Big ideas

from Littlehuan


Leave a comment

The parable of the stone.

A funny thing happened on the way to Compostela. It was either a perfect storm of coincidences, or a biblical parable played out before my eyes. If anyone would like to interpret it, as Joseph of the Technicolor Dreamcoat did for Pharaoh’s dream then you are welcome to.

I pulled up my bike at the village green at Relegios, a place named for religion, when a scene more akin to biblical times played out before my eyes. I’d stopped to phone my girls, as I do every Sunday, and my mobile phone appeared anachronistic against the vision before me, that of a shepherd grazing his sheep on the green. The gentle sound of the sheep bells filled the air, and two thin dogs patrolled the sheep. The old, weather-worn shepherd seemed to be shouting instructions directly to the sheep as much as to the dogs. (The sheep  know my voice…?)

A couple of other dogs approached, in curiosity as much as anything, and with a word from the shepherd, the sheepdogs saw them off, leaving the sheep free to graze some more. Then, the funny thing happened…

…a dog took a rock from a ditch, walked past me and placed it gently and poignantly at the foot of a statue of a pilgrim, recently erected in the green. That morning, my companion for a day Eyke, from Germany had showed me a photograph from his guidebook, that of a tall cross, surrounded by stones which pilgrims had taken and left there, at the highest point of the Camino, as a symbol of leaving behind baggage, things that hold us back and stifle our dreams. It’s a concept I’m familiar with, I’ve used it it may work with young people over the years.

So I took the rock and put it in my bag.

image

Today, as the sun rose above the mountains amongst which I slept I left the rock at the famous cross, some 1500m above sea level. I know what the act meant to me, but the mysterious circumstances which led to it remain a puzzle. I’m making this pilgrimage not as a fervent believer as I once was, but as a questioning soul. And here I have another enigma with which to engage on my journey. All part of life’s rich carpet, as an old friend often told me.

image

Advertisements


1 Comment

Not so easy…

With only a few days to go, I’ve been feeling really nervous about the trip today. You know, lots of self-doubt, procrastination, a bit of insecurity, taking it out on those around me, that sort of thing. Horrid little questions I wish would go away.

“It’s too far, you’ll never finish, the miles will get on top of you, you’ll be a cold, wet, lonely failure.”

Here’s me looking anything but cold in a snowfield at minus 10. Yes, my kit is frozen solid.

Well I might have bitten off more than I can chew, with 2500km in 26 days; what, with the kit I’m taking,  my propensity to get lost going to the corner shop, and my desire to curl up into a ball when things get difficult. But there’s a chance I’ll make good progress on the flat of France and ride myself into form for the hills of Spain. That I’ll encounter fair weather and following winds. And that I’ll roll into Santander with a day to spare, wondering what all the fuss was about. But if I fail, on who’s terms will I fail? On the brilliant CTC Trail Leader course I did recently, with the inimitable Craig Walmsley, we spent a bit of time mapping out shortcuts; alternative routes and escapes back to base if things go differently to the plan. And I’ve planned such routes for this trip. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I took so many interesting detours, accepted so many offers of hospitality and thought, wrote or photographed so much that I had to ride straight to the ferry terminal or miss Christmas? Would my trip be of any less value if its destination was other than the westernmost tip of Spain?

“You’re irresponsible. It’s such a big risk for the future.”

Ok, Ok, I return home as an unemployment statistic. Jobs will be advertised and posts filled while I am away. But this trip is space for really good decisions about my future and deciding how I want to spend my days. Might my redundancy provide so many opportunities at a time when I’m able to take them? Can I convince people the skills I love to share are worth paying for, and make my passion my career?  Is someone who’s proved themselves self-reliant, determined and creative more or less employable? Why not read the intrepid and highly readable Travelling Two’s answer.

“You’re a bad dad for doing this.”

Yes, I’ve heard it in my own mind and even from others. I’m worried about my girls. Just now I want to shower them in love and never let them go. But there is absolutely no good time to do this from their perspective. They want their dad like they want ice cream before dinner- but if it’s good it’s good enough to wait for. I can’t wait to write them special messages. The eldest has asked me to write a letter. That’s great. In an age of email my child values the physical, written word. But I hope to befriend the technology to share stories face to face, or at least webcam to webcam. I’m determined that the dad they get for Christmas will be an improved, relaxed, calmer, more fulfilled version of the one they love now. And I’ll be the best beard in the playground at school. Except the terrifying headmistress, Miss Whiskers.*

If this was easy for me, it’s likely I wouldn’t be attempting it. I’ve planned something which takes me as far as can in the time I have. Long nights and short days add to the difficulty, as does the need to make and break camp each day. The weather will whisper threats of snow and ice, and silently deliver her promise. My journey will require my best and test my resolve to its limits. For how else will I find out what my best is, or where my limits are? I’ll be cold, wet, hungry and scared at times, but equally I’ll be warm, safe, energised and excited. Emotions will undulate and moods will swing. But I will do this. And I will do it well.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent…