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Lise, My Camino Compañero

Posted in Travel / Musings / Santiago de Compostello



Lise, My Camino Compañero

We have made it to Barcelos in one piece, a little bruised and battle weary. We could lament the state of our toes until the cows come home, but we’re braver than that. We'll dust overselves off and soldier on.

I watch her sleep, always the sleep of the innocent, so quiet, not a snore, not a movement, she just lies there, just a gentle rise and fall of her chest visible, and I have to really concentrate to see it. Not a sign to say she's stressed, tired or irritable, one would never be able to tell, and all her troubles just melt away as she sleeps. To me she is just beautiful. I smell her in the nape of her neck and give her butterfly kisses on her forehead. She has that childlike smell about her,  warm and fuzzy. Her breath sweet on my cheek.  She does not budge. She is almost angelic. At 6’2” that’s saying something!


While she slept I took a pin to my blisters, dropped healing Tea Tree oil onto the open wounds and silently hoped they’ll heal soon. I wrote in my diary “my pinky toe looks too awful, the nail of course I’ll lose and by the looks of things I might even have to consider amputation, but not today. Today I’ll take to the streets”.

A beautiful town Barcelos, with a large square, magnificent Cathedral and their life blood during the centuries the river. The gardens bordering the town square are magnificent, flowering plants, shrubs and even potted vines in terracotta pots are on display, a celebration of summer. There is always a bell tolling the hour or half hour.


While sitting having my morning coffee I watched a Pilgrim stumble in, his exhaustion was palpable, the first thing he did was grope at this boot laces and had them off in a matter of heartbeats. Poor thing. We’re all in the same boat. His boots look like mine!

Shoe shops are everywhere in Portugal and they stock the most adorable styles, I could stock up on a dozen pairs, but, today we hunt for comfortable hiking shoes. I opt for the largest available pair, a men’s size 10, they look like boats, but, on my foot feel like clouds! This is a slipper! We celebrate with a double scoop of Gelato. Bliss.

We met a charming mother and her daughter from Johannesburg, they were doing the Camino in style, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Slack packing, train, plane and bus but would walk the last 100km if memory serves. Each to their own. They thought we were just amazing. Of course we are.

A special mass is held daily to bless and pray for traveling mercies for Pilgrims on their way to Santiago, the cool, quiet Santa Maria Maior Cathedral calls us, welcoming Pilgrims who've come from all over the world. A kindly lady met us at the door as she handed out little cards with words of encouragement printed on them, we certainly need that. The very handsome Franciscan monk asks me whether I’m Charlize Theron’s mother! (the African connection) Oh what a waste! He could be on the cover of GQ. The experience leaves me quite teary eyed but rejuvenated and determined to not throw in the towel.  How lucky was I to have one of my children sitting next to me.  I didn't stop the tears, I couldn't anyway even if I tried.

It was at supper on our second evening that we got talking, a little about ourselves, opening up about things we wouldn’t normally discuss, we touched on painful times, sad times and joyful, fun times. We wondered about the reactions of those closest to us, how we disappoint them, their reactions frequently surprising us and how we unintentionally hurt those closest to us. We stumbled about finding the right words to express our inability to always talk about things that worry and distress us. It was then that you asked me why I avoid talking about certain subjects that concern you specifically and I replied that I didn’t have an opinion as I don’t like making judgements without some knowledge of the subject as I prefer being fair, but could comment about my concerns, which I did.  We put it to rest as we tucked in to our delicious meal and afterwards as we strolled back to our hotel with ice cream cones I hoped my response satisfied you, it was when you slipped your arm through mine and kissed the top of my head that I knew all was well. 

On a few occasions, like last night at 3am, when I woke up missing you and found I ached where my womb should be, that I thought I might’ve answered differently. But, this morning I was reminded of a poem ( I include it below), it’s a perfect summary of my opinion and my philosophy about you, the boys, my other girls and probably most people I meet. I invite you to read it, mull it over and know that I adore you just as you are. You see, I know you’re all right, you are free.

“The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...

I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.”
Written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I think the reality of being home has finally hit me, probably because I’ve been looking through our daily “selfies”. It’s only in retrospect that we see clearly. We had fun, we laughed a lot, my renditions of “Hello! It’s me” were atrociously horrendous but, you laughed as you shook your head and popped those plugs into your ears. I couldn’t have asked for a better traveling companion and I will be forever grateful that you made so many sacrifices to accompany me, never baulking or criticising me. You were patient, kind, uncomplaining and it was fun to be with you.  You are caring and compassionate and I know your intentions are always good. 


It's always the little things we miss most, and I loved shopping with you, I should've bought those Dior sunglasses, we can be gluttonous and I could indulge in my cupcake without guilt, speaking Afrikaans so that no one would understand us, snoozing on the beach, soaking my feet in the bidet, listening to you chastising the slightly intoxicated man when we hired the bicycles and seeing you enjoy an apple cider or beer after a parching day.  I love the way you laugh out loud, never mince your words and you NEVER play the blame game. You're expressive and you wear your heart on your sleeve. It was lovely waking up with you for three weeks. 

I might be risking my good standing now, but, she's not all candy floss, sweetness and light, she can be moody, willful, opinionated, stubborn, independent and she's perfected the "dirty look", WW3 has nothing on her PMS! One can't get apples from pear trees now can we? But, we could and we did shout YES!  We did it Lise. 

You're all grown up now and I know and accept that your life is separate from mine, your heart is in another country, in another city and you have a home, family and a life far removed from mine.  It's ok and as it should be.

When I’m really old and grey this adventure will be the one stand-out memory I’ll have, and I’ll savour it, sucking out all the marrow as I chew on that bone. My dream to spend my 60th Birthday with you was fulfilled in more ways than one. Thank you.


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