The Camino through Song: Desperado

This one’s a propos given what I posted yesterday.

Desperado has been one of my heart songs for a long time — probably since college. Since I reached 40, it seems even more poignant.

I only had this song in mind once on the whole Camino. It was mid-morning, the sun was shining warmly on my back and leaving long shadows on the wide, dusty road ahead. I was walking with Muriel, but we weren’t together at that moment. I was enjoying the cool morning breeze, the stately poplars that lined the path, and the newly-plowed fields ready to spring to life.

I was fascinated by the deep irrigation ditches that enclosed every field for miles, splooshing water sounds were delightful in this otherwise dry land.

I know every word, so I just started singing.

And crying.

Because this song makes me remember that trying to have all my shit together makes a person really lonely. That hanging out on the fence, trying to say the right thing instead of the honest, truthful thing makes me mistrust every “I love you.” That being strong means you break instead of bend. That I’m surrounded by people who have love to give me, but I have to choose to let it in or I will always feel that empty ache inside.

This song is a call to arms. It reminds me that time is running out. For me, for all of us, and that in the end, giving and receiving love is the only thing that matters.

Moved, I sat on one of the concrete irrigation wells to journal about these insights for a while. Muriel walked by, grinning, and said, “You found some inspiration!” I grinned back.

The next village was supposed to have a cafe in it and I was ready to sit down, but we discovered that it hadn’t opened yet for the season. Instead, an older man stood by his car at the entrance to the town with a basket of treats, a custom stamp for our pilgrim passports, and the shiniest, most loving brown eyes.

“Hola!” he greeted us. “Quieres un sello?” Surprised by his warmth, we were both instantly enchanted with this sweet man who introduced himself as Pepe.

We took out our passports and Pepe stamped them. At the top of my passport he wrote, “Haz el bien y no mires a quien.” Pausing, he added “(a todos).” No one had ever done this before, but it felt right — like the Spanish equivalent of a fortune cookie. My translation is a little rough: Do good and don’t look at who (to all) or “Do good to all alike.” When I look back on that day, it was a message to do good, to be kind, even to myself. A todos, me not exempted.

We cooled our heels, sampled his candies, and cracked open a few walnuts he’d left out in a basket for passing pilgrims. As we got ready to go, Pepe was swarmed with pilgrims. He was writing a different inscription on every passport. I wanted to thank him for his kindness and worked my way through the crowd.

“Gracias por la hospitalidad,” I told him. He took both my hands, looked into my eyes, and proclaimed, “Amiga!” Friend! His eyes glittered with warmth. We hugged. Delighted and grinning, Muriel and I proceeded into the beautiful morning.

I let someone love me. It’s never too late.


Pepe’s inscription on my pilgrim passport and the wrapper from the candy he gave me ❤

One thought on “The Camino through Song: Desperado

  1. I cried too just reading this. You are a good writer, Jen. I feel pulled along with you on El Camino. Sweet story about Pepe. I’m glad you let somebody love you!

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