following signs

 

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the camino  del norte is, so far, quite well signed. signs work for me. the guidebook at times feels like a tidal wave of words that i need to wade through……… the visuals are good, but still, it takes some doing to get into the groove of following the yellow arrow road. i have noticed that 12 days into the walk i have become increasingly accustomed (conditioned?) to where my eyes have to look to see the arrows, shells, tiles or signposts. the eye is trained to look at traffic signs, on walls, on exposed piping, on the footpath, on the road….the process is becoming automatic, more fluid, more effective.

there is a tension that emerges when i walk for more than a fifteen or so minutes without seeing an arrow. the eyes begin to scan exposed spaces that were once invisible, in search of yellow. until i see that arrow the tension continues to build until i (or somebody else) spots it, at which point the tension releases, and the lightness returns to my mind, my step…. all is well.

up and down the tension shifts, marking the rhythm of my walking, but also the rhythm of my feelings of safety and confidence. it is a bubble of mild suffering that i traverse over long moments until i remember that even if i get “lost”, i am never really lost. there is always a person to ask, there is always another way, and as a last resort, you can always go back and retrace your steps. nothing will happen to you here because the infrastructure and general spirit of this camino across the north of spain will keep you walking. it is indeed beautiful to understand that i am being provided a space where the wrong path does not exist and where the concept of “mistakes” is obsolete. there are only different ways and opportunities for learning.

and this brings me onto the path itself, created and sustained by the caminante, the general spirit of whom has changed and  expanded (evolved?) over time, resulting in ever-increasing numbers of people coming to spain to walk. in the north, the camino is building momentum as more and more people living in the region begin to see tangible economic benefits. the french way, further to the south, has had such an impact that there are towns along the way that would be ghost towns were it not for the camino as it exists in its commercialised form. it is my opinion that beyond the economic benefit, there is a sense of pride that people in the region experience when they see people walking. all of my interactions with locals in different towns have been extremely positive. i have received generosity from strangers on the street. the “buen camino!!!” greeting many times every day. advice. directions. beers. tapas. conversation, even a pair of socks.

of course, while there are benefits to many, there is resistance to the camino by some. walking one day, i noticed patches of black spray paint that appeared to be covering yellow arrows and alternative yellow arrows nearby pointing the walker in another direction. despite confusion, and for some reason unknown to me right now, it didn’t cause me to get lost. that night at the albergue, there was an animated discussion on the topic and we were told by the hospitalero that there was a local resident who was resisting the demarcation of the camino because it cuts through his land, and according to regulations there has to be a 30 metre boundary on either side of the actual camino. it seems that this man was upset (understandably) at having lost that amount of land to the camino. the phrase “camino terrorist” comes to mind………….

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