tear down this house
many demolitions are renovations. – rumi (from tear down this house)
the last 100 km and the old dream.
somewhere around palas de rei, i found myself standing in front of a small house built of stone. i leaned on my trusty walking stick and shifted my weight back and forth to try to relieve the aching in my feet. you have to know that this house wasn’t anything special, really. parts of the roof had merged with the nature and was making its elegant crumble down. down. down. the hearty wood beams entwined with thick vines that patiently wrestling them to the ground. i stood there and looked at this little house. i looked for a long, long time.
once upon a time, it had been a dream of mine to find my place along the camino. a small coffee house. for pilgrims, poets and wanderers. maybe even an albergue. only a few beds. donativo, of course. soulful hippie meets galician rustic.
after i arrived home from my first camino almost seven years earlier, i sat in my little studio in key west and dreamed. i searched online for property along the camino. (i have a funny feeling that i am not the only one who has done this.) i found a little stone place for sale. cheap. cheap. needed work. a lot of work. roof had started to fall in a bit. no matter, part of the charm. it had potential. lots of stone and wood. a real dreamers dream. i saw the photographs of this stone ruin on my computer screen and said out loud, “yes! this is what i want. universe, make it happen.”
skip ahead seven years later to present moment. the stone house that i was standing in front of was the very same house that i had seen online all of those years ago. there was no for sale sign anywhere but i recognized it from the photographs. no takers, i guess. this old house built of stone was slowly coming down. sigh. the universe must not have been listening.
during these final days of my adventure of the spirit, the camino has been really pulling out all of the stops. i have been in a space of complete wonder and amazement. the road kills me with delight. animals come out to the road to meet me. horses. turkeys. goats. cows. cats. dogs. even squirrels with wild tufts of fur on their ears chatter at me from the tree tops. the rain has stopped. the sunlight pours in through the tall eucalyptus giants and lights up the path in front of me. and with all of this, i started thinking. dangerous. might be something joseph campbell refers to as the hero’s refusal of the return. i started to bargain with the camino. ok. i could just keep going. maybe i am not supposed to finish at the end of the world. maybe the camino wants me. needs me to turn around and walk back. to the meseta. no, to lourdes. no, for sure it is vezelay, france. where i had started seven years ago. my mind played with me like a family of galician squirrels. i had all kinds of ideas. they flowed freely. they wouldn’t stop. i began to walk faster. almost skipping, as the brilliant plans came. i could become a shepherdess. with a flock of my very own sheep and a llama, for good measure. i could open a juice bar. train to become a wizard. a bee keeper. a shaman. or … nevermind all of those things. i could just keep on walking. until even i forgot my own name. then, i would find a new one. recreate myself. disappear. then i would be really and truly free. after all, no one needs me back home, i told myself. yes, thats it. i’ll just keep walking. i think that this could be my destiny. and i could finally learn to play the guitar. yep, a llama would be great. … then my mind drifted back to the little stone house. yes. this is it. this was what i told the universe. “i want that!”
… and no sooner than i said those words, i felt my feet slip out from under me. it all happened so fast, but was in slow motion. my mind had been so occupied with what had become a kind of dreaming frenzy that it would have been next to impossible to see that big rock with the fresh pile of cow shit strategically placed on its edge. the next thing i knew, i was on my knees. shock set in. i was sure that i had broken both of my legs. afraid to even breathe. i felt the camino’s hand gently on my shoulder holding me right where i was. don’t move. and in that moment, i saw once more the image of that stone house. the little fortress build of heavy stone and big beams that had started crumbling to the ground. i heard my voice say to the universe, … please. i want that. i have heard that images are the language of the soul. and i have come to understand that the camino/universe has a pretty good sense of humor. i heard a voice whisper to me, well, you asked for it. and you got it. still there on the ground, i saw flashes of my encounters from this year spent along this strange road. i saw many mirrors helping me to tear down – bit by bit – the stone walls that i had built up around myself. each lesson helped my old ways of being in the world begin to make its elegant crumble down. down. down. the hearty wood beams of misunderstanding and wrong thought were wrapped up with the thick vines of compassion that patiently wrestling them to the ground. tear down this house. and that was what my soul had really been asking for. to tear my own house down. hmmm, thought for sure it was a coffeehouse.
i finally picked myself up off the ground and dusted myself off. by some miracle, i was completely unhurt and with no cow poo on my person. my feet didn’t even hurt anymore. once more and right on time, the camino had spoken. loud and clear. pull myself together. i am to be in this world, but not of it.
and with that, i headed on down the road.
just when we think we know how it will go.
not far from santiago, i was thinking about a dog. i was thinking about a three-legged wonderdog named una. a peaceable kingdom dog that left this world over month or so ago. she had been a good friend, dependable backseat driver, a film star and the source of much joy and laughter. not long ago, i had been called back off the road for one last big dog party on the meseta. her cancer had spread and no one knew how long she would be around. so, i went back for a few days. it was a beautiful party. the best, really. and after the liver was gone and scruffles given, i headed back to the trail. it was not long after, she decided it was time to go.
as i was saying. i was walking along the trail, almost to santiago. after all of this time, my long road finally nearing its end. i was thinking about that peaceable dog and how funny she was. not too long after … there, in the misty eucalyptus wood, i felt someone behind me. expecting a pilgrim, i was surprised to find that following along right behind me was a dog. a curious little dog. with brown spots, a funny underbite grin and a bum front leg. a camino casualty. it was strange and mysterious and i will leave it to rebekah to tell you how the story goes from here. rosey has been graciously welcomed into the peaceable kingdom fold. she may be small, but i feel like she has the heart the size of a lions. … this long road offers up its strange gifts at every turn.
you see, i am a believer. i believe in the magic and the mystery of this Way. that we are given just what we need, when we need it. even thought it might not look like what we thought it would, it often times turns out to be even better than we could have imagined for ourselves. sometimes we are only the messenger, the catalyst or the middle-man. yes, i am a believer. and i want to keep believing. long after i leave this path. and i want to continue to tear my stone house down. to be ready for the renovations.
i arrived in santiago. alone. a little bit behind schedule. it was raining and i hustled to the cathedral. i forgot the new rules and that i couldn’t go inside with my backpack. i would have to come back later to give my thanks and say my prayers. meanwhile, i ducked into a smoke filled bar, had a coffee and gathered my thoughts. sitting there, i felt the camino’s hand again resting gently on my shoulder. i am tired, i thought. at least four more days to get to the sea. tearing down the house isn’t easy work. it is long and slow. the renovations, it seems, take years. lifetimes even. but, as i sat there looking down into my coffee and more deeply into how far i have come. all that i went through to get to this moment … now, almost one year later … as van morrison sings, i am a soul in wonder. really. it is all so rich and the beauty of feeling is difficult to describe in words. i am a soul in wonder, indeed. and i think maybe the universe is listening.
now, on to the end of the world.
a big dog party