It begins and ends at the place you started


    Soon you are going to turn sixty. You look back. You look at your life. You don’t reproach yourself about anything. You always thought everything through before you made a decision. What you have achieved is the result of having inner confidence and of following your wishes. As a child, you dreamed of becoming a good man. You were a good man. You grew up and wished to become a good husband and father. You created a family that loves and respects you. You wished to live in peace with yourself. To discover your faith. You found it. You found wisdom.

    It was still chilly outside. April was just budding. Some years ago, you had decided to head out on the road that the remains of St. Jacob were carried along. You used the day to get ready. You gathered the most essential things in a small backpack left, most probably, by one of your children. You chose shoes. You prepared a leather satchel, a keepsake from your youth, for your belt. Raincoat, medicine, hat, flashlight, blanket, money. Your wife understood. She didn’t interfere. She knew that whatever you had decided was how it was going to be. You had dinner in silence.

    разсъмваше сеDawn was breaking. You kissed your wife. You told her to kiss the grandchildren for you and you were off. Your journey was going to be very long. You were not in a hurry. You governed the time. You governed your own mind and you weren’t going to let the thought of time possess you.

    You learned about The Road to Santiago de Compostela many years ago. You put off that journey with the sole thought of completing what you had started in your life. To be certain that your loved ones would manage on their own. That moment came. Your kids are grown up. They have their own families and they are parents themselves. You did well. You raised people that are confident and capable of managing their own lives.

    It’s the eighth day since you started on the road. You’ve found kind people. For three nights, you had shelter to sleep and to wash in. You helped them around their yard in return. In a day or two, you will cross the border and will be in a foreign country. In your life, you have been abroad only twice. Once in your youth and once about ten years ago, with your son. You are going to manage. There are people there like you. People are not born foreign to one other. What separates them is the kind of life that each person chooses to live. The choice of ideals, the desire for power, the striving to own – this changes you and takes away your humanity, little by little. But there are always people that manage to preserve themselves from that. You have to protect yourself from that if you want to feel happy.

    You have a notepad with you. From the first day, you’ve written down where you travelled, what you passed, and what you saw. After you entered another country, the things to be written down became much more. You avoided the big cities. There, despite the many people, you felt more alone. In the smaller villages and towns, people were closer. They greeted you. Some exchanged a few words with you. It’s hard when you don’t know any other languages but, when two people want to understand each other, there are no obstacles. In the notebook, names began to appear, telephone numbers, addresses. You wrote down a little something about those people. About those you felt were carrying humanity in them. Days were passing by. Scenery was changing. You were alone on the road. Sometimes you had to cross the path of the passing cars. жена в горичкаSometimes the locals showed you little shortcut trails through the forest or the fields. That’s how you met the elderly woman. She lived alone. There, at the edge of the forest. A yard with a small cottage. Two rooms and nothing more. She spoke a language close to yours. She’d been living there for thirty two years. Her husband had left her alone when he’d died of an illness. They didn’t have any children. Life was hard, but what was she going to do in the city? Her pension wasn’t going to be enough to live there anyway. At least she manages in the small cottage. A few hens, a cat, a little vegetable garden. You helped her for two days. You repaired some things around her house. You bought her flour from the near village. That was what your soul demanded that you do. When you are on your way back, maybe you’ll stop by again…

    The month is nearing its end. Sometimes it is sunny. At other times, a light rain is falling. You don’t know how far you have travelled. The distance doesn’t matter. What matters is the experience. You’ve had time to think over what you have seen. You can compare it to the world you’ve left and you understand what you have missed. What those people – the ones that, just like you, are living by the rules – are missing. Every person grows differently from one another. They receive different information, presented in a different way. They perceive it in their own way of thinking. People are different and you can’t expect everyone around you to understand you. That’s where rules come to help. They are an instrument for making communication easier between people and a barrier against conflicts. Rules, however, are not always good and are not always created by rationally thinking people

    You find time for every temple. It is not necessary to light a candle everywhere. It is enough for you to sit for a while and share. You share your thoughts. You fill yourself with confidence. Confidence that you have made the right decision. You believe that He supports and protects you. He protects you and your loved ones. Sometimes they give you shelter. In the churches. You will help in some way, they will feed you and then you continue on your journey. The temples along the way support you. They pour energy into you. You think about it. About how, somehow, from the beginning of your journey, everything has fallen into place on its own. овцетеWhen it rained the first time, they gave you shelter in that sheep shed. There was a roof, they offered you milk. You hadn’t bathed for four days. You appeared in the yard. The rocks were hiding it, but not from you. You hadn’t eaten hot food for a long time. You met the woman in the small forest. There wasn’t a day that you fell into hardships. You needed a little and always received it. He was looking out for you. Protecting you from misfortunes. Your faith was taking care of you. You found a solution for your every need.

    Spring was peeking through. The trees blossomed. It was pleasant in the morning to listen to bird song. Days passed by imperceptibly. You didn’t feel the fatigue from the first days anymore. Your body accepted the new rhythm. You felt rejuvenated. Probably as a result of the positive emotions. You made friends. Yes, you may never meet them again, but this didn’t prevent you from feeling the friendship. пекат месоCould you really forget the young man that caught up with you and gave you his sleeping bag? Young, around thirty something. He travelled at least a kilometre to catch up with you on his bike. Why did he do it? Because that was what his soul demanded that he do. There are people like that. You meet them and feel at peace, knowing that kind people exist. They exist and won’t disappear.

    The end of May has arrived. Today you spoke to your wife. Everything at home has been fine. They’ve thought about you. They were sure you were fine. They, your family, know you are a tough man. You know how to take care of yourself. You told her to hug the children and grandchildren for you. Nice day. You have already passed three borders. There, the people had trouble understanding you. The language they spoke was different. You managed. The days are starting to get longer. You seem to be covering larger distances. One time, you are high in the mountains, another time you are low on the planes. Day after day, you notice you are not alone. You meet others too, that probably went like you. For about a week, you happen to meet them every day or two.

    Today, there were many people on the road. They spoke different languages. Some of them were carrying big backpacks. хора по пътя 2Others were with smaller ones, as if they were out on a walk in the park. Like they were going to go back home anytime now. A boy and a girl were speaking your language. You felt joy. You started talking to them. It turned out there were many things you didn’t know. Many pilgrims set off from here. These two included. Probably not all of them felt like pilgrims. There were also tourists. You walked together for some time. You learned that, on the road ahead, there would not only be churches, but places to sleep called “albergue”. They weren’t expensive. In some of them, you decide how much money to leave. They asked you about your journey up until now. They were surprised by what you told them. They thought people like you were only in the past. They walked faster. You parted. You were left alone with your thoughts and the other people passing you by. They all greeted each other with “Buen Camino”. You didn’t know what it meant. Days later, a man of around forty explained it to you: “Have a safe journey.”

    The days were getting longer. You covered even longer distances, but you rarely happened upon people that you’d walked with the previous day. Most of them were in a hurry. Why were they here, but in such a hurry? How were they able to get a feeling for the road with such a quick pace? They walk, greet, take photos and go on. Probably, they were leaving the experience for later, when they were going to look at and show their photos. There were just a few who were here because of the moment. You met many young people. Why weren’t they at work? At their age, you couldn’t have even thought of a journey like that. It was necessary to have a new outlook on the world.

    храна за всичкиYou started to sleep quite often in an albergue. For a small donation, you receive a bed and the chance to wash. Sometimes, they prepared food for everybody. It wasn’t a problem to help when it was needed. You learned some words from the native language. Somehow, you and the staff understood each other. They were here for fifteen days each. It was voluntary work. Everyone had their own lives, but they had set aside those fifteen days to help without expecting payment. You were surprised when, among those people, you met a woman from your home country. She was living here. She left your country about twenty years ago. She went away. It wasn’t easy at the beginning. She felt lonely. But there, after some time, she met the most wonderful man and she married him. “It’s not important where you live. It is important how you feel. If you feel bad, that means you have to go somewhere else.” She had found her “somewhere else”. She had already participated in these voluntary acts for four years. At different places. That way she felt happy. Her family supported her. You learned that many people walk the road. Every year, they increased in number. It was difficult to define which ones were real pilgrims. Isn’t anyone who walks the road a pilgrim? Wherever all those people were from, they went there with an honest desire. They went with the desire to be a part of the whole. To share, help, learn, endure and change. To change themselves or their lives. Their own or those of the people they loved. The people on the road are filled with the energy of kindness.

    Days were passing by. You left your home a long time ago. The cherry season went by. You look at the grape vines on the side of the road. The grape clusters were beginning to form. The notes in your notebook were increasing. You met a lot of people. Some of them were telling you their stories. They disappeared. They shared and continued ahead. Probably, through sharing, they were looking for answers to their questions. Were they finding them?

    It is late afternoon when you walk into Santiago de Compostela. You’ve been dreaming of this day for years. You fill up with happiness inside. Happiness that you’ve managed to get this far. For years on end, you’ve imagined this day. You’ve imagined the town. Santiago храмThe cathedral which you had only seen in pictures. You’ve lived that moment many times in your thoughts. A little after your childhood. After you got married to the woman you loved, despite the disapproval of your parents. You experienced it with the birth of each of your children. You experienced it in the most difficult moments of your life. You never looked for help. You wanted to manage on your own. Your wishes were heard. Your life hasn’t been easy, but it has been filled with value. You’ve been happy after every endeavor. The entering of the cathedral is your gratitude. You promised to worship the remains of St. Jacob. You knew that, once you had said it, it would happen. You did it.

    There are a lot of people. From all over the world. You hear a multitude of unknown languages. People who have come, just like you, to worship. To express gratitude for the strength given to them by faith. You enter the cathedral. Your soul is filled with a feeling of lightness. This is your wonderful moment in life. The time you are there is only a moment in comparison with the whole life you have endured. The road was travelled and you were rewarded.

    океанThe summer was past its peak. The way back was waiting for you. You had come to see the ocean. You allowed yourself that. For so many years, you hadn’t allowed yourself a rest. You earned this one. Many travellers came here. Some faces were familiar to you. There, you also met the man that you walked a whole day with. It was difficult to make conversation with him. It helped that he knew some words of your language. You greeted each other.

    That evening, you decided to take a walk along the shore. You saw him at the little restaurant. He saw you too. He came to you and invited you to sit with him. You couldn’t refuse. He asked you to share his bottle of wine. This man needed to share with someone. He shared with you. During the whole road, he had been looking for answers. Something was not going right with his family. It was getting harder and harder. He didn’t want to break up with his wife, but their life together was unbearable. That was why he’d come here. He walked the road to find the answer “Why”. He got his answer today, looking at the ocean. He was alone. He saw a man and a woman. They were an older couple. They each burned a piece of clothing. At that moment, he saw the smile on the face of the woman. She looked at the man with love and smiled. That was it. He had found out what was making him unhappy. “His wife’s smile was missing!”

    This man had found his own truth. What was missing was a smile of a woman. You always had that in your life…

    Ninety two days. That’s how many it took you to go back home and see the smile of your wife. You are the happiest man. Children, grandchildren, friends. Each one accepted your journey in their own way. Your life filled up with new energy. Of course, you already knew what the new goal was. You never stop. As long as there is life, you won’t stop. “Buen camino.”

    St.Irene  1.10.2015 / Monte do Gozo 2.10.2015