Like the old lady that swallowed a fly, the meseta has upgraded from flies to spiders. The hay has recently been baled, and we are walking downwind of empty fields which once stood tall. Millions of spiders that used to live in the hay have lost their home. They’re ballooning, looking for pastures new. Humans are not the first creatures to learn to fly by artifice. The spiders had thousands of years on us. They make a little hang-glider of silk and blow until they hit something. They can get a long long way if they catch the right wind. They might hit a tree or a bush, or they might hit a wandering Al. Their webs are strong and persistent and sticky.
The good news is that they’ve eaten a lot of the flies. So now I’m getting webs all over me as I walk instead. Spiders are trailing around my hat, dangling off the visor before my eyes somehow avoiding my hand as I attempt to detach them. They’re using me as a free ride or working out if I’m a good tree to live on forever.
If you have a phobia of insects, do this walk. There’s nothing like exposure to help with these irrational phobias. But it’s ridiculous when I start to think about it.
Here we are on this ancient route, this ancient rite. Here we are, millions of pilgrims over centuries, walking towards ourselves. These big skies, these high mountains, these long days walking on tired feet with sickening bodies. Here we all are and “The thing I’m most worried about is bed bugs”. “The flies keep getting in my mouth.” What is it about the tiny things? The King, sitting on his throne of gold, loved by all and yet somehow he just can’t scratch the itch in the small of his back… It’s the beginning of a story that ends with a scratched back and a destroyed Kingdom.
I’m on this Camino, I have the means and the time to do this trail, my body is capable, my mind is strengthening. All around me are fascinating people from all nations walking the same route. I’ve climbed every mountain, forded every stream, followed every river. And yet today I almost made myself sick from heat because I didn’t want to fill my water from a fuente. And why? Because I’m worried about something that is so small that it’s impossible to even fucking see it. A virus. That I’ve already had now anyway. Like maybe there’ll be another one? No. Bums!! I’m just looking for reasons to make myself uncomfortable.
This is what we do all the time. We forget the shape of our happiness because we’re looking at the smudge. When I received Gohonzon as a Nichiren Buddhist they coincidentally gave me a scroll that has a tiny smudge on it. When I chant to it my eyes are more frequently on the smudge than on any other part of the scroll. That’s me. My mind. My predilections. We get put up in a suite at the Ritz and go nuts because there’s no hairdryer. Someone gives us a free steak and we send it back because it’s overdone. Or we live in a beautiful place, get the chance to do beautiful work with beautiful people but feel incomplete because we’ve never auditioned for any of the regional theatres let alone a place like the RSC or the National. Bums! Oh why can’t I get an audition with so and so and x and y I say, knowing already that I’m going to do a beautiful show in a month with people I love. “I’ve got a smudge on my scroll.” When I get back to London I’m getting the damn thing changed at Taplow Court because if you don’t like something, change it or shut the fuck up.
I’ve walked with Luisa today. First time I walked with someone for about 20 days, but the meseta is stark. We’ve both been sick recently and we are neither of us as recovered as we are pretending. Company is good. We met last night and she mentioned she had wanted to get a tarot reading in Estella but it was closed. Perfect perfect opportunity to reduce the unnecessary item count to 0. Moments later there’s me triumphantly brandishing my cards and Luisa completely taking it in her stride. That sort of thing literally happens all the time on this route. Thousands of years of hopes and dreams and prayers and resonance to the universe. Even the meseta, this hard place, carries a magic. We both carry amulet stones which we washed in the full moon. Another hippy on the Camino! Who would’ve thought it? Nice to have some company.