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Posts Tagged ‘Camino’

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Prompt :– A New Life
Word count :– 1000 words
Genre :- Futuristic (or not!)

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                                FORGIVE                                

     by Annalie Kleinloog

She blows her nose.  There is blood on the tissue and on her fingers.

She hesitates, then looks up from the basin where her stained T-shirt soaks. The familiar puffiness around her cheekbone already shines. It will soon reach her eye. But her nose looks more skew. Damn. She will have to dig up more than the usual excuses before work on Monday. The weekend is not long enough to recover from this one.  Better go finish dinner while he is absorbed in the match of the season; and his umpteenth beer. He wants food by six.

As she fumbles for a clean tissue in her apron pocket, she finds the business card. Her heart skips a beat. She put it there, but forgot to throw it away. The letters and numbers on it swim into recall. It was a chance meeting this morning.  She escapes from her immediate abuse with a sigh and a dreamy smile. The smile hurts the closing eye and she winces.

When they had both stopped in recognition, eons between now and then vanished. She flicked her long blonde fringe expertly over old bruises when she greeted Tim. He looked excited to see her.

“Where have you been all these years?”

Her forced cheerful explanations couldn’t hide emotional and physical pain. She caught a flash of something in Tim’s eyes as he gave her his card.

“I’m in the area for a week, let’s catch up some time, if you can.”

She did not miss the quick glance to her covered eye. Embarrassed she hastened away with a feeble excuse; intent on never bumping into him again.

Halfway down the stairs now, aching in unseen places, she reconsiders that invitation. But quickly changes her mind as she hears her husband’s snort in disgruntlement. No, she cannot aggravate the situation.

The TV madness is suddenly interrupted with an important announcement. His drunken cursing overlaps what sounds like a global warning. She stops at the landing and leans over the balustrade to get a better view, but quickly pulls back as he gets up to fetch another beer. She hears the fridge door open and leans over again to see the full screen president of the USA.

Stern. Serious. More terrorist attacks?  She holds her breath, hoping the beer will take a while. Straining to hear beyond the kitchen clutter.

“… an asteroid the size of Hawaii is approaching Earth. Its impact is computed to be in the Atlantic Ocean and is estimated to happen in 90 minutes from this announcement. It will destroy all life on earth …”

The message fades away as she absorbs and analyses at the speed of light. Little more than an hour left of life?  In the time it takes him to settle back on the couch, the news flash is done.  She’s made up her mind. She slips out the back door as she hears him flicking through channels to find his match and calling for his supper.

She dials the number on the card as she runs towards the place of their chance meeting.

“It’s me” she says, “I need to see you immediately.”

She can hear in the casualness of Tim’s reply he doesn’t know yet.

“Sure, where?”

“Can you pick me up at the Supermarket from this morning?”

“Convenient. I am just across the road, The Royal, room 503; why don’t you come up?”

Her legs move on their own accord. Five minutes wash away all inhibitions. Years of restraint now seem senseless. She knows who she wants to spend the last minutes of her life with. She always knew.

The foyer is deserted; she won’t have to wait for the elevator. She stumbles out on the fifth floor as others rush in. His bedroom door opens almost immediately. She falls forward into his arms. The way he holds her tells a million tales.

He knows.

He knows about the asteroid.

He knows she always knew, because he did too.

He knows she always wanted to confess, but she feared to acknowledge it.

They don’t speak. They hardly breathe. A lifetime of missed opportunities and wasted emotions spill over them in silence.   She glances at her watch. By now her husband must be breaking down their flat in his search for his usual victim. How dare she ignore his calls for supper? It is five minutes past dinner time.  She pulls away from the embrace.

“Did you hear….?” Tim puts his finger to her lips.

“No time for senseless questions. Let’s just remember and share.”

He walks over to the minibar. Opens a bottle. Hands her a glass.

“I want to know you, before I lose you – again”

“This time, we will be together, forever. An end to this, but a chance on a new life. Riding an asteroid into a new world?” she manages to smile.

She doesn’t try to hide the bruises.   He sits and listens.  She sits and talks.  Time stands still. As he touches her swollen cheek, a slight shudder runs through the building.

Is this it?

Tim pulls her up into a long awaited embrace. His warm breath close to her ear.

“Now it is time to forgive,” he says. “I can’t have you while he still possesses you. Albeit through hatred or resentment. Forgive him and let him go.”

She sobs.   How can she?   So much wasted time? So much hurt? So much pain? So much fear?  How is it possible?

He kisses her tears away gently. And opens the curtains – the sun is setting red above a city filled with chaos and noise. Everyone and everything in a rush to somewhere or someone. Or nowhere.

“Look,” Tim says. “We are lucky. We are together. We have each other.”

The horizon turns dark and the pandemonium continues in the streets below.

“You are right”, she lifts her face to be kissed, “I forgive”.

As Tim bends over her the last thing she sees is a wall of blackness rolling towards them…

THE END

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Instead of quiet before the storm, disquiet and chaos reign.

Two weeks were set aside to get familiar with two modules. A few happenings were not part of the calculation and careful planning:

Nampo – Two days and one night. Twelve hours drive of which 400km potholed and stop/go. Six hours browse, sosatie and vetkoek. Ten kg of pamphlets/brochures, a pocket full of businesscards and empty promises. All this wrapped up a visit to the biggest agricultural show in our hemisphere.

Royal Show – five bulls with handlers and many hours training. Gadgets, gimmicks and tricks add to the excited influx of fellow Angus fans. Festivities spanning three days, plenty to eat and drink and minimal exercise.

Behind the scenes smoothing of organisational hiccups regarding the ‘hunting’ weekend on the heels of the show. Big boys showing off big toys and competing skills.

One day to catch breath. To regain strength. To scan through summaries.

Two days consisting of three hours each, sitting in a row somewhere in a big hall. Surrounded but alone. Fearing sudden blocks of total recall. Wishing the clock to either stall or rush. Anticlimax of the last fullstop.

One day of planning, packing and repacking. Breathe in, breathe out. Calm the shakras and focus the mind…

Camino: A reality.
A liminality.
A rite of passage.

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This is the unfairness of reality, of not living in the now     –    fading and overloading.

Details disappear and with it inspiration. Everyday input drown intuition.   Thanks to the movie “‘The WayEmilio Estevez,  inspiration surfaced again…

Everyday life has a way of interfering…   Deadlines have a way of destroying…  Chores have a way of chasing away…

I am talking about the waning of a thought process.  And the battle to maintain this flow of entries, based on ever fresh memories but fast fading facts.

Where did I lose the trail?   Burgos was the last day of credit.

Leon became a highlighted, albeit compulsory stopover.

  •                        Place to recover from flu.
  •                Shield from a cold, rainy spell.
  •         Coffee spot to catch up with fellow peregrinos.
  •    Space to rest and needed bano time.

Hostal San Martin - Leon

We spent 3 days nursing the aches and pampering the senses.   We admired the cathedral and wondered about insanity.  There was even time for politics and philosophy.

Then the restless leg syndrome interfered…

Leon Cathedral

A last and necessary step before continuing the journey.  MFF’s disbelieve in the ease of reducing my mane in strange places – with language barriers and basic sign language – was not a deterrent. Pragmatic comfort was needed for the last stretch. The hair had to go.

Leonine haircut

Hair gone.

       Cough cleared.

     Blisters absent.

       Backpacks ready.

     Restless legs in anticipation…

I remember leaving Leon as being hard. Not on a deep emotional level.  On an ‘everything’ level.   Any city I found difficult to walk through. Physically challenging and spiritually draining.

It was a very early start.  Although only about 23 km to Mazarife, it was a tough day.  The details of the walk escape me, but the ease and freedom I felt, is still a part of me.

Astorga, Foncebadon, Molinaseca, Cacabelos and Vega.   Beautiful and peaceful. Each worth mentioning but space and time limit me.   As the next post I want to dedicate to O’Cebreiro and Cruce de Ferro….and the final week to Santiago.

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My other half most of the time thinks that I exaggerate – most of the time. I, on the other hand and as the better half, feel that all stories need a bit of colour. Like jokes; it is appreciated more.

This is a short story based on a real happening.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Circumstances have been dramatised to add colour. Emotions have been invented to hide the truth.

Solo Returno Symbols

“Solo Returno”

“We are lost, but we are not alone.” A deafening cricket hijacks Juan’s comforting voice as I bend forward to wipe blood from burning scratches on both my shins. The once white wet-wipe fails to soothe. Wearily I notice the end-of-day length of our shadows crouching behind us. Warning bells drain all sounds and blood from my head. Lost in time and lost in space – the realization cracks through my mind, but never reaches my lips. But he is here. Juan will help me find the way.

Eight hours ago the day appeared bright and endless. The first Café con Leche awoke my senses and my being became all-powerful. I refreshed my memory with a scan of the crumpled foreign language map, and confidently tucked it away, alongside the water-bottle and the sunscreen. The first of many climbs was effortless and I found the hike easy. Light-hearted pleasantries were exchanged with passing pilgrims, all directing me back to where I came from. My point of departure, Finisterre, was their point of anticipated arrival. The brief explanation that I am in, “Solo Returno” (retracing my steps back to Santiago, alone) brought a flash of admiration in their eyes that did not escape my ego.

The day was perfect, my spirits high and the views spectacular. Little medieval towns surrounded by huge walls, built around a central plaza containing an ornate chapel with its inevitable bell tower, speckled the fawn coloured landscape of maize lands. Roman crosses and yellow arrows (in reverse) indicating my way. Almost trotting past dairy farms and minding the dung puddles with a rhythm in my feet and a tune in my heart, I felt invincible. One last hill to conquer and I would see the skyline of Santiago.

Somewhere up that hill; somewhere in the forest at the top of that hill; somewhere in the heat of the day; somewhere in my overconfident state, I missed a turn. There were no more friendly passers-by; no more city fathers with arthritic index fingers; no reverse yellow arrows. Only a stillness. Very faint village sounds emanated from beyond my physical reach. I was lost in a forest.

Robbed of my energy and drained of my confidence, I looked for a clearing to regain my sense of direction. As I pushed deeper into the woods for a vantage point – a view, which I hoped would orientate the foreign map – the lack of a shadow stopped me. The Pilgrimage across Spain is about following your shadow; east to west. Returning is the opposite. You allow your shadow to follow you. In this dense forest my shadow became non-existent, as did my ego.

The clearing appeared suddenly as did the apparition of a pilgrim. Hazy rays of sun outlined the approaching figure. It had the telltale symbols of a true pilgrim – the hiking boots, the hiking stick, the floppy hat and the back-pack. I blinked, looked again and confirmed, yes, but only one arm. The remaining hand softly touched my shoulder. “Hola! What’s your name? My name is Juan”.

During the final hours of this balmy afternoon, Juan found me. There I was, lost, exhausted and ego-less. ‘Solo Returno Peregrina,’ paled in the bright relief of recognizing a guardian angel and a beacon. Juan and I explored bushy paths in all visible directions. Dead ends, bad access and poor visibility slowed the process to a unanimous stop in the now familiar clearing.

“We are lost, but we are not alone.” He says again, the cricket now gone silent, and starts unfolding our sleeping bags. Juan’s youthful optimism is exactly what we need for the night.

“You are right. Tomorrow we will find the way together,” I croak gratefully and yawn.

Lone figure at a Fuente

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An African Proverb that I found in the Brierley Guide – “From contentment with little comes happiness “–   so apt and so applicable on the Camino, I had to use it.  At the same time it’s diversity in perception makes for good philosophy.

Although I often compare pilgrims with leafcutter ants in the Amazon, carrying loads on their backs to the next den along the same route, I also come to realize our human uniqueness. Our individuality that ensures  interesting conversations and extra-ordinary convictions en route and post-camino.

Pilgrims and crosses

It is our perceptions that make us unique.  “Happiness” and “little”  mean different things to different people. And where else can one find a better classroom than the Camino. To learn about these differences and also to be taught not to judge these differences.

       “Happiness”  in most dictionaries equals satisfaction.            Satisfied  with exactly what? …..

  • to walk?   Hours and kilometers, day after day, week after week, halfway or all the way across Europe?
  • to talk?     Foreign, sign and sometimes body languages to  – fellow pilgrims, city strangers, Cafe owners, coffee  makers, bread bakers, cleaners, farmers and their cows and dogs
  • to sleep?  Where you find a place; clean or not, fresh or not, to capacity or not, from dusk to dawn …or not.
  • to eat?      Whatever presents itself according to local custom, preferences and tastes.
  • to be?       Clean and clothed; healthy and strong; warm and fed; content and tolerant; undemanding and accepting; non-judgmental and grateful.

SATISFIED WITH BEING HAPPY

My Space - bottom bunk and all belongings

The meaning of “Little” is more direct and basic – small in size or amount.

The difficulty in the perception of  ‘little’ is big. It’s essence can be captured in the different levels of existence  – on a physical, emotional or spiritual level.  ‘Too much’ is not always the opposite and ‘enough’ does not balance it out. The vastness of the little word can only be appreciated when you have lack of….even a little.

 

What are you carrying that is unnecessary?

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Diary keeping has never been my thing – but for some reason the ‘smartphone’ and time at hand during the Camino, made me jot down random thoughts.

A particular entry catches my eye:

“90km from Sntiago, 24days into the journey, 23 nights of change…  And finally all is falling into place. Body, mind and spirit feel united and not in disharmony anymore. A realisation of the Camino – a rythm, not a race. Gratification, and not expectation. Now, and not tomorrow or yesterday. Give and not take”

The freedom of NOW!  The challenge of anticipating anything and expect nothing.

The vast unknown

To face the fear …’let go of the safety of the familiar …’ And accept the excitement  to ‘ …dive into the unknown…’

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“This too will pass” – a mantra that helped me through physically difficult times. And one that I would not want to apply to this growing awareness of ‘interconnected-ness’ phase.

Wind and wheat

A comfort zone where:

  • Pains and aches have vanished.
  • Needs and wants are minimal.
  • An inexplicable ‘rhythm’  replaces the ‘discomfort’.
  • Disabilities become challenges.
  • Irritations turn into lessons.
  • Obsessions are replaced by gratitude
  • Intolerance is washed away by a sense of humor.

Part of this physical relieve is due to the wise choice of taking time out to rest –  by taking a bus to Burgos.

Traversing La Rioja across the border to Castille y Leon, we often hug the Camino and empathise with pilgrims dotted over the landscape. Passing Najera, Santo Domingo, Belorado and St Juan, add much needed credit to our time and distance bank.

Hotel Espanol, at 48Euros per room, is an instant Heaven on Earth, found in Burgos. And for one night of luxury, very affordable and justifiable. We deserve this….

High and Low

Quoting John Brierley:

‘If you go as a pilgrim you travel two paths simultaneously.

You have to get to the point where you balance inner and outer realities.

Everyone has different needs and pathologies, psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical.

Under the protection of the Camino one can let go of the safety of the familiar and dive into the unknown…..’

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