Vida's Camino Adventure 2016-10-16 21:53:46

So it’s been a little while.

Here I am in Santa Monica, starting a new adventure. True, this one is much shorter, and involves much less walking, and I’m not going to talk much about it on this blog. But now that I’m back in a hostel, it feels right to give this blog another post. Probably the last one to be honest, but I don’t know. I’m not gonna promise anything here.

The camino was an amazing experience. I don’t know if I can sum it up, but I’ll try.

Before we left, my classmates and I received the advice of warning our friends and family that we will be different people when we return from the camino. And I did that. But the thing is, I didn’t become a different person. I’m still me, and I will always be me. I’ve become more me though. I’ve grown into myself. I became more confident, more daring, I was reminded that I love who I am. Perhaps other people grow into new people, but I have always been me. Heck, I started writing elaborate Lord of the Rings fanfiction while on the camino, so if that’s not proof, I don’t know what is.

Right now, I feel pulls in different directions. I want to travel. Being in Spain awoke the travel bug. I want to explore the US, I want to get back to Europe, I want to be on adventures and on the move. At the same time, this summer I was working doing carpentry, and along with the camino that was one of the happiest times of my life. I felt things falling into place. I had a routine, and had stability. For the first time, things weren’t going to change in ten weeks. I could do what I was doing for years upon years. Of course, that job disappeared, but I want to seek that out. I want to settle and I want to wander. So life is pretty confusing right now, but also good.

I’m excited for what tomorrow will bring! (In both the literal and metaphorical sense.)


Nate – May 20 – The Joke is on me

Yesterday I asked (professor) Bill “so why is goodness the thing?” I know this sounds like a stupid question. I had to ask because it is one of the questions remaining after I’ve boiled down a stew of thought, a meal of contemplating just how I would cope with the unavoidable weirdness of existence. This question of “why goodness” is greasy rime at the bottom of this pot. Why goodness? Why are we designed to seek this state of goodness and not to be in some other state? Evil, for example (I can hear the arguments from here). Or some other state that I cannot even imagine? Bill’s response was: “It beats the alternatives”.  Fair ’nuff. That’s where I stopped too.

Some thoughts are simple thoughts that float on the surface. It seems at times like they might even be in our way. Eager to clear our vision and search for the hidden stuff (which mush be important) we dismiss the obvious. Though obvious does not dictate lesser value and simplicity does not dictate ease. We are creatures who expend vast quantities of energy to return to the simple truths that we are told as children. Share, love, laugh. The scope of our consciousness may nuzzle against infinity but it is maybe not so deep as we would wager? Maybe it is wide and flat like a great cake pan. Or a glass bottom pool giving the illusion of height when sitting at the bottom, hungover the unimaginable. I wonder if we’re born this way. Doomed to a heuristical burning up, eagerly constructing another pair of wax flappers while the stumps on the first pair smolder. Or, maybe we don’t have to dive so deep or flap so high to find some really useful lessons. Like Love. And yes, I’m using the great wide (great wide cake pan?) expanse of Love including the romantic (of course) and every imaginable form of Love from mother to child and the Agape of the Greeks and Love that the Buddha and Christ are.

Nothing that I say is remotely original. I am writing this to show off my belly flops in the shallow pool. Watch me grasp at floating rings. I am only trying to write the sentences that fit my feeling so I can unfurl a bit more and show my colors. I am not writing for myself. I am writing for you and you are reading for me. And once again we’re back to collaboration, back to the dirt simple truth that people stand a better chance of stumbling on goodness when truly together with open hearts. Check your nearest Yogi tea bag for truth. Talk to a preschool teacher. Or a preschooler. A curious child will quickly and intuitively asks the most fundamental and unanswerable questions ever mustered; theology, science, philosophy – all things considered (although that is a different story). Go listen to a love song. Go watch a love film of which there are legions. Read a poem. Love drenches our culture and society but I feel like I have just taken my first sip, just begun deciphering. For example, I have just now realized that Love doesn’t exist in a clenched fist. Love conquers all as “they” say, so it’s surrender or not at all. That took nearly 30 years. Do I learn my next lesson at 60? No – I am convinced that this is a process of building and healing. The treadmill is escapable, but only with the love and kindness of others.

I think we crave convincing. We want to make sure that we’re not special. Ideally we would all have a chance to burst through the briars and lay claim to some undiscovered great truth. Our legacy secured, the vain hope of reward is filled by finding that the road to truth is indeed paved in gold, a yellow brick road. But this ain’t the case. The path is muddy, or maybe bricked in on a good day and on a bad day it’s at best a trail of breadcrumbs left by someone else. It is understandably difficult to accept that a trail of soggy crumbs can lead the way to a bit of goodness. All this assuming the birds don’t get to the crumbs first, bird brained as we can be.




Watch the clip below to understand my experience of revelation while walking. Bill Murray being kicked in the testicles will save me paragraphs of heavy handed writing. I’ll let you work out which character embodies el Camino and which the pilgrim. This clip is from the film Scrooged, described by IMDB as a “dark and surreal” re-telling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Also, In the 1951 rendition of A Christmas Carol Alistair Sim does a wonderful job of portraying this sudden, shovel to the face realization of the obvious and profound lessons of wide angle Love.

Watch me –> Scrooged

As Bill Murray resists being changed towards greater Love he can’t help but get angry and gripe and turn combative. He still thinks he has some right to be a miserable curmudgeon. He can’t accept how stupid he has been to miss the lessons that flit at the tip of noise. I’ve had many face-palm moments of understanding on the Camino. The good ones have left me feeling like a complete idiot. A grinning dolt cackling at having found the truth and murmuring in amazement – “Today the sky is blue!!” I can only be self deprecating in this. It’s truly funny to me, and the recognition of my buffoonery is both amusing and distancing from cruel and stupid lines of thought. Much of it is Me talking to myself. Something I do on a regular basis. There was a day that I was surprised to find myself (and myself is what exactly? Also, different story) moderting a debate between two other voices, also both me. So please, humor me and read the following with a light heart and a smirk. Gracias.


Observe the complex majesty of my grand revelations.

Amazing observation #1

Me, to me: Reflection is not just aimless thought. The point of reflection is to learn something and then use the lesson learned you nincompoop.


Brilliant Brilliance

Me: Love is important.

me: “Duh”.

Me: No, no – LOVE is reeaaalllly important!

me: “yeah dude, I know.”




True Genius

Me: Being nice to people is important and good. In fact, you should be nice to people all the time, even if they don’t seem very nice, because they need the niceness more. And niceness isn’t about an expected reward so don’t even think about being nice to earn future favor. Be nice even if it seems a bit detrimental to you, niceness is not about self interest remember, or else it wouldn’t be nice to do. It would be selfish. And, alongside thinking nice things you should do nice things too. Perhaps even each day you could do nice things. OoooooKaaaaay?

me: “oh. right. Ok yeah I knew that.”


A real gem

Me: Oh you have an ethic brought about by experience with the world and relations with others? You should maybe live it instead of engaging in activities opposite to that ethic? Hmmm?

me: “Dang…yeah…I didn’t think of that before. That sounds like a good move. I’ll do that.”




On the day I was to arrive in the myth-bound city of Santiago I considered neither eating nor drinking to really dig deep and grind out some hardcore, inscrutably genuine pilgrim kilometers. In this twitch of foolery I nearly missed my chance to celebrate all I had learned by eating an ice cream at the summit of Monte de Goza (Mount Joy). This jut of topography allows the first peek into the city of Santiago de Compostela. So I bought an ice cream bar. I ate it. I collected myself and breathed full, two-lunged breaths. I strolled along with my double chocolate hazelnut bar, tears rolling down my face and bursts of laughter escaping between snatches of ice cream. Hunks of the chocolate carapace calve off the bar and stick to my pants. I looked, I am sure, like a complete lunatic for at least the second time this trip. At this thought I laughed even harder, and began drawing truly curious looks.

“It is the best joke there is, that we are here, and fools—that we are sown into time like so much corn, that we are souls sprinkled at random like salt into time and dissolved here, spread into matter, connected by cells right down to our feet, and those feet likely to fell us over a tree root or jam us on a stone. The joke part is that we forget it. Give the mind two seconds alone and it thinks it’s Pythagoras. We wake up a hundred times a day and laugh.”

Annie Dillard

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
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.


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.




Shopping malls and fancy restaurants and nice hotels and beautiful, well dressed people are what my world has been filled with these past couple of days. Distractions, distractions, distractions. I arrived in Santiago and had no time to process- it was straight to a hotel, then out for shopping and drinks. After Santiago it was Porto, another big, bustling city.

I am not unhappy with where I have been. Porto was one of the best places I’ve ever visited and I love being back in the comfort of a city after so many weeks of small villages. It has just been a difficult and overwhelming transition. I catch myself wanting to go shopping and wear makeup and be done with this whole pilgrimage lifestyle. I really have been dreading this walk to Finisterre, especially after getting a taste of normal life again. Normal life doesn’t make me as happy though. I don’t like feeling as though everything I do stems from the need to kill time or to be someone else, someone better. I don’t like focusing on what I don’t have.

I think it’ll be interesting to get back to walking after a week of this. I am thankful to have had this exposure; I think it will give me a new appreciation for pilgrimage and a different perspective regarding lack and simplicity. It’s a nice reminder of how easy it is to get stuck, but also how easy it can be to get out.

I hope I never allow myself to get stuck.

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.

Follow The Yellow Arrow Road

During my time walking El Camino, I have and continue to wonder who are the people who take care of the spray painted yellOw (and every so often blue, black, pink, red, white and green) arrows. Is it a responsibIlity or a kindness? Is it delegated to each town And lOcalE, or kept at higher government levels? are people assigned to follow el camino and Paint where they see fit? Is there a secret arrow painting soCiety That goes out in the dead of night to paint El camino for us hapless pilgrims? There are arrows in many places, not just main roads and towns. THEY ARE on rocks in the middle of a forest trail, Underfoot and At eye-Level; they are on the trees, electrical towers, those tall concrete pillars, bridges, guarDrails, stop signs. And in many towns and cities there are the Camino tiles on the sides of houses. Were they placed there by the home-owners, the pilgrim community, or somEthing Else? Are the houses chosen at random or do people offer Up their wall space? Maybe one day I shall find Out or maybe not, but until then thank you for guiding me and assuring my dOuBts of Whether or not I was following the right track. Except for the case of walking back from Muxia towards olveiroa, the secret arrow fairies do not favor those walking “backwards.”
How many days does it take to find a fellow greener pilgrim??
27 days. Saw karen today, surprised me but I was super stoked. We are headed to where the other was coming from. Shoutout to karen Follow The Yellow Arrow RoadFollow The Yellow Arrow Road” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;” />” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;” />✌Follow The Yellow Arrow Road” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;” />” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;” />️Follow The Yellow Arrow RoadFollow The Yellow Arrow RoadFollow The Yellow Arrow Road” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;” />” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;” />Follow The Yellow Arrow Road



Nichole Sunday- Portugal

Nichole Sunday- Portugal

I’m thrilled to be in Porto, Portugal. All of the cities I’ve visited on the Camino were beautiful with a classical type of age. Porto is magical. Today I travelled with three others and we were surprised with a most gracious host and his welcoming family of friends, most of whom had also walked the Camino de Santiago. We ate the signature dish, franceshina (beefed up croquet Madame), and were called out by a van of teenagers “look! tourists!!” I also rode in a car which felt really fast considering….