“I’ll never forget….”
Since I’ve started writing about the Camino, I’ve been constantly editing out those words, both in my head before they reach the keyboard, and when I read over what I’ve written.
There are just too many unforgettable moments. If I didn’t watch myself, my posts would be full of that one little phrase.
But here, just this once, I’ll let it stand, again and again and again.
- I’ll never forget the little old man who wished me bon courage a few hours out of Le Puy, when Santiago seemed so impossibly far away.
- I’ll never forget walking past cows with Agnes.
- I’ll never forget cooking curry on a barbecue outside a yurt near Lauzerte.
- I’ll never forget that day in Cahors with Sascha and Jeannine, which involved a lot of walking, a lot of waiting, and an entire cooked chicken.
- I’ll never forget two Dutchmen who put on a spontaneous play for my friend Carmelina and me, after we discovered our beds were separated from theirs by a theatrical-looking curtain.
- I’ll never forget my French Camino angels, who made everything better.
- I’ll never forget the large French family, finishing off their Chemin for the year, who adopted me and a few other lone walkers for their celebration, which involved vast quantities of alcohol and traditional French songs, sung loudly.
- I’ll never forget the day walking up hills was suddenly easy.
- I’ll never forget the old Basque woman who, kilometres before Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, pointed out the town of Untto, high above us, and told me I’d be walking through it the next day.
- I’ll never forget the Pyrenees in the fog, with the sheep fading into the mist.
- I’ll never forget Martin and the Fuente del Vino.
- I’ll never forget walking through depressingly industrial parts of Burgos with Sonya, singing Christmas carols in October. (We got particularly weird looks when we started on Feliz Navidad.)
- I’ll never forget losing my only sweater on a cold November day, or Xabi, who gave me a new one.
- I’ll never forget reading Stuart McLean stories with Sonya, that night we had an entire albergue to ourselves.
- I’ll never forget Sascha and Jeannine walking up the day before Santiago, when I hadn’t seen them since the meseta and thought they were miles ahead.
- I’ll never forget walking into Santiago.
- I’ll never forget Hayden spraying us with champagne at the end of the world.
- I’ll never forget….
* * *
In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller looks at his own life in light of what he’s learned about crafting a story for a movie.
Screenwriters make scenes more memorable by setting them in interesting locations. So lovers break up while scuba diving, rather than in the local coffee shop.
And real life works the same way, Miller says. We tend to remember the times we do something crazy or go somewhere special. Everything else fades into the blur of everyday life.
I’ve travelled a number of places, but none were as special as the Camino. I have far more I’ll-never-forget moments from just under three months of walking across France and Spain than from any other period of my life.
If I were a more balanced person—if I weren’t filled with wanderlust—I suppose I’d take this Camino lesson, apply it to my everyday world, and create beautiful, crazy scenes for myself and others in my life. I wouldn’t have to travel to distant places because I’d have all the moments I needed right here in Canada.
But some of us seem to have to travel to find what we should, in theory, be able to find without leaving.
I guess that’s why I’m going back to Spain.
* * *
What about you? What’s your favourite unforgettable pilgrim moment?