I left Villar de Mazarife and walked out though corn fields in the dark. At 6 in the morning it was warm enough for short sleeves. I don’t know about you, but walking through cornfields in the dark in Busted Whistle Spain makes my mind wander.
I thought about every one I know, and why in this godforsaken world we beat each other up, why we beat ourselves up, and put each other through so much shit when all we want to do is be happy. I guess everyone has a different idea about what makes them happy and they’ll do what they need to do to get it. I may have written about this before, but I’m tired and I walked 30k with a shin splint that caused me pain with every step I took so I ain’t checking my past posts (that would be a foreshadowing- am behind on my posts so I’m writing this a few days hence).
In the end, it’s probably ourselves that’s holding us back. For me I guess it gives meaning to my life by understanding that those bruises and wounds are the lessons I need to learn from. And in the end, hopefully they teach us to stand up for ourselves, love ourselves, and figure out what it is we need to make us truly happy.
As the sun came up and lit up the fields around me, Amanda’s voice whispered to me. Sometimes, when we’d be sitting somewhere, say a bench at the Starbucks where we used to meet during the day for a coffee break, she would shove my shoulders back, reminding me to have good posture- remember how she’s always right?
And it’s not just me, she’s had other people tell her that she was intuitive. I hope I don’t sound like a fool, or like I’m slobbering over her I’m just stating facts here. And hell, I’ll probably always love her (now’s not time to get into the “being in love”, etc discussion).
Another habit of hers- she used to tell me things, things about myself I didn’t want to believe. And it was usually the bag of shit I was holding that I indeed needed to think about, to consider, but didn’t want to.
Men know there’s things we need to fix but we don’t want to because it takes work. And it’s easier just to have another beer and not think about them. And frankly, most don’t have the time or energy. I mean we do the work we must to get paid, and then we barbecue and get drunk on Saturday and then watch football and get drunk on Sunday. Vice Versa when it’s college football season. Thats just the way it is.
Once in awhile Amanda would even, well not go into a trance, but her voice would change a little and she would go into a very stream of consciousness monologue about certain things (Hannah, my divorce). She would couch things as “I think”, but It seemed like she was touching something, someplace i couldn’t reach.
Like I say, she’s usually right. And I’m not just saying that. We went through some shit together, and I even knew deep down at the beginning that she was right although I didn’t want to admit it. After awhile, I just stopped disagreeing and started to admit it.
I agreed with her on the posture too. But my argument always was: telling me to have good posture is one thing, but how do I change my habit of standing, walking, something that’s been ingrained since birth is another. I think back and I believe my dad sort of stooped, so I probably simply copied him.
So, I took a deep breath, pushed my shoulders back, and walked on. And you know what? I felt better. Now if I could just keep doing it, and change that habit, along with the other million things that need changing…
I walked on an came across yet another field of sunflowers so of course I had to stop and take a million pictures:
I walked on a dirt road in between two farm towns. In the morning light everything looks beautiful, so it makes walking more enjoyable. That and the fact that it’s not as hot as eating a habanero souffle in hell. Since I was consistently walking east to west, the sun was always behind me.
Off in the distance I could see the mountains I’d be climbing soon. I’d been hearing about them for a few days now. It would be difficult but worth the effort. I’ll reach the highest point on the camino and it shouldn’t be too tough- after 2 weeks I’m in much better walking shape and my posture is excellent (little did I know, at this point, about the fore-mentioned shin splints)
I walked through the town of Vilavante and caught up with Clive and Jerique. We walked over the bridge out of town, and they moved on ahead. There were new pilgrims all over the place, many having jumped on the camino just recently. I just hoped that perhaps St. Peter would give me preference at the gates of heaven since I will have walked the entire path.
I passed over an ancient roman bridge that had been restored to it’s original glory. Well, maybe not glory. It didn’t hold a candle to the glorious Spanish bridges I’d seen. It was much older, and was simply an efficiently built bridge.
I walked on the original cobblestones that Charlemagne had trodden. By the way, his ol’ man was named Pepin the Short. I think his brother was Fred the Portly. The bridge went down into the town, a thin, two storied street like the towns from the first days, beautiful cobblestoned streets, many bars and cafe’s waiting for eager pilgrims.
At the end of town, the path turned to dirt and went alongside a garden where a woman was tending to her vegetables. She offered up a “been camino” as she dug out a rutabaga. Probably wasn’t a rutabaga. I just think “rutabaga” is a funny name for a vegetable. Kind of like kumquat.
After a few kilometers, the road straightened out and was wide open. There were newly graded roads heading in a few different directions, unmarked, making it difficult for us pilgrims, although by this time I was going more and more with my gut (translate right side of brain) as opposed to over-analyzing the map in Brierley (left brain).
Has this ever happened to you? You look at something like a map, and you can sort of feel your brain pulling you away from your in depth analysis of a map and hearing it say: “trust me, just listen to me. Go that way”. It happens to me. It’s your heart trying to override your brain.
I chosen to take an alternate camino so I didn’t have walk along side the highway. which went straight into Astorga, hence the lack of the ubiquitous yellow arrows left by the mad monk. There was no one else around, and I wanted to confirm that I was going the right way so I pulled out Brierley and studied the guide.
After a few minutes, an older smiling gentleman seemingly out for his midday stroll appeared out of nowhere, dressed in long pants and a button down shirt. He spoke no English, and my Spanish is certainly circumspect as discussed in an earlier post.
But he insisted on giving me directions, pointing in both directions down the road at different times during the conversation. When I asked him questions it only led to more confusion. We laughed, I said gracias, and went on my way, heading in the same direction I had been. I think he just wanted to talk to someone out on that lonely road. I was glad I obliged.
I walked through a town called Santibanez de Julio Eglasias, or something like that. I tried to duck int he church just to feel the silence but it was locked. It made me think- should a church ever be locked? I thought the idea was to be accepting of everyone- the rich, the poor, the sinners, the saints, the meek, the obnoxious. And in their time of need. I guess you have to schedule your time of need these days.
2 or 3 kilometers out of Julios’ place, I walked through rolling hills. There was a lot of broken shale on the path so it was slow going. A lot of other pilgrims were on the road with me, sweating in the afternoon sun. lot of shale and rocks on path. At lest there was some intermittent shade along the way. I passed a few places with some interesting iconography.
A note to hopeless romantics: Don’t do it. Don’t walk off that cliff while your gazing at the stars. Be careful when you sing your song with reckless abandon. Remember to wash your shirt when you wear your heart on your sleeve…
…after the recession, we were better off than most it seemed. But maybe that’s just my shitty assed opinion. I thought love would get us through. But it lost out to money. And at the time, I was susceptible to the shit that was thrown in my face, and was unable to fight back. And it scarred me. And it hurt me. But it was one of the things that put my boots on the camino and helped force me to face myself.
Some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
Oh but I know love as a fading thing
Just as fickle as a feather in a stream
See, honey, I saw love,
You see it came to me
It puts its face up to my face so I could see
Yeah then I saw love disfigure me
Into something I am not recognizing…
A little while ago, I got released from prison. I’d been in for awhile. Going in, I didn’t know much about it. I was like the Tim Robbins character in “The Shawshank Redemption”. I was as naive as an accountant. And, like Robbins character, I was unjustly accused of a crime. Yeah well, so is every inmate in every prison movie ever made.
Before being thrown in prison, I was convinced I had committed the murder. I was ashamed of what I did. I closed the windows and locked the doors waiting to be arrested. I didn’t talk to anyone, or look anyone in the eye. I could only think that with one slip they’d discover me, and I’d be banished to solitary forever.
They never found me. They didn’t have to. I finally gave my self up. They arrested me and interrogated me. I had a trial. The jury of one found me guilty and they locked me up. They didn’t even need a key. I gladly stayed in my cell. It felt good to be isolated. Who in the fuck wanted to talk to me anyway?
Prison, though, is a good place to reflect. I thought about the things that got me there, the things that convinced me that I didn’t deserve to live out in the world. I got mad about a lot of things, laughed about a few, and cried about my losses.
And then after I had pretty much cut off communications with everyone, it happened. You’ve heard this story before. Someone started writing me. Me, the inmate, guilty of the crime, banished to prison. I started getting letters.
What sort of person starts communicating with a dude in prison they don’t even know? Maybe somebody who’s a little crazy. Or, maybe someone who’s been imprisoned themselves.
All I know is that those letters gave me something I hadn’t felt in a long time. They gave me hope. They lit a spark, they gave me an inkling that maybe I do have something to say, that maybe I am worth listening to. And most importantly, that I didn’t commit any crime.
They also gave me courage. And strength. The strength to let go. The courage to stand up, to dance, to sing, to write, to say “I love you” first. It might not have happened overnight like it does in the movies. but it did start happening, one beautiful moment at a time.
And I’ve got the letter writer to thank for that.