If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time (or know me in real life), you might know that I like to walk alone. Today, however, as I walked down a trail I’ve walked hundreds of times before, I would turn to look over my shoulder and see a line of 23 people snaking out behind me. I was leading these people, all of us connected in some way by the Camino. It was pretty cool.
I haven’t written here in awhile, and it’s strange because I don’t think I’ve ever had a period in my life when I’ve been writing more. Somewhere on here I think I once wrote that I wanted to write a book about the Camino (and about some other life experience and weave it all together). It was something I knew for certain on my very first day of walking through the Pyrenees on the Camino Frances: I was going to write a book. And I came home and I was still fired up about it and I sat down to write and I did write. But only a little. Then I took a class last spring and I wrote some more and I got fired up again but then I left for Spain, and another Camino. The writing (well, the blog aside) stopped.
And now, I’m back from Camino #2, I’ve been back for almost 5 months, and for the past several months I’ve been writing and writing and writing.
I have this routine, and I love it: I work all day, I go out for a walk/hike/run, then I sit at my kitchen table and sometimes I pour a glass of wine and I write. It’s nearly always a struggle to sit myself in the chair and to open up a fresh document and to put words on the page. I usually get a paragraph or two written and I want to quit, I think to myself, “Well, maybe it was only 100 words, but it was something, right? Maybe that’s good enough for today?”
But I usually keep at it and write a little more, then a little more. And it feels like such a process, that I have to give myself this big chunk of time and space and quiet, almost every day, in order to get anything written. And it’s… a little isolating. It’s a little draining. It’s very, very quiet.
I’ve written some essays and articles and little chunks of my ‘Camino book’ (very, very little chunks). But I think what I’ve really gotten out of these past few months is a writing practice for myself, and it’s one that I feel like I can continue through the winter.
In a very roundabout way, this sort of leads us to today, and the Camino hike that I led. Well, actually, the writing and hiking aren’t really related at all, except that it felt like a good balance. It’s so easy to tuck myself away and hunker down and write, and then it’s so easy for me to go off by myself and hike for a few hours through the woods. It’s always been easy for me to be alone, and often, I like it. But I also love being around other people, and pushing myself to try new things, and today brought me a little of both.
I’ve been part of the Philadelphia Chapter of APOC (American Pilgrims on the Camino) for nearly a year now; I’ve been to a few meetings and one other hike. But at the last meeting, almost before I knew what was happening, I was being nominated to lead a winter hike through Ridley Creek State Park (which is where I’ve done the bulk of my Camino training).
I don’t really love hiking/walking with other people, and I definitely don’t like hiking in the cold, so how in the world did I end up leading a winter hike?? But in the end, it was wonderful, as I suspected it might be. Everyone who signed up showed up, plus 3 more. The conversation was easy and good, I met lots of new people, reconnected with some I already knew, and the actual walking was fine. Our group took much longer to move through the trails than I had anticipated (24 different paces to accommodate and lots of stops for breaks), but no one got lost and we made it back to the parking lot in one piece.
And best of all, the weather was in the mid-60’s. In December! It was maybe the most ideal weather for hiking that I could imagine.
Most of the group split off to go back home after a 4-mile loop, but a few of us pushed on for several more miles. And then we drove out to one of my favorite cafes nearby and had coffee and lunch. And during lunch, I was reminded of why I love the Camino so much, and why it’s so good for me to sometimes walk with other people. Our conversation was all over the place: two of us had walked a Camino before, two were planning a Camino for next year. There were lots of questions, and somehow, I got around to talking about how I had scouted out a couple of great locations to potentially open my own albergue, one day. I was laughing as I said it, and sort of downplaying the idea… but the others really heard me, and took it so seriously.
“Listen to that,” one of them said. “At the end of our lives we don’t want to say, ‘What if I had done that?’ Does it matter if you fail? It only matters that you try.”
I loved hearing this, and even though the dream right now isn’t to open an albergue (I’m keeping that one tucked away until… later), I do have a dream, and that’s to write a book. And for so many years I always thought I would do it ‘some day’, but finally, I’m just sitting myself down and I’m doing it now. Bit by bit by bit.
It feels good to be able to say that, and it felt good to be able to have that conversation today. It felt good to go on a long hike with other people and you know what? It feels good to be writing here, again. I’ve missed this blog and more than that, I’ve missed the connections with all of you. I don’t know what, exactly, I’ll blog about in these coming months, but I don’t want to disappear completely.
So here’s to writing and to hiking and to mild December days and to inspiring conversation and to blogging. I’m feeling good about these things, and I hope all of you are feeling good about things in your corners of the world.
I’ll be back- hopefully soon- with more!