Noriko and I returned from northern Spain about a week ago, from our month long pilgrimage to Santiago. It feels like we’ve been back for years though. One thing that pilgrimage teaches, is that time is far from mathematical and that it seems to be linked directly to behavior. The first 3 days felt as if we were walking for months, the last 3 days felt like we just arrived in Spain. In the first 3 days we traversed the Pyrenees, survived a flood and waded in mud- it took us the next week just to process those days.
There is so little deviation from day to day that days of the week, hours of the day, minutes of the hour, really have no value. Your mind, body and the land kind of dictate what you do. When there is a cafe serving coffee you take a coffee, when your feet ache, you stop under a tree.
You also get into these interesting cycles of thought; ideas and memories will weave themselves into your day. Repeating themselves, changing slightly in content and intensity, which I find very useful seeing the same things in different colors. It’s similar to fasting, instead of abstaining from food, you are abstaining from the normalcy and routine of life. Where fasting is meant to clean you out, and let your stomach “start over”, pilgrimage focuses on your mind and memories.
It was also in the first few days that we met the people who were to form our little community for the next 4 weeks also. It is quite amazing how fast you make bonds with people who are engaging in the same activity as you; not wholly unlike the bonds made between classmates in school or co-workers in a company. It’s like a friendship that develops in warp speed; you are spilling your most intimate feelings within hours, trust is almost a non-issue where everyone is in the exact same predicament as you.
Of course, there are many reasons to walk a pilgrimage; from religious, to dealing with some sort of issue to sight-seeing and everywhere in between. Ours was a mix of wanting to see northern Spain, needing a good hike and trying to spread the good word about the Shikoku pilgrimage. To this aim, we made these business cards with an “impact” picture on the front, with a bit of info on the back. We handed them out to other pilgrims we met and were able to leave a small stack of them at 4 or 5 albergues (pilgrim hostels) that we stayed at. We also brought with us 8 A4-sized O-henro posters and placed them at various places, again, mostly at the albergues.
Out of 120 people that we talked to about the Shikoku pilgrimage, only 7 had heard of it, and only 1 had actually walked it; a very cool German guy that was on his 2nd camino. We met exactly 9 Japanese people walking in Spain, all of them having heard of O-Henro, none of them having walked it. So, here is a quick breakdown of the nationalities and number of people we told about the pilgrimage in Shikoku:
South Korea 3
Our plan, as of right now, is to return to Europe and walk another month long portion of the pilgrimage; this time through France- Le Puy to San Jean pied de port. No, we are not crazy, or addicted to pilgrimage as some have accused, there is just more to learn and more to share…