September 28, 2015. I have a few days of writing to catch up with but need to collect on paper some fragments. I try to write down in a little book Gary V gave me recently (thanks so much, Gary!) some images or conversations or other little events I would otherwise not remember, and they don’t “belong” together, but I do love collage, so decided to collect a few bits and glue them down here.
*This is a quote from one of the posts on the caminodesantiago.me forum. I am sorry I can’t find it now to give credit to the writer/pilgrim. My comments are after the quote:
After an unscientific poll of pilgrims I had met on the Way, everybody agreed; There is no way for a first time pilgrim/walker to properly prepare your feet and legs for the first several stages from Irun to San Sebastian (to Zarautz, to Deba, to Markina, to Gernika, to Lesama). You will have blisters, blood blisters and open sores, probably foot, ankle and knee issues. You will make many visits to La Farmacia and become very well acquainted with Compeed and 600 mg Ibuprofen tablets (a 40 economy pack for Euro 1.97). Also, my world on the Camino completely changed for the better after I learned how to properly use trekking polls. All of my damage and injuries went away after three days.
So . . . I totally agree and understand (but for the “all of my damage and injuries went away after three days” statement from this person). I guess I should be grateful I did NOT have blisters, blood blisters and open sores, though I am having more and more foot, ankle and knee issues. I brought along most of my foot and knee protection items, but have been to the Pharmacia many times for something called Flutox, a pill supposedly to substitute for carrying a heavy bottle of cough syrup around in my pack. Also to purchase Ricola drops (lemon and cherry), tylenol, and belatedly some anti-nausea pills for the bus, though I don’t think I will be taking the bus again unless I bus to Finisterre AFTER I arrive in Santiago.
My damage and injuries are still accumulating if you listen to my aching feet, ankles and hip sockets. I rest for a day or two or three, and then feel pretty good in those places for a few hours. Then I hit a long hill, up OR down, and the body parts say, “Oh, I see . . . did you think you could trick us that easily???”
*In the first week or two, I saw so many disabled people walking (not on the Camino, but just out there walking), one with cerebral palsy going at a good clip on the boardwalk at Zauratz. Another pushing a wheelchair in that same area. All sorts of old couples, canes in hand, walking walking walking. What am I complaining about? (Of course, they didn’t have 22 lbs on their backs, but still . . . )
*I know I wrote about the farmer on the hillside weed-whacking his pasture, but I’ve now seen two older women, on separate occasions, cutting down their fields with those old-fashioned long-handled scythes we used to imagine in horror-fairy tales.
*While I was waiting for the bus from Deba to somewhere, I watched a very old man shuffling, arms full of boxes, to deposit them in the proper “Paper and Cardboard Only” recycling bin at the bus/train station. Dedication.
*Saw the Bulgarian pilgrim with the huge rucksack and the beige plastic purse again. The purse is always tucked under her arm in a very un-pilgrim-like fashion. She doesn’t care and neither do I, but it IS a bit of a show-stopper for me.
*Not much rain since we took the bus to Ribadasella two weeks ago. But we are in Galicia now, and the mist is everywhere.
*Apples are an important crop in the middle part of this area, and one can order “sidra” or cider, everywhere. There are many sidrerias, sort of like the micro-breweries around my hometown and in other parts of the US. The “pour” is quite the thing to watch. The waitperson holds a straight-up glass at lower than waist-height, and the bottle of Sidra overhead. A long-elaborate stream goes from bottle to glass, but only until there is about an inch-and-a-half of cider in the glass. If you want more but haven’t finished all of your first batch, it is thrown away. Something about the fizz and foam and whatever.
There’s also a device to hold the bottle, with the glass underneath, which delivers an exact amount, similar to the “high-pour” that is hand-dealt. Quite interesting to see six people sitting around a table, with this device in the middle.
*Senses – that pungent smell of wet hay, just cut, and a different, stronger smell of stacked and wrapped hay “barrels”, both black and white plastic encircling each farmer’s field.
Manure . . where there are my beloved cows, horses, goats, mules and sheep, there MUST be manure. The world is their albergue bathroom, their aseo, their servicio, their W.C.
Some special smell as I round the corner toward a seacoast. The breeze is different and the smell, sometimes of fish, sometimes of salt, augmented by the crash of waves as the tide comes in . . . nothing like it, whether it be sea or lake. The sound of the waves brings back memories of spending nights at my Uncle Bill and Aunt Donna’s lake-house, teeming with children, at least a dozen of us crammed into two sets of bunk beds, falling asleep to the sound of water hitting rocks and sand.
Birds of all sorts call to me (or to one another . . . perhaps they don’t give a shit about me!) as I walk. Some sound sweet and tweety, others caw and cackle, and yet others sound like buzz saws or drill bits.
The groaning made by the tall, tall eucalyptus trees as they sway in the breeze.
Of course the wide variety of surroundings on this walk. Coastal, farmland, big cities, little villages, through the woods, up high on the mountain trails.
Music in bars, on buses, all around . . . in Soto de Luiñes, whatever their music source, I was hearing “C’est La Vie, Said The Old Folks” from Pulp Fiction, the song Travolta ad Uma Thurman danced to in the restaurant. Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.” Tony Bennett, whose heart is still in San Francisco.
The bus driver on the way to Ribadeo had something on, perhaps a radio, perhaps the Spanish version of Pandora, and I heard Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothin’ (But The Chicks Are Free)”, one of my favorites. And another favorite is played quite often . . . “Shut Up and Dance With Me” which reminds me that I will have many “So You Think You Can Dance” segments to watch when I get home.
*Cats. There are a bazillion cats all around. I’ve seen at least two or three dozen versions of my own Zelda cat, lithe and black. White cats, Siamese cats, yellow and white, calico cats, tabbies. Someone needs to scoop these cats up and spay/neuter them before sending them off to wander the neighborhoods. Not sure how they all survive, but most of them duck in and out of gates and houses as I watch, so they must belong to someone.
*Dogs. Whoever said the Spanish people don’t love their dogs is crazy, and hasn’t been walking around in Spain very much. Ria and I have talked endlessly about this, as we watch everyone walking their dogs. Old people, young people, couples, adults pushing baby strollers, with the dog trotting along behind. Often no leashes, but these dogs know to whom they belong.
The farm dogs are fenced in sometimes, but they still want to see what’s going on as we pilgrims walk past them. Sometimes a bark just for good measure, sometimes just a flick of the head or ear in the midst of a nap, as the click click of my sticks slight disturbs a doggie reverie.
*Thoughts – I walk for several hours and then realize that I can’t remember a single thing that went through my head. But that sense isn’t the same as the wide-open mind I experienced on the Camino Frances. I felt freer to let my mind meander two years ago. This time, my focus is on the ground beneath my feet, my breath as it coordinates with my sticks, mopping my face with a wet kleenex or my wet cloth or the corner of my jacket, or cursing that dead-straight-up-the-hill climb that might last for an hour or more.
For the first three weeks, my thoughts often were about why in the world I was even ON this walk. Who did I think I was? Wonder Woman? Sure, I did it two years ago, and felt so accomplished. Why couldn’t I have just let things be triumphant instead of voluntarily (and immediately, I must add) making the decision to do another Camino. Granted, my first thought was to do the Frances again, but then, no, why not REALLY challenge myself. 500 meandering miles across Spain? Pffft! How about something really difficult?
If Neil, Pat and Tim weren’t on board to meet me in Milan on October 16, I really think I would have gone home. But now, at 161 km from Santiago, I might as well finish. I see that I’m three days into my FIFTH week, and there is no turning back. Larry congratulated himself and me in Ribadeo, for still being on the trail. We should have sung Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, because each of us certainly did our own version of the Norte.
Larry was going to walk every step . . . until he walked his first few days, and he started in San Sebastian, so he never experienced the infamous 500 Steps of Bartholomew Cubbins . . . And I will end up having walked about 300 miles, rather than something like 550. But I will still, with luck, have knees, hips, ankles and foot bones when I arrive in Italy and then home. And, might I say yet again, no blisters.
*I don’t think I will ever voluntarily taking a long hike, a real hike, again. A couple of hours at Coyote Ridge on an autumn afternoon, without a 10kg backpack . . . maybe. Poor Neil . . . he’ll have to bribe me with baby deer, or donkeys or cows or horses.
A half-day walk around New York City, absolutely. A stroll on one of the paths around Fort Collins, sure thing. But Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride? Not a chance. At least that’s what I say now.
*When you are away from home for a long time, you begin to think about little pieces of that place wondering about change. Should I sell my cello, after 10 years owning, but not playing, it? I took six months of lessons from a nice young woman. A good cello player, but not a good teacher for adults. And then Luna had her puppies and I tried to give the cello back to the man who made it and who rented it to me.
But he wanted one of Luna’s puppies, and traded me the puppy for credit on a purchase. Luna’s puppies were expensive, but not anywhere near as expensive as the cello. Now I own it free and clear, the puppy is 10 years old, exactly, and the cello sits in its case in my library. Maybe time to sell it, along with the Karmann Ghia and the Expedition.
And what about all of that yarn in my art room downstairs? I will never be able to knit 10,000 scarves, which is about how much yarn I have. But every time I go through the skeins, trying to sort out which ones I want and which ones I could part with, I end up putting all of them back in the big tubs, sorted by color, vowing to start knitting again, even if I have to watch television in order to sit down without a book or computer.
*I don’t have my iPod with me . . . sent it on to Santiago de Compostela and hope the post office there will hold it for me until I arrive in about eight or nine days. No iPod means no weekly time listening to the playlist of Neil reading poetry in my ear, in that wistful, lustful and passionate voice from long ago. But I hear his voice at least once a week, thanks to Verizon’s new Global plan. And I will see that face I love so dearly, in 18 days.
*Sitting today on a bed in a Hospidaje de Seminario de Santa Catalina in Mondoñedo writing this, I see that I have many thoughts along the way, no matter that I don’t remember them as anything like coherent. Still, it doesn’t feel quite the same as that freeing stream of consciousness from two years ago. I guess you just can’t count on anything being the same as anything else you remember.
And still, my friend Meta Strick’s art piece – the one I carried as my totem on the Camino Frances and now on the Camino del Norte, speaks best to me and my thoughts. Perhaps this is what moves a person down her own life path: