into the positve as the Camino takes yet another twisting turn. Two fellow peregrinos have become my companions and we have walked together for a few days now. Tonight we find ourselves in the town of Arzua in the aubergue ‘Santiago Apostol’.
I have met both compañeros before on the road several times but have never actually walked with them… Until now. But what makes a good group? What is it that jells folk together? The Camino dynamics are an interesting subject all on their own. I had walked alone for a while after Ponferrada and it was very necessary. Then there was the reunion with Billie; and meeting Eileen, both latter day followers of the gospels and fine advocates for the purity and practicality they can induce into modern day affairs. After I had exorcised the ghosts and become silent, a certain clarity was induced if you will, a sharpening of my focus.
Both Jeremy and Maggie are easy to be with and they are comfortable with my silence, having no expectations. We are able to sit quietly together and just ‘be’ without the need for the endless chit-chat that fills in the uncomfortable spaces amongst folk in the modern world, myself included. Maggie can talk to Jeremy without me needing to partake, when just a nod or a smile suffices. When we’re walking, it can be together, seperate, or a pair, with the other compañero either ahead or lagging behind. Sometimes a moment comes when there is a need just to work through something alone. That’s okay too, for one can always catch up later.
The first time I met Maggie , who hails from the United States, was crossing the Pyrenees on the first day… The dreaded but beautiful Route de Napoleon. She was really struggling and I was amazed to meet her again all these weeks later, still hanging in there. Both her and Jeremy, from Oxfordshire in England, have suffered with painful joints and muscle injuries but have the tenacity and guts to keep on going when many of our contemporaries have long since gone. Also noticeable is the sudden lack of peregrinos since the bad weather has started. The Camino is almost empty now and many of the auberges shut for winter.
And so to silence… At first it was difficult and I often felt panicked, embarrassed; looking away almost ashamed and feeling that folk were angry. Now I can feel a large space opening in my heart, not caring what people think. Oddly enough, most folk are positive and friendly. The silence feels as if it has removed my need to be someone outside of myself. I had no idea how it would affect me, but it’s almost like being a child again without the constrains of expectation that the modern world throws upon one. And yet not childish; more a sense of wonder combined with wisdom. I remember reading a Dostoyevsky novel in my youth (I forget which one) and there was a holy fool, involved. I remember then thinking how wonderful it would be to have such an open sense of creativity and innocence. Now, I can relate very much to this character by the way folk relate to me and how my pereptions are changing. All sense of time is vanishing and the stresses, strains and expectations of mammon and its associated world too. What will there be for me when I return through the portal back into that old world?
I really don’t know…