As lovely as it is having company, contemplation happens best in solitude, and after spending several days with my new friends, I was happy to have the road back to myself these past couple days. Less than a week ago, I found out some slightly disturbing news from back home, and it had occupied my thoughts more than I wanted it to. The positive side to this is that I also had the sort of epiphany that is usually crowded out by the constant to-and-fro of the 9-5 routine, and it has helped me wash out the bitter taste in my mouth.
To take my mind off the bad news, I found myself fantasizing about my time after the Camino de Santiago. I want to head South for the winter, somewhere that feels a little like home, and images of the Mediterranean and the hot sun shining on the dusty roads of Andalucia hung tantalizingly close. But the more I fantasized about this, the more I realized that I was forgetting about the wonderful situation I find myself in now. As I rested for a few hours to escape the afternoon heat, I lay on my back on soft grass and munched on a piece of dark chocolate.
Maybe it was the endorphins from the chocolate, but I experienced a moment of clear, sublime happiness that had been missing for the past few days; indeed, it was a stronger feeling than happiness. Euphoria might be a better word, and as I looked through the branches of the oak tree above me and into the sun I realized how happy—and lucky—I was to be on this magnificent journey. Damn the bad news, I wouldn’t trade what I had in that moment for anything.
If I had to compress that feeling onto a fortune cookie, my epiphany would read something like this: Focus on what you have in the present and realize how wonderful things are. And if you fail at this, maybe it’s time to rethink what you’re currently doing. I’m glad I did.
And before I get too carried away with my thoughts, here are some pictures from the past few days to enjoy. This first one is from Flavignac, the first stage after Limoges. I took it at dawn.
This is my new walking stick, which I carved by hand. In case your Hebrew is bad, those block shapes you see spell the word for “life.” It’s a good-luck thing for us Jews.
This is the first palm tree I’ve seen since San Diego. I found it kind of odd, but also a bit whimsical.
The legendary Richard Lionheart, who died in a bizarre bow and arrow accident in 1199, built this castle (or I should say, what’s left of it).
I snuck into the bell tower of the church in La Coquille. It seems like a cool idea, but these places are gross. Probably not going to do it again.
This was my little Camino group. Shouldn’t be too hard to guess who the Dutch people are. The guy next to me is Jimmy, a really nice French Canadian who drank a little too much Anise liquor (you’ll see what I’m talking about in the next photo).
In La Coquille, Jimmy and I were invited by a local named Cyril to spend the night camping in his backyard. Cyril and his lovely wife Alexandria were extremely kind, and made us feel quite at home. And in Jimmy’s case, hungover the next day.
Dinner that night featured grilled pork belly with tomato salad AND potato salad. All from Cyril’s garden. The French know how to do dinner.
Yesterday I walked through Thiviers, about 18 km after La Coquille. When I got there it was steaming hot, so I took a break by a bar. I bought myself a beer (not the wisest choice, since I had another 13 km to walk afterwards) but accompanied with this avocado, tomato, and chevre sandwich it was Heaven.
I wish I had more time to spend in the church in Sorges. There are remnants of the old Romanesque fresco on the walls, but the modern stained glass windows themselves are the best interpretations that I have seen so far.
That’s all for now–I have a special destination in mind that’s a bit off route, and I will give you two hints to where I’m headed next:
1) It’s in the Dordogne.
2) It’s art, but much, much, much older than anything I’ve blogged about so far.
First person to guess correctly in the comments section gets an invisible high five!
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