A year ago yesterday Helen and I walked into Santiago de Compestella having spent nearly six weeks walking across Northern Spain. It feels like yesterday and also a distant memory. It was a huge and varied experience, up there with childbirth for the full monty. We arrived sweaty and elated and a little disbelieving that we’d made it. We hugged each other and lots of other people. Had our picture taken by another pilgrim and then sat in a corner of the sunlit square, taking time to arrive as our guru, John Brierley advised. I had a silent weep, of joy I think now, relief maybe, though we never really considered giving up.
We checked into the swankiest hotel on the square and made full use of their sparkling facilities.
In some way it compensated for the dire places we had stayed along the way, however there was still a piper playing strangely unconnected notes outside our window from before dawn till well after lights out.
The fluffy white towels were just as we imagined them. And imagining them had helped us when the towels had been grubby and thin.
But the varied experience was all part of it.
The blisters, the snorers, the borers, the unimaginative menu, the hail and snow. The quiet pleasure of leaving an anonymous village before dawn and feeling the sun on our backs as it came up, casting our shadows long before us as we walked westwards.
The daily ritual of café con leche.
And not knowing what we might find around the next corner, unexpected kindness and beauty.
One of the joys for Helen and me was the lack of planning. Normally hyper-organised we let a lot things just fall into place and felt the freer for it. For that time it was right.
Three years ago yesterday my daughter got married and the wedding and reception came together in a fluid and joyful way as a result of months of thought and careful planning. It wasn’t without hitch or incident, the bat, the fight, the gas going out, but on the whole it was great.
And since then, so much has happened. I have two grandsons. Both of whom were surprises and both bring life and smiles and energy to my world. Who’d be without them for not being planned?
My dad had a stroke not long after the wedding and is with some courage, rebuilding his world. My son fell in love and then out of love with a beautiful girl and her daughter who are now lost to us. Today I heard of the death of a young woman I never met but who had so much to live for. Her loss makes me weep, even at some remove.
So what am I saying? Sometimes we plan and we need to. It is fitting. Sometimes plans are unnecessary and we can enjoy spontaneity and the flow of life in all its fullness. Sometimes things happen and they knock you sideways and off your feet, on to your back and kick you in the guts. You don’t know what’s around the next corner. So live today. Say yes.
Live while you are alive.
Buy those flowers. Smile at him. Invite them over.
I thought I’d deleted this picture below, but it snuck in.