It’s been said that the lessons of the Camino come in three parts, corresponding to the phases of its physical journey. The first lesson is the body, second the heart, and third the spirit. If this is true, then the meseta is the realm of the heart as the second third of the journey emerging between the mountainous Pyrenees and hilly Galicia.
Over these fecund and flat lands, one has the opportunity to contemplate the inner world of the heart without excessive physical strain. It’s certainly a contrast from the cities and forests. Many complain of the boredom of the meseta and absence of interesting features.
It seems that the more one is alienated from her own heart, the more grating this terrain can be. To find oneself walking for days through a comparatively uninteresting landscape chafes against our culture’s penchant for novelty and distraction. It threatens the pilgrim with looking deeper, beyond the surface, and the risk of discomfort and change. For this reason (and certainly others), many pilgrims hop the bus and skip the meseta entirely.
If one is courageous (having heart), a pilgrim can use the meseta‘s blank canvas to contemplate the inner world of her heart, to go deep into the recesses where old wounds lie to find healing and forgiveness.
Now reunited with my friend Muriel, we walked over more of the meseta together, beside a lovely, tree-lined river complete with croaking frogs, singing birds, and sweet smells wafting across the countryside. Before I’d left, many of the photos of the meseta showed brown and gold fields, but Spain’s springtime bread basket is a vibrant green with new life in gorgeous contrast with the blue sky.
Because it had rained so much the previous day, the roads were mucky to walk on but the balmy weather buoyed my spirits. What a difference it makes on one’s mood to walk in sunshine. I walked and sang.
And suddenly, an unbidden thought arose of my former partner, Sue.
Despite years of therapy and personal work, I felt trapped by a web of conflicting emotions over the course and conclusion of that five-year relationship. I’d become healthier in the intervening years, enough to find a new love. But I still felt stuck, bitter, and regretful every time I thought of what we’d created together.
I had been waiting all those years for an admission of her culpability, for an apology for the hurt I believed she’d caused me. Neither of these ever came, which left me in a perpetual state of incompleteness.
If the meseta is the realm of the heart, this painful, unhealed rift was bound to arise.
As I crunched along the gravel that morning and thought of her, I heard these words as if whispered in my ear: I forgive you.
I blinked and felt a squeezing sensation in my chest. This voice was a message from my soul to Sue’s. I breathed and let it come through:
I forgive you. I forgive you for ignoring me for days, for withholding your love and attention. I forgive you for drinking. I forgive you because I know you were doing the best you knew how.
I release you from my resentment. I wish you peace.
Stunned by these blinding truths, I felt immediate release from the years of resentment. Peace flooded into its place and tears poured down my face from sweet relief.
Then suddenly, I heard these words again.
I forgive you.
This time they were a message from my soul to myself:
I forgive you for staying so long in such a painful situation. I forgive you for choosing safety and familiarity over your own well being. I forgive you for trying to stay small. You were doing the best you knew how.
For the first time in over ten years, my heart felt unburdened of its heaviness and regrets. I no longer needed her apology. Forgiven, I felt whole at last. I felt light enough to fly.
I stepped off the path to sit in the morning sun and record the message in my journal. I wanted to remember it. Muriel walked by as I wrote and asked me, grinning, “You found some inspiration?”
Yes, Life had been breathed back into my heart. I felt free.Storks had been showing up for several days along the path, roosting high atop church steeples. I had to sketch them because they delighted me. I learned later that in the native tradition, storks mean more than just baby bringing; they are signs of spring, renewal, and the divine feminine. In the Christian tradition, they symbolize the Annunciation, that Mary would bear the Christ child. What an affirming sign on one’s pilgrimage!
Muriel’s impending departure made me aware of the preciousness of the time that remained in my own journey. She shared with me how odd it felt to suddenly be preoccupied with travel logistics after walking every day for three weeks. I took her observations to heart and made a mental note to be gentle with myself when my own time to catch a flight came near.
As we arrived in Carrión de los Condes, Muriel’s guidebook pointed us to a sweet, clean pensión with a quiet room. After showers, we toured this historic town at a leisurely pace, enjoying its churches and plazas. We strolled down to the river Carrión and discovered a beautiful tree-lined, sun-dappled public park. For dinner, we feasted on seafood soup, chicken, and crema Catalana. We agreed to sleep in in the morning.
From my journal: I don’t know if it’s the lightness from earlier today or excitement for what tomorrow holds, but I just feel delighted with life.