Monday, 15 September 2008

Meseta horizons

For eight days the path stretches straight and flat across the Meseta of northern Spain. A wide track, usually of gravel, sometimes of earth or small pebbles. The relentless cornfields reach to the horizon with sometimes a tree or two, or a slight ridge to climb. At this time of year the corn is cut and the stubble changes from honey to grey with the light. The sky is often monotone: hot blue or cooler steel. In this near-deprivation of the senses small things and fleeting encounters are thrown into deep relief. We are excused the task of navigating: you can see the track for miles ahead. Excused too the need to watch for trips and stumbles under our feet. With a cooler, cloudier and sometimes stormy September we don't even have the famous Meseta dehydration to worry us. And so, at last, we think.

We had thought that the whole walk would be an exercise in meditation, but there were always too many flashes to look for, too many tree roots and rock, too many birds to watch in flight or trees to consider and flowers to admire. An Indian man we meet, a Hindu, explains that real meditation lies in not trying to think but in letting yourself notice the small details around you.

For most of the people walking with us now, the Meseta is the middle section of their Camino. But we feel so close to our finish that the Meseta is where our minds turn towards the future.

People have exclaimed that we will find it hard to return to daily life after such a year, and perhaps we will. But it seems more that there is a natural turning towards the next stage. We are ready, like the natural readiness a pregnant woman feels in the last week before the birth. Beyond the certain relief that the physical and mental challenges will be over, there is an excitement.

But it is not simply to return straight into the old life. First we will allow ourselves a transition, a necessary period to absorb and understand what the walk has given us. Whether in Barcelona - as planned, although the Spanish language continues to bemuse us - or in the easier south of France, we hope to incorporate a sense of space, a facility for slowness and time together firmly into life: A chess set, and evenings teaching me how to play. Our days will be spent consolidating the creative results of the year: printing pictures and laying out books, crafting the stories the walk has given me.
It helps that we like our life. At the San Bol refugio, the Dutch hospitalera draws energy from the Milky Way and the sacred spring on which her house is built. We could assure her, sincerely, that a return to the city won't be a torture for us. Even when we do return to work, the value of a break is that it allows you to view work as play, as pleasure. Not as a master. We draw much of our energies form the people we work with and the challenges they invite us to share.

13th September 2008

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