In the wide expanse of a forest there is silence like nowhere else I know. You may find quiet in an empty house or a deserted field. Yet, walking through a forest alone you will not only find quiet but also peace. Surrounded by tall pines you are alone but never lonely. I think we underestimate the power of walking. Taking steps is so entirely normal, mundane even, that we have become desensitized to all that can be achieved through this simple act.
Embracing the Journey
I found one such haven in the forests of Spain. A few summers ago I had the chance to indulge in ten days of walking. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage trail that has been used for centuries as a route to Santiago de Compostela, where many go to visit the shrine of the apostle St. James the great in Santiago Cathedral. Although the Camino has many different routes they all meet in Santiago.
It was June; the air was warm and the ground dry. We walked through forests, fields and small villages and spent our days talking, reminiscing and laughing. Only the sound of our voices and the pleasure of new experiences to keep us company. To walk the entire pilgrimage route to Santiago takes about thirty-five days. While we were only on the trail for the last ten we still had our fair share of tales to tell about the power of the Camino.
It is known all over the world as a significant journey. Pilgrims have been walking this route supposedly since the 9th Century. It is the history of the Camino that brings people from all over the world to its paths. When you walk this trail you are not alone but surrounded by memories of past walkers in details along the way. You can feel the history; the well-worn paths speak of the journeys taken, goals conquered and people changed on the road to Santiago.
An Old Friend
For me the forests of the Camino were the most powerful of storytellers. When a gust of wind carries through the eucalyptus trees it brushes by each leaf as if to announce its presence. The forest floor is left silent in the aftermath, nothing left but a chill on your skin and the rustle of the leaves. You feel so very alone and small among the swaying pines. Yet this kind of loneliness comes from a place of freedom not lack. The wind is accompanied by excitement, as if nature is ushering you forward in your journey.
On the road you meet many faces. Some curious, some kind and others simply pass you by in a brief moment. While we may all differ in many ways we are united by the journey. On the Camino we were all connected by the simple act of walking. Taking steps towards a destination, varied routes colliding with a shared desire to experience the world in a new way.
Walking for days in the Spanish heat taught me much about our connectedness. Centuries may pass, presidents and kings may die and truths and beliefs may fall by the wayside. But these paths and the natural world that surrounds them will most likely outlive us all. When we walk along these age-old trails we unlock secrets from ages past that enable us to see things a little more clearly in the present. In nature we are freed from the ties of the modern world, even just for a little while. Whether it be walking for days, working on a farm or diving to the depths of the ocean, in nature we can find solace; a friend with open arms and a few great stories to tell.