July 24, 2013
I may have read that on Ilona Freid’s website, alacartespirit.wordpress.com, or perhaps it was a line from the one of the many other Camino peregrinos whose work I’ve perused.
One way or another, though I just read these words a few weeks ago, they struck me so hard. On one level, it never occurred to me that I would be any different until I boarded the flight for Paris via Iceland on August 28. Maybe not until I took my first step on the Camino or entered my first village church or treated and bandaged my first set of blisters. But certainly I had begun immediately to haunt the back room of REI for the super sale items I might need. Certainly, I had visited REI every weekend until I found a pack that fit me properly, aided by Chad, my backpack guru . . . finally purchasing a Gregory Sage 55L pack. Boots, trail runners, sleeping bag, clothing that weighs nothing and dries in a slight breeze. Hiking poles that close up shorter than the ones I already had. A lightweight vest that turns into a neck pillow at night (seriously!).
I hadn’t walked through REI’s doors for perhaps twenty years, but suddenly my mind seemed to hover over Camino possibilities nearly daily, and I found myself turning into the REI parking lot (adjacent to another dangerous store . . . Barnes and Noble) at least twice a week. Slowly my “Camino pile” stacked itself higher and higher.
I also began to think my usual thoughts in an unusual way (for me). Thinking about what journal I might take entailed attributes never before necessary . . . size, weight of paper and cover, type of paper for the easiest pens I might find. And oh, pens. Let us not forget pens. I am a fountain pen whore. Within the past couple of years, I have purchased perhaps two dozen fountain pens of various brands, colors, qualities, point width, with at least a dozen colors of ink, some of which I mix to make a more pleasing color not readily available in a pen store.
But alas, a fountain pen is not practical on the Camino . . . carrying that loose ink, rinsing the ink charger and the point, taking everything apart so the components won’t dry out. No, no, no, a fountain pen is for civilization, not for a walk across an entire country. So my next favorite is a Pilot Rollerball V-5 or V-7. But they tend to explode when traveling long distances on an airplane. Something about the difference in pressure. A mess, quite often, as I have learned over the years.
Ultimately, I bought a pack of multi-colored Pilot G2 pens, with a dozen refills of each color. Of course I can’t carry all of those either, but as I write this I realize how MUCH my Camino began as soon as I decided to go.In retrospect, I’m beginning to get the picture, as they say.
Surprisingly, Walgreen’s has been another major contributor to my Camino supply. Foot pads of all sorts are available in the back right corner of my local Walgreen’s, and I have been unwrapping perhaps 50 packets of the various toe and foot bone protectors I’ve found most useful. Ever conscious of even the weight of cellophane packaging in the scheme of assembling a backpack that I can carry fairly easily . . . that is certainly new.
I have my lists, and am checking them twice. My pool table is covered with stacks of items to take with me. A pile for “definitely yes”, one for “most likely”, one for “perhaps” and one for “NAH, maybe not . . . .“ When I return from my Vermont trip in three weeks, it will be time to pack carefully and weigh everything, holding my breath as I view the results. This will be the last carefully planned part of my journey. From the time I get to my starting village, St. Jean Pied-de-Port, I hope I will be plan-less . . . but for putting one foot in front of the other and keeping my eyes, ears, nostrils and skin ready to receive whatever comes.
And I think of an old, favorite quote – from Richard Ford’s book The Sportswriter. . . . perhaps this will be my slogan for the Camino, if “slogan” isn’t too sacrilegious a term. I have great respect for the Camino and for my journey on it, but “relige” . . . not in my thoughts. Ah, well, perhaps nothing is sacrilegious for a heathen such as I.
“You have only to let yourself in for it. You can never know what’s coming next. Always there is the chance it will be – miraculous to say – something you want.“