A Down Day

A Sunday morning in Leon, Spain.
Walking the Camino, like walking any other path in life, can sometimes have its “down” days. Today was one of those days. I just didn’t feel like walking anymore. I opened my pedometer to see I’d only walked 200 steps since last I checked it. The route was descending steeply and full of rocks. It took not only physical but mental energy as I had to focus on each individual step. I walked with others, but even their company didn’t help — I was just ready to be finished. For the day. Or with the Camino? I wasn’t sure.

I wondered what caused this down mood and why I couldn’t get out of it. Was it because I didn’t go through my morning ritual of stretching and writing, instead leaving earlier than usual to see a sunrise? Was it because the sunrise I got up to see was disappointing — filled with clouds instead of light? Was it because when I reached the Cruz de Ferro — the place where I was to leave my rock of fears, burdens, and expectations — I found it to be littered and not at all the sacred experience I had hoped it would be?

I finally decided to find a rock to sit upon and start my day over — to write those three pages I hadn’t written this morning. I poured my thoughts and tears onto those pages. I stopped sometimes and listened to the pilgrims walking by behind me, to the bees buzzing around me. I stared at the lush green of the mountain in front of me. Then, I wrote some more. I wrote down all of the things I was ready to be finished with: the tiny showers with not enough hooks on which to hang my clothes, the camp towel I have that only dries half my body before becoming too wet to be of much use, the daily hand-washing of my laundry, the lack of variety in food choices for vegetarians in Spain. It feels silly to write of it all now — such minor things. But those things coupled with the early morning walk to see a non-existent sunrise at a site marred by litter were just pushing on me at that moment.

Rebecca visits Cruz de Ferro.
When I was finished, I dried my eyes and pulled my pack onto my back. I fastened the waist belt, tightened the shoulder straps and stepped back onto the path. I looked up to see Mona and Julie — two women I’d met two nights ago — coming toward me on the trail. Their faces lit up upon seeing me. They asked how I was, and my tears erupted again. They hugged me and listened as I told them of my earlier disappointments.

After a few minutes of spilling out my feelings and my frustrations I felt better. “Okay — I’m done complaining now,” I declared. “Thank you for listening.” They assured me we all have days like this along The Way. We walked and talked together into the next town, my spirit lighter.

As we crossed the bridge into Molinaseca, we stopped to stare at the main road. It was straight out of another time. The cobbled street was lined with stone buildings, their second floor balconies hung with flowers. Restaurants and bars had tables and chairs set out in the afternoon sun. We were still four miles from our intended destination, but our bodies asked us for a reprieve.

Julie and Mona decided to stop here for the night. It took me a little longer, but I finally listened to my intuition and my body and opted to join them. We “upgraded” for the night opting to stay in a private albergue or hostel instead of the municipal one. Instead of 30 people in a room full of bunk beds sharing two showers, the three of us are sharing a bright and airy room with actual single beds. We don’t have to pull out our sleeping bags as private albergues have beds with sheets on them. We also get full-size towels, which means I don’t have to use the camp towel I mentioned earlier. It’s little things like sheets and towels that can really turn the day around for a pilgrim along the Camino.

I was reminded today of something I’ve learned before: that when a day isn’t turning out so well, it’s okay just to stop, to give in, to let the feelings take you over. Then to continue on, facing whatever is next, knowing that something (or someone) will come along to help you through. And if not, just go get a good night’s sleep and all will look better in the morning.


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