So many times in life, we all get caught up in yesterday and tomorrow. The beauty of being alive can only be found in the present moment. If your eyes are on horizon or your mind is still watching yesterdays movie (the one where the ending never changes) you miss the small moments that provide endless fuel for your inner flame. Here are a few of those moments from my recent walk in Spain.
On May 29, I was about half a kilometer from a small village and ran into my new friend Lynn. She was quite a bit older than me and had a heart of gold. Her thick black hair was contained by a blue scarf decorated with tiny yellow arrows pointing in random directions. At the village, we both were in need of some food and coffee. In line at the counter I learned that she was from Flagstaff, AZ. I mentioned that I was from Idaho and she said, “Right before this trip I read a book written by a Boise author. Do you know this guy?”
I replied, “You are about to have coffee with him.”
Later in the day, I was in need of some intraday sleep. I curled up on a long bench and dozed off without much effort. About an hour later, the wind began to passionately rattle the crisp leaves on a nearby tree. Such a beautiful wake up call. Feeling the need for food, I pulled out my guidebook to locate the next village. It was beyond my appetite.
In the absolute middle of nowhere, I noticed about 15 people milling around some type of structure. Each step drew me closer to a calming Zen feeling of contentment. The meticulous grounds included a labyrinth, a sand garden with mats, and a man named David. He is the heart and soul of this donation only rest stop. Along the trail, these were somewhat common and usually had a few pieces of fruit on a table and something to drink next to a tin box with a slot for money. David had created the Mount Everest of donativo pilgrimage refueling stations.
He calls his place the House of the Gods because we are all God. While thrusting a cleaver into a fresh watermelon or putting some bicep into the orange juice press, he was constantly thanking everyone for stopping. Our barefoot and well tanned host from Brazil has become a fixture on the Camino. For the past six years, he has greeted strangers and provided melon, cherries, fresh squeezed orange juice, apple muffins, mountains of shelled nuts, and his contagious energy. During his nonstop efforts to keep the supplies refreshed, he would frequently remind everyone that donations were not necessary and to just enjoy his offerings.
A few days later, I found myself at the base of the Cruz de Ferro. The long pole topped with an iron cross was anchored by a mountain of small stones. Pilgrims bring a stone from home and add to the pile. The idea is to drop the stone along with some burden or recurring negative thoughts and leave them to rest forever. I left the illusion that any future person, place, or event will ever make me whole because I can never be more whole than I am in the current moment. The best use of any stone from the creek behind my home.
Later on the same day, I realized that I had walked too far and my energy levels were suffering. I had about seven kilometers to Ponferrada and the sun was taxing every step. About 20 minutes from the city, I ran into Sarah and Pella from Australia. Not wanting to stay in an albergue that night, I boldly looked at my new friends and said, “Are you ladies up for a Camino threesome tonight?”
With an odd eye, Sarah said, “Exactly what is involved?”
With a smile, I said, “We split the hotel cost three ways, sleep in comfort, and you two get the first showers.”
Pella grinned and said, “Beautiful!”
That friendship continues to this day with frequent contact. Pella is still in Spain and Sarah has wandered to the UK.
My Australian roomies took full advantage of the hotel by checking out at noon. I exited around sunrise and began my day with Donna from NJ. She retired from customer service at a large insurance company and was in the midst of her next chapter. I asked is she was involved with the NY Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino. Nina is the head of the group and her jacket happened to be in Donna’s backpack. She was stunned when I mentioned that I walked 16 miles with Nina in Manhattan a few weeks ago. As the conversation continued, Donna suddenly stopped and asked me if I had attended the Camino presentation at REI in SOHO. I was one chair behind her.
Had I been confined to my mind and chewing on yesterday’s drama, none of these moments would have graced my life.