I’ve been back stateside for 2 weeks now… the trite, but oh so true, feeling is “so long ago and far away, and yet, only yesterday.” I spent 5 weeks walking the 500 miles from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. My job, as it were, was to walk — walk about 15 miles (25km) every day with a pack on my back. To walk in rain and sun, heat and cold, light and darkness and to be present in every moment along the way. And, that way was marked by yellow arrows.
I smile when I think of those arrows. Sometimes they jumped out at you. Sometimes, they had to be sought out. You might find a yellow arrow on a street or a sidewalk, or the side of a building. You might find a yellow arrow on a bench, a rock, a wall or a lamppost… on a tree trunk or a stone marker. They showed The Way. And, if you hadn’t lost your way, it seems that a yellow arrow appeared just at that moment when you began to question if you were on the right road.
We missed a yellow arrow one morning in misty darkness. The way felt “not right” but since there were few, if any options for turning or not once we had veered off the path, it took us more than a kilometer to find the path ending in a field. Yup. We missed an arrow. By this time, there were 3 of us headed in the wrong direction. Nothing to do but climb back up the hill until we found an arrow. Oh, and then follow it. Back on the path.
How many times in life have I just kept going despite strong misgivings and no arrows to validate my path? How hard is it to admit that I was wrong, and go back to a place where I can see the arrows? Hard to admit taking a wrong turn. Hard to hold back from blaming someone else for my error. So easy to say “Well — I wouldn’t have gotten lost if YOU had painted that arrow bigger, or brighter, or in a slightly different spot that would have been easier to see! Not my fault!” Hard to say — “Oops! That was a lovely path, but it seems it wasn’t the one I wanted/needed.”
Since my return from the Camino, I find that I must continue to look for something akin to those yellow arrows. I must follow these instructions, even if I don’t know much, if anything about what I will find on the path, exactly where it will lead or how far I will go today. I know that they will lead me to my goal and I really don’t have to know every detail of the path before it happens. And, if I miss one and find myself lost, then I must go back and find an arrow, and begin again.