Family is not like friends…you don’t choose family…they are just there. Everyone says ‘Hola!’ or Buen Camino! as they pass you on the Camino…you can choose not to engage of course, but if you find you have a common language and are walking in step…it happens. The ones you keep bumping into are, I understand, your Camino family.
Suddenly you have a sister or a daughter or a father or brother you didn’t have before. Sister Ye-el (spelling?) from Israel was walking from the beginning, St. Jean in the Pyrenees, to Sarria. With her children fledged, Ye-el will be campaigning for fairness when she gets back. Mirse(?) (young grandmother from Denmark) has great feet but dodgy knees and is quite addicted to the Camino. John….poor John. He’s doing the Camino pretty slowly. He’s been in Spain for 10 weeks, cycling in the north and now a second shot at part of the Camino; a sad 50-year-old teacher from Philadelphia in a straw hat, he’s walking around in circles, footloose….his anchors having been removed from under him….and he seemingly has no choice but to be free to be wherever he wants to be. 60-year-old Beth from New Orleans lost her husband suddenly in a biking accident…what to do now? They were planning the next phase of their lives and now she just doesn’t know what to do, or even where to live. She clings to the fact that she didn’t lose her son, who was on the same bike ride. Anna….lovely, lovely 45-year-old mother of 3 from Freiburg in Germany…feeling the treadmill and looking to recall the real Anna. 50-something Melody and her sister Amber from Canada tell me how to avoid biscuits…you put the biscuits in your husband’s cupboard….it’s his and you just don’t go there! 27-year-old Sammy could never afford to come to Spain but for the fact that he was invited by spanish Catholic priest Antonio, with whom he works, in a church, in an isolated part of northern Kenya. I gave Sammy my ‘writing a letter to God’ idea…where I open my journal, and write: Dear God…[followed by my problem/question], sign off, and then immediately (without thinking) write back the reply: Dear J. …[response]. Sammy couldn’t speak to Antonio about his problem. The eldest and only male child in his family, he was under immense pressure from all quarters and had to decide between 3 things – become a penniless, celibate, Catholic priest; get married and have a family, or get a job and provide for his parents and sisters.
Although the Camino is busier after Sarria, I spent hours walking on my own through wide forest paths in dappled sunlight using the very, very useful hiking sticks – these came into their own on steeper up and down slopes but also propelled me on level ground. The Camino way-markers mean you don’t have to concentrate too much. My head was mostly filled with random songs or humming and the occasional hymn…nothing really… and I was happy to be free to think about nothing at all. Friendly robins and lilac-coloured crocuses accompany you along the way….and as it’s Autumn, I allowed myself to be occasionally startled by falling conkers (chestnuts), acorns, and leaves…but I feel perfectly safe on the Camino.