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When does the Camino make sense

Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006, CP 2013, Salvador2017,
Inglés 2019
The author of this piece (Michael Harding) writes regularly in the paper I read, The Irish Times. He has a soft take on most things - soft in the sense of gentle and positive. Enjoy this little glimpse...
(I will not be surprised if this post is moved by a moderator, I just pick a fairly suitable sounding thread but probably and usually, the wrong one.)

The Camino makes sense only when it’s over​


There is just one more thing I need to say about the Camino; it’s only when it’s over that it makes any sense. It was only when I returned from Spain that my week of walking blossomed like a flower unfolding inside me.
I flew home from Santiago on a delayed flight and drove to Leitrim bleary-eyed and exhausted. Which wasn’t surprising after all the rain I had endured.
It didn’t just rain for an occasional hour. It rained all day and every day. And every night I was kept busy drying vests and socks, and taking insoles out of shoes to dry them on radiators in various hotels.
I’d stand at the window and gaze at sheets of rain falling on terracotta-tiled rooftops and wonder how I could have been so foolish as to think this would all be fun.
I overnighted in four towns throughout the week, and by Friday I reached Padrón; a small industrial area dominated by the chimney of an industrial plant that resembled the Masonite factory in Leitrim. And the weather too resembled Leitrim – in January.
Santiago was still 28km away and on Saturday morning it was still raining. The trail led through a jungle of forest, woodland pathways, along the banks of roaring rivers with miles of slippery mud underfoot.
Early on in the week my wet gear had proven useless and each day I got drenched to the skin.
On that final morning I put on the same wet clothes for the last time as friends texted me from Donegal saying that it was turning out to be a pleasant morning on the beach.
And then something changed. In bleak despair after walking about 10km, I stopped for a coffee at a wayside restaurant and found myself sitting beside an elderly lady from Ireland.
She was mixing white powder from a plastic tub into a bowl of All-bran. Then she poured a glass of water on top and began stirring.
“What’s that white stuff?” I inquired.
“Protein powder,” she said. “I mix it with water and use it instead of milk.”
I ordered a coffee and croissant and settled beside her. And from that moment I felt inspired. She was older than me but extremely cheerful.
Around us, young people with rucksacks and walking sticks were sharing apples, peeling bananas, munching chocolate bars and plastering their blistered feet.
“Aren’t the young ones great!” the older lady declared. “They’re walking towards the future they dream of; while we’re walking with our dreams behind us.”
“What age are you?” I wondered.
“Eighty,” she said.
“And why are you walking the Camino,” I asked.
“No reason,” she replied. “But I like the young people; they’re lovely.”
I’m sure she had other reasons for walking, but she wasn’t telling me. Instead we spoke of public transport, and driving cars in Dublin and the importance of cats in human flourishing. She was witty and bright and radiated a sense of faith. She seemed content; as if life had been good to her. Her husband was at home, she said, her children lived around the world, and she had grandchildren everywhere.
Yet she was walking through the muddy forests of Galicia alone, feeling she was part of a tribe.
“That’s what young people do for us old folk,” she said. “They give us hope.”
I met her twice more on the road, and bumped into her once on the square outside the cathedral in Santiago; a lone figure with her walking stick, her backpack full of All-Bran and protein powder.
“Do you feel better now,” she inquired, “after you’ve completed the walk?”
Unusually stuffy
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t. I had a cold coming on; the flight back to Dublin was late; the aircraft felt unusually stuffy and the ventilation duct above my seat wasn’t working. So it was no surprise to me when I eventually got home that I tested positive for Covid. I fled to bed, where I watched the Eurovision Song Contest the following evening.
And the moment I saw Bambie Thugs’ eyes opening on the screen I knew they were special. The mystique and beauty, the dance, voice and passion, and all the playful parody blended into an astonishing performance. It didn’t matter to me if they won everything or nothing; all I could hear in my head was the same old refrain.
Aren’t the young ones great?
And I could sense the presence of an old lady somewhere close to me, smiling.
 
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In the same vein as the Harding article, I have enjoyed reading both before and after Caminos Paulo Coelho’s short novel The Alchemist. In this easy read, he address following the dream and the value of the journey to find it. IMHO it’s a far better read than his The Pilgrimage set on the CF.
 
@Kirkie, thanks for sharing this story! The 80 year old woman sounds like an Angel, and if @mspath had been walking now, the angel's name would be Margaret.
Also, compared to the rain Michael Harding experienced on his Camino, the few days of intermittent rain on my recent Sanabres camino was a gentle mist in comparison.
 
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The author of this piece (Michael Harding) writes regularly in the paper I read, The Irish Times. He has a soft take on most things - soft in the sense of gentle and positive. Enjoy this little glimpse...
(I will not be surprised if this post is moved by a moderator, I just pick a fairly suitable sounding thread but probably and usually, the wrong one.)

The Camino makes sense only when it’s over​


There is just one more thing I need to say about the Camino; it’s only when it’s over that it makes any sense. It was only when I returned from Spain that my week of walking blossomed like a flower unfolding inside me.
I flew home from Santiago on a delayed flight and drove to Leitrim bleary-eyed and exhausted. Which wasn’t surprising after all the rain I had endured.
It didn’t just rain for an occasional hour. It rained all day and every day. And every night I was kept busy drying vests and socks, and taking insoles out of shoes to dry them on radiators in various hotels.
I’d stand at the window and gaze at sheets of rain falling on terracotta-tiled rooftops and wonder how I could have been so foolish as to think this would all be fun.
I overnighted in four towns throughout the week, and by Friday I reached Padrón; a small industrial area dominated by the chimney of an industrial plant that resembled the Masonite factory in Leitrim. And the weather too resembled Leitrim – in January.
Santiago was still 28km away and on Saturday morning it was still raining. The trail led through a jungle of forest, woodland pathways, along the banks of roaring rivers with miles of slippery mud underfoot.
Early on in the week my wet gear had proven useless and each day I got drenched to the skin.
On that final morning I put on the same wet clothes for the last time as friends texted me from Donegal saying that it was turning out to be a pleasant morning on the beach.
And then something changed. In bleak despair after walking about 10km, I stopped for a coffee at a wayside restaurant and found myself sitting beside an elderly lady from Ireland.
She was mixing white powder from a plastic tub into a bowl of All-bran. Then she poured a glass of water on top and began stirring.
“What’s that white stuff?” I inquired.
“Protein powder,” she said. “I mix it with water and use it instead of milk.”
I ordered a coffee and croissant and settled beside her. And from that moment I felt inspired. She was older than me but extremely cheerful.
Around us, young people with rucksacks and walking sticks were sharing apples, peeling bananas, munching chocolate bars and plastering their blistered feet.
“Aren’t the young ones great!” the older lady declared. “They’re walking towards the future they dream of; while we’re walking with our dreams behind us.”
“What age are you?” I wondered.
“Eighty,” she said.
“And why are you walking the Camino,” I asked.
“No reason,” she replied. “But I like the young people; they’re lovely.”
I’m sure she had other reasons for walking, but she wasn’t telling me. Instead we spoke of public transport, and driving cars in Dublin and the importance of cats in human flourishing. She was witty and bright and radiated a sense of faith. She seemed content; as if life had been good to her. Her husband was at home, she said, her children lived around the world, and she had grandchildren everywhere.
Yet she was walking through the muddy forests of Galicia alone, feeling she was part of a tribe.
“That’s what young people do for us old folk,” she said. “They give us hope.”
I met her twice more on the road, and bumped into her once on the square outside the cathedral in Santiago; a lone figure with her walking stick, her backpack full of All-Bran and protein powder.
“Do you feel better now,” she inquired, “after you’ve completed the walk?”
Unusually stuffy
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t. I had a cold coming on; the flight back to Dublin was late; the aircraft felt unusually stuffy and the ventilation duct above my seat wasn’t working. So it was no surprise to me when I eventually got home that I tested positive for Covid. I fled to bed, where I watched the Eurovision Song Contest the following evening.
And the moment I saw Bambie Thugs’ eyes opening on the screen I knew they were special. The mystique and beauty, the dance, voice and passion, and all the playful parody blended into an astonishing performance. It didn’t matter to me if they won everything or nothing; all I could hear in my head was the same old refrain.
Aren’t the young ones great?
And I could sense the presence of an old lady somewhere close to me, smiling.
Very well written, Kirkie!
 

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