‘The essence of healing is saying yes to what the moment holds.
It’s letting go into the unknown while realising it’s all holy.
Life and death, pain and ease, triumph and tragedy.
The essence of healing is staying awake to this breath and the next,
Each breath establishing a connection to that which cannot be seen.
A mystery flowing in and flowing out.
Small self and vast Self meeting in the heart. ‘by Danna Faulds
In 2018 as I began to reflect on the Fool and ‘This Fool’s Journey’, I thought about all that I have had to learn about letting go, trusting life and acceptance, vulnerability and uncertainty. My heart and the pen in my hand pulled me back to 7th August 2013. Myself and my eldest daughter Lauren, then aged fifteen, had arrived in the Spanish town of Porto Marin. We had completed our first day of walking our Camino to Santiago de Compostela from our start point in Sarria. We could only get away for one week so we committed to that last stage.
I deliberately kept advanced planning to the minimum. I did read some personal memoirs recommended by friends before I left. My friend and fellow pilgrim gave advice and introduced us to a lovely Spanish lady who was living and working in our locality. We traded hours of Spanish for English lessons to prepare for our trip. I didn’t bring a guidebook and I didn’t check the weather forecast. We would carry our own rucksacks so we packed to travel as lightly as possible. Ignoring the advice of several friends, I didn’t book our accommodation apart from the first night we arrived in Sarria. I was working on my ability to trust more in the unfolding of life- that all would be well. Delighted that my teenage daughter wanted to share the experience, I wanted to fit as much of the ‘true peregrino’ experience (830 km) into our 111K journey. And in our own way.
We had started walking at 5 am in high spirits, giggling and laughing though the dark and sleepy streets of Sarria. Camcorder and torch in hand we sought yellow arrows to lead us out of town. It rained all day and five or six hours of walking we arrived in Porto Marin drenched. We joined a long queue for beds at the Community Centre. After a few hours of waiting there we heard there was no room. We walked around town seeking accommodation in every Albergue (hostel) we came upon. It felt that everyone we met that day was hostile towards us in some way or other. And so, when proprietors laughed out loud at us and asked if we were ‘loco’ having no room booking made, we were beyond fed up of Camino, felt miserable and alone. We later heard that record breaking numbers of pilgrims were making their way toward Santiago that same week.
So there we were standing weary, soaked to the skin, hungry and miserable in the town square of Porto Marin. Whatever expectation I had of what our Camino experience would be, this was not it. We hardly slept the night before and heavy tiredness caught up on us. Our options were to walk on the next village, 10km away or to sleep in the church doorway in the centre of town.
I was furious with myself for putting us in this situation and I wasn’t impressed with God either. As a family, we had endured and been healing from considerable trauma in our family life. Inwardly, I was critical of my ‘foolishness’ for not preparing better. I was annoyed that I not only put myself in this situation but my daughter too. I flung my rucksack on the ground and broke down crying. At that stage, I was still mostly in the habit of hiding my tears from my children as a show of ‘strength.’ But I couldn’t hold the deep sobs that swelled from my toes. It was getting late and I knew I couldn’t walk any more. We stood in silence for a bit looking out at the rain that showed no sign of stopping. After some time, Lauren suggested asking one more time at the Community Centre. ‘I’ll go Mam. You’ve been doing all the asking all day. They might let us sleep in the hallway or something. Sure isn’t worth a try.’
A few minutes later she returned beaming with news that volunteers would soon open an adjacent building. We could have two mats there if we would sleep on them. We were both so thrilled and very relieved. ‘I have a feeling everything will work out for us from here’ my wise wanderer companion added. And she was right.
After washing our clothes, having a shower, a rest and some food, we felt brand new. Lauren made friends and was chatting with a Spanish girl who was walking the Way with her Dad. I rested in the peaceful presence of others as they moved about, packing and unpacking, reading, writing and resting. My reading company for the week was Eternal Echoes, Exploring our Hunger to Belong by John O’ Donughue. Perfect reading company for any soul of a wandering disposition, as I discovered.
As I read the following words bounced of the page. Somehow they helped me to make sense of the day and have given me lots to think about since.
‘We rush though our days in such stress and intensity as if we were here to stay and the serious project of the world depends on us. We worry and grow anxious; we magnify trivia until they become important enough to control our lives. Yet all the time we have forgotten that we are but temporary sojourners on the surface of an unknown planet spinning slowly in the infinite night of the cosmos. There is no protective zone around any of us. Anything could happen to anyone at any time.’
-John O Donoghue Eternal Echoes, Exploring our Hunger to Belong, p.2.
For the rest of our Camino we created life long and treasured memories. We both laughed and cried lots more. We shared stories as we walked with fellow pilgrims more confident using our basic Spanish. We slept in private rooms, dorms, community centres and basketball arenas with c.300 other fellow peregrinos. When it came down to it all that mattered was the basics, where do we eat, where do we sleep. I watched Lauren walking on ahead, making her own Camino friends and using the French she had learned at school. Looking on, I sensed then that my little bird was gently flexing her wings towards adulthood. I appreciate the lessons we both learned and the bond we created then. It helped us hugely to cope better with life’s trials particularly in the years that followed.
I am forever reminded of our absolute vulnerability as humans. Fool’s Gold healing, magic and beauty happens when we sink deeply, accept, surrender, trust and show up for all of it with all we are. ‘Say yes to what the moment holds.’
With much Aloha, Caroline 🌈