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A wee bit about being a pilgrim

Ok, let's start off with the superficial. What does a Pilgrim look like? The answer is very simple. Bad. Often very bad. A pilgrim spotter would initially notice that both male and female pilgrims are decked out in similar outfits; a pair of khaki or grey trousers and a shirt or t-shirt, both in quick drying fabric. For the female pilgrim, this outfit instantly erases any sign of your femininity and transforms you into a character from a movie about German lesbian road sweepers. This is the outfit you wear day after day after day. When the sun comes out you don a rather silly looking floppy hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. When it rains, it's the rain coat and waterproof trousers which are added, items specifically designed to keep you dry from the rain and simultaneously soaking wet from the sweat they induce. If the rain is particularly bad, many a pilgrim including my good self, add a 4 euro plastic sheet/mac on top. The coat is a sight to behold. It completely covers your upper body and your ruc sac, thereby creating the impression that you are a very tall hunchback. Groovy. Footwear is either walking boots, trainers or the most hideous of all, the plastic sandal thingey which I have just learnt are called teeva sandals. I know they are supposed to be fantastically comfortable and super-dooper in every aspect of their existence, but dear god, they are utterly hideous. Especially, when they are worn with socks. Yes, you have heard correctly, they are worn with socks!!!!! Roisin, I know you have collapsed in horror at the very thought.


I have no idea why I have given you all that detail, it's not really that important. So what am I trying to say? Yes, I am saying you look a mess, really that everyone looks a terrible mess and you know what? It’s bleedin great. When vanity is removed from the equation, life suddenly gets a lot lot simpler. People leave behind all the ‘stuff’ they associate with (and often hide behind). So no fancy clothes, no fancy cars, houses, qualifications or professions to dress up in. For some, I reckon it was hard to be stripped of these defences, but for most, including myself it is wonderful.

So what makes you a Pilgrim rather than a walker or a holidaymaker? It’s a good meaty question which I have no desire to answer it in a comprehensive fashion. I think the La Faba poem at the end of this section will give you a flavour of my sentiment around it. My thoughts about what made my journey a pilgrimage rather a holiday are relatively simple. My 'belief' system is that I think there is some central creation force, whether that be a God thing (bearded or non-bearded) or a collection of atoms vibrating together. I don't find a connection with that creation force through prayer or being in a church, I find it through being in nature. It is when I am in nature that I feel the closest to joy that I am able to feel. So, I suppose each day on the Camino was like being in church for 6 or 7 hours each day. That's bound to be good for the soul! And yes, one of the main reasons I did the Camino was to nurture my soul. I also did ‘pilgrimage’ by making an active attempt to 'love thy neighbour' and to treat everyone with love, dignity and respect (except for Cornelius of course). I know that most of us try to do this in our everyday lives, but my attempts were more active on the Camino. Finally I hankered back to my catholic upbringing by 'offering up' the pilgrimage up, in thanksgiving for the life I had had thus far. That’s all. Amen.

La Faba poem

Although I may have travelled all the roads,
crossed mountains and valleys from East to West,
if I have not discovered the freedom to be myself,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have shared all of my possessions
with people of other languages and cultures;
made friends with pilgrims of a thousand paths
or shared albergue with saints and princes,
if I am not capable of forgiving my neighbour tomorrow
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have carried my pack from beginning to end
and waited for every Pilgrim in need of encouragement,
or given my bed to one who arrived later than I,
given my bottle of water in exchange for nothing:
if upon returning to my home and work,
I am not able to create brotherhood
or to make happiness, peace and unity,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have had food and water each day,
and enjoyed a roof and a shower every night:
or may have had my injuries well attended,
if I have not discovered in all that the love of God,
I have arrived nowhere.

Although I may have seen all the monuments
and contemplated the best sunsets;
although I may have learned a greeting in every language
or tried the clean water from every fountain;
if I have not discovered who is the author
of so much free beauty and so much peace,
I have arrived nowhere.

If from today I do not continue walking on your path,
searching for and living according to what I have learned;
if from today I do not see in every person, friend or foe
a companion on the Camino;
if from today I cannot recognize God,
the God of Jesus of Nazareth
as the one God of my life,
I have arrived nowhere.

Posted by noratheexplorer 07:38 Archived in Spain

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