I should go to sleep. I’ve been up all night, sipping Jameson and writing a particularly emotionally-exhausting blog post. Now I’m just sad, and ready to go to sleep, and not really tired, yet worn out all the same.
You see, this guy I knew when I walked the Camino died. It wasn’t recent. He died last year, within a few months of me meeting him. We weren’t best buddies, or even good friends. We were acquaintances. But I really liked him, and that’s not something that I do very often. I can barely stand most people, if truth be told. But Mark was funny, and kind. And today I got to thinking about him while I was writing what happened on Day 10 of the Camino, and now I’m just sad about things. All sorts of things.
But that won’t get us anywhere, will it. So instead, I’m playing Donovan songs on YouTube, and sharing them to Facebook, where no one will comment or listen, because let’s be honest, who else actually listens to Donovan except for me and a bunch of 60-year old English guys?
Ugh, I should go to bed. I’m in a state.
The other night, I had a particularly detailed dream, in which I dreamed about my spirit animals for the first time ever. For years now, I’ve been trying to have some sort of connection with a spirit animal. I’ve analyzed every interaction with any kind of animal, from the time that squirrel ran up my leg when I was on the way to yoga class, to the feral cats in my neighborhood, to the horses that made friends with me along the Camino. Then the other night, I had a dream in which a buffalo quite literally stood in the road and blocked my path. I walked up to the buffalo, sank my hand in its fur, and pondered why I wasn’t supposed to go that way. Later in the dream, I found myself explaining to a shaman that I’d just had a run-in with a buffalo who’d blocked my path, but that it was really strange, since up until now, all I’d ever experienced was the snow leopard who followed me everywhere. In the dream, I saw my past, how this snow leopard was constantly at my side, wherever I went. I walked through a crowd in Paris, and the snow leopard skirted the crowd, jumped from building to building, and followed me where I was going.
The rest of the dream was a decent sci-fi plot line, so when I woke up, I wrote it all out and told my boyfriend about it. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that the true depth of what I’d dreamt re: the buffalo and snow leopard made its way through my addled brain, and I realized I hadn’t just dreamt about spirit animals, I’d legitimately had an encounter with *my* spirit animals. I don’t have an affinity for either animal, so I know it wasn’t wishful thinking. I hadn’t been watching any movies or reading anything about either animal, so I know it wasn’t a reference to old information. So I have to entertain the thought that even if it was my brain pulling something up from history, it was because it was a useful trope.
So what do these animals mean? Buffalo leads us (or in my case, tells me what roads not to take). Snow leopard teaches us self reliance, and urges us to listen to our intuition. In this case, I know exactly what they were both telling me not to do, though the intended path is not quite as clear. I am lost. Maybe that’s why the Camino is front and center tonight. I don’t know.
Who the hell would have thought I’d end up with a snow leopard? I always thought it would be a grackle. Somewhere in the spirit realm, a giant cat is probably pretty annoyed with me.
2 Comments Add yours
I too experienced the death of a fellow pilgrim. He was my age – 60, at the time of his death almost three years ago. He was a cardiologist from Cambridge, England. He seemed to be fit and in good health but he died in his sleep at a casa in Triacastela in early October 2013 of a massive coronary. I didn’t know of his passing until I’d been home for several months. One day someone had posted his picture and a request from his sister directed at fellow pilgrims who had met her brother to write to her with their memories of her brother on the Camino. I’d met him on my second day walking, and later that day he was at Roncesvalles. I met him again a few times with our last encounter at Carrion de los Condes. I’d often wondered about his journey and I remember keeping my eyes open for him in Santiago. I wrote back to his sister and we have shared a sporadic correspondence since then.
It is shocking to learn of a pilgrim’s death, especially after having shared parts of the Camino with the person. In May 2015 I was on the Camino Frances again, and after I’d walked a portion I’d missed the first time around, I travelled to a few places along the Camino that I wanted to experience again. I made a small memorial pilgrimage within the pilgrimage to Triacastela and met the people who own the casa. I left a few pebbles from home in their garden where the sister had planted forget-me-nots on the one year anniversary of the death. Your post reminds me that it is high time I wrote to her again. She seems to feel comfort from my words and actions. Perhaps you can find a way to memorialize your pilgrim friend in a way that gives you and others who knew him comfort and peace.
Buen Camino always as you walk through life.
Thank you so much for your note, Carmen. It really touched my heart. We never know how long we have, or how many moments we’ll be privileged to share with friends, old and new. I wrote a little tribute to him on my blog right after his passing, and also left some memories on a Facebook post that his friends and family were sharing then, too. Maybe next Camino, I’ll buy that funny t-shirt in Burgos that reminded me of him so much the first time around, and walk it to Finisterre in his honor.