I decided to leave early this morning.
I walked out of the hotel shortly after 6am – the street already festooned with hanging lights in preparation for Semana Santa.
Cafe chairs were stacked high, gleaming gold in the light from the street lamps, which must have been made during the age of gas.
I was wearing a headlamp – here is my attempt at a selfie…
Even with the headlamp though, I still missed a few key yellow waymarkers. But soon I picked up the route, which led past ancient churches out into the countryside.
The sun doesn’t come up till about 7:45am, and so I walked about 6-7kms before colour started to tinge the sky. It was a glorious morning.
A week ago, the rain was pouring down. The day we started this pilgrimage, the skies cleared and we haven’t had so much as a drizzle since.
(Now that I’ve said this, stay tuned for tomorrow – it could well pour down!)
Steve, bless his socks, had been watching the weather charts for weeks and months before this trip. He would email me, with a thinly veiled sense of despair, telling me it was raining in Portugal.
Each of us in our own way tend at times to worry about things that are not worth worrying about. We get ourself into a state – then only later do we realise that it was for nought.
I needed to walk be myself this morning. I needed time to think – and it was a perfect time to reflect, in the dark – then later as the sun came up. The temperature was cool, but ideal for walking – and it reminded me of those mornings I set off last year before sunrise. Some of my strongest memories of the Camino Frances last year were sunrises over spectacular countryside.
I thought about our lunch yesterday.
I wondered whether on Palm Sunday we should have had such a boisterous lunch – but none of us are devout, except for perhaps Marie – and Jennifer in her own way. I found out during that lunch that one of the reasons Jennifer and Marie have been late arriving each day is not because they walk backwards, but because they pick up litter.
I thought about Steve, and the lunch, and what constitutes strength. And what is strength.
My mind then began to wander into what it is to be a man. This is something that’s perplexed me for a long time. What is a man? What qualities does a man – should a man, have?
I wear girly scarves. I look at the world in a way that sometimes could be construed as “feminine,” in that I see beauty around me, and I’m not afraid to express that beauty through my films, or my photography, or my words.
I also express vulnerability. I express failings. I talk about my feelings. These are feminine traits. Men don’t do that. Men work hard to keep themselves impervious to vulnerability. They have to. It’s been bred into the gender, to keep the species alive. Men have to protect, they have to provide, they have to do things a man has to do.
Expressing feminine qualities sends out mixed messages to the world.
I have no answers to any of this – these were just my wandering thoughts this morning as the sun came up.
I needed to walk into a sunrise. I needed that infusion of clean bright energy. And I needed to walk alone. I needed to let my thoughts off the leash. I walked surprisingly fast. The air was clean, the track was soft, I quickly shifted into a rhythm that became hypnotic.
I was constantly reminded that this was an ancient pilgrimage route.
Stone crosses covered with lichen. Stone bridges, worn down by myriads of feet and cart wheels and horses’ hooves. The centuries lay before me and around me – telling me that millions of pilgrims have trod the same path I was now treading.
It humbled me.
You can walk the last 7-8 kilometres into O Porrino two ways – one way is along a dead straight road through an industrial zone. Trucks hurtle past, factories spew out smoke.
The other way is an alternate route through shaded woody glens, following creeks and streams, avoiding the industrial zone altogether.
I chose the industrial zone.
I did this because I felt I could learn more about the town if I scratched its underbelly. I’d walked all morning through beautiful woods, beside tinkling streams. I wanted another experience.
I’m pleased I did.
Sometimes the un-scenic route reveals more…