Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 98

every word, and I regretted my inability to speak all the languages of those around me. The stories I’d hear if I could! He spoke of his life as a voice-over actor in Poland, of his family, of his Caminos in the 70s and 80s. Throughout all of it, he threw his hand to the sky and said, “I walk until—whoop! I go!” his hand gesturing toward the heavens. We laughed, unable to fully understand his meaning, and did the same with our own hands each time he made the sound.

Pockets of conversation branched off as I talked more with my new Australian friend and Christina dove into her family’s history The Man From Poland. Our laughter rivaled the noise of the festival in the streets. After another half hour, I saw him remove a ring—adorned with the Camino shell—and place it in Christina’s hand. She looked shocked, near tears, and turned to me in confusion.

“For your father,” he told her. “Because his father comes from Poland. I carried this with me for eight years. Please give it to him.

”Christina protested, arguing she couldn’t accept such a personal gift, but he’d hear nothing of it. A man with a sage intuition could sense that Christina’s father would cherish the emblematic offering.

The conversation continued, weaving through stories of our own Caminos—the singing nuns of Carrion de Los Condes, our impromptu acoustic concert in a bar in Hornillos del Camino, and of course—everyone’s shared battle stories of crossing the Pyrenees in heat, rain, sleet and snow. Eventually, the discussion turned to the topic of my marriage.

“And why is he not here with you?” The Man from Poland inquired with kindness. Perhaps my face gave me away. I missed my husband Ben and longed for the person closest to me to share my love of the road. But as all pilgrims know, you cannot force someone to hike a pilgrimage, the need to reach the end is deeply personal.

He’s very supportive of me being here. Just—doesn’t want to do it himself.” We paused, I smiled. And he reached into his pocket, pulling out an ornate, ten-bead rosary.

“He’ll know when it’s right. His time is coming.”

"I’m not sure it is,” I rebutted. “He struggles with the history of Christianity way more than I do."