Entry 52, January 15th, 2012
New day, new fear to overcome.
I am afraid that I will relapse and forget everything that I learned from the camino. That I will settle back into the old grooves and loose the calm, happy, strong feeling I have had for the past several weeks.
I woke up wanting to check my email. A compulsion. It is a way of avoiding life, just like overeating or whatever other habits we have. There is no need to check my email more than once a day, or at all as the past 50 days have shown.
And the solution is not rigid self-discipline. It is not a strict anti-internet regime. What is is instead is asking what I am trying to avoid. It is remaining present in the moment. Internet is food for the mind – and so I must ask my mind just as I ask my body: “What do you need? I will give you what you need, but I will do it while remaining present in the moment and without using it to escape reality.”
Because there is a lot to do in the moment! I don't want to miss anything, or spend my time asleep. This is the heart of my second lesson from the camino – be present in and content with the present instead of living in the future or the past.
So I don't want to backslide, and the meaningful path is the path of action. In the last notebook I wrote a few lists, but they were not the right lists. What I need is a list of my dreams. So, I will spend today filling the next two pages with dreams. Whether or not I am happy is a function of how I achieve those dreams.
Expenses, Day 52
Tea at Cafe Casino: 2.40
Postcards + Ornament: 3.35
Trip Total: 1193.90
We said goodbye to the Master after tea at Cafe Casino. Last I saw him he had just followed the first yellow arrow away from the cathedral plaza. A strong, faithful man. Suerte, amigo.
Wan Woo had stayed in a Korean hostal in Paris for one night. While he was there, he heard of a hotel in Santiago that feed breakfast, lunch, or dinner to the first ten pilgrims who show up. It's the old pilgrim hospital, founded by Queen Isabella, and so they maintain the tradition.
Which is how I found myself standing in a parking garage in Santiago with Won Woo, Kwang-sik, two Frenchmen who just finished the Camino Portuguese from Lisbon, and two more Koreans who walked from St. Jean Pied-de-Port for their honeymoon. Sure enough, at noon a smiling doorman walked in out of the rain, took a quick headcount, and gave us directions and a slip of paper.
The hospital looks out over the cathedral plaza and has been turned into a five star hotel and conference center. True to their original purpose, though, they continue feeding the first ten pilgrims for free. This is typical of the camino – an opportunity for great food, transmitted only by word of mouth. Just like the arrows, it is amazing what you see when you know what to look for.
The hospital was established by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1501 after they made the pilgrimage to Santiago and discovered the insufficient facilities there. It was totally autonomous, run by an administrator who answered only to the king and the pope. It has a central chapel and four courtyards, each named for one of the gospels.
I'm back at the cathedral again, nestled up to one of the pillars like to a tree in a field. It is amazing how much easier a music is to understand when you hear it made in the place it belongs – just as organ music is perfect for cathedrals, Austria is perfect for Beethoven, and Baker's Keyboard Lounge is perfect for bebop.
The profile of the pillars alternates front to back. There are two designs: (see notebook). Pretty clear what the theme is.
What the cathedral here is, is the oldest one I've seen. The relics of Santiago were buried here in 44AD. They lay hidden until the 900's, when they were discovered. The cathedral is almost 800 years old. Romanesque in style, the building houses a huge golden platform and canopy over the altar and main chapel, in the highest baroque style. A huge incense burner swings over the altar and up towards either end of the short arms of the floorplan. It is called a Botafumiero and was originally installed to counteract the stench of sweaty massed pilgrims. From what I know of pilgrims, this is something still necessary in summer months.
A long iron container on one of the pillars is traditionally known to hold Santiago's staff. I like the cathedral more now than I did at first. The front facade is a massive stepped affair, like the ziggurauts or Machu Pichu. The stone is in about the same condition. It is a friendly cathedral, having welcomed millions of pilgrims. Daniel smiles from the facade. I wonder how many feet it takes to wear the stone steps up to the image of St. James so deeply.
It is traditional to climb the stairs and embrace the image. I have him a good hug this time, today, as I felt so happy and open.
This morning I was worried that I would lose the camino in my heart. Now, after revisiting the cathedral, I am not worried. For one thing, the camino never really ends. I will be a pilgrim the rest of my life. And second, after experiencing such great joy as when I arrived in Santiago, that part of me is changed. That joy will remain with me always, and it can come back whenever I let it.
Wandering the cathedral today, I realized that there are layers of history and subtlety here that I have only begun to absorb. I have introduced something ancient and powerful into my self without really knowing what the consequences will be. Unseen to my inner eye; great changes have taken place beneath the surface. I have only just begun to find out what those changes are. I feel powerful but in a state of flux. Everything inside is unpinned and sorting itself out. I had no idea how powerful the camino was while I was walking it. In fact, in a lot of ways I can barely believe that I did.
Maybe that's what this flux is. The shock of putting on my own life again after stepping out of it for so long.
But why step into it again? No need to. There is so much to think about on the way to Finisterra.
Other pilgrims were coming into the cathedral today, footsore and limping. I feel like a grizzled, tough veteran. The Camino Frances is just long enough to really break you down – my extra time has left me tough. My calves feel like steel and I have the ass of a Greek god.
That's what it is. I feel empty. Like a white orb. I have done this and that and the other thing but now I feel totally empty and void of form. Naked is a better word. I exist only as potential, not as kinetic energy. A stone balanced atop a hill; which way will I roll?
Tomorrow feels like I am starting the Camino over from Day 1. Like I feel like taking a little walk to clear my mind. Except now, my mind is a clear void already – I walk to enjoy, and to play with some structures before letting them fall back into blank white potential.
That is keeping the Camino in my heart. Remaining empty, accepting of whatever may come next. It feels odd. Is this zen?
I should like to see the ocean.