Friday, December 6, 2013

Put Another Log on the Fire

    Snow today has put a hush on most everything except the anxious flapping of Juncos at the backyard bird feeder. Days like this of measurable snowfall are rare enough here that we don't deal very efficiently with the hazards imposed by slippery walks and roads. I'm watching the action from the warm safety of my house. The only slippage is on the list of activities I'd scheduled for today.

    It's a day for surrender--which is something I've been thinking about rather more than usual lately. My spouse (and favorite hiking partner) and I recently opened up maps and guide books and began to re-imagine the pilgrimage walk in Spain that we reluctantly surrendered last fall, due to  complications or my broken elbow. 

    What about trying again in June, we wondered? What about some outside help this time? What about surrendering and letting go of (or at least some of) the stubborn independence that has been our preferred travel style for years? 

    We pulled it off in 2004, walking some 120 miles on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela as independent travelers who made all our own arrangements. Honestly, we love the teamwork that goes into planning, organizing, and Internet searching for places to stay and eat. But we discovered last fall that it's no fun at all to unravel the myriad reservations and arrangements of a trip that delivers 20-plus days of movement and hotel reservations. 

    In the process of letting that trip go, I thought often of a quote that lingers in memory from from our previous Camino walk. A day of rest in the village of Santo Domingo de la Calzada allowed for leisurely exploration of the cathedral and adjacent pilgrims' museum. As I browsed the displays of pilgrimage memorabilia, a passage caught my attention.  I recorded it in my travel journal:
    "There are no journeys without side trails, branches, crossroads, and encounters with dung on the path, both in life and in emotions. Without openness, without curiosity, without the capacity for surprise, there is no pilgrim. This is the glory of the journey and the motivation of the pilgrim."  
    Certainly, the journey we abandoned last fall provided a full pilgrimage of detours and crossroads.  It tested our capacity for surprise. But it left us with the openness to try again. And with curiosity about doing it differently. 

    Cautiously, I queried Camino guide services about arranging an independent trek for two travelers who wanted lots of flexibility and a say in where they walked and stayed. The queries eventually sifted down to one particularly resourceful trip planner who seem eager to give us precisely what we wanted. And more. He offered insights gained in his own steps: Worthy sights we'd missed before. The flexibility of luggage transfers and pre-arranged transportation on segments we chose not to cover on foot. Places for a special meal. 

    We researched his suggestions and came, at last, to the conclusion that, with this assistance, the trip we're planning has very good odds of being even  better than the one we couldn't take. On this day of quiet snowfall and reflection, surrender is feeling quite sweet. 

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