Labor Day brings with it so many memories. When I was a young girl it signaled the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The start of a new school year and the end of long vacation days spent riding bikes and swimming with friends in the backyard. My mother would take us back to school shopping, an activity that always seemed like it would be much more fun than it actually was. (To understand why you’ll have to read my upcoming book.) Now however, school begins in August. I have been teaching for two weeks already. The weather stays warm in California until October and back to school shopping is a thing of the past.
Summer flew by. I have been home from the Camino for more than a month now. My feet have long healed. The toenail that fell off sometime after I reached Santiago has begun to grow back. My pack has been emptied, the clothes washed and put away for now, waiting for the time when I will return. And I will return, because, as it turns out, the Camino has become a part of me.
Not a day goes by that I do not think of something or someone from my journey. I miss the sound of the birds who serenaded me each day. I have been mindful to listen for them as I go about my days back home, but they don’t sound the same. I still wake early and drink my cafe con leche but instead of putting on my hiking boots I slide my feet into a pair of soft tan sandals and walk to my car to begin the 30 minute drive to campus. Somedays I barely make the 10,000 step goal I set on my Fitbit.
I miss the Camino.
I miss the simplicity of each day. The routine of walking and resting only to walk again. I miss the newness, the sweet smell of Scotch broom, the fields of rioja and the long roads that seem to stretch on forever. I miss the warmth of the sun beating down on me as I wiped the sweat from my brow. I miss the fields of poppies and the sounds of rustling wheat. I miss seeing the next town on the horizon and the satisfaction you feel when you get to sit down after 20 miles and share a cold cerveza con limón with someone you just met along the way.
But most of all I miss the people. The friends I think of each and every day. Annabella and Mark. Emma and Conor. Debbie and Pat and Maria and Patrick and Smitha and Alex and so many more. There are too many to name. I think of them as I listen to the news. I wonder how Peggy is doing in Hong Kong. I think of my friends in Brazil as the rain forest burns and as protests swell in London my thoughts turn to Lea and John and so many others who call England home.
It is one of the greatest gifts of the Camino. The shrinking of this big wide world we live in. The reminder that I am most grateful for, that it doesn’t matter where we come from or what language we speak, how much money we have or how old (or young) we are. As different as we may think we are, we are all on our way. Our own camino.