Reflections on my Camino – Experiencing Nature

“A bad day in the forest is better than a good day in the office”

I say this often when I am walking with someone in the forest. Living close to forests in Basel, it was easy for me to get in the car and drive to any number of lovely places or to walk up past the garden and be in the rolling farmlands of Baselland. Nature was never too far away. On the Camino it is different. You are a part of nature by the fact that day after day, you are walking through it. You are not isolated by a vehicle and each moment you are in a new place, a new bit of nature. This made each day very special for me.

Each morning you headed out on a path marked by yellow arrows, scallop shells and signs. That path took you through city streets, highways, country roads, dirt tracks and winding narrow trails. And around each turn or the next kilometer, nature was presented anew. It wasn’t curated by a National Park or the end destination of a well planned map. It happened as you made decisions to follow one indicator or another. In fact the guide books often recommended a different path to allow you to experience the wildness of a place versus following a road.

By walking I experienced more detail; dry wind on the Meseta  a cold, frosted wind in O’Cebreiro  or a wet, rain whipping wind in Galicia  Each was felt directly on my face, my hands, my body. I was directly present and affected. This direct experience is shared by modern day pilgrims with pilgrims through the millennium. It was easy to imagine a man my age walking 900 years ago protected only by a thick wool cloak and maybe roughly made boots.

Being part of nature also brought it to hand…and foot. It was easy to stop and examine a flower or pick up a rock. Nature was a touch away. It was a great pleasure to wander off the trail and explore with sight and fingertips. Often nature took a less pleasant turn. If it was an unseen rock in the path that found my foot straight on, I was glad for the protection of my heavy boots. I may have been experiencing nature in a similar way to my predecessors, but I did have the benefit of Vibram soles and protected toes.

What I learned:

 How much I appreciated being part of nature and not moving through it protected completely from its pleasure and pain.

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