WALK OF LIFE
After some research and a year of planning, Franc and I decided to take a less traveled route of the famous pilgrimage “The Camino de Santiago” on the north coast of Spain.
Thousands of people have walked the pilgrimage across Spain over the past thousand (or so) years, and there are many different routes and durations of travel on The Camino. We wanted to have the shared pilgrimage experience, but did not want to take the 5 to 6 weeks to do the extended journey. Ours was a 9-day trek covering about 150 miles. Long enough to have a meaningful experience, and not so long as to take on many of the extended hardships that accompany such a commitment. Our choice of routes proved to be a perfect match with our desires. We were fully engaged in the challenge, but were not overwhelmed by it, and thus had a meaningful, fun and fulfilling journey.
For me The Camino was a chance to separate, and experience a part of the world I knew very little about; following a traditional pilgrimage that I knew very little about. I considered myself a pilgrim in perpetuity, and knew I could plug into the route as a self-proclaimed non-denominational seeker. The road is it’s own religion and all gods and goddesses are welcome on the path. The task of a pilgrim is to seek, and also to find.
We walked day after day, looking for and following the sea-shell-sign-posts guiding us through the Spanish countryside of ancient houses, Roman built stone walls, small villages and silence. I concluded that there is no better way to have a genuine, day-in-the-life experience of another culture than to climb atop your feet and move across the topographical face of a rolling landscape in a foreign land. To breath it’s air, and see it’s geology, rocks, dirt, grasslands, flowers, stone walls, apple trees, cows, fences, coastal waters, streams, forests, stone houses, villages, dogs, cats, and horses, tasting it’s food, coffee and the qualities that make it unique to the world. The ancient faced crones sitting in the shade on the stoop, who seemed as if to have lived in the same stone house for centuries. And the quiet, clean expanses of seemingly endless moist farmland cut by a ribbon of road of which we were a part, if only in passing. We encountered other pilgrims along the way, speaking different languages, taking different routes on different timelines. Some made us wonder if they were from different realities, apparitions, perhaps…
When you are walking for days – thoughts dissipate, chest rhythmically heaves, legs stride; ‘endless and timeless’ create a powerful elixir of connected disconnection.
After walking for a few hours one day we reached the outskirts of a village and the last house on the edge of a forest into which we were about to descend. In the front of the ancient stone casa sat an old man with his barking dog on the other side of the fence. While Franc bent down to engage the small dog, and using our limited language skills to interact with the old man, I heard the faint sound of music wafting from within the walls of the house. I strained to hear, and peered beyond the old wooden door into the ancient abode. I recognized a few notes and rhythms, before it hit me: Mark Knoffler (Dire Straights) singing “Walk of Life”. And off we went down the trail.
Sandwiched before and after the walk we had the indescribable experience of visiting Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Being in this temple masterpiece reshuffled my sense of vision and commitment, of aesthetics, notions of what is possible in art, sculpture, design, geometry, architecture and human endeavor. I could have stayed outside the towering temple for hours marveling at the remarkable shapes, details and storied carvings ascending for hundreds of feet. When I walked inside I had the experience of being so small and insignificant, while simultaneously feeling expansive and immense. A tiny speck of infinity… Mind-altering doesn’t describe the inability to describe it.
Because Gaudi was so committed to original forms in Nature, I figured he must have been aware of crystals with their naturally complex geometries, given the complexity of the geometries he created. I wandered through the museum below the Temple and studied the inspiring original plaster models Gaudi created of the Temple.
In the bottom corner of a small out of the way room, tucked in the back was a broken piece of plaster, and pressed into it was a smoky quartz crystal.
The serendipity and mystery, made my trip feel absolute…