Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Camino is a metaphor and a microcosm of life. And, like life itself, there are many facets to the journey. This reflection will focus on the paradoxical freedom flowing from living in a committed community.
Everyone walking to Santiago is on two Caminos, the common camino of our daily journey bringing us closer to Santiago, and our personal or individual camino. We were drawn to the Camino for different reasons and the Camino speaks to each of us in unique ways. My camino accentuates these two caminos having journeyed as a solo pilgrim for nearly three weeks, accompanied by those who have walked before me over the last 1000 years, those walking with me now, and those providing hospitality to tired, sore, and hungry pilgrims. For the past two weeks, I have journeyed in the company of two good friend Mark and Bill, who I have know for 30 and 23 years respectively.
Both Caminos have been tremendous experiences, stepping away from everyday life and slowing down to the speed of three to five kilometers an hour from the normal 120 kilometers an hour I normally travel. THis has allowed me to see and smell (lots of farm smells) and notice more details of life than usual.
One of the gifts of going solo for three weeks was sensing the importance of the incarnation in my life - the need, like Tom Hanks in Castaway, to connect with others, especially the OTHER, and the Other through other human beings. I experienced this with the group I walked with the first day and a half (and reconnected with two of these folks around Leon). I also experienced this with my evening dinner companions (a changing group of around 10) over the next week or so. I also experienced it in its absence on two occasions when I chose to eat alone in the evening. But, I lacked real intimacy and deeper community with these very good people. I didn´t consult them on my comings and goings. If the camino brought us together so be it, and if it didn´t, so be it. I woke up when I wanted, left when I wanted, stopped where I wanted, and slept where I wanted. If I had fallen off the face of the earth, some of these folks would have noticed, but they would have assumed that I was a few K ahead or behind.
Mark, Bill, and I each have our own Caminos in addition to our common Camino. We walk many days in silent reflection+. Mark took a different path one day, Bill has walked by himself two days, we will each walk by ourselves tommorrow, and Bill is spending the night 3K ahead of us tonight. But, there is deeo joy - I don´t think I can adequately put it into words - walking with close friends, even when we are silent or apart. For the most part we share our meals together, sometimes with other pilgrims and sometimes just the three of us. And, on Saturday, we will celebrate as we walk into Santiago togehter after a short 20K. On Sunday, we will celebrate together at the Pilgrim´s Mass at the Cathedral as our nationalities, starting dates, and starting places are recognized at mass. Our families are intertwined with godparent relationships, baptisms, weddings, deaths, many camping trips, summer beach trips, a guys weekend (BARF) at Bill´s house in the Texas hill country and a women´s weekend at the same house. We know each other´s quirks, strengthes, and weaknesses. We have commited to being responsible to each other and we consult each other before deciding how to proceed on our own caminos. In some mysterious or paradoxical way, in the act of seemingly limiting our freedom by agreeing to this joint venture, we have gained a great deal more freedom - and joy. Those five days of moisture would have been a killer for me but for sharing the experience with these great friends.
We are made as individual persons for community, and I am thankful that in my life´s journey, I have been blessed with a great wife, family, and friends to share the walk with. And, I am thankful that the Camino has provided an opportunity for reflection.
UPDATE on THE CULTURE - I commented earlier that I had seen very few single family dwelling and almost no farmhouses outside of villages in Spain. Galacia seems to be different. There are many more single family houses and farmhouses dotting the countryside.
UPDATE on the PACking List - In addition to what I mentioned in my last post, I also packed a journal, a pen, John Brierly´s guide to the CAmino (it was the easiest to read for me despite the fact that he sometimes annoys me), the Magnificat in English so I could read the reading and do morning prayer (Mark, Bill, and I often find a nice park or a bench in a village and say morning prayer together), and the Magnicat in Spanish so I can follow the order of the Mass in Spanish and say the responses. I intentionally did not bring a watch. The only times I need one are to make sure I get to mass on time and to make sure I get to the albergue before it closes for the night. And, so I just ask someone else.
We are two days and 42.8K from Santiago.