When I walked in silence for hours at a time, songs come came up that I haven’t thought about in years as unbidden messengers from the Divine. When songs showed up, I pondered their significance in the way you would a dream. Why is this song showing up? What is happening in my life that reflects the message? What does this song want to tell me?
The next three songs had no deep mystical meaning for me, so I’m putting them together into one post.
Everybody Hurts (REM)
This was actually on Gary’s mix and I’ve stolen it from him since it’s super-appropriate for the Camino. I definitely experienced pain in my body. My two pinkie toes developed the smallest, strangest blisters on the very bottom. Over time, separate smaller blisters developed just above the previous ones, closer to the tip of my toe. The blisters made it uncomfortable to wear my shoes. I hobbled. I whined. I used the mefix that Carol gave me. I bought thinner socks. But nothing worked better than popping them to relieve the pressure. In about 10 days, they were gone and replaced with callous. Pain free.
I also developed the Camino hobble. Everyone does, young or old. It happens when you’ve been sitting for a while say, under a red umbrella outside a cafe enjoying a cheese bocadillo and an orange Fanta (my Camino addiction). You get up to pay the bill, stand up straight like a normal person, and WHAM! Your next step has you hobbled over like Quasimodo, limping to the bar. Everyone laughs when it happens, because it happens to everyone.
I was thankfully pain-free most of the Camino, so talking about my hurts seems novel. This song is so soothingly repetitive, it’s a good mantra for the Camino. “Hold on, hold on…”
Hotel California (Eagles)
This is one of my Dad’s favorite songs. I think it was in my head because I was being greeted at a new albergue each day — and a few hotels too.
What were the albergues like? They were as different as they were similar. The Camino has both private albergues (owned and run by locals) and public ones (owned by the government and run by employees). I liked them for different reasons.
Privately-owned albergues often had fewer people per room which makes for a better night’s sleep. They seemed homier. Dinner and breakfast were often offered, which meant a family-style meal, conversation with other pilgrims, and a friendlier experience. Sometimes it meant experiencing a bit of what locals’ lives are like and hearing a bit of the regional dialects (Gallego and Basque).
The public albergues were often much larger with more people per room, but very efficient. They often had larger bathrooms with multiple showers and toilet stalls. They usually had laundry facilities. As an introvert, I liked how the public ones allowed me a degree of privacy through anonymity. Rarely did they offer meals which meant scouring the town alone or with friends to find dinner.
This one goes out to my Colombian friend, Marisela. We met on the eve of Day 1, roomed together in a triple at Esprit du Chemin, and was an all-around amazing teacher for me on the Camino.
Marisela is about my age and just left her job as a banker to see the world and find something really meaningful to do with her career. She’s a whiz in cities. When we got to Pamplona, our first big city, Katrin and I were freaking out. The sudden change from forest paths to urban activity was just too shocking. Marisela, in contrast, was in her element and navigated us easily to the nearest 5-star hotel without a map.
Have you ever tried to book a 5-star hotel in person wearing sweaty clothes and a huge backpack? Katrin and I felt super-shy — Marisela was like, “Why not?” So we found out that it was out of our price range, and downgraded to a 4-star just down the street. I love Marisela for a lot of reasons, but her gregarious confidence is one of my favorites.
Marisela and I had an initial agreement — that she would speak English to me (to practice) and I would speak Spanish to her (same reason). Except I had a hard time keeping up with the bargain because her English is soo good and my Spanish is remedial at best. I think I missed the chapters on verb conjugation, so I mostly speak Spanish in nouns and infinitives!
Marisela and I walked together for 2 weeks and she became a dear friend. Any time I wanted to address her, I called her Chica or Chiquita (which cracked her up — but at least I was using some Spanish!). So, with a brain like mine, the ABBA song, Chiquitita, got stuck in my head.
I like how the song expresses how life can knock you down, but you do get back up with the help of friends. At one point I literally fell down and Marisela was one of the people who helped me up, wiped away my tears of embarrassment, and got me on my feet again. Because that’s just how things roll on the Camino.