For Camino pilgrims past and future, the present – namely 2020 – is proving to be a dud. A black hole. It’s sinking the dreams and plans of pilgrims around the world, dampening the spirit of those for whom the Camino is a spiritual or physical calling. Or is it?
Fear not, for this year, thanks to COVID19, we are on Camino.
What is it about the Camino that pilgrims have longed for, have planned and purchased and packed for? It’s an extract of time, carved out from the blocks of daily routine and unrelenting pace of ‘normal life’; a mobile silo if you will, when we voluntarily slow down, carry less, allow our minds to quiet, and to fork off into different directions.
What do we seek when we enter that zone of daily walking? A suspension of life as we know it. The mindful act of paring down to the basics, coupled with the knowledge that nothing is demanded of us other than getting up to walk, for days or weeks on end. This simplicity is enshrined in the Camino. Walk. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Pack. (Fix feet). Repeat.
Isn’t that precisely what we are all encountering throughout this COVID crisis? Even if many amongst us are thriving, succeeding and reaping rewards during this less-than-great Pause, aren’t we all being reminded of the preciousness of our basic needs that have for too long been taken for granted? Health. Food. Water. Shelter.
Many of us are in quarantine or lock-down. Many cannot leave our homes, meet with family and friends, walk in nature. Although we pilgrims may not suffer from blisters and snore-filled nights, we are, each of us, carrying our own burdens – and sometimes, those of others – through a hauntingly endless forest. When and how will we reach the Santiago of these times? What will we find when we emerge from the other side? In what ways will we have been altered?
In one way or another, are we not all on Camino? All of us, COVID-pilgrims?
Stay grounded and connected to the earth beneath your soles. Feed yourselves. Sleep deeply. Nurture those in your midst. Plant a tree.
If you feel drawn to walking, I hope you’ll consider joining me in Tuscany in 2021, for a COVID-cancelled-but-safely-revived Retreat on your Feet.