afterwards, what is one left with? it is difficult to say because what you are left with is, in itself, understanding that ebbs and flows across time, resonating at different future moments ~ a shimmering lake ~ memories and learning shining for an instant…….POW!……then reabsorbing into the blue. it is hard to have a concrete idea.

i feel like in my mind and life, i have now walked around and around the idea of existence with no beginnings or endings and how these concepts can condition your experience of living. shedding the norms of daily life like an old skin through this pilgrimage has been a great source of light for me, helping me to see others, myself, and the precious diamond shards of life that are constantly reflected in our experiences of nature. shamanic practice is teaching me how to use that light to look into the darkness of what i don’t understand and to feel the earth, solid and abundant, supporting me as i walk. the path allowed explorations of fear, solitude, and sharing. from the act of one person simply walking, all of these experiences add texture and flavour to an organised communal space that is as infinite in possibility as the inner universes of the people who have walked through it.

right now, the aftertaste of my walk is sweet, deep and rich. how will that change as the days pass ? who knows……. but catching a heart glimpse of the people i met has been an unforgettable part of the past six weeks.

as i walked, one of the things i tried to do was to photograph faces. i wanted to have a mass of snaps of people’s faces, not only to have them as memory stimulus, as a heart reminder, but also to see more or less how many people i personally came into contact with. some of these relationships have now moved beyond the camino into virtual spaces through whatsapp or email, some with phone calls and some of these people i have seen again, already. the small collection of faces that are here is not complete. there were many situations where i was so in the moment with that person that i forgot to take pictures, or it felt a little embarrassing or alien to the context of the situation to take the picture. and then, of course, are the countless nameless people who simply walked past me, or with whom i might have shared food or a dorm room or passing conversation sitting around outside the albergue……….they are now faceless people who anonymously contributed to the weave of my camino, the same way that i somehow contributed to theirs.

walking in euskadi, i met a 20 year old who was three years out of a major car accident that had left him in a coma and with one of his arms paralysed, amongst other issues. his whole head had been split open in the accident and they had rebuilt his skull with some sort of metal plate. imagine a young person who has this experience and then wakes up and makes a very concrete decision to begin to live life more in the moment. this person now understands that most of what we go on about in this sometimes crazy human world is just noise, and that there are very few real reasons to worry about anything. the gift given to him was a preview of his own death. the big “ending”. this is a lucky man to have that sort of an experience at such a young age. it is funny because when i first saw this person, my eyes saw a tall, thin, probably northern european person. white. blonde. a guy who was apparently having problems with one of his feet. in fact, the first time i saw him, he was limping and i remember that i felt a physical discomfort watching him walk. it seemed that he was pushing himself to walk, pushing hard to just keep going. that night, i found myself sitting with him and another pilgrim (carlos) outside a monastery, late into the night, talking and listening to bach on someone’s phone. as he told me his story it was amazing to feel the superficial images that i had constructed of him peel away in an instant, revealing something so complex and with so much more strength and potential. he is a very tangible reminder that what lies underneath the surface of the skin and behind the eyes of the other is often so very different to what is registered by my eyes. and i catch myself making these judgements a hundred times a day, every day.

clearly, without someone to walk, there is no camino. the walker is a part of the camino itself, a part of that place, at that moment in time. passing through leaving some sort of trace……………and now another face slips into my mind………rainer….a man who has been walking for eight years. he is a tall german who wears the pilgrim’s bronzed skin, beads and a jesus beard. wandering the camino, day to day, he falls into rhythm with people as he walks and opens up a space so that he can read the person he is walking with. he explained to me that many times, he found himself walking with people for a period of time and that he felt that his job in this situation was to give that person some sort of spiritual guidance to help them engage with whatever transformation they were searching for at that moment. he would give them a spiritual poem to read, and by gauging their reaction to the poem, he made decisions as to how he would proceed. to me, this is a beautiful interpretation of the concept of a path, one that is not limited to the earth that you walk on. the path becomes something else, something with much more potential for transformation, when you consider the impact that people like rainer have on other pilgrim’s experiences of their camino. many times i found myself in the company of people who seemed to have been made to order by the camino, like jose and david, the two policemen from madrid, who appeared like angels to walk with me at the height of a massive paranoia trip walking through a forest on top of a mountain in cantabria. and mona, my gorgeous Finnish walking companion………….small, sturdy, fire spirit. such an open heart. such troubles with her feet, teaching me to connect to my feet…….and nicole from germany………………………..a brave soul adventurer……………………………andy, from airlie beach……jeremiah, patri………….jose luis, the argentinian guy who channels energies from “up there”…………………………………………all the way to my gorgeous new friends at the end….and, of course, the lighthouse. i think of him now, and my heart flutters in my chest…yes……it is true.

…………angel. bright, clean eyes. a sturdy, solid walker…..now, i have explained that i was somewhat traumatised after my run in with the sad masturbator in the forest. for a few days i kept seeing shady characters trembling behind bushes and things like that. as it turns out, angel had his own experience of men and trees. an experience where he was mistaken as a woman by a flasher who came out from behind some trees after angel had walked past. apparently, this (myopic?) stripper goblin of the forest appeared wearing a green g-string. when he realised that angel was in fact a man, the fellow simply ran away, leaving in his wake, an absolutely hilarious anecdote that angel took great pleasure in recounting, and which i heard him recount on at least 15 occasions. what angel does not know, is that his experience made me laugh so hard that it completely deflated any nastiness that i had in my mind about what had happened to me. the mental imagery was absolutely priceless and for days afterwards i found myself walking along with the image suddenly appearing, and i would break down laughing again………

as i write this, i realise that it does not feel all that important to give detailed descriptions of who i perceived these people to be. that is not the point here. it is the notion that all the people that we come across in our lives represent an opportunity to explore a new world, a new perspective. and you can rest assured that there is always something that resonates in our interactions with others, no matter who it is. it is beautiful to explore resonance or lack of resonance…….pushing against or accepting………………….and in the end, laughing about it, because that is all you can really do if you do not want to descend into the pure madness of the individual who believes that in the grand scheme of things, any of this is to be taken seriously ~a tiny new passenger on board, hoping to be carted about for the rest of your life. i learned that laughter releases and lightens………..and that it feels good to be light, floating in the ticklish abandon of not caring……………

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