Along the Camino, yellow arrows point the way. A pilgrim sees them painted on trees, on buildings, on boulders and sidewalks. No maps are necessary. Just follow the yellow arrows.
In college a friend posted the following on his office door: “This life is a test — it is only a test. If it had been an actual life, you would have received further instructions on where to go and what to do.” I might modify this and say, “You would have received yellow arrows to point the way.”
When trying to decide to go to Taize or stay in the other night, I wished for an arrow to appear — either pointing to the door or to my couch. As I wondered if I really needed to buy the new pair of jeans I’d just tried on, I wished for an arrow — pointing to my wallet, or directing me out the door.
Along the Camino, there were times I saw two arrows pointing in different directions. One way led to an albergue where, if I was finished walking that day, I could rest for the night. Following the other arrow kept me on the path — if my energy was still plentiful and I wished to continue on toward Santiago.
Double arrows could also signify two routes — one direct, and one more scenic; one flatter, one more mountainous. Such is life as well. When I walk downtown, I can take the direct route down the busy road, or veer off on the quieter side streets. As much as I appreciate having options, sometimes I wish for a yellow arrow telling me which path to take.
The arrows along the Camino point one way: to Santiago. There’s a loop a pilgrim can walk post-Camino — from Santiago to Finisterre and Muxia and back to Santiago. One could walk circles over and over again on this trail. And sometimes my life feels that way, too. Haven’t I been here before? I think as I struggle with the same doubts I’ve had for the last 10 years about my faith and my life choices.
The yellow arrows are a fairly recent addition to the Camino. They were the idea of Don Elias Valina Sampedro, a parish priest in the town of O Cebreiro. He and his nephews started painting them in 1984 to help pilgrims find their way. Now volunteers across Spain re-paint the arrows as needed.
I imagine what life would be like if I had someone ahead of me to mark the way. And then realize sometimes I have just that. When I first came up with the idea of moving to Asheville, I met a couple who offered to open their home to me should I wish to get acquainted with the area without committing to a lease. I felt like it was God saying, “Go! You have no reason not to!” God was right, of course. I listened, and for the first time in my life I live in a place where I can honestly say, “I could live here the rest of my life.”
I’ve learned I don’t necessarily need something as bright and clear as a yellow arrow. I have friends and family that point the way. I also have a strong belief in that inner voice I often hear — if only I take the time to quiet myself and ask for guidance.
What or who are the yellow arrows in your life?