wandering without a paved paradise
This fall I will leave Portland, Oregon and embark on an adventure. I will travel to India for a 21 day tour, where I will practice yoga in the morning and will walk–meander, amble, rove, a flâneur in practice–for the remainder of each day. Afterward, in mid-September, I will leave New Delhi and fly to Nice, France, take the train to Le Puy-en-Velay, and from there begin a four or five or six week walk–I am not sure how long it will take–along the chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle to Saint-Jeans-Pied-de Port, the last French town before the route crosses the Pyrénées to Spain. 750 kilometers approximately. I will engage in le pèlerinage de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, although it will not be for religious reasons.
Going to India is understandable, but why would one want to leave the comforts of home in Portland and go on a lengthy walking pilgrimage? It is so hard to leave family and friends. Some wonder why I am not the kind of person who stays. I leave so I can return, come back and love my family and friends and rediscover Portland for new reasons.
A passage from Middle-earth of J.R.R. Tolkien comes to mind: “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
The fear of going may be in what lies ahead, that I may lose what I have, and find no adventure, discover little inspiration, but experience unhappiness in loneliness. What my family and friends and Portland are to do when I am walking across the countryside I cannot imagine.
During my other voyages I have learned to leave. From where I live, I go quickly and preferably in the early morning. I try not look back at the house or the car as I step away, and I repeat over and over that my memories, because I have them, are for the moment better in the past, and the future, still uncertain, will be new and formidable. In leaving I want to slip quietly away, without causing any fuss, and then make a dash for le chemin de St-Jacques-de-Compostelle and begin walking.
I look to the solitude that the long walk offers and the silence that is so loud. It is a source of great strength. I want to be let alone, as Greta Garbo once said. I want to ponder in peace, to be warmed by the sunshine, to feel the paving stones under my feet, without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself and no one else. After hiking for many years, including completing the John Muir Trail in the Sierras, I have learned you can listen to silence and learn from it.
I won’t be listening to “Silence Yourself” by the Savages, my latest CD purchase. Listening to punk music on a path in rural France might not be . . . quoi ? . . . the most tranquil music.*
And . . . I want to spend some time without cars. I remember Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi”: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” I look forward to walking through country sides and forgetting about cars that are rushing somewhere.
*Another color suggests text was added later.