Cutting Through the Bull

We feel like separate water droplets but we are also ocean

JANE HIRSHFIELD


img_20200413_0841442742918943969528477.jpgAccording to our guide, this is the day we enter Pamplona. But here, the farm animals are still in the barn. Bulls included. So the fields are empty, some of them newly-tilled and dark.

I remember once, when I’d been in this country just over year, we were hiking along the coast in Haugaland with a baby in a carrier and a dog on a leash. We’d crested the hill to find ourselves in a paddock with bulls. My (then) husband and I backed away slowly, and never discussed it.

Looking back, perhaps that established a pattern of avoiding sharing our fears together?

They are fine lines, aren’t they? Independence and interdependence?

The sun is shining this morning, but the wind carries with it small hail stones and flurries, which find their way in under my collar. We are both wearing what they jokingly call the farmers’ version of a Norwegian “national costume”. If it were more stylish, had more shape, one might call it a ski suit. It’s like walking in a sleeping bag – cinched at the waist in an attempt to make it look more like legitimate clothing.

I usually only wear it over my yoga clothes in the mornings to walk the dog. Now my lower back is clammy warm, and my eyes are watering from the cold wind.

I know there is a pedestrian lesson here in holding two opposing truths at once.

I’m making bad puns before breakfast.

People here are out walking their dogs. A jogger passes. We lose the trail because we are too busy swapping stories about old transformer stations. I’m reading the graffiti on this one, and E. is making a bad dad joke, so we both miss the Turistforening sign on the light post next to it. So we loop back over the crest of the hill, and avoid most of the new subdivision.

img_20200413_0915586318445088192285199.jpg

I try to remember the name of the artist who painted all the old transformer stations when they were first declared as cultural landmarks. His was the first exhibition I installed when I was managing the gallery. So long ago. Another life – in so many ways.

I remember his first name. I remember an intimate conversation about the place he called home.

It seems I collect moments and not narratives.

I have read about one of the lessons learned on the Camino is to bond and to let go. People come and go. And one has to learn not to grasp.

Maybe there is another path that teaches you to hang on?

The woman in one documentary  says that the Camino is not about a destination. It is living. It is feeling.

She does not say it is “a feeling”.

img_20200413_094923_1768700965239220317847.jpgTravel is a privilege. Being conscious of the path is a privilege. To put down the daily obligations, and take time out to reflect is a privilege.

Even for 3 hours a day at a too-quick pace. A half-marathon a day, taking in what one can moving quickly.

The f**king blisters are a privilege. The pulled hamstring, the stiff neck, the solitude, the wear and tear on body and soul.

I dislike the word soul. It’s too big a word. It requires a zooming out. It requires a narrative.

There is a comfort in details. In the smell of the cold wind, carrying the sea all this way inland. In the animal smells, the musk of living creatures. Specific. Warm. And often dangerous.

Confrontations with the specifics are what create the points that hold us to a life.

This life.

My life, at any rate. This collage-like, soul-ish thing.


I could make a very bad pun about the importance of noticing the bullshit along the way.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Katherine Clarke says:

    “Confrontations with the specifics are what create the points that hold us to a life.”
    Oh yes. Putting this over my desk!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Di says:

    Thank you for your writing, and the sharing. I find some kind of familiarity, there’s a feeling that one of my homes is in it.
    And I loved this, ‘I have read about one of the lessons learned on the Camino is to bond and to let go. People come and go. And one has to learn not to grasp.’
    I experienced it on long plane journeys, crossing the world. Seatmates, so special, for 12 hours at most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ren Powell says:

      ❤ So exciting to hear about the call from your dad today. Made *me* happy, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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