It had been over two weeks since I started the Camino on the 7th September. People commonly say it takes at least 10 days walking on the Camino continuously for your barriers to break down to a level that you open yourself to the transformative potential that the Camino has. There is also a common saying that you have a Physical, Mental and then Spiritual stages on the Camino.
Today I woke like any other. The Magician and I set off at what was become our roughly usual 9am- ish start. Grabbing some food on the way for lunch and then walking gently together. For the first time we’d been walking just the two of us, we decided we wanted to walk together. Taking the Canal route through to Espalais (which is the prettier and flatter route) we noticed the number of Camino walkers decreased. But being able to walk by the water for most of the day was very calming.
It was during this time I opened up about my childhood. I’m always very open about the fact my mum had a climbing accident when I was 11, and my Dad died less 16 months after that. Just one of these events can have dramatic impact of any child’s up bringing. Let alone two. However, there was something that happened to me when I was even younger. I was 6 years old. I only have one memory of this. It was a game I played with my next door neighbour. The memory gave me a permanent shame and self- loathing that I’ve always carried with me. Today was the day I told the Magician.
He had such immediate faith and trust in me, he told me of his own similar childhood experience when he was a 7 year old boy on the first day we met. When he told me this, it blew me away. I struggle to tell anyone about my next door neighbour, such is my guilt. It was here, in the bridge over the canal I struggled to find the words and told him about her. And the greatest paranoia that came from the fact I knew this was a game, and yet I had no real other memories of how this came to be. Did I start the game because I was inherently evil? Or was this my next door neighbour?
He held me as I struggled to cry, struggled to let go of the guilt. And he did the magic he always does. Knows the words to help you move beyond your scars. To start you healing yourself. He gave me two messages, which I wasn’t willing to hear, understand or even accept. And yet, I knew, as a result of his own experience, how could he really be wrong in the truth of his message?
His first, there is a difference between guilt and responsibility. You feel guilt and responsibility for what happened. You have responsibility in this, but you shouldn’t have the guilt. This was done to you. You were not wrong for this. You take responsibility for this by learning from it and accepting the consequences.
His second message lead me to pull back from him. Wanting to run. You wanted it. Part of you wanted this, whether subciously or conciously, you wanted it. In this moment, there was a part of me that wanted to hate him for it. Because he didn’t molly cuddle me like everyone else did about this event. Patting me on the shoulder saying there there. Because he intuitively saw more clearly into my memory of the event and aftermath more than I’ve ever told anyone.
After we talked I shut down completely and said in a quiet voice I wanted to walk alone for a while. I walked along the canal alone, trying to clear my mind listening to classical music. And I realised the Magician did what no one else had ever done for me. He was making me move past it (when I didn’t even know if I could). I’ve been in counselling for this, meditated, emotionally flagellated myself over it, spent years trying to be ‘extra’ good in the hopes to compensate for what I’d seen as evidence of my inherent evil, begged God, Gaia, anyone to forgive me.
We stopped shortly afterwards for lunch and the Magician gently brought me round with light jokes, feeding me Saucisson (which is a addictive french dried sausage. Don’t ever eat this. You’ll develop a problem. You’ll thank me later). We readily agreed to spend the rest of the afternoon walking together. I took comfort in his presence, feeling myself coming out of my dark mood with each step hand in hand.
Further on in the afternoon we met a young french girl. Who was the first person we met together on the Camino. We carried on a broken three way conversation and walked together. Suddenly being halted in our steps by a frog running across our path. And a snake chasing it for dinner. I remember this comical moment, as if it hadn’t been for us, the frog would have been toast. It reminded me of all the magic we’d seen and were yet to see on the Camino. It made me realise the magic wasn’t over with the Magician, that there was much more for us to experience and observe together.
Eventually we stopped at the first Donativo we’d found on the Camino. I’m going to explain what a Donativo is. As to be honest, when the Magician first told me about this, I thought it would be some weird hippy commune full of people who were continually stoned. And being frank, not my kind of scene. We walked into the Par’Chemin just outside Espalais. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. The place naturally felt so beautiful we stayed a night when we were meant to have walked on.
A Donativo is based on an idea of an exchange. Yes it can be monetary, but it can also be offering to help in the garden in exchange for some food and a bed for the night. This is the real heart of the Camino. And shows a path away from greed and capitalism. This is a hard lesson for someone who’s spent 10 years building a corporate career to buy myself and my ex the best in life. To consume continually, regardless of the impact on the world, and in-spite of the huge wealth gaps you can continually see everywhere (even in your own family).
The evening was magical and I went to bed starting to feel like I was coming back to myself (which had been the main point of my walk). I felt the peace and beauty of the world around me, falling into a deep sleep in the Magicians arms.