Spend 47 days doing anything and you’re bound to forget something
As I think about my 21st day on the Camino, I remember so little, not even Google Images seems to jog my memory. Where did we walk? What did I eat? I’m drawing a total blank. What I recall is straight from my journal.
My first clue? I wrote “rain, rain… and more rain” on the map in my guidebook. Foul weather means walking with one’s head down which must be why I remember little of the terrain. My journal tells me that the path was muddy from the rain and that I was grateful for my poncho. I remember hearing frogs along the canal.
The memories piece themselves together bit by bit.
What stands out most from that soggy day is Muriel’s company. And later, what it felt like to be without it.
During our hours-long conversation, this smart, soulful woman shared with me her observations about life with humor and smarts: How to really let go of someone when you want to break the ties respectfully. Her perspectives on parenting. More degrees of separation. Many topics that had us both laughing. If you’ve ever thought the French were stuck up, you wouldn’t know it from Muriel. She made me realize for the hundredth time that people are so much more than their nationality.
During our day’s walk she commented that she thinks I apologize too much. As if I’m sorry I’m alive. This observation was so on-target and so unexpected that I didn’t know how to respond. This is part of why the Camino was so transforming for me — I met people who told me the truth as they saw it. I journaled about her comment for a whole page that night and years of unhelpful, small-making behaviors suddenly made sense.
“I don’t quite know what to do about this,” I wrote in my journal, “but I think it has something to do with being okay with who I am and where I think I should be.”
Arriving as Muriel departs
Because of her short holiday, Muriel never intended to walk the whole Camino on this one trip. After much consideration, she’d decided that today she’d catch a train and return home.
When we arrived in the town of Frómista with its three bars and beautiful church, we tucked into El Manchego to grab something warm to eat and drink, use the restrooms, and figure out her train schedule. I felt guilty about sitting there, dripping rainwater on the floor of this establishment, but no one gave us a second glance. Eventually, smart woman that she is, Muriel navigated the Spanish train website and bought a ticket home.
We hugged goodbye, expressing gratitude for our journey together and reassurances to keep in touch. Misty-eyed, I thought about how I am a much better person having known Muriel.
And then she was gone.
On my own
Alone, I made my way to an out-of-the-way albergue because I liked the name. Estrella de Camino turned out to be a hidden oasis. Despite the rain, I got a quiet room, my clothes washed (and dried in a dryer!), and sat in the living room with my new buddy, Kioba, the resident pooch. She just leeeeaned against me as I scratched her chest.
But I felt completely alone and recognized no one. It was the oddest feeling to have been among friends for three weeks, and then feel so disconnected. I tried greeting other pilgrims as they came and went from the living room, but one older Spanish man tried to set me up with his adult son (to our mutual embarrassment), another group was already rock solid gathered around the fireplace, and several others wanted to just read and relax. Oh, and the annoying American guy who swears a lot showed up too (I couldn’t seem to shake him!).
To pass the time I tried sketching the courtyard scenery in my journal. The gloomy day seemed to reflect my mood.
I wrote in the blank pages, when I felt two hands suddenly cover my eyes from behind.
I had no idea who was being so spontaneously playful, but I turned and saw Muriel’s face beaming down at me.
Her train was full, which meant that we would walk together for another day.
So maybe I don’t remember much of the day’s terrain, but my heart remembers the important parts. And today’s insights would influence tomorrow’s transformation.