I stepped out of the auberge in Foncedebadon onto the camino alone and in the dark. The path snaked up through the town and kept climbing. I was surrounded by …darkness and the sound of the wind rustling through the brush. There was no one else around, I was in a strange country, I was climbing up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, hopefully I was going the right way… I guess I could have been scared. But I chose not to be.
In the past I probably would have thought too much, freaked out a little, and maybe in this case I should have. In fact, fear is a great example of what Alan Watts spoke of in the video I embedded many posts ago. I think it’s important so I will use this situation to elaborate on what he said.
Out here in the dark, perhaps I should be assuming that anything could happen – a wild animal could attack me, a Spanish gypsy could rob me of all my valuable stuff, a Sasquatch (are there even any Sasquatches in Spain? Is Sasquatches even a word? Wait a minute, does Sasquatch even exist?) could jump out of the darkness and take me to his lair and force me to watch Threes Company reruns with him…
You get the picture. My brain could have come up with a million things that could go wrong, and turn me into a shit bag of defensiveness, ready to lash out at the sound of a snapping twig, going over and over what could happen if I didn’t have my guard up, and consider options as to how I could defend myself.
Or, it could accept that I’m here in the moment, and simply put one foot in front of the other. As Alan says, no matter which way you choose to be, “it’ll all come out in the wash”.
And I think this is a testament to the camino and what it does to a person, at least the way being out here on my own has begun to affect me. What are the odds of something happening to me? Based on what I had experienced up this point, about 0, since nothing even close to bad had happened. In fact, the only thing that had affected me negatively has been…myself. So, I decided to put one foot in front of the other and get on with it.
I kept on climbing uphill in the dark and came to a great cross. Nobody knows for sure who put the cross there or why, which makes it even better. There’s not enough mysteries left in this world. I thought maybe it had been some lonely pilgrim who’d had his heart broken. Maybe someone close died, maybe a lover left him, maybe he had begun to lose faith. So he traipsed up here and built this cross as a reminder to all not to lose hope. Or maybe it was just some dude with too much time on his hands.
Another half a kilometer brought be to Manjarin, a funky place, from the outside. It’s essentially an abandoned village that’s been converted into an auberge, but a rustic one with mattresses on the ground and an outhouse. Very basic. Asia stayed there and said it was rather primitive, although it sounds like she had a good time with the California girls (you haven’t met them yet) sleeping outside under the stars.
I took a few photos and walked down the mountain as it got light, although it was still foggy. I hit a paved road, and sat down for breakfast at a mobile food truck as the fog rolled by. It didn’t have the glamour of some of the other places I’d had breakfast, but it hit the spot. It was a little cold so I didn’t stay long.
After another kilometer or two, the fog still rolled in, but it wasn’t too foggy to see some fine advertising- a good sized sign (4X8 feet or so) advertised “the best auberge on the camino”. Being from ‘Merica, where advertising is a constant barrage, and affront to the senses, the lack of advertising here reminded me of how much we like our stuff. We like to buy stuff. Hence the “need” for advertising, for companies to compete for our dollar.
Are we materialistic? I don’t know, Which feeds which? Our incessant need for stuff (to replace, I suppose some void in our collective souls), or does the advertising promote the idea that we NEED stuff? I’ll let you ponder that one. Refer to the classic George Carlin monologue about stuff if you need help.
About a kilometer later, I started a great downhill slog. At the bottom was another picturesque little town (Acebo). It seems the success of the bar/restaurants that line the camino in these small towns isn’t dependent on advertising, but simply on which place is first. I went in and grabbed a drink and sat down. I talked a little with both Asia who I hadn’t seen in a day or two, and Aviva who I had just met the night before.
After I left, I caught up with Aviva, who told me she was going to be studying in Madrid, and that her program orientation was going to be in Santiago so…you do the math. She had heard about the camino and decided to just do it. And as mentioned, doing it alone. I gave her some sage advice- I reminded her that, when faced with tough decisions in life, remember to reflect on this walk, and to consider her instincts and her heart to help her make that decision, instead of overthinking it. Then again, what the fuck do I know?
Since I was on a roll, I told Aviva my theory of how emotions evolved (ok, well hypothesis maybe. Well, how about unfounded conjecture based on a whim?). An Australian dude named Jimmy-san (he made it clear this was his camino nome de plume) overheard me and recommended reading a book called “Sapien”. He said it has to do with how brutal a species we really are. And if we’re truly happy. Hmm….
Aviva and I walked out of the hills and into Molinaseca. We stopped at the bridge and snacked, I walked on alone and into rolling hills, and started to see vineyards, which reminded me we were nearing Bierzo, another wine region becoming famous in Spain. I walked on and started thinking about Jimmy-san and his book, the crazy species (humans) that I am a part of, how we perceive ourselves, and the effect it has on our actions. This was also due to a few comments I had gotten on the blog.
I had gotten a few positive comments on a recent post. For example: “…it made me cry” (they may have been referring to the grammar). I had been struggling as of late, trying to be consistent in posting, and trying to get back to where I had started, I felt like I had sort of lost my way, my voice wasn’t clear.
The post I had written was, I felt, pretty good and I had rediscovered some of the spark that was there at the beginning. But it made me look at myself in a new light. Other people actually think I know what the fuck I’m doing. And they like it. And it’s this light that the people around me back home have told me shines at times, but gets dimmed by dark clouds from my past.
I always used to discount everything else I did in life, for the most part. I never thought of what I had done as a big deal, even though it may have seemed so to others. This may be a curse of low self esteem. But maybe it was because I just wasn’t passionate about the other things I was doing. Maybe there really is true callings in life, and maybe I’ve discovered mine.
To write a post, refine it, and be satisfied with it, makes me feel like I really did accomplish something. it makes me whole. I guess it helps heal some of those scars I’m mending. It certainly seems like one of the things the camino is supposed to be teaching me.
I got into Ponferrada, a decent sized town, and checked into the municipal auberges which is where everyone was staying (that is if your a pilgrim and only have 5 bucks to spare). It started to sprinkle, the first rain I had seen since the Pyrenees. After showering, I sat down to write at a cafe and thought about calling Amanda but decided against it.
I thought back around the time the “chemistry had faded” between her and I. It so happened, that at about that time, something i did changed everything. We were sitting in Amanda’s backyard, a blanket wrapped around us as the night had grown cool.
An then, in the blink of an eye, all the bullshit, all the insecurities, all the hurt and anger from my past came rushing in causing me to say something that could never be taken back. I don’t know where it came from.
To this day I can’t figure out how it happened. i just know that it cut into the very fabric of our relationship, and the heart and soul of the woman I loved. After it happened there was no going back to the way things were before.
But I still thought there was hope. I thought we were both dealing with those lingering emotional scars and wounds from our pasts, and helping each other become more mature adults and possibly have a mature relationship (neither of us really had had one before) and to understand better our past relationships and how they had fucked us up.
I thought that in the end we would help each other figure things out, and, who knows? Amanda always said that hope was the one thing that got her through. And I believe her. Didn’t I say she’s always right?
I got back to the auberge and ran into Katia and we chatted for a few minutes. Clive and Jerique were in town but I found out the next day that they had found a private auberge that was new and…well not the standard municipal joint. But hey, this was part of the pilgrim experience. I climbed up into my bunk and felt the wind from the window next to me, reminding me of that cool night not that long ago…
In my dream, our love was lost
I lived by luck and fate.
i carried you inside of me
prayed it wouldn’t be too late.
Now Im standing here on this empty road
Where nothing moves but the wind.
And honey I just want to be
Back in your arms again.
Once I was your treasure
And I saw your face in every star
But these promises we make at night
Thats all they are
Unless we fill them with faith and love
There as empty as a howling wind
and honey all I want to be
Is back in your arms again…
Well written Mark. Coming from someone who suffered horrendously from anxiety, that was a very good insight you gave for people.
Thank you my friend. Just writing from the heart (and what ever creeps into my feeble mind!). I hope I have a few insights after my 48 years on this planet ;).