Do you believe in magic?
I do. I always have, I only got a bit lost looking for it.
Fortunately, I found some yellow arrows to guide me towards it again…
The stars aligned, and the road opened before me.
By learning to listen to myself, feel myself, understand myself little by little, I learned to hear what the Way had to tell me, what it had to show me.
It’s only the beginning. There are still so many other kilometers to wander, and now is not the time to give up.
I might put my backpack and my sticks away for now, to rest my shoulders and legs in which I feel a lot more muscles than before I left; but my heart still wakes up every morning at dawn, in order to reach its destination of the day.
The symbols have been plentiful.
There are the obvious ones: the metaphor of the bag for the weight we carry with us – our past and history, the sticks for the support we have that help us move forward, incarnated by our friends and our qualities… or the pain of our wounds that slow us down and even stop us at times, but never keep us from going.
There are my favourite ones, the images of movement, of the new day that comes, whatever the weather of the day before.
Of course, that weather is also an image, because our lives are made of sun, of rain, of wind and of snowstorms.
There are other symbols, more subtle or personal. I’ve had so many of those, I could write a book about them. One day, for example, someone told me, after having walked over half an hour in the wrong direction and prevented another pilgrim from doing the same mistake:
“Sometimes, we get lost only to be able to show the way to others”.
There are the yellow arrows and such other signs, so clear on the Way, and that I was so afraid to miss after this experience. But I understood, near the end, that they existed inside of me too, that they had always been in my heart, and that it was only a question of being alert to what is around me not to miss them.
What was around me, I loved it so much, thanked it so much.
I felt how alive that world around was, and that gave me so much impulse.
I burst into laughter and cried of joy when I arrived at the top of mountains, in front of the fabulous views that offered themselves to me.
I shouted with all my lungs into the wind, I whistled with the birds while walking alone, the sun rising behind me, with gratitude to be able to be a part of this daily, absolutely overwhelming spectacle.
I dipped my feet in water and sniffed flowers, I petted dogs and chatted with cows. I even hugged trees (and I have no shame!). They gave so much back to me.
Nature has been my faithful companion all along the trails, giving me the vital and healing energy that I needed so badly.
The sobriety of my possessions and my occupations has been a breath of fresh air in the cluttered world in which most of us live, and the silence it created allowed me to hear my voice amongst the brouhaha in which I had found myself in.
It also allowed me to listen to all of the messages scattered along my Way.
I appreciated the chosen solitude of walking, guardian of silence, the one that gave me the opportunity to finally process my experiences of the last three years, with patience and compassion.
It also pushed me to cherish even more the moments of sharing and the human experience of the Camino, from which no one came out the same.
I realized the strength that the company of others held in moments of doubt, sadness and pain, as well as in those of joy, laughter and pure, simple Life.
I found refuge in the arms of hundreds of strangers, by opening mine with the help of two innocuous words…
The people I have met have been the most beautiful surprise, the most beautiful gift of the Way. Every hello, every smile, every “Buen Camino!” have filled my heart with a bit more love and my body with a bit more motivation to go on.
I made the first step alone, in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. A day later, I already had a new family.
A family that has never ceased to grow.
When my legs hurt so badly that I thought I couldn’t go on, my friends put themselves each to one side of me and carried me.
When pain sometimes made tears run down my cheeks, no one tried to dry them. But many cried with me.
When I got lost, there was always someone to show me the way. “Hola Peregrina! You’re on the wrong way. But don’t worry; it’s over there!”
When I was in need of a good conversation about the meaning of life and all of its trials, I always found an interesting personality to discuss things with me.
When joy took over, there was always someone there to sing, dance, be stupid with me. And most of all, to laugh! I laughed so much…
I also felt blessed to be able to speak spanish and share in depth with the “Hospitaleros”, those charitable souls placed on our Way to host us, give us a comfortable bed to rest, a calm place to write and meditate, a full table to eat well, and even some ice for our damaged legs. I received so much from them.
One day, we slept in a pilgrim’s hostel held by nuns, who organize a meeting every night. They sang for us and listened to our reasons for being there. They told us that they knew we all carried a lot in our hearts, and that they wish to encourage us in our quest. At the end, they gave a star…
They are all only examples. I have accumulated so many other gifts, so many other stories, and I keep them all so close to my heart…..
More than anything, a light that had turned off in my eyes was rekindled, a light that I thought was gone. Past emotions of which I had forgotten even the mere existence, true emotions of childhood, filled me up again and reminded me that even though I have changed and that I will never be the same again, I must never forget who I am under the layers of wounds, my life and my story, like when we take off our clothes slowly with the heat of the sun.
I learned how to take care of my body and to listen to it, because without it, there was no way I would reach the end.
I loved myself. Oh, how I loved myself. <3
When I arrived in Cruz Ferro, where pilgrims are supposed to leave a stone that symbolizes what they have carried with them and what they are ready to leave behind, I left two. One I had picked up on the first day, had been walking with me from the start and represented my grief. The other, I picked up along the way, without at first really understanding why I felt compelled to do it. At the top, I understood: the Camino was about much more than my healing my loss of Numan. It was about me, and grieving the part of myself that I had lost with him. Forgiving myself, for the ways I had failed him but also of the ways I had failed myself.
Because I am every bit as important and because self-love is the very first romance.
I left two messages, one for each stone. I signed each of them with: “I will always love you.”
And I kept walking, again and again.
All of those landscapes that have scrolled in front of my eyes, all of those cities and villages that I have gone through, those bridges, those streets, those places…
All of those statues…
All of those churches…
All of those paths that millions of pilgrims have walked before me…
The kilometers went by, and slowly, I came closer to the end. When I thought that I was going to walk the last days before my destination alone, I was given the most beautiful of presents.
I let go, forgetting the pressure that I had imposed on myself of walking 35km a day to get there faster; by doing so, something mystical guided me towards a small village in particular. There, in a bar, were waiting for me my friends that I hadn’t seen in weeks, that didn’t even know each other when I met them both separately, and that I never thought I would see again.
And then, there was the day before the last. By going ahead, I arrived alone on the terrace of one of the many restaurants of the Camino. I sat down, only to leave 4 hours later… because in the meantime, they all started appearing, one after the others. All those others pilgrims with whom I had share one or several days of walking, a moment of friendship, a glass or some laughters; an incomprehensible force had brought them all in the same place, the same day, one day before our arrival in Santiago, without us having arranged anything.
And yet, we had all left alone. We all had different reasons for walking those 800 km, but we had one thing in common: Santiago had called us.
That is how I arrived in Santiago de Compostella, surrounded by my big Camino family, thus sharing with them one of the strongest moments of my life.
Of course, many were missing. But they were all there with me, as well as all of my friends and family scattered around the world.
And then, I realized. It wasn’t only my legs that brought me here.
Without the people in my life, I could have never made it in front of this legendary cathedral.
It was you.
And maybe a bit of magic…
Thank you. <3