I've been procrastinating in writing this blog post as it seems almost impossible to know where to start in trying to encapsulate the experience of my Camino. I say "my" Camino because that is exactly what it was. One of the first things I heard when I started out from a woman who had walked it a few times was that every single pilgrimage is totally unique. No two are the same. She also told me, and quite rightly, "you meet exactly who you are supposed to meet on the way. So don't worry about it or think about it." Wow...was that ever true. Over the past weeks since returning home I have been doing a whole TON of processing the experience and what it meant for me. This is an ongoing thing and I have a hunch that it will continue well into the future.
I'm still not really in a place where I'm ready to "delve" over the internet. It's still pretty fresh and a lot of stuff, but what I did want to talk in this first post was how I first heard about the Camino and one of the reasons I decided to walk it. One of major factors had to do with an album by a Canadian Jewel of a musician - a violin player (or fiddler), composer, producer - by the name of Oliver Schroer. He walked the Camino with 2 friends, and carried his violin and portable recording equipment with him on his back (this fact is slightly unfathomable to me...I cant even imagine how hard that must have been at times)...he stopped in random churches along the road and recorded songs he made up in these churches. The resulting album entitled "Camino" is one of the most beautiful albums that I own. You may not be a violin fan, heck - you could be a hard-core industrial or death metal fan. You may claim to hate music even...but if you ever hear this album you will be moved by it. Unless you are a stone. (Do yourself a gigantic favour and buy it. Seriously.)
I first heard this album in 2006 and will never forget the feeling I had after hearing the first few notes of the first song of the album - "Field of Stars". It turned a key in a lock in some long hidden inner room.
In 2007 Oliver Schroer was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia. He passed away in 2008. One month before his death he had a concert in Toronto entitled "Oliver's last concert on the tour of This Earth!". When I found out about this concert me and a few other friends whose lives were also somewhat altered by his "Camino" album were on the net at the same time trying to secure tickets to this concert. We knew the moment they went on sale it would be crazy. As it turned out we all failed. The concert was sold out within 15 minutes of the tickets going on sale. I think more that any other, that concert was one I really really wish I could have seen.
He had a blog on his site throughout the last months( and literal days) of his life, talked about his upcoming concert, talked about it after it happened, talked about his life, his music, his reflections on life, creativity, his motivations in doing all he had done in his life, the insights he was gleaning as his was drawing to a close etc. I followed this blog and was more than floored by it. I was stunned. Here is a man who lived so absolutely WIDE AWAKE. All throughout his life he lived this way - so beautifully. It was incredible to observe someone travelling into their own death with so much strength, levity, creativity and dignity. And what an incredible thing for him to share!
I suppose you get this gist here: in a nutshell this man and his album, and ultimately his life, had a very profound effect on me. Ofcourse he is not my only inspiration for embarking on the pilgrimage...but I guess after the fact, I feel super thankful to him for planting the idea...and just for the music which now means even more to me after having walked the path than it did before!
For me one of the things I missed the most while in Spain was music - there was lots of music in the city centers - but not during the eights hours of walking a day. I remember many times while walking having music in my head....and Olivers songs were often very much at the forefront of my mind as I stepped out in the mornings onto these mind-blowing landscapes....or looking up at the "field of stars" in a rural town in Spain, bellyfull of wine, and happier than I've been in years.
The fact of his having had Cancer didn't really even occur to me as I made the decision to walk the Camino. All I thought about was the music (and the sounds he recorded of his boots hitting the path and church bells, cow bells, and other camino sounds). It was only after coming back home, and finally listening to the album again - that the significance of what he went through, combined with my connection to the music, fully hit me. A major theme of my walk, not surprisingly, was coming to terms with my own Cancer "trip", and the myriad ways that it has effected me and altered me as a human being (on the tour of this earth!). This was not really my intent...it just kindof happened. Classic Camino styles.
Anyway, the first time i heard "field of stars" after coming home the thing undid me. I stood in the middle of a room at my folks as flashes of the road and faces and sunsets and forests came instatnly to my mind, and I broke into the dreaded "ugly cry". This emotional response actually surprised me. But after thinking about it...I don't see why it should have. It makes complete sense. I still can't really listen to the album yet without a slight breakdown...so I avoid it while in public!
I guess this is my testament to the sheer power of music....to really change things.
Here is a quote from one of Oliver Schroers journal entries from his own Camino which he did in 2004. (Excerpts from this journal can actually be found on his site - link above):
"El Camino. The Road...
It is continuous, unbroken, yet changing.
The one constant is the sound of footsteps – the heartbeat of the pilgrimage..."
Here is Oliver's "Field of Stars". Enjoy.