2016-07-15 21.43.20I left the Los Tres Reyes Hotel in Pamplona and found the camino running behind the hotel and I followed the gold scallop shells (symbols of the camino) planted in the sidewalk. If life was only that easy. Just put your head down and follow the signs. But I guess that would take the fun out of it.

Pamplona was a ghost town, a hangover from the 10 day Fiesta of St Fermin. I was walking alone, passing a few pilgrims as Pamplona faded away behind me. At the edge of town I walked through a peaceful, quiet park, over a freeway, and headed through some fields before the path turned uphill towards Cizur Minor, a small town where I stopped for some fruit, salami, cheese and bread; staples of the pilgrim.

I continued on wondering if I’d see anyone I had met on the first few days of my walk. I walked through fields of hay. Beyond were rolling hills with big white windmills. I thought about Don Quixote. And like the windmills in the book which (I think) were a metaphor for Don Quijote’s difficulties in life (one of them being he was a hopeless romantic in a world that had no patience for dreamers anymore) I was out here to deal with some of my own windmills. In the end Quixote proves that he has faith in himself – but he also discovers that it might not be enough in the real world.

The camino took a sharp turn to the left and all of a sudden I was in a lush green forest, deciduous trees, green vines, a stream. It was nice and cool so I picked up the pace. After a few km I arrived at Zariquiegui (hey I didn’t name these towns) and found a cafe where a bunch of pilgrims were sitting outside taking a break. Cormac was there so after a bocadillo we continued on together, picking up where we had left off, talking about our lives, telling jokes (which we both suck at by the way), and passing the time. Well, Cormac might take umbrage to that joke comment.

We walked by several fields of sunflowers that were just ready to show their faces, and Cormac told me of a friend of his who says there’s no one who can look at a sunflower and not smile. I agreed, and smiled.

We climbed up to the Alto del Perdon (Mount of Forgiveness) a high point with a 360 view and a monument to us pilgrims. We posed for pictures and stopped for lunch. I realized I had lost my reading glasses and hat, which didn’t put me in a forgiving mood. I guessed that maybe the monument was supposed to give us pilgrims pause and remind us that maybe on this early step in our journey, one of the first things we have to do (on this pilgrimage, as well as in life) is to forgive. Forgive those who have wronged us, and forgive ourselves- for the things we’ve done, the things we can’t change, the things we regret. Only than can we really move on.
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As we walked down into the valley -a wide expanse of soft hills that looked kind of like Palmdale without the box stores and crack houses- it got noticeably hotter. In addition, it was a 24 km day so we just buckled down and moved on, walking through a few pretty little towns, not stopping. We finally made it to our final destination” Punta La Reina. We were beat so we stopped at the first auberge we saw. Fortunately it had a shaded outdoor patio with a bar. I was sold, I knew where I was going to be writing.

sketchWhen I sat down to write I met Hikhun, who was writing and sketching. She was from South Korea and had ran into Park and Im early on. She was a little shy about her work, but she allowed me to take a picture. Here it is:

Then Cormac, her, and Wim headed over to the village to buy some ingredients for dinner. They made an awesome pasta with mushrooms, onions and beef and we chowed down. The perfect meal to load up on for a long walk the next day. I recompensed by cleaning up.

As I’m writing and the sun is going behind the hills, I sit thinking about the beginning of my day. Life would be easier if we just followed the signs. But the signs are more obvious to some than to others. I guess the key is to open yourself up enough to see the signs, know when they make sense for you, and follow them. Just use that one thing that knows how to recognize the signs: your heart.

For the first 10 years of our marriage, we both poured ourselves into work. Janice continued with her career, a freelancer. I did the same, and then had the opportunity to take over a small company that was going to close. I hired my brother as the sales guy, and we grew the company, landing a job the first month of our existence, working out of the back room of Janice and my rental. We both poured ourselves into work, growing the company, moving out of the house first to a small office in town, then to Venice Beach, where all the hip companies were.

The years flew by. I found myself traveling, producing television commercials across the country. Then, as I mentioned before, things slowed down. The industry was changing. It was about this time Janice was getting less work, and when her thoughts turned to motherhood.

After Hannah was born, Janice took charge of rearing Hannah. But as the infinite hand of the universe touched out lives, I became more involved. I loved this wide eyed soul who had touched our lives. Janice was re-gearing her career. It was a smart move since the writing was on the wall. I helped her get into the union, acquiring and organizing the mountain of paperwork necessary to qualify. I was able to adapt my schedule to help care for Hannah.

So when Janice had to work long hours, I would make Hannah her breakfast, get her ready for school, hang out with the moms on the street, and either take the kids, or send her off with one of the other moms, the bright, big, beautiful future tucked into the little backpack she carried on her shoulders as she bounced down the street, talking and laughing with the other kids.

When she got home I would take her through homework, make her dinner, give her a bath (for some reason I got into the habit of singing to her- I can’t sing) and fall asleep with her after reading her some stories. Life seemed like it was supposed to be. It just was.

Little did I know during those moments when I was laying next to her reading stories as she drifted off to sleep that the exquisite madness of the universe would tear my marriage apart.

When I met Amanda, even though we spent an hour talking about shit you don’t talk about on a casual first meeting. And I truthfully don’t remember her as being as truly beautiful as, she became, in short order, in my eyes. Her beauty grew as I got to know her. And well, to a hopeless romantic like me, I guess thats how it should work.

I had asked Amanda out almost as an afterthought. As she left the party with her friends, I asked her if she’d like to get a drink sometime, and handed her a business card. At that point, emotionally, my life was just a shit bag of chaos. I had been seeing someone casually, we had a great rapport and I thought it might be going somewhere. So I still wasn’t even sure I was going to get ahold of Amanda.

The day following the party, I had received a text from her saying she enjoyed talking with me at the party and she’d love to have a drink. I was outside at a bar overlooking the beach, waiting for a concert on the beach to begin. So I did what any guy would- I took a picture of my feet (crossed resting on a rail, looking at the water) and sent it to her. So we went out to Terranea for dinner and drinks, as described in my previous post.

After our first date, Amanda called me up to ask if I’d join her at a party some friends where having (a few who I had met the same night I met her). I drove up to Karen and Don’s house, a beautiful place above a park in Palos Verdes, and walked into the kitchen where Amanda was, along with some of her friends from the other night.

One of the guys was testing a recipe for a new restaurant concept he was developing- he had recently sold a pizza franchise he had built from the ground up and was testing out ideas for a new concept. Everyone was around the kitchen island and there were pots with beef, barbecue sauce, etc everywhere. People were “fluffing the beef” (a technical description of this process would take more time than you or I have, so just use your imagination).

Amanda had brought a bottle of Cayuse Syrah from Walla Walla. If you know anything about Walla Walla Syrahs’ (and who doesn’t) you would be impressed. Did I mention I like wine? So if the fact that she was beautiful, smart, and liked to laugh wasn’t enough…

We drank the wine, we fluffed the beef, we talked. They all had interesting stories. , After awhile, everyone went outside to Don and Karen’s beautiful terraced backyard, congregating around a fire-pit. We listened to Eagles songs from a cover band that was playing a concert in the park below. Amanda and I sat close to each other holding hands, in fact we couldn’t keep our hands off each other- maybe this was the first sign of some sort of codependency.

Or maybe it was just a sign of two people who had been hurt, and were just so in need of something they’d been missing for so long. I guess we were enamored with each other, and felt lucky to have found each other, after what each of us had been through the previous few years.

I can only smile when I think back about those days, despite the things that would eventually challenge us, and force us to confront the ugly habits we had learned from our past relationships.