Friday, September 15, 2006

Santiago Snippets #3: People who need people...

I took a rest day in Logroño yesterday.

I woke up feeling I had things to buy for my onward journey and things to think through. The forecast for the day was for heavy rain and my aching and blistered feet were screaming out for rest. The thought of encountering a whole new group of pilgrims once I started walking again also appealed to me.

As per normal, I was out of the refuge quite early, had breakfast and then wandered around to find a hotel room - normally you cannot stay at a refuge for more than one night.

While crossing Logroño's main square, I came across a fellow pilgrim, Kyle, who I'd met briefly a few times before but with whom I'd never had the time to share more than a few passing niceties. All I knew about Kyle was that he was an American studying to become a Benedictine monk. I had time on my hands as the hotels were not going to open till around 10am and Kyle was waiting to catch up with some friends before starting his walk for the day.

Strangely, I'd been feeling for days that I needed to stop in Logroño. In fact, I'd walked 28km in one day (my longest distance to date) to get there instead of stopping at the less-distant Viana, which would have made for a less taxing walk.

Today, looking back, I feel the reason for my needing to stop in Logroño yesterday was exactly because that chance meeting with Kyle, when we both had time to spare, was meant to occur.

Kyle, I discovered, was a good listener but was also comfortable speaking about himself. This encouraged me. There was a lot inside me that needed to be said to someone else. Perhaps by organising my thoughts intelligibly enough for someone else to understand them I might, as a consequence, make sense of them too.

It all came out. The difficulties I'd had getting to the starting point of my Camino this time and to what measure that was caused by actual physical illness or underlying anxiety. My enduring problematic relationship with the Catholic Church. The journey that had led me to create this blog. The benefits I seemed to be getting in abundance from this Camino. The spiritual dimension of the creative process. And then, out of nowhere, the gem...

What I was enjoying most on this Camino, I admitted, was meeting other people. It had already been noted by quite a few pilgrims that I said hello to almost everybody I met. And even this blog, of late, has taken on a more social aspect with posts on Inspirational Pilgrims and Camino Celebs.

Was this a bad thing? Of course not! But suddenly, a huge gap in my life in Rome was put into sharp focus. Here, on the Camino, I am social. Very social. At home, I barely socialize. After work, I rarely go out and even more rarely meet new people.

It is true that I live in a part of Rome which is not easily accessible in the evenings by public transport and that taxis are darned expensive in the Eternal City.

But, in reality, things weren't that different when I lived nearer the centre of town. The fact is that in Rome, I've become a virtual recluse. When I tell people that here, of course, no one believes me.

Ahh, but what a revelation!

Could there be anything more essential for a writer, who aspires to create entire worlds and populate them with engaging characters, than to meet his fellow human beings? To see, as Paulo Coelho puts it, that the most extraordinary things occur in the lives of ordinary people.

Imagination, I'm sure, can take a writer very far. But in the end, the seeds of creativity come from relating with the world and other people.

On the Camino, going over what I had thought would be old familiar ground, I'm relearning that the journey of life, with all its highs and lows, is much richer when it's shared.

For me, at this very moment, this seems a new discovery. And yet, without even giving it much thought, when I initially launched this blog I came up with the following as my blogger profile motto:

"...though we may sometimes travel alone, the beauty of the journey lies in sharing it..."

It took that chance meeting with Kyle in Logroño yesterday for me to vocalise this and finally acknowledge it not just as a platitude but as a real need in me.

What are your thoughts? Share your views & experiences below.


Joanna said...

John, John, very true words you are writing, it's better to share everything with other people, share time, share happiness, share thoughts. I am happy that we managed to share some thoughts (and wine) during the one-year-camino when we worked together. All the best and will be happy to see you again in 2007.

John said...

I look forward to seeing you too, Joanna. As for our one-year camino together, I have to say it had a few more mountains to cross on it than my current camino.
Love John

Kyle said...

John, I very much appreciated our chance meeting as well. I enjoyed not only our conversation but also your genuine candor in sharing your life experience. You are in my thoughts. Excellent site! : )

John said...

Cheers Kyle. If you see this, let me know where you are. As of today, 19 September, I am in Burgos. I hope we have the chance to have another "chance" meeting soon. In the meantime, buen camino!!