For my fortieth birthday, I walked part of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage beginning at the foot of the Pyrenees at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, across Spain leading to the shrine of Saint James in Galicia, Spain. Ten days of slow walking with intent, with nine beautiful women who were and still are very dear to me.
At the time, I wondered if I should go on such a holiday when finances were low and my children were still so young, just six and ten, but my husband was adamant this was a chance of a lifetime. And oh, how it was! You see back then, I had no idea the kinds of ditches, chasms and dark places life would take me to and through. Life can sometimes spew such vitriol at you, the only thing you feel like doing is curling up into a little ball, crawling into bed and never coming out again. At the worst of times, I just wanted it to be over, but you see, the Camino was just one of many experiences I chose to go on, despite time, resources and circumstances.
Unbeknownst to me, all these magical moments and experiences were stacked and safe-guarded in my mind and at the darkest of nights of my soul, they would not be silenced. When doubt and pessimism and worst of all– fear – came by and settled for the night, whispering this was all life had to offer and there was no reason to be alive and other such existential angst, this little sack of spiritual pennies tided me over till the rains had passed. They provided sustenance for me. So instead of these journeys and adventures being frivolous and self-indulging, they saved my life, filled me with hope and were proof that sublime magic truly existed in the world and that love and beauty existed. In short, hope for better and more was always present in the peripherals.
In this time of self-isolation, I find myself reminiscing more, writing more, reading more, painting more and enjoying simple pleasures more. I am enjoying sipping Greek coffee beneath the lemon tree in my garden early in the morning, the pungent smell of blossoms and crisp cool air lifting my spirits and filling me with unparalleled contentment. I am enjoying sipping wine as the sun sets upon my neighbourhood, in the company of a good man, with a wonderful sense of humour and sparkling blue eyes. I am enjoying cooking wholesome meals and baking tasty treats, watching comedies with my son filled with belly laughs, our fingers covered in fluorescent Cheetos dust. I am enjoying checking in on my parents every single day without fail and realising not only how happy that makes them, but how happy that makes me too. I am enjoying video-chatting with my daughter in England as she walks in the park, beautiful wispy white clouds above her head, bare tree branches stretching out like the tentacles of a wild consortium of octopi behind her. I am enjoying meeting up on Zoom with my poet friends once a week and sharing our newest writings, words strung together in clever ways, diving deep into their hearts and souls – the grey, the black, the yellow and the hot red of their inner landscapes. In short, I am finding pleasure in the simplicity of it all and instead of using up my spiritual pennies - I think I am stacking them up again.
As the years pass, I hope there are less dark nights of the soul where I cry out to a mute and deaf god only to hear my own anguished pleas – I hope these slower more quiet times remind me that spiritual pennies are hidden in the great adventure and in the smallness of things too. I, for one, intend to walk this particular Camino with slow deliberate steps, mindful of all the spiritual pennies present, a lot like Pokémons waiting to be discovered and collected, their genius being they were always in plain sight.
I hope that as I grow older, I can rummage into this bag as I lounge on the sofa surrounded by sticky and delectable grandchildren and have many stories to weave and tell. And I pray, that you too, are finding and stacking you own spiritual pennies in this unprecedented time,
and if not, I hope you have a full sack, an abundance to dip into now. Much love. xxx