We are now in a small, sleepy town called Vega de Valcarce – the name is almost bigger than the whole town. We are about 170 km. from Santiago I believe. My host’s sons are bringing in the potato harvest – including the 2 year old grandson – shirts off, games involving painting each other with dusty handprints,dirt flinging, potato juggling and mucho muscle flexing! Eye candy for me! Even the two cats are getting into it chasing bugs and butterflies. On top of the conical hill overlooking this little valley, there is a Saracen castle and in times past it would have protected the whole area. My balcony overlooks a riot of roses and apple trees; the scent of wild fennel is almost overpowering and the neighbours’ rooster sounds like he is having a major hissy fit – but its just making me relaxed instead.
Beverley has come down with a “tummy” and is sleeping. I’m on the balcony watching all the aforementioned proceedings and catching up on correspondence.
I’m feeling stronger and lighter now, and so, more comfortable talking of my internal journey on this long walk to Santiago.
I started on this adventure because I have been feeling for quite sometime that I am increasingly owned by my things and not the other way around. Now most of you will know that I am not a minimalist and I adore my creature comforts. I indulge myself and I love to spoil my friends and family too. But…. it felt like I existed to take care of things, possessions and inanimate objects – far too much time focused on “stuff” (do you remember George Carlin’s brilliant riff on “stuff”?).
So first I sold my home (the most visible part of this transformation), put most everything I own in storage (including all my wine!), sold my car, moved a few essentials to my sister’s house in London and hit the road with two suitcases. I’ve talked here in my postings about the adventures I’ve had since then in Italy, India, Ladakh, Morocco and now a bit on the Camino. A grand adventure to be sure and I consider myself amongst the most fortunate of people to have been able to do these things.
Now I have whittled myself down to two sets of clothes, shoes and socks, jacket, hat, minimal toiletries, a small camera and laptop. I have to say that there is something incredibly, astonishingly, surprisingly, liberating in having – for a short time – practically nothing you need to look after or have to be concerned about. (Tho’ to be honest I would flip out if I lost my computer & photographs.)
I have spent a good part of my life accumulating things – money, possessions, artifacts and mementoes in part I think, to compensate for a very chaotic and unstable upbringing. I have always taken great joy in celebrating the “good things” in life – few things make me happier than good food and wine, with good friends and family. But like so many other parts of my life I haven’t always been successful in finding the right balance. Too often those “celebrations” were a mask used to compensate for or to disguise emotions I couldn’t or wouldn’t cope with. The expression “comfort food” has been my all too frequent companion.
Its a bit ironic that I have had to go to the other extreme of divorcing myself from almost everything in order to start to understand how to achieve that elusive balance in life. It goes hand in hand with striking a balance between my head and my heart. I am not planning on becoming a mendicant monk (or rather nun) but rather recognizing that that balance comes from within and not through possessions.
Again I think because of my upbringing I leaned far too far in the direction of indiscriminately giving my heart and loyalty where it wasn’t appreciated or cared for. And being the contrary soul that I am, I compounded the problem by then swinging too far into my head, walling my heart away and succumbing to cynicism.
Fortunately I have had the very great privilege of a few friends over the years who have never given up on me and a few more who have come into my life when I most needed either a tender point in the right direction or more likely a kick in the butt to get me moving in that direction! You know who you are and Thank you!
This journey isn’t over – it may never be over really but I am starting to understand myself at least a bit and I’ve decided that I’m getting to be happy or at least content with myself – the good (easy) the bad (much, much harder) and the indifferent (very complicated)!
Someday I want to be one of those old people who are distilled down to the very essence of themselves and who are absolutely, compellingly radiant. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”
I’m still a work in progress but that is as it should be….for all of us.