This afternoon I found myself walking (hiking?) down an empty, paved road through a wooded park. It was 4pm and the day was turning dusky, light rain drops were falling and I could see my breathe. I walked quickly, my pack a comfortable weight against the small of my back, the hood of my raincoat pulled across the top of my head so I could stay dry.
I took a few walks in the cold, a few walks in the rain, in my pre-Camino training days. Back then, it felt like every walk mattered (and maybe each one did; only a couple tiny blisters and minimal physical pain on my walk across Spain), but why am I walking in the cold, wet weather now? The answer you might want to hear is that I’m training for another Camino, but that’s not it (although, I reason that if I never really stop walking with my pack, then I’ll never fall entirely out of “Camino shape”).
I’m walking because it’s still the thing I want to do most. I don’t think a day has gone by since I returned from the Camino that I haven’t wanted to be outside, walking.
It takes coordination and effort to walk, these days. Here’s a photo of my kitchen this morning, of all of the bags I needed to take out the door with me:
Five bags full of stuff for one day. Compare that to my summer: five weeks of walking and only one bag. What happened to the simplicity?
And what happened to my time? A few miles into my drive to work I realized that I had left my hiking shoes in my apartment (I may have left behind multiple things on the Camino, but I never started a day without my shoes). I would be late for work if I turned around to get the shoes- I didn’t have time, not even 10 minutes.
There wouldn’t be time to return to my apartment after work, either. Some days I’m lucky enough to finish work by 3:00, which means if I leave on time and don’t hit traffic, I can make it to my state park and fit in a 75 minute hike before the sun sets. But everything has to be planned and scheduled and running on time. Luckily, I keep piles of shoes in my car (don’t ask me why), and I routed around to find my first pair of Camino shoes, bought in the spring- the ones that caused me a few tears and a few blisters. I’d always meant to return them and eventually I will, but in the meantime, they served as the perfect pair of backup hiking shoes.
So I hiked- or walked- and it was great. The park was empty and I like it like that. It was cold but not so cold that I couldn’t warm up after walking a mile or so. I passed Christmas ornaments hanging from the bare branches of a tree, and I paused to take a photo.
It was good to go on that walk, but it didn’t fill me like my Camino walks filled me.
A month ago I was lucky enough to meet up in New York with a few of my Camino friends. I had a great conversation with Saskia, a high school teacher in Boston (this was fitting, as she was someone I’d had a very needed and timely conversation with on the Camino, as well). We talked about the frustration of returning home to regular life after an incredible and transformative experience. Others are making changes: for these Camino friends, their walk this summer marked a large transition in their lives, and I watch them enviously. Now, they are full of energy, a similar kind of energy that we all felt on the Camino, an energy that I’m afraid of losing.
I thought about this on my hike today, how I need to steal small moments of my day in order to hunt down those energizing feelings. There are days when I struggle to find them at all, days that are too cluttered with other stuff, or when there is no time.
I’m not sure where, exactly, this post is going. I guess it’s a not very clear way of saying that I’m still working to find my direction. I’m still walking to find my direction. I know that the Camino changed some things for me, and I’m a little impatient while I’m in the in between: feeling in my gut that I need to make a change, but uncertain of a hundred different things. Not changing yet, wondering what my life will look like in a year, wondering how I will get from here to there.
So in the meantime, while I work to figure it all out, I’ll keep walking.