cinema peregrina

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.

beautiful things.

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.

arrivals.

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

for una.


odyssey

photograph by wayne levin

now i’m aware that i alone am in the vast

openness
of the sea

and cause the sea to be the sea.

just swim.
just swim.

go on with your story.

– dainin katagiri roshi

i dream. i am an old sea turtle. scarred and barnacled. and i am swimming for my own shore. my odyssey nearly complete. i have made my way there to the deep. deepest. now, i am on my way back. i saw things there in that fluid mystery. soft things. sweet things. dangerous things. and i tell you, all of them holy things. they live there in that liminal space. the place between the here and there. magic stones, wise old trees and pages from ancient poetry books line the bottom of this strange ocean. i swim above seagrasses that sway like prayer flags in the wind. flocks of silvery sheep race me. the sound of their bells muffled slightly by water, salty and blue. i hear voices gurgling out the names of god. and not just one name. but All of the names. i have visited other realms and other times. i drift now along a winding and sunken road. beside me pilgrims row small boats piled high with treasure and transformation. each bounty different. every voyage unique and filled with healing and meaning. pearls, scallop shells and hot bowls of con leche. … and i see my beautiful poet friend there. the one who made her journey to that ‘sacred deep’ as well. Coma, her vehicle. she is on her way back, too. see you there, she says to me with a wink and a flash of understanding travels between us. she swims and double-somersaults as gracefully as the words that she writes. i wave a flipper her way and give a lazy sea turtle smile. see you there, jto. yes, i am swimming slowly. back. i hear the holy om, deep and low. this mantra fills my ears and drowns my sea turtle heart. my internal compass bobs and lines up to its vibration. holy om. aum. i repeat it. again. and again. it becomes holyom. hhhooommm. home. home. ah, and where is my home?

i am coming closer. closer still. solitude. silence. i am now making my way alone. my traveling companion set his stone at the cruz de ferro and with his mission complete, now continues his journey back home from there. we traveled together well and for so long. we’ll see each other again, i believe. we have an appointment. back in the real world. and so … i continue.

i have entered the watery realm of galicia. i feel its mystery and oldness. gnomes, faeries, witches and ancient stories infuse this road. farmers and their gentle animals. a landscape that carries a scent so unique that it could be bottled up with simply ‘galicia’ on it’s label. one whiff and everyone who has ever passed this way would remember all things immediately. green fields. leaf covered paths. fresh rain. and … ah, those beautiful cows.

and so, for almost a year now … i sometimes waited, often wandered and have slowly made my Way. i will be honest and tell you that i am tired. my clothes are worn and tattered. my body aches a bit. i am sensitive and tears come easily. i feel like a vagabond. a nomad. a spiritual tramp. but, when i look in the mirror, there is a light within my eyes that is, well, … new. and with this light, there is a longing deep within my heart that swells and expands as i come closer and closer to the end of this journey. i ask that you keep me in your prayers, if you can. i still have a ways to go. 100 kilometers to santiago and then another four days or so to reach the end of the world. my odyssey nearing its completion.

i saw things there in that fluid mystery.

soft things. sweet things. dangerous things.

and i tell you, all of them holy things.

they live there in that space between the here and there.

just swim.
just swim.

go on with your story.

i am coming closer. and closer still.

.

 


goodbye old loves

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattail
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver


they have been the connection between my flesh and the earth. the protectors of my soft island feet from hard and stoney road. for me they represented freedom. defiant toes liberated from heavy, constrictive, tightly laced boots. they left fantastic tan lines zigging and zagging on the tops of my feet. the mark of zorro revealed after a hot shower. layers of camino dust and kilometers down the drain. and they had made this way with me once before. it sounds ridiculous, but i loved them. and i wanted them to accompany me to the sea. to the end. together.  i thought they were up to it. but, it just wasn’t written in the stars.

if you have had the experience of making a camino before, you probably understand how things … like shoes … take on deeper meaning and significance. a kind of inside joke between you and the universe. you and the road. and for some reason that i can’t quiet understand, i have been afraid to get new shoes. who knows. maybe a strange solidarity with my old ones. brothers in arms (feet). and it is hard to break in new ones. it feels easier to stay with the familiar, the known. no surprises. not so risky. … and these days, little by little, they have been coming apart. i could see light coming in through the sole. i was tender with them, pleaded with them, hoping that somehow my words could heal the rift forming between chunks of rubber. it was near the end when i sat in an albergue kitchen late one evening, strategizing with all kinds of tapes and glues. the french beekeeper had a few tips for me. as did the austrian business man. but it was the beautiful swedish girl, known as bella, that asked me quietly what it was that i was doing. i made light of my serious operation and said that i was simply trying to repair my old loves. so they could make it to the sea with me. she put her hand on my shoulder, looked at me straight in the eye and said, maybe it is time to make room in your life for some new loves. …

i pulled down a new pair of shoes from the shelf in the sports shop. i felt a little nervous and excited. i set my old loves on the bench next to me while i tried on the new ones. i told myself that what i was seeking was really only a back-up. a ‘just in case kind of thing’. and yet, when i walked up and down the isles testing the new shoes, i had to admit that they felt good. very, very good. and as i made my purchase, the shopkeeper informed me that they were even on sale.

back at the albergue, i sat on my bunkbed with the new shoes next to me. a pilgrim from berlin, germany with wild grey hair and an aum symbol tattoo on his shoulder sat on the next bed over and gave me a big grin as he revealed the new shoes that he had just bought hours before. together, we had a good laugh about ‘our new loves’ and compared ‘soles’.

on the camino the next morning, i wore my old sandals as usual. backups all the way at the bottom of my backpack. this will work, i thought. we can all make it to finisterra together. and it was exactly three steps after this thought, that the strap on the right sandal had broken. and not even the same bloody shoe that i had so cleverly macgyvered with my elaborate repairs. sneaky camino. right there, in the middle of the long road, it was over. it was time to let go.  no bargaining, no begging. so, i hung them on the fencepost, an offering, and i thanked them for carrying me so well, for so long. and with new shoes on my feet and coincidentally, a new friend (in his new shoes) by my side, i continued on down my road.

i don’t know how long they (shoes or friend) will travel with me … but as mary oliver says in her poem,

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

 


inside looking out

the ermita de san miguel (hermitage of saint michael) sits at the top of a hill just a short distance before the village of estella. not everyone stops here. it is off the path a ways and near the end of a long day, even fifty meters can make the feet shout don’t even think about it. but, if you choose to visit, you will find a humble building made of stone, surrounded by an audience of wise old olive trees with their branches outstretched and applauding. and if you aren’t fooled by the heavy iron gate shut tight at her entrance, you will discover that it is actually unlocked. with just a shimmy or two, it will swing open to you. enter, and find light spilling in through the small window high above. deep silence. two altars. a hundred love letters. more.

piled on these altars is where the brotherhood of wanderers and searchers leave their evidence. they were here. in every language you can imagine, you will find prayers, promises, stones, shells, trinkets, sketches, photographs. the sacred traces. these simple offerings speak volumes. first, an intention and then placed on the smooth slabs of stone — a bit of cloth, a snapshot of a man with a grey cat, a sea bean, a key, an old tube of mascara with it’s golden finish tarnished — these gifts take on meanings deep and significant. the experience of being human. and inside this stark sanctuary comes an opportunity. make your petition here. there is an innocence in these scraps. symbols of a letting go. the old story. it is subtle, this transformation. i am moved by this gentle ritual.

these days on the road, i am living my questions. who is the patient witness that lives inside of me. the one who is only stillness. and what would happen if i were to place all of ‘my stuff’ on the altar? every wrong idea, thought or belief that i ever had about myself or anyone else. or the way i had convinced myself of how the world ‘worked.’ who would i be beyond all of those things?

the camino allows us the time and space to get some distance from our old way of being in the world and invites us (sometimes wrestling us to the ground) and challenges us to take off these masks of who we think we are and to go deeper. to see this world, this experience from the inside out. with a new appreciation for what is possible. and a reverence for the simple. walking in nature. a bed. a hot (if possible) shower. a meal cooked together. soulful conversations. giving up. giving in. letting go. and a unique opportunity to lay down a few things on the altar.

i can tell you that i am not there yet, but i am getting closer. we are getting closer. i look around and i see this in my fellow man. i encounter more and more people looking for a new way. a more authentic way of being in the world. … but, it has to be in our own time, in our own way. we are all on our own unique camino. maybe, it first comes by taking a chance that the heavy iron gate that guards the entrance to our hearts is not really locked tight after all. it just needs a shimmy and a shake to open, and then we can go inside. and here, we will all find a place of light and deep silence. on our altars, we can place our own love letters, petitions, prayers. and in this humble sanctuary of our soul, we are able to meet the still witness who has been looking out, all along.

i am here.


 




 


talking peaches with jesus


santa cilia to arres (3)