"Let nothing trouble you . . . ."
In her new book One Day I Walk, Review editorial contributor ANITA JANSMAN, ARTSCI’06, recounts her experiences in northern Spain walking as a pilgrim on the famed Camino de Santiago. We present a brief excerpt …
It is a cool, wet evening at the Azofra municipal albergue, which is new, clean and well-designed. I am sharing a room with Rosa from Barcelona, a soft-spoken, warm woman with a functional ability to speak English. We chat a little bit about why we are walking alone on the Camino, and it turns out that she, too, is a mother of two sons in their early twenties….
I am not feeling particularly sociable this evening as I am still recovering from the stony walk and the emotional ride I have been on for the past two days. I decline Rosa’s offer to go to dinner and instead discover a grocery store nearby where I purchase a packet of dried pasta and chorizo sausage to prepare at the albergue.
The kitchen is humming with pilgrims clanging dishes and pots, opening and closing drawers to find utensils, and figuring out how the stove works. I pitch in wherever I can. In my own home, the kitchen is my refuge, the temple of my familiar. It is where I go to create, to think, prepare food for people I love, listen to music, and sip wine.
It is second nature for me to find my way around this kitchen, and I am happy to assist anyone trying to put together a hot meal. Give me a few seconds and I will unlock the mystery of the stovetop and oven. I will find the right-sized pot, locate the dish soap, and clean up. In the kitchen, I feel purposeful and full of good intentions.
In the coolness of the evening and with rain falling, the albergue is not warming up. I haven’t showered yet because I am cold, and also I am experimenting with the timing of taking a shower. I theorize that the bathrooms will be less busy in the evening than in afternoon, when there is always a big rush by all the sweaty and dusty pilgrims to get cleaned up. I decide now is my time.
My shower experiment goes awry when I realize the two shower stalls beside me are occupied by two Spanish cyclists whom I noticed a little earlier hanging around the corridor of the albergue. They are conspicuous by their extreme good looks and incredible level of fitness, and for walking around wearing nothing but their cycling shorts. It seems they, too, have decided to shower at the same time as I have. I know this, not because I can see them, but because I can hear them.
In addition to carrying on a loud conversation … there are sounds of pleasure approaching something close to orgasmic in nature. I am now reminded of a woman I walked with a day or so ago, who referred to the delight of the shower after a long hot day of walking – or in the case of these two men – cycling. She called it “better-than-sex-showering”. I now understand what she was talking about, but I can’t recall ever being that excited about taking a shower.
I begin to laugh at the absurdity of this scene. I am in a shower in a shared bathroom in a little village in Spain, and all that is dividing me from devilishly good-looking naked Spanish men is a thin wall of metal from which the distinct sounds of “oohs” and “ahhs” seem to amplify. I laugh hysterically at this scene of which I am a part. Salvador Dali could definitely do something with this bit of surrealism.
Rosa has returned from dinner, and we talk briefly before lights go out. I want to tell her about my shower experience because I know she would be amused, but I haven’t got the Spanish words, and I doubt she would understand me well enough to pick up on the silliness and humour of my story.
Instead, I tell her about my interest in Santa Teresa de Ávila and San Juan de la Cruz. She is familiar with both these mystics, of course, being a Spaniard who reveals her spiritual nature. We share something like an intelligent conversation in our broken Spanish and English before we say good night.
I silently recite one of Santa Teresa’s poems, or what I can recall of it from memory: "Let nothing trouble you/Let nothing scare you/All is fleeting./God alone is unchanging./Who possesses God/Nothing wants./God alone suffices."