Symbolism, Platitudes, and Virtues

“Why are you walking the Camino,” is the subject of many conversations along The Way.  And, the question and attempts to answer the question are symbolized in various ways.  Rocks and shells are the most common symbols but there are also many statues of Saint James.  According to one of the guides to the Camino, traditionally rocks were left along the path to mark the way and at Cruz de Ferro.  Pilgrims rub their fears, hurts, & sorrows into a stone and place it there.  What actually seems to happen is that pilgrims leave rocks everywhere; sometimes artfully, sometimes with messages written on the rock.  The shell was originally used as evidence one had completed the Camino.  Now many pilgrims attach a shell to their backpack to distinguish them as pilgrims from the git-go (not really necessary – pilgrims are easy to spot – they tend to hobble and use their backpacks as clotheslines). 

Last night we stayed at an Albergue who upped the ante on symbolism.  The owner’s walls were adorned with Camino paraphernalia. The owner had been a pilgrim in the past and loved it so much she moved from Brazil to Spain to start an Albergue.  When we arrived we were given a “virtue.”  Mine was “Abundancia,” and Donna’s was “Amor con Humor.”  Now we are women of virtue and don’t quite know how to act.  There were platitudes covering all the walls and flat surfaces: some just one word like “Amor” or “Sol” and some longer like, “The journey is the answer ,” and “Tourists demand; pilgrims are grateful.”  Somehow, that one seemed a tad self-protective & controlling.  There were 11 pilgrims and only 1 bathroom at the Albergue.  As we were trying to pack-up, eat, & leave this morning, I was wishing I could bargain: “I’ll give you 6 platitudes and 2 virtues for a second toilet.”  

Whatever one’s personal reason for walking the Camino, collectively there is a sense of positive, open, peaceful and curious regard for human kind.  It is an international experience.  We have found that Australians, Canadians, Koreans, Spaniards, and Americans are well-represented here;  we have also met people from France, Denmark, Kenya, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Argentina,  Hungary, India, Ireland, England, and many other places.  And we are just at 100 miles.  Only 400 or so to go.  Good night to you all.

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