Reading the correspondence again reminded me of the challenges of life that all of us face, some more than others. In many ways making the pilgrimage to Santiago is a symbolic walking of the road of life with all of its joys and pleasures, physical and mental challenges, its obstacles and set backs. The many different people encountered along the way.
Some people travel the journey of life until old age. Others are stopped in their tracks much earlier. The first of my contemporaries died tragically in the last week and maybe that has me thinking in this vein. But rather than dwell on those with short Caminos I’m trying to keep my eye on a more distant horizon!
That’s why I’ve been thinking about the long-livers in the Johnnie Walker dynasty. So far the women have lived well into their 90’s with the men like my father living well into their 80’s. By rights I should be walking for many years yet!
I’ve also been thinking about where people draw their strength. For my Dad, a working class man with no education, surprisingly it was poetry and literature.
When he died the priest at his funeral spoke of his last visits to him.” He was a quiet and unassuming man. He had no “if onlys” in his life. No regrets. Beside his bed lay the sources of his pleasure – the bible, the letters of Henry Root and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of poetry. In these three the character of the man was revealed. Faithful to what he believed and the family he loved. The driest sense of humour. A deep and creative spirit. “
And these my exhortations!
A few weeks ago on the Route from Madrid there were many miles of endless paths to walk in the baking sun. I find the rhythm of walking in this completely open landscape very hypnotic. Balm for the mind and soul. The words of Wordsworth came back to me then and so too did the words of Seamus Heaney in his poem Keeping Going.
This was a work I was introduced to many years ago. Again I go back to its passages from time to time.
So here is the first and last stanzas for those who may be unfamiliar with it. Heaney wrote this about his brother who suffered from “turns” or “seizures”.
The piper coming from far away is you