About a month ago now I was on top of the Space Needle in Seattle. Alone. I had never been to Seattle and it seemed to be the thing to do. I’m an independent introvert, seriously don’t understand the word “bored” (I’ve never experienced this sensation), and have been alone – a lot. My husband is military and has deployed 17 times, is frequently at work for days at a time, and I can go far too long without noticing that I haven’t spoken to another human. I actually savor time alone and need it to recharge. Up there at the top of the Space Needle, though, I realized that there are certain things far better enjoyed with someone to share it with. I’m a slow learner, what can I say? I texted my husband a selfie, and the classic “wish you were here” line with a heart emoji, and meant it.
I’d originally considered walking The Way alone in order to have a soul-searching experience; but, after discovering that my cousin was planning to go, a seed was planted that made going it alone look less appealing. We talked for more than a year (Two years? Three? Time is wibbly-wobbly…) about the 500 mile Frances: when, where, how, gear… Turns out 500 miles translates to a lot of time and money. Gee, go figure. My cousin has small children, a valiant and talented wife, and a demanding job: taking six weeks away from work and home was asking a lot. I was still thinking to do the Camino alone this spring, but without my ‘cuz’, it all just felt wrong. After the Space Needle – it was also unappealing. I like being alone – but six weeks???
My opportunity window is closing fast. Hubby and I are sailing away, literally, after he retires. Once we’re out sailing we’ll have less income and flying to Europe, leaving him alone on the boat, is just not going to be practical. I was hoping 2019 was going to be my year of The Way, but my cousin could not manage it, and truly, my health needs a bit of a tune up. 2020 is it. Last chance. Knowing this, feeling ‘meh’ about 500 introverted miles, I asked “Cuz” what he thought of alternatives… It felt a bit blasphemous at the beginning. Gasp! Isn’t that cheating??? Is it really the Camino???
Well – turns out that while the Frances route is the most popular and well supported, it is not the only – or even the first – Way. We can do a full Camino! While it’s shorter, it is a route that is challenging, more rugged, and the original! The views look amazing, the ruins are awesome. Taking a bit over two weeks off is a bit less taxing on his employer and, more importantly, his wife! The Camino Primitivo it is! No, there won’t be any “Martin Sheen was here” moments, but we’re following an ancient pilgrimage route and not in Mr. Sheen’s footsteps after all!
It’s been almost five years since I started dreaming of my own Camino, and by the time we go, it’ll be six. I still can’t fully explain to anyone why I need to do this. Every pilgrim has a reason, but unless it is your reason it may not make sense, or even be something that can be articulated. Life has been good, I am blessed in so many ways. I can be brought to tears by feelings of gratitude. No one’s life is without bumps and craters, and in my case I’ve had a few mountains and crevasses. There is a part of me that has never been able to completely lay these burdens down. When I watched The Way, the scene at the Cruz de Ferro struck a chord in me that I couldn’t explain and persisted mightily. To walk in meditation, to carry your weight in a literal way for miles, and then to say your words and lay that weight at God’s feet felt necessary – right.
The Cruz de Ferro is on the Frances, and so we won’t be passing it. But as I told my Cuz, I don’t think God really cares where you lay your burdens down – only that you do.