We started out beside a surprisingly busy highway under damp grey skies. The morning was a more reflective one than we seemed to have had so far; the cool, fine mist that hung low over us was perfect weather to turn inward and walk with our own thoughts for a while. I guess this is pretty natural timing, because the nigh before at the cathedral I had to rush telling you about gave us a beautiful candlelit ceremony of reflection and thankfulness. I know I was at peace to walk in a more meditative state than usual, and it was a lovely morning.
Granted, it was a tired morning – but after I stopped and had two strong coffees I was good to face the rest of the day with a little more life in me.
We walked past puppies that were a joy to play with even for a moment.
An exercise park with a few oldies having a go – dressed for their workouts in jeans and button-up shirts and all. That one made us laugh! Emanuele and I actually thought it better to compose ourselves a little way out before getting closer, because it was so unexpected to see a grey haired, big bellied man bopping up and down!
We shared light conversation, taught each other more of our own languages, and shared deeper moments too.
There are so, so many moments of laughter and joy here. Of course we all get tired, our feet ache, the kilometres seem endless (although we’ve done about 240 already!!) and we have good and not so good moods, but each day is beautiful. When we got to the albergue, I got to talk with my bestie/side kick/inspiration Jazzman 😁 He spoke in bad haikus – seriously, he actually did, and they were terrible – but having a little snippet from home was real special. And it was Nancy’s birthday! 🎈
I’m generally a bit homesick if I ever have a birthday away. We all know these are the times you especially want your family around you to celebrate with you and share the day, but out here we are the family she had beside her.. So we celebrated!
I learned how to sing ‘Happy Birthday to you!’ In Italian the night before, so that when we woke up I went straight for it to start her day. Every time I saw her I’d start singing it out again! A little part of me wonders if I found more joy in it than she did.. And it doesn’t matter, because it was a special day all round.
We put in to get some good wine, chocolate and a couple of little store bought cakes. At dinner we asked the restaurant for a few candles, and if you can imagine a dozen Italians all singing happy birthday with a handful more of us rowdy pilgrims, you’ll have an idea of our night together. We cheersed countless times – I don’t even know what half of them were for! We ate rabbit stew (too many bones, and my own came complete with a rib cage and a lung inside.. That was an experience in itself), I learned more Italian words, and we had a few sad moments looking around realising we’re coming to the end of this chapter.
In two days time, in Burgos, most of our Pack will disband and have to return to their countries and jobs and everyday lives. Some will get to come back to walk more of the Camino at a later date, some may not. A couple have to bus it forward to Santiago, and others leave a few days afterward. I think we’ll be down to around a half dozen of us originals, but it makes way for new friendships and deeper connections.
As I looked around the table last night, I had a moment pondering how these people are my family here – we try to sleep in the same hostels, eat together, set out together and so look forward to each others company. Even if only for a few short weeks, or if this experience bonds us as friends for life, which I have no doubt it will, our time in the now is precious and I appreciate it deeply.
If you’re thinking about the Camino, just do it. Or go for a walk to start with. Camp out overnight, go to a new cafe by yourself, sit down and read that book, call up an old friend.
Life is short, and meant to be filled with sweet moments of goodness. It’s up to you to make sure you fit as many in as you can.