Reflections of a Pivotal Day
An ache in my lower back had me turning inside my sleeping bag all night. No position felt comfortable. The thin yoga mat did little to cushion the space between my spine and the hard floor. Even with bent knees to flatten my back the ache didn’t subside enough for steady sleep to come. So at the first stirrings, I quietly got up, gathered my belongings and stuffed my pack in the hallway where I wouldn’t disturb anyone.
Although I was the first to leave the albergue, I got lost on the outskirts of Viana after missing a yellow arrow. Eventually I ended up behind the group I had wandered the streets with searching for accommodations the previous evening.
A gigantic lump weighed heavily in my throat. I didn’t want to converse with anyone, so I hung back and walked alone for most of the time. Part of me felt embarrassed. I didn’t want to draw attention to my watery eyes and sad demeanor. The more I contemplated why I was walking, the more I understood that I really didn’t want to walk. The further I continued along this path the more I felt that somehow I was covering up my special Camino memories.
A compassionate man who helped us all evening, even though he had already secured a bed for himself, stopped to ask if I was okay. We chatted a little and I explained my thoughts and fears. He wished me well and a “Buen Camino” before carrying on ahead.
Logroño was quiet. Everything was closed, so I offloaded my pack onto a chair outside a café in the plaza and waited.
The two church bell towers stirred more memories. Images of my Camino buddy running towards me from across a dark empty plaza in front of them came to mind. His embrace was warm and tight. We shared a bottle of wine and some tapas inside a bar and later walked the streets with it telling stories. Spanish locals smiled and laughed at us as we rounded a street corner. I felt so high on the experience then. I definitely had a crush on him.
A café employee interrupted my thoughts and told me to take my pack and leave the table. The café wasn’t open and I wasn’t welcome to wait there until it was. His inhospitable request added to my dismal state, so I decided to give the neighbouring café my business instead. The barista, unsmiling, wasn’t much nicer.
The lump pressed harder in my throat as I walked out of Logroño. My eyes welled. Feelings of confusion and indecision weighed heavily in my mind and heart. It felt like an imaginary hook and line was reeling me back with each step that I took forward.
“Why am I doing this?” I kept repeating to myself. “I had a beautiful journey the first time. I don’t want to be here. I’m wrecking my old journey by walking this again.”
Finally, the dam broke streaming endless tears down my cheeks. The further I got from the city the more I cried. I could see concern in the eyes of locals walking towards me.
I kept thinking that this could be my last chance for a long while to stop; to end this journey that seemed to haunt me so much with memories of my first Camino.
One of the most emotionally challenging parts of that journey, after Nájera, was coming up. I wasn’t sure how I would handle it.
Also, some of the most curious parts that awakened me to coincidence and synchronicity.
The most special part, the Meseta, would come where I finally had my inner journey. I couldn’t bear the thought of tainting those memories. The Meseta was the inspiration behind this blog. It was the catalyst for the biggest transition of my life.
The Meseta was where I began to understand what was most important in my life; those non-tangible things like camaraderie, spirituality, synchronicity, family and special friendships, the wisdom others shared and the realization of my own strength and courage.
It’s where I began to understand that the material things I used to grasp onto so much weren’t really that important. The Camino gave me an entirely new perspective on my life. I purged most of my material things and freed myself from what tied me down. I opened the cage door and I flew.
Why couldn’t I embrace those same non-tangible things now? Furthermore, my first Camino became about letting go of the old, but why couldn’t I “let go” of the old journey? I let go of everything else, but perhaps because that first Camino was the all-mighty powerful thing that seemed to change me so much, it was the one thing that I grasped onto so tightly.
Finally, inside the tunnel under the highway outside of Logroño, I stopped. I stood there, with tear-stained cheeks, staring at the mural on the tunnel wall. It depicted a group of pilgrims all striving to get to Santiago, their bodies leaning forward with momentum. I didn’t feel like they did. I wasn’t striving to get anywhere. More so I was afraid to. If I kept walking it would be like painting over top of my most treasured piece of artwork; an experience so special, so colourful and so meaningful to me, that I grieved the thought of covering it up with something new.
From that moment, I turned around and walked back towards the city centre. The tears stopped, the pressing and growing lump in my throat subsided, my heart lightened, the twisting grasp of confusion released.
A Spanish woman led me as far as she could towards the bus station.
Five minutes after I arrived, George appeared. He was the man who led the meditation at the albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin. A coincidence or synchronicity? He said that another time he had arrived at this bus station, the same thing happened. In any case it was nice to see a familiar and friendly face.
I bought my bus ticket to Santiago, but the bus wouldn’t leave until 4:30 p.m. so I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon following George. Our first stop was the municipal albergue where he dropped off his pack to stay for a night. Then we enjoyed a cafe con leche and followed a religious procession carrying Jesus and Our Lady holding the Child towards a church.
On my way back to the station, I bought some food items for the 12-hour bus ride. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do once I got to Santiago. I just knew at the time that I needed to stop walking; however, the journey didn’t end there. It brings to mind the saying, “When one door closes another opens.” In the same way, the bus ride was just the hallway between doors and Santiago, the waiting room.