Day 2 – 22 October 2016

The albergue hostel taken the afternoon before

I walked out of Puente la Reina, alone, before sun up. What a clean and well kept town. It was to be a day of minute observations, personal memories, and heightened awareness.

The conversations of the night before rang in my head. I had discovered a new language made up of words I could remember from school French, the 10 Spanish classes I took before I left Edinburgh, and ones I didn’t know I knew from long-ago Italian travels, novels and films. We all spoke a variation of that when we were together – the peregrinos’ hybrid.

As the day lightened, I remembered a walking meditation I was taught, and tried to imagine I was kissing the ground with my feet, especially when they felt sore. I was trying to go softly through the landscape. Little pains in my joints – left knee, right hip, left sole – reminded me to pay full attention to the way my feet met the soil and how my body weight was spread over them. There’s a Spanish phrase I learned early on: Poco a poco’, meaning that bit-by-bit something will happen, but you have to wait. It’s a good motto for the Camino: Take one mindful step at a time!

My mobile phone sat in my right hip pocket, and it seemed like I was carrying Tolkein’s ring or the locket horcrux in Harry Potter, but I decided I needed it to take photos and make quick notes of the many, wonderful things and places I was seeing.

Beautiful tiles set into coarse stone benches – ideal for relieving an aching body.

I saw more vultures (ref. to my Cortiguera blog), which, I was told, are ‘passeurs’ in Buddhism, symbols of moving from one life to the next (though I can’t find any information about this). It wasn’t until much later that I realised what they seemed to represent for me on my own journey. This bird watches and waits for something to die so that it can live. When I decided to come to Spain, I knew I wanted to clean up my life, metaphorically, so that I could move forwards into the second half of it with clarity. (Note: beware the Camino for prompting such deep thoughts!) These grand birds circle and float all around me at very regular intervals all along the way.

Reds, browns, greens – layer upon fertile layer of landscape.

Village by village I trod my way on, sharing stories with others who fell into step with me, stopping for a moment before picking up their own pace. People in my line of work talk about places which, with the right sort of use, gain in energy and atmosphere over time. This path has been trodden by countless pilgrims for centuries, and the energy is palpable.

Fuente, a fountain for refilling my water bottle.

Today I noticed that my breathing was starting to deepen, and I was starting to smell the plants around me. Each time I put my hand in my pocket and tasted a salted almond or sweet cranberry which my friend Merce gave me, I recalled the care I have been shown over and over again in Spain, and was grateful.

Villatuerta, Navarra.
Albergue / hostel courtyard.

Before the day passed, I discovered Villatuerta town square with seven oak treees and that took me back to my home in Sevenoaks, Kent in England. This encouraged me to reflect that a number of things have been happening while I am in Spain, which are sort of taking me back through earlier times in my life. In Tarot there are Gate cards, meaning that if you meditate on them they allow you to move under and on to another state or stage. All along my way there are gates and archways, man-made and natural, which seem to invite me through. It is well known that the Camino can have this effect too.

I walk into Estella with a companion, changing from Spanish to French. We pay 6 euros for our beds in a huge shared dormitory, and I am treated to a cooked dinner. There’s a great sense of well-being and peace after walking all day. It’s a simple pastime and, poco a poco, it slows down my thoughts .

One thought on “Walking without a donkey 10: Camino Francés 

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