somewhere between santa cruz de bezana and requejada (cantabria), i am walking alone. it is grey. it is cold. it is wet. it is windy. oh, how the wind winds up the mind. stirs it right up. and as i walk up a hill, alone, listening to “air” through my headphones, all i can feel is the air around me, swirling, stirring, pricking and poking. provoking me through my skin. it is pushing me, pinprick by pinprick towards irritation, into grey spaces that were once green. from one second to the next, all colour disappears.
the wind pushes the rain down onto me as i walk. it fills me up, overflowing from my eyes in a sudden wave of i-do-not-know-what. i stand on the side of the road, crying, liquid waves of emotion pushing up and out. it feels good. it feels weird. but, i don’t know what it is, what it means. i stand inside the strangeness of letting go in plain sight, but the feeling of strangeness only lasts for a moment. i am protected from feelings of shame or embarrassment by the shield of anonymity that my status as pilgrim brings. at that moment, i am merely a part of this cold, watery, windy landscape. a lonely person standing on the side of a hill surrendering to the energy of the buffeting winds. i am a part of the path already walked the same way that it is a part of me. without each other, this moment of release could not come into being.
walking like this every day, one also encounters the wind that emerges from the mouths of others, moving in the spaces between people. the broad appeal of the camino de santiago means that there are large numbers of people wandering along the way at any given time, and, like a science experiment, the pilgrim becomes a molecule in a test tube, colliding, bonding, repelling. relationships can rise and fall in an instant, or last days, or even weeks. coming into contact with others, it is, of course, expected that there will be some sort of spoken interaction as you walk. in my opinion, and in my experience, “buen camino!!” is the civilised minimum. as of yet, i have not had the experience of someone simply walking past and not saying anything. at the other end of the spectrum is the person who latches on, walking and talking all the way from point a to point b. i have discovered that i have no tolerance for this, and i wonder why it irritates me so. i am excited and happy to connect with people when i am taking a break, over breakfast, or at the end of the day…..but while i am walking, i can only handle a small amount of this kind of human wind. over long periods of time, i find that it distracts me from myself, my footsteps, and the place where i am at that moment, leading me away from bliss and into resentment.
the lesson here is how to navigate this tension in a respectful manner with the other, whilst also respecting myself. this is a metaphor for my daily life, where i often see that i have a tendency to stay the course until the other person moves away, even if i am at the stage that i want to slap them and tell them to shut up! this is a significant “learning” for me, as i learn to lovingly mark my boundaries within the context of walking this camino.