I had been following the westward-sloping sun for five hours from San Nicolas when it finally dipped below the lazy rolling hills of La Meseta. There was nothing in front of me but a rough dirt track that extended in a straight line along a small river that was low and silt-colored and trickled through high strands of reeds and pockets of brown scrub.
I looked south toward the hills and saw a lone oak surrounded by freshly plowed fields; the oak was silhouetted against the darkening sky, and its shadow was cast long on the furrows. Beyond the oak, a tractor turned the dry soil, kicking up eddies of dust that swirled like ash from dying autumn fires.
Soon the sky turned a violent shade of pink and streaks of orange ran across the horizon, escaping the weighty blackness falling from above. The tractor finished plowing for the day and rambled across the field until it came to an asphalt road, then turned off and headed east, with the last light of day glinting off of its raised plow. When it had all but disappeared down the road, I turned back to the path ahead of me. On the cusp of nightfall, there was not even a murmur of wind, and I trod across the plain in silence.
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9 thoughts on “Stillness and Silence”
I’m curious about the mix of socialness (I know that’s not a word) and solitude on the path. How is it?
Let’s call it socialness just for the heck of it. Since I entered Spain a few weeks ago it’s much easier to walk in groups with other people. The previous month before, when I was walking through France proved to be much more solitary. It left its mark on me though, because most of the time I still end up walking on my own during the day, then reconvening with my fellow pilgrims in the evening.
I keep following your blog for the geography of spiritual power often found in fertile land, a changing sense of time and distance, with a heightening of the senses, with a new awareness of the landscape maybe from the pain of blisters, or like one Spanish farmer’s, while harvesting his crop. Exploring the crucial question of what happens when pilgrims return home, Nancy Louise Frey’s book Pilgrim Stories finds that pilgrims often reflect deeply on their lives, making significant changes: “Feet are touched, discussed, massaged, [and] become signs of a journey well traveled,’ as artistic voices are discovered, meaningful work is found. Pilgrim Stories is a prism through which to understand the desires and dissatisfactions of contemporary Western life where the most basic spiritual practice learning and practicing silence is an act of faith – a way of responding to lives’ events – precisely because nothing is to be gained for sure from silence which might even seem a waste of the commodity called time. And wow this journey has been going on since August, and I forgot that you quit your job to walk the camino de santiago. I am not sure all of the readers comprehend that a pilgrimage – not a hike –where walking over 30 days is work that transforms the walker, with the sacred underfoot while walking in search of something, if not arrival at a new place. I hope you keep writing here in the aftermath, when you return home. And how are the blisters?
Long comments like these are always a pleasure to read but also a bit intimidating to respond to! I can relate to the motif of pilgrims returning home and touching their feet tenderly, or feeling some deep desire to walk off at dawn and not stop til dark. What’s different about my journey is that I am NOT going home after I reach Santiago. I bought a one way ticket with the intent of walking the Camino to figure out what I wanted to do with my life after finishing it, but the bottom line is I have at least another year left in Europe before I return to California. So you can look forward to reading more about my journey. Thanks so much for following me as I meander through this magical place.
Oh, and no blisters–not since over a month ago, when I was still in France 🙂
absolutely adored the Meseta. It’s kinda radical. endless fields. 180 km through nothingness. not for everybody.
Definitely not for everyone! I had a love-hate relationship with it. When did you walk?