It wasn’t so easy to trust the body over the mind. Some of us had disconcerting pains, throbs that became inflammation that became limping. Some injuries could only heal with rest, though pride tried to convince us otherwise. We taught each other tricks with tape, needles and thread, spreads, and stretches. We encouraged each other to stop when needed and called each other “brave” for admitting to the breaks our bodies required.
One night in a Buddhist-run albergue, our host explained that the Camino de Santiago had existed even longer as the Camino de Finistère, the walk to “the end of the earth.” Finistère, a cape at the Spanish coast, was for a long time the farthest point known to the Western world. It was the buddhists who convinced us we had to make time for 100 kilometers beyond Santiago, to see “the end of the world.”
The buddhists told us walking long distances was an ancient form of meditation. Walking great distances slowed us down long enough to see the ants on the sidewalk.
Every morning we walked and watched the colors in the sky change as the sun rose at our backs. We listened to the bird songs, to the early engines and quick shoe taps on pavement of morning commuters in town, to the slower rhythm of a cane as an elder local approached.
Translated literally, Good walk, as if to say, Good, this walking is good, and somewhere even beyond approval, We’re counting on you. Do this for us, for all of us. We felt at times we could walk forever, we could walk to the end of the earth. Bring us what you learn.
The animals and the plants became more important, or we learned to understand their importance. The sun and the moon told us everything, led us when we were lost. Towns rose from the earth as if birthed out of dirt, stones from the mountains, mud and clay from the plains. Towns and people along The Way knew that they were part of this thing.
The land and the skies told us exactly what to expect, what weather, what challenges. All we had to do was learn to listen. The camino in the end was simple, listening to our bodies and the voices of our souls, to the earth, the sky, the sun, to the others, to the animals, to the changes and the sameness. The camino was just listening.