Pilgrims meeting on the Camino have a routine greeting ritual of 5 questions.
1. What’s your name”
2. Where are you from? (decide which language to use)
3. Are you going to Santiago?
4. Where did you start?
5. How much does your pack weigh?
This is where I want to give thanks to my “packing committee”, the wonderful women that I hike and play with at home, also known as the “Piece of Cake” hikers. One week before I departed Denver, we made a little training hike near Keystone with my fully packed rucksack. Afterwards they held court for every item in that bag. I was required to lay each item from boots to lip gloss on the table and justify why it was literally worth it’s weight. Ladies, you did such an excellent job and I feel very well prepared. I even amaze myself that I can haul it around, but let me tell you what else I left and what I acquired.
I did not have facial moisturizer that I liked, but figured this out in JFK airport and begged sample tin foil packets from vendors in the duty free. Works well. I hate washing my hair with that all purpose bar soap (my hair squeaks from it!) but I will keep it. The toothpaste with baking soda really tasted nasty, so I traded for a brand that taste better that was left in the second place I stayed.
In SJPP I mailed forward my cell phone and charger and the clothes I wore on the plane including flat shoes. I also sent my water bag (camel back) and this I miss. I thought that using the water bottle would be better, but it is not. I may get another.
There is no privacy in some albergues and I wished for a sarong – and the Camino provided! At the large refuge in Roncesvalles I found a beautiful one that was placed on a table full of items that others pulled out of their packs and donated.
I thought that I would just want a stick to walk with and I ended up with hiking poles with which I have a love-hate relationship. The first day they were really in my way, but as I got used to them and learned how to match them with my pace, they have grown on me. Really, I mean it – they have GROWN ON me. I feel like I now have these two long pointy limbs where just my hands and arms used to be.
I have not needed the moleskin that I brought, but I have already used up most of the glide jell between my toes. One toe is threatening to grow a blister and I tried the suggestion of another pilgrim and wrapped wool around it. Works brilliantly! Thank you again to Kim and Darrell for the sore muscle cream. I bath practically my whole body in it twice a day! Also, thanks to Barbara for my ‘goodie bag’ that she pressed on me as I left DC. The almonds provided a great trail lunch one day and I have made many friends by rationing out one or two of the bitter chocolate coffee beans in the afternoon when we need the boost that it provides.
What the “packing committee” questioned the most was the computer that I purchased from Dell to bring along for this blogging. I was in love with the tiny 8 inch full blown computer (Dell Venue Pro 8) and I had it all set up. I purchased it the end of June and it stopped working the 13th of September! Dale resurrected once, twice, then we went back to the Widows store. They did not have another to trade and would not give me a refund as it was already ancient (more than 2 months old). I took it to Maryland with me the next day hoping to find a better solution there, but no, Dell would not refund it. They insisted on ‘fixing’ it for me instead. They also did not seem to understand that I have no phone number and no residence to which they can send the ‘fixed’ device. In exasperation I sent the thing to them – who knows when I will see it again, and who cares!? I now have something even heavier with me which is my old iPad with hard case and keyboard. It weighs as much as everything else together. Argh!
The second night on the Camino, I pulled out this monster iPad at a gathering of other pilgrims during our ritual greeting period. “How much does that weigh?” they asked with a gasp. “Much too much!” I said. Then I asked them all to promise that, when they find my exhausted body smashed under the weight of an overpacked rucksack, they will blog to the world and tell them that Dell killed me on the Camino.
Now then, after you have passed or joined with other pilgrims for three days or so, you know names, some cultural things (I am learning to speak Kiwi), how fast each walks, how much they carry, and if they are kind and sharing… Now you may move on to what I call the ‘day three question’ which is, “Why are you doing this?”
Why? WHY?!? Hmmmm… this is for a much longer answer for a longer walk… we are all, I think sorting it out. What we start out with may not be what we end up with, right? For me, right now, living with every possession on my back is a metaphor for how much I am willing to carry and what I am will to let go? When I am at my best, each step is intentional and I see joy everywhere if I look for it in a peaceful place. I recall, as I often do, a quote from Joseph Campbell who said, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”