Today was the first day on the Meseta. I walked alone all day. I walked 31.5 kilometers which is about 19 miles. I began the day thinking deep thoughts: how can I make money? Will I always be single? What’s wrong with me? What’s right with me? Am I making the most of this time? Am I praying enough? Am I thinking about God enough?
Solvitur ambulando: it is solved by walking. Every morning I start with those big thoughts, and the walking wrings them out until by the end of the day, my feet hurt and my thoughts are just drops: when was the last time I saw a slug? Why is the wine served cold? Is “tuft” a fitting descriptor of that cloud? What is tiger balm for?
I don’t want this trip to ever end, but as soon as I start walking I want to be at the albergue. Today it took hours of underpasses and suburbs and boring fields to get up on the Meseta. I kept rushing to get to the interesting part, and then slowing and trying to be where I was when I saw the interesting part would come in its time.
I’ve started envisioning the Camino as a microcosm of a lifetime. You tumble out of an albergue, disoriented, in the dark as the trip is born. You learn to walk. You learn to eat. You learn to make friends. Sometimes you are alone and sometimes you are not. And in both the pilgrimage and in my life, I am, as far as I can tell, at the beginning of the long middle stretch. If I rush it and try to reach the end faster, I’ll get hurt and be stupid.
Last night a guy named Alex asked me what I was hoping to work through on the Camino. What I told him is what I’ll tell you: I was expecting to spend more time working through grief, shortcomings, emotional baggage, resentment. But what’s been happening is that I’ve been walking, and hanging out with people (not even having life-changing encounters, just hanging out), and finding that a lot of the issues I thought I had are actually issues God’s already healed. Every place in me I think is one of weakness turns out to be one of strength, one of those “Oh, no, you don’t need to worry about this part of your life, you’re taken care of, take it off your to-do list” things.
Even when my feet hurt, this feels more like a victory lap than a time of reckoning.