the beginning

finisterra

(eight months ago) this end of the land, with its rough edges surrounded by the waters of the costa del morte or coast of death, is a place long symbolic of transformation and rebirth. i have been here before. once as a pilgrim marking the end of a long journey, and now six years later, as promised, i have returned to begin one. and if the camino gods and sun and moon all agree, i will complete the circle of my journey in one years time, ending a seven year cycle. i entered into the labyrinth, came to the center, and am now making my way back. what a long, strange and beautiful trip its been. (note: … this is the very first video i made. it isn’t easy for me to show it. i look so tired. i was so tired. but, i will put it here to remember where i’ve been.)

the first part of the journey. becoming the path


before you can travel the path, you must first become the path itself. – the buddha

… and it would be by the side of the ancient pilgrim’s trail in an ochre colored house that the camino requested my presence and attention. instead of making my way as a pilgrim, i was asked to stay still by the side of the road for a while. to learn to become the path. … and to let the world come to me.

the peaceable kingdom sits just about halfway or so between st. jean pied-de-port (one of the main jumping in points for the camino frances just over the border into france) and finisterra.  there, in the middle of the spanish meseta, where the infinitude of a ‘big sky’ can make any good pilgrim a little wild of mind, is the small village of moratinos. this funny little pueblo is where i would come to spend many a moon smoothing out some of my rough edges and maybe gaining a few where i was much too soft.

just off of the calle ontanon is a private home (known as the peaceable) that is generously open to wanderers of all kinds. the place has grown organically in these past four years from the dream of american writer rebekah scott and her husband, artist and englishman patrick o’gara. it seems that the camino chose them to put down their roots in this small village of crumbling houses made from earth, with its 14 or so inhabitants that range from kind to curious. it hasn’t been easy for reb and paddy. from the beginning, they have been tested and tried and asked by the camino more than once  if they really meant it and were committed to being there … and then stretched just a little bit more for good measure. (you can read more about their story by clicking on the three-legged una dog in the sidebar on the right)

and so, through the cold winter, into the deep red poppy bloom of spring and maybe just a bit longer, i became part of a strange tribe. a place where the existence of god is debated daily and the presence is felt even more often. mice are chased, wine is had, prayers are layed down and each day brings something or someone new. change is constant and flows over a foundation that has grown strong and sturdy. and it was here within these walls that i got down to some gritty soul work.

i had the opportunity and privilege to care for pilgrims from all over the world—some blistered, broken hearted or mixture of both. i became hospitalera to the hospitaleros. had great adventures with wild dogs (and a handsome cat) all with the oldest of souls. i ran in the fields under skies as wide and blue as the sea that had i left behind. i chopped wood, carried water. cleaned out coops, shoveled poop. discovered the zen of dishwashing, learned to love european football, enjoyed good meals and became famous for salads and soulful stones. i tended the small but mighty labyrinth, wrestled my ego, felt grouchy sometimes. expressed it. was loved anyways. held space for healing and had space held for me. was a midwife to a book project and saw brilliant light and deep soulful mystery in what my friend dismisses as his darkness and past regrets.

and it happened there, in through the cracks of everyday living and being, that the deepest of daily lessons seeped in —the ones about love, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, boundaries, kindness, receiving, giving, humility … and a much needed clarity of the difference between service and servitude. this subtle grace shimmered a fine light into the dusty corners of my soul and it was in this space that i practiced ‘the leaning in’.

leaning in for a deeper understanding. for truth, without attachment or aversion. to be near and listen from the heart. to come to a simple knowing that we are all on our own spiritual journey, without exception. that we all want to be loved, to be understood, to be heard, to be seen and to know that we have the right exist. we each have our own unique story filled with dreams and longing, failures and disappointments. and no one’s is less important than the other’s. we have all known, at some time in our lives what it is like to suffer. we all want to be free of suffering. we want the freedom to be who we truly are. and through this practice of learning to see with the eyes of the heart and to stand in the stillness of a place of knowing the truth of who i really am and who i am becoming, i am beginning to understand that each time i lean in to others, i am also leaning in towards myself.

thanks Peace (with all of your people, creatures, pilgrims and wanderers) for your mysterious spirit that has provided me with the time and space to learn about becoming the path.

reb & paddy (and pups) | the promised land

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One response

  1. Frank Farrell

    Last time I crossed this “field” the wheat/barley was waist high and the dogs were invisible. Except the two greyhounds and they moved like a pair of sleek dolphins rising in graceful balletic arcs from the sea of grass before slipping back into it.

    22/09/2010 at 20:52

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