Nate – Monday May 16

Suadade: This bit of regional dialect was passed to me by my Dad (Tom) while we talked yesterday. thanks pop! Go ahead and read the Suadade article. It’s short and will be useful to your reading of this post. Also, it’s an awesome concept that puts a name to what I often feel. I love the painting by Almeida Júnior, too. Click me –> Suadade

And if you really want to go for the multiple approach method (it’s the Evergreen way) here’s a sampling from the jazz station I’m listening to as I type all this:

“A Nightingale sings in Berkely Square” by Stan Getz

If Stan Getz doesn’t work for you find a song that fits the mood of misty nights and elctric lights.

Nate – Monday May 16
Buen dia! from inside a giant ferris wheel above the city of Santiago

I’ve been here in Santiago for nearly a week, and Newton’s first two laws make themselves known. A body in motion wants to keep going, a body at rest wants to stay at rest unless of course outside forces come into play. Which they always do. So I don’t know what Newton was on about (kidding, mostly).

I had planned to leave yesterday from the damp and cozy (strange combo yes?) Roots n’ Boots albergue with the rest of my class mates. Our next and ultimate destination is the coast of Finisterra, the end of the ancient world, stewed in Pagan and Galician tradition.

During this time in Santiago we met for three days to swap stories and engage in writing and reflecting. Professor Bill encouraged us to relax into our writing and play with our ideas in small groups. The point was not to edit drafts but to polish a few “germs” (sentencesto) into “gems that fit”. That is, fit what the writer wishes to truly convey to the reader, and not what the writer feels like they wish to write. This type of collaborative, reader powered writing I find to be a refreshing and powerful tool for writing. “There is not plaigiarism amongst friends” Bill says. Assuming everyone in the group has the courage to be revealing, and the willingness to play with their ideas without attachment, the results lead to words that sing a little song rather than mutter along.                                               

Nate – Monday May 16

Nate – Monday May 16
Shutter speed too slow to capture happiness
Nate – Monday May 16
Izzy, Bill, Cece

As I geared up to leave town and begin the walk to the coast Newton’s external forces make themselves known. I see emails from Sally and Jeff, a couple from New Zealand. We had walked many days together and they would be in town that evening. So I stayed. And we laughed, and chatted, and discussed and ate and drank.

Then I ran into Claire (NZ too) from two weeks prior and we laughed, chatted, discussed and ate and drank.

This morning I ran into Hannika (Holland, I don’t have a picture with her) and we laughed, chatted, discussed, and ate and drank.

Nate – Monday May 16
Jeff and Sal
Nate – Monday May 16
Claire
Nate – Monday May 16
Tracie and me after a great conversation. Thanks Tracie!

I have kept a list of people that have been guides to me on the Camino, whether they were aware of their agency or not. All of the folks listed above are people inscribed on this list, none of them I thought I would see again and all of them I found in Santiago. So that’s why I’m still here and why I don’t regret in the least that I’ll have to bus (instead of walk) to the coast. Being able to meet my guides again is the same as the collaborative writing exercise, work done and done well in the dismantling of the walls that border the useless no-man’s-land gulfing our lives.

There is so much that I could write. But I won’t. In the attempt to recall every conversation there is an essence of the experience that hardens and becomes the borders of a story replete with beginning, middle – end. Too easy to make the thing into a story that morphs and warps at the edges of what happened to justify bootstraping itself into a parsed blob of writing. I do believe the power of a meeting can be (nearly) captured by the pen. However I do not currently have the time or fortitude or skill to even try at that type of creation.

So… as I’m not up to the task I’ll ask for your help in writing the conclusion. I suppose I’m asking as much as a writer can, I am asking that you Imagine your own ending, Imagine a guide from your own life and you will know what I cannot capture here in writing. Think to Suadade, that untranslatable feeling and all its nuances that elude the tongue but the heart is comprised of.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Imagine someone in your life, someone whom the very thought of causes you to catch your breath short. Their image, their starlit smile in your mind causes you to press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and squint to keep welled the tears that congregate on the brim of each lid. Imagine that you can hear the echo of their laugh now. You are laughing again, dancing again, talking as the sun sinks low again in the ancient throes of know and be known. Imagine the impact of their words, their body, their spirit. Imagine the love they caused within you, the pain of not being able to express this love, and the exultant joy of breathing now the whole miasmatic cloud of feeling life…

…ease out of your imagination and look around you. You don’t see your guide standing across the room or napping on the couch, but you could have sworn they were there with you. Is that them making noise in the kitchen? The sound of their bare feet on the wooden floors slashed by the afternoon sun? No. But all the same they have visited and once more bestowed their gift to you without any hesitation, though you may never see them again. Finally, do not imagine but know that you too are this, this guide, to someone else… whether or not you have any idea at all.

Animo

Competition verse Camino

I was bread a competitor.

My dad taught me at 8 years old to never be satisfied, to always work harder, and always realize someone out there is working harder. He told me if I wanted something, I had to work for it. There were no days off allowed in my house! He exemplified that by working so many jobs, starting his own business and working at it consistently, even if he was on the computer all night! That stuck with me.

I grew up an inner city kid, in a place where to get ahead you had to compete. In the classroom, on the basketball court, and socially. Everyone is focused on being the best. It’s like survival of the fittest. Who’s the biggest, fastest, smartest, prettiest, and who’s wearing the best stuff.

Being an athlete amplified that x4. To be a college athlete, you have to work extra outside of everything to be in the best shape, to impress coaches so they think your worthy of having your education paid for. We are puppets and coaches are the masters, making it so competitive behind the scenes that people will smile in your face and hope you get hurt in their head.

After this phase, it changed from me competing with others to me being in stiff competition with myself. I always ask myself, “is that the best you can do?”

On the Camino, there were days my feet could not physically walk but I walked anyways. 20-30 KM everyday regardless of my condition. The competition was with myself, I felt Like taking a bus was a cop out for me. I felt like if I made it easier for myself I wasn’t suffering like a pilgrim! Some days I should have just took a bus 30 KM but I never once did. I rushed and ran through some places I should have enjoyed more, I sacrificed my health for my pride. If I didn’t feel tired after 25 KM I’d run the last 5 K.

Some things are just not meant to be included into the realm of competition. I think the Camino is one of those things you need to slow down and appreciate instead of making a competitive action. The capabilities of oneself should always be challenged but not compromised. One of the lessons of learned more recently is too quiet my mind, and too challenge myself in a more healthy way.

There is some medium between challenging yourself from being prideful about your own actions and challenging yourself to be better and test your limits.

Nate Tuesday May 10

Where am I? Santiago! Apologies for not checking in – I’m not remotely trying to be mysterious. The reason for the lapse in posts is the simplest one; technical dificulties. As a brief update, in the final 100 kilometers I experienced all sorts of “meat n’ potatoes” revelations and moments of clarity that deserve reflection. I also have a boatload of pictures that I need to upload but first I’ll have to putz around with my camera to get things working. in 90 or so minutes I’ll be in the cathedral of St. James for the noon pilgrim’s mass then I’m off to apply for my compostella (the compostella being the official document that proves completion of the Camino. yay graduation…). Each night during the trek we recieved stamps from the albergue to prove that we didn’t just ride the bus to Santiago. So, I’ll have to show my pilgrim’s passport all stamped up with stamps from last 800+ km of walking. I’ll have 5 days here in Santiago to reflect write and read before continuing the walk to the coast. This next walk however is rooted in pagan traditiom. After i recieve my compostella I am officially no longer a pergrino on the Way of St. James. I am clearly something different now. The idea of a spirit animal to represent my state of being seems outmoded if charming. I have morphed into a new creature though… a functioning human more courageous, loving, outreaching and open to the breadth of experience that is the world. Pretty good! I’ll be blogging on and still travelling for the next few weeks. I have much more to write and post about the walk. Stay tuned. Much love to all.

Rachel – Friday Night

Today kicked my ass. I didn’t go particularly farther than usual, and the elevations weren’t particularly drastic, but still my body was simply not having it. My ankles are weak, my back and shoulders hurt at all times, my knees creak with every movement and the rain dripping down my face into my eyes was making me absolutely crazy. Somehow, despite all of the misery, I still was able to enjoy the walk. The views for the last, painful eight kilometers weren’t anything special, but something I can’t put my finger on maintained my forward momentum. Regardless of the constant uphill motion, the unnatural forests of strategically placed trees and the overgrown fields that didn’t seem to grow much of anything, I managed to smile. The albergue we’re in is mediocre at best with a hospitalera who seems more concerned with texting and talking on her smartphone than being hospitable. The cafe across the street doesn’t look much better. At the same time, never have I been so pleased to fall into my bunk and stretch out, to imagine the quantities of warm food that I will shovel into my mouth. Everything hurts, but I am content. Except that everything in this town smells heavily of cow dung, that is not enjoyable. Not at all. There may potentially be more cows than there are people here. Honestly, it seems that the entire region of Galicia, though beautiful, full of rich culture and populated with friendly and interesting people, is, for lack of a better or more accurate term, a shit hole. I really pray that it’s just the proper time of year for fertilization because inhaling all of this cow excrement is incredibly unpleasant. I don’t know how much more I can handle. Then again, if I can walk 500 miles breathing normally, I suppose I can do the last 80-something holding my breath or breathing exclusively from my mouth. Pray for my nostrils! And my feet!

Rachel – Wednesday

After running half of the way from O’Cebreiro to Triacastela I collapsed at a popular local bar with an ice cold Nestea Limón.  At about 1:30 or 2 o’clock Hunter and I decided to hunt for a good camping spot by the river and wow, we found a great one. The sun shone through the large chestnut trees and the sounds of the birds chirping over the running river was absolutely peaceful and inspiring. We pitched the tent and rolled out my vibrant orange yoga mat to soak in the sunshine. At about 7:30 we looked at the time and had a wild moment of motivation to continue walking. We both laughed at the crazy idea as we wrapped up our gear and launched off back onto the road. With passion and commitment we hiked our way up to the top of the next mountain right as the sun’s orange and pink rays set over the horizon. The stars slowly made their way out of the dark as the brilliant colors in the sky faded away. We found ourselves walking late into the night, thriving on each others laughs and radiant smiles. Hunter taught me about the constellations and we told each other stories until we arrived finally in Sarria at 5 minutes til midnight. The people running an adorable pension at the entrance to the town welcomed us in with open arms and fed us bountifully. I felt like I’d arrived home. Sometimes the Camino itself is genuinely inspiring, something about this experience and this place truly is magical.

Hunter – wednesday

Just realized some of my posts this last week didnt post. Will update it soon.
Started on ocebrero yesterday and walked to triacastela barefoot. I set up the tent in thebwoods with Rachel and we prepared to camp arournd 3. Around 7:30 we decided to pack up and walk more. We took the san xil route over the hill just in time to see the sun set over Sarria. Long story short; we were confronted by dogs, enjoyed the peace in being the only ones on the road, were gifted with an undistorted view of the stars at night, and we walked the 20km to Sarria by midnight.

Spent a few days in the mountains last week. Ill write some posts about the experience.

Buen camino, pilgrims.

Peace, love, forever.

From The Convent- April 26-27

These rest days are equal parts horrible and lovely. The inactivity feels necessary but I just don’t know what to do with myself after a while. am writing from the ghostly dining room of the massive convent of San Nicolas in Villafranca. The walls are asylum-white and the iron shielded windows are eight feet off the ground. It is furnished with elementary school chairs and foldout tables with disposable covers that should have been disposed of long ago. Bread crumbs and salami grease mark the presence of my grandfather pilgrims who stayed here before me. Days in pilgrim-time are like generations. When you go beyond the John Brierley towns by bus, taxi, or foot power, you enter in to a new wave of pilgrims. Stay behind in a town for a day or two and you will meet your grandchildren.
The albergue was especially difficult to find given that it bears no marking of its name- the only hint to peregrinos being an arrow in the back of the parking lot with the tell-tale Camino cockle shell emblem, and “ALBERGUE” in all-caps.
I tried to access the wifi but my phone could not locate the source. The Hospitalera directed me beyond a nearby double-door and down through a tomb-like hallway and eventually I was able to pick up a signal. I sat down in a faded corduroy armchair across from the window and looked out on to a fallow courtyard: broken stained glass, dead and dry ornamental foliage and over-turned patio furniture were dismal reminders that this is the off-season of tourism. But the cackling of a dozen or so American voices I heard down a distant hallway told me otherwise.

At once, there was an approaching thunder of rolling suitcases accompanied by the steps and squeaks of pristine hiking boots that probably still smelled like packing peanuts. These people were the sort of chatty that you can only be when you’ve just stepped off a tour bus with flat screen TV’s and recliner chairs, cup holders and enough electrical sockets for each passenger to juice their array of devices. The sort of chatty you can only be when you are eager to begin your real live, in the flesh Camino Experience Extraordinaire. These Americans pass me one by one and in cheerful English wish me “good morning” but their chirpiness is an utter outrage and so I pretend we don’t speak the same language. They file in to what I now realize are decked-out private hotel rooms with their own bathrooms, tiny bottles of shampoo and televisions and overhead lighting that they have full say over it’s OFF and ON position.
They pinch their faces at the mud on my pants, pack, boots. Just you wait.
I decide to check out the hotel side of the building and see how it compares to the pilgrim digs. I follow the resonating ghostly jazz music that echoes through the stony chambers of the old convent. I limp down a narrow staircase and come to a set of restrooms just adjacent to grand formal dining room. I open the door marked “bar” and find the source of the jazz music, but the bar is ghostly and unoccupied and I feel like I’ve stepped in to a scene from The Shining. A little spooked, I turn around to go back to the casual part of the building where I am most at home. I go back through the bathroom to the albergue.

I’m eager for my chance to get an inside-glance at the maintenance of these high-occupancy, low-cost albergues: are the mattress covers changed? How thorough of a cleaning do the toilets get? The molding soup of semi-solid strawberries in the communal refrigerator is not a sign that any of this gets done on a regular basis. In any case, I am comfortable and happy. I fit right in with the slime and grime.

I return to my dormitory and collapse on my twin-size bed. I bathe in the light of the white walls, white floor tiles, white bedsheets and stare at the perfect blue sky outside the enormous window.

April 28th – Dragonte

April 28th – Dragonte

“It would be so easy to push Wayno off a cliff right now.” – Evan Neimes

Wayno: Cooper is our leader.
Coop: I hardly know where we are or where we are going.
Wayno: That’s more than Evan and me combined.
Evan (mimicking Wayno): Yeah, I have trouble screwing on the cap of my water bottle.

Of all the days to decide to not stop at a supermercado to get food before the days adventure, a 26 k hike through a mountainous stretch without market, cafe or bar seemed like a really wise decision at the time. I mean, I had Chocolate con Churros for brekkie. That, plus some old licked up Jolly Ranchers, should provide adequate sustenance for the day.

Psssh, whatevs. Out of food, water and oxygen, food is only one of three essential ingredients for human life forms to survive. We should be fine.

We peeled off the Camino Frances path on the outskirts of Villafranca and immediately the locals began to stir. Multiple cars honked at us, trying to direct us back to the Frances. One of the locals, a sinewy old timer grabbed me by the arm and tried to physically pull me towards the Frances route. I tried to shake him off but he had a grip like a farm girl from WallaWalla. I spoke the word that changed his disposition entirely.

“Dragonte.”

He released me, as if my very being were somehow, painful, scolding hot, tainted, from merely speaking the cursed word. His adams apple bobbed and he tried and failed to swallow, beads of sweat appeared on his head, you could see the fear and concern in his eyes.What depths of the underverse do these three pilgrims dare to tread? He tried to mumble a quiet, “”Buen Camino” but the words caught in his larynx and could not cross his newly parched lips.

Not even halfway up the hill, a small man, about half the size of Evan and dressed in a primary color tunic, pantaloons and cape, sprang up onto a stump and started to giggle. The three of us halted our climb and looked at the stranger.

“In order to pass the Dragonte you must answer mey, these questions threy? Question the first!”

Evan cuts him off with a sigh. ” We dont have time for this shit.” Then throws his half full Breakfast Beer at the lollipop guild hobbitman, nailing him full in the face with that satisfying aluminium can hitting flesh ‘n bone sound. The can burst with a sudsy explosion. He stumbles backward, falls off the stump and cartwheels downhill into a ravine.

“You stone cold Neimes.” Said Cooper as we resumed our trek up the hill.

It was a beautiful day for a hike through the mountains and for killing annoying rhyming dwarves but the unnecessary obstacles and bullshit was just begining. As we reached the top of the first hill we ate our lunch of Oreos, Limon bocaditas, sour patch coke bottle gummies and the Spanish version of hostest cupcakes. I swear we are like three kids in a fucking treehouse.

Shit got real though when the Sphinx showed up.

“Congratulations on besting my dwarf. It has been many a moon since anyone got past Mista Tenderfoot. If you can answer my riddle you may continue on toward the lair of dragons where you will certainly meet your doom. There are three words in the english language that begin with the letters “dw” without using your shitty cellular phone devices, tell me, what are the three words?”

“That’s not a riddle, that’s a question.” Said Evan as he reached into his pack for another beer to throw.

“Man, this is lame. You’re lame, and, we’re leaving.” Said Cooper as we all packed up and moved toward the trail.

“Halt! If you refuse to answer the question you need to participate in my survey. Show me,” the Sphinx pulls out a voodoo doll that has an uncanny likeness to Brian Liu. “Show me, point to the place on the doll where the Camino hurt you.”

All three of us without hesitation or consultantation, of course, point right to the dolls crotch.

The Sphinx makes three checkmarks on a clipboard, thanks us and let’s us through.

Cooper is already complaining about the lack of real food. Evan has remedied his situation by chomping the heads off dandelions. Cooper has never eaten dandelions before. Cooper places the wildflower into his mouth and with slowness, thoughtfully chews.

“I’ve eaten worse things off the ground.” He says.

Coop is our leader. He has taken it upon himself to make sure Evan and I don’t just wander aimlessly into the endless grasslands (nobody has ever come back alive) or park ourselves permanently in the wilderness spending the rest of our lives eating raw nettles.

Cooper leads us through a couple of towns being run by three dogs, two cats and ten chickens. They provide no assistance to wandering pilgrims. But when we get to the bottom of the first mountain, and we find that the path and the swoll spring river occupy the same space for a few hundred feet, we pause and weigh our options.

Until a deep James Earl Jones voice, slow and sad speaks from the other side of the bushes.

“Do you wish to ford the river? Y or N”

Evan and Coop are terrified, but thankfully I keep my cool. “Yes.” I say, having played this game before. Then adding, “Who are you?”

The head of a cow pushes it’s way through the waist high jurassic nettles. It looks at each of us in turn as it slowly masticates.

“Was this cow just talking?” I said, confused by its appearance.

“Yes.” Said the cow. “My name is Jeff. My herd of cows is in the field behind me. We wait by this river all day, every day to guide the pilgrims on their way.”

“Sounds like a shit job.” Said Evan.

“It is more like a curse than a job.” Said the cow. “That bitch-ass Sphinx cursed us with human speech and thoughts and this task to perform all day long. We would much rather eat grass and wander around… aimlessly. But instead we think about death and God and math and sex and lyrics to partially remembered songs and if Lorelei and Luke are ever going to get back together and a million other pointless things. Shitfire, how do you fucking humans stand all these thoughts, all the time?”

“Alright, alright, so how do we break this curse?” Said Evan.

The cow was stunned shook its head back and forth to dislodge the flies from its nose and ears, and laid down the conditions.

“Goddamn flies. To break the curse, two of you have got to walk barefoot through this river crossing, then up the hill for a kilometer and stand directly under the sun. The pilgrim blood from your blistered feet will leak into the river, and once we drink the river potion, we can resume our existence as simple meditating bovines, instead of suffering in whatever you call this mental fuckwaddery you humans are stuck in all the time.”

“Alright, take it easy.” Said Cooper to the cow, “Wayno, Neimes, shoes off maggots. Get your asses up that hill and into the sun double time. Movemovemove!”

(Coop is taking this leadership role a little too seriously and this new drill seargent routine is really starting to piss me off)

So Evan and I take off our shoes and Ford the river. That part was fine. Plus I had been fixin’ to walk barefoot on the Camino at some point anyway. It was not until we reached the far bank and moved up the hill when I started to notice pain in my feet. I saw Evan swatting at his feet too then he started screaming, “Spiiikes!!! Spiiikes!!!!”

And spikes there were. I don’t know how long those cows have been cursed, but we were walking on at least a hundred years worth of invisible horse chestnut seed pod spikes. They stuck in clumps, they stuck in chunks, Evan and I tried to speed up but it just made things worse. We stopped to sweep our feet off, but that broke off the tips, which then got driven in deeper by our resumed walking.

Eventually we made it to the spot, sat down in the dirt, and for forty minutes let Cooper dig the slivers out of our feet with his teeth.

During that time the cows appeared, drinking water as they walked. I could see the James Earl Jones cow “Jeff” that had spoken to us on behalf of his kind. He did not approach us, or separate himself from his herd in anyway. He did pause in his grazing and lift his head toward Evan and I for a moment. He released a quick snort in his nostrils, a kind of plosive huff, then returned to his patch of grass and cowslip that he seemed quite content to munch at his leisure.

The river walk and those cows were the highlight for me on the walk. The anticlimax of Dragonte itself was one of the most disappointing results of a days hike on the Camino. Once we found the dragons I expected to ride on their backs up to an ancient castle in the sky. To be crowned Queen of the dragons and to rule over them while I bide my time until I felt like unleashing my unholy army of indestructible pets on the world in a horrible display of pointless violence and hubris, just like the dragonlords of olde. Buwahahahaha.

Instead they were small, the same size, and about as skittish, as a herd of feral cats. They could not fly or breathe fire. Most of them lounged in the sun or scattered when we arrived. The leader, by dragon contract, was forced by dragonlaw, to battle with us. But since we could have easily snapped it’s neck, or tossed him off the mountain or stepped on him, we challenged him to a battle of wits. Evan took the dragon on in a game of chess and won without losing a single piece. I played him in poker and won 12 hands in a row before he ran out of money. Coop played and sang a soothing sleep song and the entire nest of dragons passed out in a pile at the center of town.

We were not interested in any reward so we left Dragonte with no prizes and little fanfare. Oh well.

But it was a fun route regardless. Gorgeous, magical, difficult, I am glad I was part of it. Paul, who did Dragonte a day after us, said that it was harder than 55k and I think I agree with him. But it was the good kind of hard. My only problem physically so far on the Camino has been bottom of my feet, but after Dragonte I had mad soreness in my legs, thighs, ass, and skull. Felt like I had climbed up and down three mountains.

Which we literally did.

Good times.

My Calves Have a Bottom!

In my eighteen years of existence, never have I seen a defined line on the bottom of my calf. Not only do my calves look defined but my whole lower body has become muscularly etched and old bumps are now strong bulges that carry me and my pack through the day. Growing up I always wished for the defined muscular body that our society pushed down our throats through adds for Calvin Kline or Abercrombie and Fitch, but lacking the drive to get up out of bed, I would settle on thin.

My mom, the healthiest person I know, runs for an hour everyday before the average person wakes up for work. I remember how bad of a mood she would be in on trips when she couldn’t run or exercise, thinking how off that was, how I would feel so much better on the days where I didn’t have to move. I didn’t truly understand that grumpiness until Pamplona, when I took my first rest day after three days of being in the hiking groove, and got that Saturday feeling, the one you get after a weekend when school or work becomes real and the fun of freedom drains from you. Since then I have only taken one break-day after our long (and crazy) 55k day where it was needed or my muscles would fall off.

In all this walking I haven’t felt my body break down. Sure it hurts after I work it but to my surprise it has only been good hurt. The kind of hurt that builds you, like getting your ears pierced, sure the stab causes tears but the pride and joy from decorating your body makes up for it. If my body is a temple then there are two daily meditations and a constant stream of people looking to pray at its alter. I try to clean up after them and throw enough coins in the donation basket to support it, but sometimes it’s just too much work to maintain. Although sometimes I can’t keep up with it, in its every day use it seems to be only improving and thus making me feel great. If I could only take one thing from the Camino it’s a greater appreciation for my body and how far and fast it can take me places. Thank you body!