Not for the faint of heart.
I'm envious of my colleague, who actually managed to go to Spain (not even knowing the language) and experience nine days of the Camino. This pilgrimage hike starts in France and extends hundreds of kilometers through northern Spain, ending in the city of Santiago and the fabulous Santiago Cathedral. I'll put more details on the site shortly, as well as links to Camino references on the web.
Camino hikers, welcome, especially those who helped my colleague along the way. Others who have come to this site -- I'll build additional references as I find them. Meanwhile, drop a line and share your experience, or take a look at the "Spain" CD. And thanks for visiting!
The Piano Piece.
If you want a challenge as a pianist, you'll be able to encounter one shortly. "El Camino" is the closest I could come to sharing in the experience. Perhaps one day...
In the meantime, what I can say is that the piece is, and should be, different every time I play it. I may eventually reach the point where I can repeatedly play the piece as I've transcribed it from the CD, but then I might simply stop and ask, what's the point after all? This music, just like the hike and the months and years that follow it for any pilgrim, is a journey. To play the Camino as a piano piece is to be involved in the perpetual dance of creation, tolerating the stumbles along the way and rejoicing in the surprise of a new melody, or the feeling you get when both hands and the rest of the body seem to lift away and be replaced by only the music. That's a Camino experience on the keyboard, and it's just as intense in its own way as a walk down the road can be.
We Are All On a Camino.
And we express it in so many different ways, but they are all connected. Ancient Toltec wisdom has it that this world is a world of dreams, of light between the stars -- the nagual -- and the light of the stars itself -- the tonal. We each live as though we're a smoky mirror, dreaming and trying to find that which is real. Plato expressed it for ancient Greece, Freud alluded to it when he said "the self vanishes upon reflection," and Edwin Muir hinted at how we may as children "know" the real (and lose it as we mature) when he wistfully remembered that "in childhood I had that feeling of harmony, and I can still remember it; the sky fitted the earth then; but since that time I have often been troubled by a sense of dislocation between the earth and the sky: an actual physical, or visual, feeling of something wrong."
Yet a physical Camino journey, with all its hardship and its camaraderie, can culminate in that experience where it all comes together, a joining of all the pieces that make up a human being, a physical and spiritual moment as profound as any we may experience when, in the depths of anguish, we shoot with assurance a prayer straight and true into the heart of God. And Yeats, writing his farewell poem "Under Ben Bulben", expresses that completion, that wholeness:
that when all words are said
How many of us know our work, or wish that we did. How many of us forget we are on a Camino every day of our lives? We sense that the deeper fabric of who we are and how we belong to this wide world of souls and stars is, as a friend of mine once remarked, like the underside of a tapestry, colored threads all a-jumble. Only occasionally is the work turned over so we may glimpse the rich brocade.
So it is with the Camino, the journey. How I admire people like my colleague, and others whom I've never met but whom, from my perch of comfort and dreams can only hope to reach in some way with these words. It is all and always here -- this here of life and healing and connection with true friends, where we find ourselves and through them and ourselves collect the courage to move on, searching like Goya's old man, walking with two canes and saying "Still I learn."