Friday, 2 April 2010

Halfway Home/Home Half Way

WARNING: This post may contain Pseudo-Mystical Nonsense. Pragmatists Turn Back Now.

I am halfway to the End of the Earth. Which is to say I am back at home at the Peaceable, which is just about halfway down the Camino Frances to Finisterre. (This may be the title of my next book, so consider it hereby copyrighted.) The family came out onto the trail to meet me. Kim shot photos. I could swear Tim is smiling in this picture... or maybe I flatter myself?

It is a strangely in-between place. It is utterly familiar, perfectly comfortable, and completely mine, so far as anything can belong to anybody. This is an environment made-over by me, to suit my personal taste and comfort. It is assuring and healing and, in its way, numbing.

The food is wonderful. The company is the best my world can offer me: my husband. Our family by adoption: Kim the mystic butler, (who maintains things beautifully, including the labyrinth)... Bob the meistersinger, Tim the comforter, Una the old best friend, provident chickens, luxuriating Murph, the pure aesthetic of the galgo girls. And Ramon, Kim´s novio -- an energy-worker massage therapist equipped with herbal unguents and electrical hands that put the battered pilgrim back in order. I am in my own little heaven.

As I walk I am carrying along a tiny edition of the Tao Te Ching, a 3,000-year-old book of boiled-down Chinese wisdom served up in couplets. It tells me to "give myself up to whatever the moment brings." So I let the healer spin my chakras, I taste the pungent yellow curry til my eyes cry and my sinuses open up. I put on the Sidney Bechet and Death Cab for Cutie music that makes Bob sing most happily.  I soak in a bathtub full of green-tea scented foam. I sleep in my own bed, for hours and hours. I treat the infection in my toe. I wonder if maybe I should just stop here, call off this Camino-walking nonsense, seeing as I already walked the whole Camino once, and that oughtta be enough for anyone. I live on the Camino. I can walk up and down its bony spine whenever I need to.
 The first half of the walk has been difficult and distressing, spiritually if not physically. So why go on? Why beat myself up this way?

This very day, the sage Solitary Walker blog had this to say, from the old Buddhist monk Ryokan:

My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe.
When the moon comes out, I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.

Maybe I ought to just stay here in my hut, eh?

Still, I wash everything very thoroughly, and start to re-pack my bag. (I don´t think anyone here has noticed they´ve been washing the laundry in fabric softener...) I need to go tomorrow morning so I don´t lose my walking rhythm. I have walked now from Roncesvalles to home. And now I will walk from home to Santiago de Compostella, and from there perhaps to the End of the Earth, and even on to San Andres de Teixido, depending on my feet and my energy level and this freakin´ never-ending cold headwind. It´s a great privilege to do this walk, to have the time and money and support. Who knows when I will again have this opportunity?

"The Moment" brought me here. Circumstance allows. I can go now, so I will. But with very low expectations.

Meditative pilgrimage is a discipline, a conceit, an artificially-induced stress with clear, challenging, but achieveable daily goals. The racket of bills and telephones and regretting yesterday and planning for tomorrow is stripped away and I am left with only birdsong, footfalls, and the varying levels of noise in my own head. And my fellow travelers, people on thier own wildly varied versions of the inward journey, teach me many things too, if I can stop being annoyed by their self-absorption and noise long enough to listen to them. If I can lay aside MY OWN self-absorption and noise long enough.

Still, I see The Peaceable in a new light now. As a pilg I am a sort of leaf bobbing on the Camino stream.  And the Peaceable is a stone in the stream, a place where a leaf can fetch up for a while, before the current carries him away again. My unique gift is I can be a leaf for a while, and still be part of the stone, too. Not to mention the stream.

The Tao te Ching says:

The Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views
She stays serenely within herself.

Why should the lord of the country 
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.

I´m not the lord of the country yet, so I shall shove off back into the stream, just to see what the water is like these days, the places where "our" pilgs are heading when they leave us. And maybe just learn something from the rocks and dirt and pilgs and leaves and noise. Learn some balance. Learn how to ignore the stupidity, cupidity, and politics that increasingly pave and litter The Way, and just let the Road be what it is for now. It has survived worse insults. It´s going to outlive all this marketing-hype horse-shit and political back-stabbing, even as it outlives Xacobeo 2010, Junta Castilla y Leon, la Federacion de Amigos del Camino de Santiago, the European frickin´Union, and the Peaceable Kingdom.

And me. I will stay serenely within myself. At least until the third glass of Albariño. And unless I bump my bad toe.


Anonymous said...

'All the world in a glain of sand, Glasshopper.'

Anonymous said...

"It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar"

-Henry David Thoreau

That's enuff quotes.

The Solitary Walker said...

Terrific post, Rebekah. One of your best yet.

Don't think I'll live that pseudo-mystical thing down.

And my own blog's getting more mystical by the minute... If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Buen Camino!

Anonymous said...

oh to be your big toe...or a fly on the wall of the chicken coop...

all is well, and all is well and all manner of thing (sic) shall be well....

carry on,

verena said...

ánimo dear, not just for the walking...

may Grace bless you with the dedication to again and again
relax the focus from narrow searching
to the infinite Space you are,

joyfully coming back hundreds of times every day from thoughts
to listening quietly
to the Silence
which holds it all...

the sound of the wind in the poplar trees, the sensation of your feet walking, the warmth of the muscles, the endless sky and the birds in it, pilgrims and bars, churches and toilets, the snores in the night, the smiles in the hearts...

a million times, come back and listen, until it will never get lost...

Buen Camino


claire said...

'I can walk up and down its bony spine whenever I want to...'

If ever my knee lets me walk that bony spine again, I will be the happiest soul on this earth.

I love to read you. What a blessing you are!

Libby said...

I am so proud that you are my mom.
Love, Lib

AnnieSantiago said...

Wonderful honest post, Reb.
Sending you love and energy.
Keep on truckin'

45N93W said...

Reb, San Andrés de Teixido is an extraordinary place and it has the most curious merketing slogan: "San Andrés de Teixido onde vai de morto o que non foi de vivo". I´ve been there... narrow escape... Please, smile.

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Dear Rebekah....I know I am among many who are glad yo were born!

k said...

I´m fine, people, smiling too. Great sunny Easter walk into Mansilla de los Mulas down the long Roman Road, with yet another tall rangy young clergyman!

More later, when I am not so knackered. Life is very good.

Carole said...

Love your honesty Rebekah. You make me just want to get back on camino ... right now. But . . no . . will wait till next year.
Keep on with one foot after the other and I really hope you gain heaps from this trek, in all sorts of ways.

Here's a quote from Pablo Neruda (translated from Spanish) . . .

"And that's why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road."

Buen camino.

kim said...

richard said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing Rebekah…...

“Meditative pilgrimage is a discipline, a conceit, an artificially-induced stress with clear, challenging, but achieveable daily goals. The racket of bills and telephones and regretting yesterday and planning for tomorrow is stripped away and I am left with only birdsong, footfalls, and the varying levels of noise in my own head.”

Thank you for writing it!