On May 23, I had the pleasure of beginning my day with Antoine from Holland. He works in a hospital and plans to retire in seven years. He took three months off work and hopes that this walk will keep his batteries charged until he retires at 67. His first attempt to walk that Camino was the previous year. He set out to conquer the world. The Camino had other plans and sent him home to Holland with shin splints. So many people begin the journey with one plan and do not realize that Mother Camino has her own agenda. Flexibility and an open mind are the only ways to walk through life.
My next companions were three young ladies from Portland. After watching Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago they decided to embark on a trip to Spain. They never buy a drink, have been serenaded, and inspired some poetry from a local man. Breaking hearts and taking names! All three of them recently graduated and will return to the US saddled with $40K of student debt. As a society, we need a better plan.
In the middle of the day, I climbed a big hill that was crowned with a long line of beautiful windmills. I became totally mesmerized by the enormous blades slicing the air. Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. My mind drifted into many thoughts about energy. Does energy ever end? Why do some people emanate such loving energy while others produce a grimey stench? Is it a reflection of our thoughts? Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. What is the future of renewable energy in our society? How can I conserve real energy and stop wasting emotional energy? Thought of Carlos Castaneda and the Don Quiote windmills flashed in my head while I glided alone this beautiful path. A fork in the road woke me up.
The famous yellow arrows of the Camino make it one of the best marked trails in the world. The lack of arrows at this obvious fork left me in a quandary. My ego kicked into full gear and convinced me that I was still on the path. My mind began to punch back by asking why there were no footprints in the dirt. Ego claimed that the dirt was too hard. Mind did a test and blew that one out of the water. Ego won and I convinced myself that this trail must lead back to Camino. Reality bit upon arrival in Cerraton De Jaurros. A city not found in any guidebook.
I tried my best to communicate with a local for directions back to the Camino. On the wrong track, people are always there to provide their best attempts to help. I was able to discern direction but no luck with the number of kilometers. At some point we all end up on the wrong path. There is a natural tendency to blame a straw man or situation. This is complete waste of time and energy. It subtracts from the solution. I convinced myself to keep marching and accept the situation. There are no shortcuts back to the right road in life. It was like being in a bad current but keeping my eyes focused on the shore. My next mental exercise was to wonder if I happened to be lost or exactly where I was meant to be at that moment. Happiness can be found anywhere, it just cannot share space with fear and anger. Being on the wrong path enhances appreciation for being on the right one. Have you ever expressed sincere gratitude for being on the good path in life?
Like most thing, it all worked out. I added about 10KM to my day but was never really lost. I arrived in the city of Ages and had no problem getting a nice bed. My French roommates could not have been nicer. Alanis Morissette sings it best in Ironic: “Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out.”