To Lighten the Load

On day 4 of the virtual Camino, our guide tells us to leave something behind on the Hill of Forgiveness. It seemed like a good day to let this simmer in on the edge of my consciousness, as I headed back to work this morning. Home office. Video conferences. Uncertainty.

img_20200413_1931028881137676958125575.jpgLeonard wasn’t his usual self on the walk this morning. He caught the scent of a hare and his instinct (and early training) kicked in. It’s funny to see this lazy hound so intense. He pulled so hard I worried the lead would cut into his soft groin, and had to untangle the lead from between his legs again and again. My coffee mug fell out of my pocket unnoticed in all the excitement, and we had to circle back to find it.

I’m not giving up coffee.

This meant another 10 minutes of not knowing how wise it was to let him sniff around while I looked around for my mug. I was letting him gear up, wondering how he’d unwind in the living room once we got back to the house. But once back, he waited by the treat cupboard quietly, then lumbered to his spot under the coffee table to chew… and to watch me go through the morning yoga flow.


Carefully. My gluteus medius still sore from working to keep my torn hamstring protected in every forward bend. My practice has taken on a new element of vulnerability. I remind myself that this is a good thing. In the long run, it is a good thing. I tuck my tailbone under in downward dog and gaze at my stomach. Leonard always thinks this is an invitation to play, and is always disappointed – dropping himself onto my mat, deliberately in the way. He sighs.

I take it as a reminder to exhale completely, too.

In the video conference with colleagues, I lay open my fears about the future of our department. Theater requires a physical presence. Not all of my colleagues agree. And – or but (?) they reassure me – this will pass. We are facing two or three more weeks of closed schools. And then what? I have read in the paper the parents who are concerned about sending their kindergartners back to school where teachers aren’t allowed to give them a hug. Where teachers are required to adhere to a “social distancing” practice. But some of us never outgrow the need for a hug. Or a hand stroking an upper arm. Or just hands folded together on a table that mirror hands folded on a table – just a breath apart.

Every year a handful of former students comes through the office to say hello. To hug. The majority I never see again. It is hard to admit but in a strange way, this near-certainty of a so temporally-specific relationship allows me to love them unconditionally. In the sense that it allows me to give freely of myself and my energy with no expectation of any kind of return. The way strangers so fearlessly love babies.

And I imagine this is the way pilgrims love one another while on the trail.

But in the end, we all part ways, don’t we? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all understood the freedom in that? The freedom to love wholeheartedly?

I was sad today to think there is a possibility that I will not see many of these students again in person to say goodbye before they head off, on with their full and wonderful lives.

I walked the second leg of the day’s trek with my youngest son. We drove from two different directions, parked in the same parking garage and walked in a circle around a lake, only to part again.

He’s in town for the Easter break. And I miss him again already.

I miss him so often that when we spend time together I worry that I talk too much about unimportant things. About myself. About trivia. Literal trivia: “Alien: Resurrection has got to be the worst movie I have ever seen. Did you know…”

It’s pathetic.

The swans hiss at Leonard. Leonard barks at a passing husky. I worry my poor dog-training skills embarrass my son.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg – it is just the edge of what I pull out now to leave here at the top of the hill: the guilt. What is guilt except a shiny badge of martyrdom in service to one’s ego? No matter how serious the failings.

I’m going to put it all down right here. And I’m going to keep walking.

I did the best I could.



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