(Keeping to my pledge to write thirty-four blogs, one every Monday, on how the Camino continues to affect my life– the same number as the days I walked the 500-mile pilgrimage)
In my prior blogs, I have been writing about some of the “Ten Commandments of the Camino.” And there is yet another one that is perfect for today’s post on the continuing Little Caminos in my life. It is the Ninth Commandment: Respect nature and you can learn much.
A week ago, I was walking a beach in Kodiak called White Sands. The beach is broad and vast and the water quite shallow for several hundred yards out into the bay. Like other Kodiak beaches, the sand is dark gray to black most of the time. But at a very low tide, a band of white sand appears at shoreline in sharp contrast to the rest of the beach. The sand itself was ridged from the lapping of the water, but as my friend and I got closer to the water’s edge, I was surprised and delighted to see the water “painting” beautiful designs with the intersection of the white and grey sand.
On my Camino walk, the “storm of the century” drenched us early on in the trek, and I certainly “respected” nature, but I wasn’t as aware of what nature was teaching me. If I had truly respected it, I would have stopped walking, checked into an albergue and waited out the harsh weather. But instead I walked on stubbornly, and got caught in a dangerous lightening storm without shelter. I had an agenda and a certain number of miles to accomplish that day, and I wasn’t going to let driving rain stop me. Yet Nature was trying to teach me to flow with what is; I fought against it.
I think that may be part of what delighted me so much about the sand paintings; I took the time to just watch the small waves sculpt the patterns, changing with every wave that lapped onshore. I took my time, or maybe it is more true to say that time took me. I let the magic happen without an agenda; I let myself marvel at the ways of water, constantly creating and destroying. I respected the power of water, teaching me with every moment about flowing with the tide, not pushing against it. And seeing what beauty that creates.
I knew the tide was coming in. I knew all the paintings would be gone in an hour or two. Nature was teaching me again about staying present to the moment, not already regretting that the paintings would disappear.
Watching the water paint these waving patterns, reminded me of a book that I am slowly reading called Sensitive Chaos: The Creation of Flowing Forms in Water and Air by Theodor Schwenk. He writes, “Water desires nothing for itself, it gives of itself freely, never questioning the form into which it must change when needed by plant, animal or man; with the same submissiveness it fills them all. Selflessly it resigns itself to every need, retiring after acting as mediator, to be ready for new creativity. As in its very nature it is itself pure, it can purify, refresh, heal, strengthen, revive and clarify all things.” (pg. 98)
The Nature of water has much to teach me about this kind of humility–whether pouring down rain in Spain or painting on a shoreline in Kodiak. My little Camino is to see water, in all forms with new eyes, with slow attention, with a sense of its inner pureness, a sense of its innate flow. This aspect of Nature is teaching me about how to see all things, how to view other people, and even how to gaze at myself.