FROM SOMEWHERE ON THE CAMINO…
I DID IT! ONE MONTH OF SILENCE!! (yesterday)
While walking the last 450 KM’s carrying a 30 pound backpack of temporal attachments as the seasons literally change before my eyes, I have found myself in a new land. A place where I have forgotten time. Or maybe time has forgotten me? Either way, having no clue what the hour is has been astoundingly healthy for my soul. Not knowing what day it is has become a new normal and a cleansing reality. So at some point during the day yesterday, as I was walking through Spanish fields of gold…
I suddenly became aware that it had been an entire month since I had last spoken. To anyone – or even to myself. One month without uttering a word. CRAZY! I’ve coughed, burped, choked, sneezed and lately I’ve allowed myself to whistle a song once in awhile. Soon I might even start to LOL. But all verbal communication has been completely eliminated from my world. (Unless a bunkmate in one of the many hostels/albergues has heard me talk in my sleep. And since I rarely sleep alone anymore, surely someone would have mentioned it by now.) I’ve asked and so far, talking has not been the sound emanating from my bunk.
For the last week or so, I’ve been walking 20-30 KM’s per day, which has put me ridiculously ahead of schedule and more than halfway towards my destination. (I still have no idea when the celebrated halfway mark came and went.) So today, I made a last minute decision to stop and rest my feet and my soul. Both have become numb, void of feeling and callous.
Soon I will head into the city of León, a destination that seems to have a strange gravitational pull for me. It might be because my mom’s name was Leone and as silly as it sounds, it feels like I am walking towards her name. Towards her, I guess. The other day I openly wept again thinking of how I treated her growing up through my teen years, just before she died. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to let go of that regret?
After walking through seemingly abandoned village after abandoned village, where the only sign of life were octogenarians wandering around aimlessly as though in some permanent state of purgatory…
– it’s the cities that now scare me. Abandoned villages with old people wandering around used to scare me. (Imagine a scene from some bad Kirk Cameron movie that should have been Left Behind, except with better acting.)
After sleeping in bunk beds that were obviously designed for kids (AKA Spanish)…
I found a fantastic little village inn with an actual real bed for grown ups! And the view out my window inspired me to stay a few days to try and download some stuff that has been percolating inside of me.
Stopping to write my thoughts down is always such a daunting task for someone who left school in Grade 9 because he couldn’t get his thoughts from his head onto a piece of paper. So I procrastinated and walked around the village. Then, 12 minutes later when that task was completed, I bought some fruit I didn’t recognize and some food that made me wonder if I’d be doing the porcelain polka later.
Then I sat in my room, staring out at the spanish steeple from the 12th century church as the sun set on the grapevines growing within an arm’s reach of my second story window. Ready for the pickin’!
Speaking of “ready for the pickin’”, the problem isn’t that there’s nothing to write about. The problem is that there’s always too much floating around in my cavernous cranium, which makes the task of choosing what to write about even more daunting. So for now, here’s a couple of things that have leaked out of me recently on The Way:
1/ Why can’t I congratulate myself for being silent for an entire month?
Maybe it’s because I was raised in a family of country folk that taught me not to git too big fer my britches? (Thanks Marshalls of Mono!)
Maybe it’s because I was raised in a country which taught me that pride is to be quietly celebrated? (Thanks Don Cherry!)
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a faith that taught me to put others before myself? (Thanks Jesus people!)
Maybe it’s because I have said and done so many stupid things that I find it hard to see myself as one who deserves praise? Or because I know myself enough to know that even in my altruism there is ego? Or because I’ve become so used to listening to the internal soundtrack of shame that when another tune begins to play I feel uneasy and change the channel back to what I know? (Thanks Drew Marshall!)
Anyway – I’m almost 50 and earlier this year I set a goal of not speaking for three months and I just completed one month. So WAHOOOO for Drew! 🙂
2/ What does a month of silence feel like?
Sometimes it feels like I’m invisible and merely a shadow on the wall.
Sometimes I feel like an alien from another world.
Sometimes I feel like my ancestors who didn’t know they could speak.
Sometimes I enjoy seeing the joy on someone’s face when they succeed in figuring out my childlike attempt to communicate through the international language of charades.
Sometimes it’s exhausting.
But most of all, I have experienced an enormous amount of love from seekers like me, who somehow feel comfortable enough to share their journeys and their tears with this strange, silent Canadian.
MY CONFESSION(s): I’m a high school dropout who still has problems comprehending what I read and writing what I think / I find it hard to congratulate myself for anything / I still hate myself for treating my mom the way I did
I don’t know if this will make sense to you. It sounds better in my head than when I write it down.
Somebody said, I can’t remember who, that experiencing God is like Raisin Bran with milk. Sure, you can pick out a few raisins (special, memorable miracles or experiences), but the heart of the matter is the flakes, soggy with the milk. You can’t pick out the milk – the daily experiences of God in the MIDST of real life – it permeates EVERYTHING. Maybe Paul Young was right about that.
You get away from the religious rat-race, and the Source of your being goes right with you. I’m really praying that the milk becomes obvious, and that some raisins are obvious too, if you get my meaning. Praying for you all the way.
Thank you for posting… I’ve been waiting patiently for an update on the journey. Beautiful pictures. Way to hang in there.
I think you’re being entirely too hard on yourself, Drew. The Camino, and pilgrimage in general, brings us face to face with those things we need to make peace with. It kicks your butt, but in its wisdom and love, gives you the space to heal.
The Camino is called the Way of the Sword for a reason 😉
Keep well, and buen camino!
I’m in a weird way envious of your journey – some days I long to lose myself in silence. To find time to breathe deep and let my mind wonder without the distractions of everyday life. In those moments, I seem to find myself and I think you are too. I read an article the other day that mentioned without sadness we don’t stop to connect with ourselves. I think when we reflect we are slowly healing old wounds as painful as the process it and dang, some of that baggage is heavy.
I look forward to more of your posts!
Guest suggestion for the new year: Martin Sheen. I just listened to this amazing interview he did when filming “The Way”. I am inspired by his take on the difference between religion and spirituality. It’s a 19 minute interview, but very captivating.
Ruby from Alberta
ps. I really enjoy seeing the same scenes in your pictures that were in the movie. Love the bales!!!
Well done on your silent odyssey, Drew. And thanks for posting that picture of myself (waving) and the others in Viana – just before they got locked out of their hostel! If you could forward on that photo in an email, I’d be more than grateful.
I’m in Galicia now, and I was thinking of when you first met me in ‘the magic house – la casa magica’ in villatuerte. You posed a question, via writing it on your phone: Why was I doing the Camino? I said that it was too soon to say. I think it still is. A Finnish couple, who were very kind to me with their company and good humor when I was very down, told me that the reason for doing the Camino might become clear when it is over and you look at ‘before’ and ‘after’ and realize that the difference that has happened reflects the reason for the Camino. Perhaps.
Now I’m in Galicia, in Sarria, hoping for a night free of snoring old men in hostel dorms (but having forgotten that Spanish builders like to make hotel room walls out of paper) and thinking of this elusive ‘reason for doing the Camino’. But it’s a reason that seems to reveal itself slowly, like an image developing on a photograph – I might ‘know what it is’, but it’s better to wait for all the details to fall into sharp focus before Saying It. So, that might be a sort of Silent Camino of sorts.
I can say that going through the Galician hamlet of Herrerias, about 10 km before O’Cebreiro, I saw a tree upon which people were encouraged to pin their hopes and prayers. I wrote ‘to Be Not Afraid’, but I won’t say why. If you have yet to go through that hamlet, see if you can find it – and look at the other prayers and wishes.
Perhaps we’ll run into each other again – but if not, you helped make the Camino special, to me and all the others with whom you’ve met and spent time with. Good luck on the rest of your journey! Go n-eiri an bothar leat! Ultreia.