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Camino Blog 16 – Coda

I am releasing the experience now.  This is a coda – as a coda in music – a recapitulation of the theme as a means of quietly bringing the piece down.

I’m in a Madrid airport hotel – a decidedly American chain.  The staff are very warm as have been all Spanish people I have met – really!  Not a jerk among them.  And these folks are a little less available, they are still interested in engaging.  Don’t affect this “What do I have to do with you?” The offhand face most North Americans present to unknown others.

A pair of American couples.  They first sat at an adjoining table, then moved away.  I had the distinct sense that they moved to avoid risk of interaction.
After an afternoon at the Prado, I’m having a late evening dinner so I can sleep for the few hours allotted before my 4 am wakeup.
The repast is a shadow of a typical pilgrimage meal at twice the price.
Hate to give that up!  Having a healthy, real appetite and then eating fully, hungrily to fuel a needy body.  Can’t eat that way now that the extra 2000 calories we are burning every day is not being expended.
This morning was an easy start, but somewhat purposeless.  We were heading over to the pilgrimage office for our Compostellas – a mere whips compared to all other days.
It’s also hard to give up our routine.  It’s now empty – but we were quite disciplined about getting up and out every day:
Wake up from deep sleep with first light
Wash/ shower
Grumble about destination for big bag
Collecting laundry done the night before – wet or dry
Shuffle around and dress for some combination of sunshine, rain, heat or cold
Final pack up
Saddle up and head out
Hit an early cafe down the road after we feel we’ve earned breakfast.

No need now.

There’s still some magic to be had.  After our documents were done with a bunch of other earnest completers, we were at breakfast, when a squad of horses – riders from Brazil decked out in white rattled on the cobblestones  heading to the nearby Obradorio.

Absent our order and discipline, we irresolutely drifted around for the morning.

Shopped for gifts and souvenirs in a vague attempt to store away and keep meaning from the event.
Then I packed up finally and irrevocably.
Bob is headed to Finisterre.  It’s very much a coda-like addition to the Camino for the hardy.  The old pilgrims always went there – to where the sea meets the land.  Bob would have walked but just couldn’t.  His plantar fasciitis was just too overwhelming and he had to go by bus.

The brother hood is fading. I saw folks at the airport but the shared flavour was dwindling.
I took pictures of pilgrims out the window of the cab as they passed over the last hurdle below monte de Gozo.  They waved triumphant starting that last descent into the city.

Now watching England vs Russia in UEFA qualifiers. England has style. No whining to refs. Russia?  Aggressive, pushy. England moves ball gracefully.
But it’s 0-0.

What else am I giving up as this ebbs?
Completely clean,clear and quiet mind –  joyful, quick but unencumbered by memory/ to do’s / or even regret
No agenda other than to walk
The glow of shared experience = our cadre of intimates – we met big Sergio this am on the steps leading down as he recounted how hard the trip descending from Cruz de ferro was on his knees and his pride that he’d lost his gut.
The immediacy of deep sharing of meaningful life goals with people I don’t meet in my ordinary rounds.  I met Janeya a superb young woman sitting next on KLM.  She was just coming home after a 6 month stint of travel throughout west Africa – solo.  What a bright and courageous presence.  Was she ever an antidote to cynicism about the young!  The ability to talk through the aftermath of our shaping trips was precious – and where can an old guy like me do that with a 20+ woman in the home context?

Back to Madrid, the sense partially recaptured. Soccer game on. Share that with waiters.  Bits of the warmth and giving nature of the people of Galicia appearing in my two wonderful cabbies going into and out of Madrid.
Standing in line at the Prado for tickets with a young man and his elegant Madrilleno partner talking amiably.  It turns out he has done Camino twice.
Warm but fading shadows. Spanish still incredibly fair and of strong value principle.
Score ended up 1-1.

The future is closing in, coming on fast and, while I’m committed to keeping this residue, it will be a challenge.

There’s always more.  As we got near the end, we were steeped in stories of a number of people going on to Finisterre.  We met an Aussie steaming by having done the Primitivo route over the northern mountains.
Ramon and Marcel had completed the coastal Northern Route along the beaches of along the Bay of Biscay.  Sergio says he’ showing to the Portuguese way up from Porto.

Now sitting in a restaurant dipped in the shallow shared common tepid pool of sports.  Sometimes it seems that such commercialized forms are all we have of a common bond.

Except it isn’t. The real current runs very deep and strong and we swim in it full strength when we walk the Camino.

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you brought
and light their illumined corners, and to read
them as they drifted through the western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you could still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.
– David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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