These days since Sarria have been...different. For many reasons. Sarria is the point that is 100km away from Santiago. According to the powers that be and those who 'govern' the Camino pilgrimage, you must walk at least 100km to be officially 'recognized' as a pilgrim. Therefore, LOTS of people jump in to the trail at this point. Did I say lots? I mean TONS!
On the morning we left Sarria, we were suddenly in the company of a gazillion other people, all fresh and spunky and off on Day One of their pilgrimage. Their shoes are brand spanking new. They smell all sweet and soapy and fresh. Their backpacks are perfect. They don't have that grizzly, slightly scruffy, patched together look that the rest of us have. Not one of their toes is bandaged. They don't smell a bit wonky or have backpacks that stand alone and waft clouds of scent, something like Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon. And not a one of them walks with the tell tale limp and drag that comes from weeks of painful muscles and blisters.
Worse yet, none of them says an encouraging "Buen Camino" when they pass. Buen Camino is a shortened version of "May it be well with your path". I love that!
What has happened to my beautiful Camino? What has happened to the peace and tranquillity, the comraddery and the community? I feel invaded and violated
Billy had warned me of this moment. He had told me that this day was coming. The day when the workers in the field story from the Bible would come to life for me. The day when I would be the one who had put in the long hours and had done the hard work, only to realise that the pilgrim who walks for a few days gets equal reward, equal recognition.
I wasn't unaware. And I wasn't completely taken off guard. But I was shocked at how many came in for the final push. I was shocked by my own feelings about these newbies who smell nice and stay in fancy hotels and dress up at night for dinner.
I don't even care about the recognition or the certificate or the amount of work. But I do miss my community. I do miss the relational feeling that we had before Sarria. I miss the quiet trail and the long conversations. I miss that we were past the "where are you from" and the superficial questions...We were in to the deep stuff. We were contemplating the stuff of great importance. We were past appearances. We were in to heart stuff, to tears, to what we were going to do with our lives when the Camino is over.
The dynamics are all different now.
We still run in to our "old buddies" now and again. It's like seeing family. And we still meet new folks every day...folks who started over a month ago, like us. They get it. They get us. So the starting point for the conversation is just automatically different. It's deeper immediately. They know the places you've been. They know the troubles, the aches and the pains, the tears and the triumphs.
I'm certainly not separating pilgrims in to the good guys and bad guys...don't think that, please. In fact, my mom and Sarah are two of those newbies who started in Sarria. They aren't staying in fancy hotels or having a luxury pilgrimage, by any stretch of the imagination. They are doing it with us, the way we have been doing it for weeks.
In fact, that is part of what has been hard for me. To watch Sarah and Mom start this walk has been tough. They are at two different places on the age scale. Their Caminos are very different and yet, the same. They are walking the same path with the same walking companions and very much the same gear. But their experiences are very different.
And that has been a big lesson for me over the past several weeks. My Camino is NOT like anyone else's Camino. My feelings are different. My experience is different. My deep thoughts and spiritual experiences and God moments are different. And my worst judge has been myself. I have judged myself over and over and over again. I have compared myself to others. I have tried to keep up, to match experiences, to measure up. And why? No one was setting expectations on me except ME! No one really cared how far I walked or how well I did it. But I judged myself a million times and fell short a million and one. Grace...I fall short of giving myself any grace.
Tonight, I waited for dinner by resting in a hammock. I needed some think time, some peace, and some positive thought patterns. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that this will be over in a few days. That we will all stand before the almighty certificate maker who will write our name on the page and welcome us in to the pilgrim family as equals, no matter if we started in St. Jean 791km ago, or in Sarria 100km ago. And I'm completely aware of the correlations between the pay for the workers in the Bible story and my situation, and about a gazillion other biblical ties. I know...I get it. And it's still hard to piece together in my head.
I really just want it to stay simple. Get up, put on your boots, hoist your pack, and walk. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Smile at every one. Help those who need help. Listen to those who want to talk. Make friends.
And say "¡Buen Camino!" I want it to stay that simple.