What We Touch

Today is a day of diversions. On the virtual Camino we are stopping at the Guggenheim in Bilboa. The audio guide I downloaded talks about how we affect the building when we touch the handrails. I think: Yes, isn’t this what a pilgrimage is about? Even before we were conscious of DNA we were conscious of shedding parts of ourselves on whatever we touched. Each touch is imperceptible, but we change the shape of the stone, the bronze, the wood.

We have rubbed at Saint Peter’s toes in the Cathedral that bears his name, until his toes are as shapeless the spirit itself.

We have done this. Individually, but collectively and over time.

Then, I think about why this year we are walking a virtual Camino. I think about the touching of handrails. About how the nature of our physical presence in the world can affect others. Can infect others. Can comfort, does comfort – and can destroy.


While we walked the moorland today, E. told me about his military training and the man in their battalion responsible for teaching them how to drive the tanks through the moorland with caution. How driving along a ridge, over a ridge without care will create furrows that will alter the natural drainage. Furrows that will killa the ecosystem.

While he talked my mind tried desperately to sort the ethics of tanks in the first place.

I reminded myself that peace has been a privilege I’ve never questioned. My Quaker childhood faith formative but largely forgotten – if registered at all.

A salamander slipped over the grass and into the creek. E. wondered if they were still endangered.


Further on, we stopped to find the Eurasian blue tit singing above us.

And in the field along the stony path, the year’s first viper.


We are careful not to touch the wildlife.

I was surprised to see the snake out today when the trail is relatively busy. Families are out, shaking off the home-school and home-office week. Couples – like us – trying to exercise their dogs.

For now, we make wide circles around one another as we pass. We smile, though.

It is nice to know that, in the end, our footsteps will beat the path clear again this year – individually, yes. But still collectively.


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