Europe N to S: The Fountain (3/2/17)

Today’s Miles: 15.7
Total Miles: 4,717.3

Los Arcos, Spain – March 2, 2017

The two Germans have cups, Christina a silver one made for camping and Amelie a white one splashed with blue, red, and yellow that hangs off her pack. Jorgelina uses the top of her mate thermos. Daya and I slice a water bottle in half and each take an end. We take turns pulling a silver leaver and watching the fountain gush red wine to fill whatever we held underneath it. Cups full, the air fills with cheers, prosts, chin chins, and saluds.

The winery is smart enough to have taken any benches far away from the fountain so we crash on the ground, leaning on fences and walls, sipping wine out of our cups. Won Gyu arrives after a few minutes and we celebrate with cheers as he fills a bit of a bottle and joins us.

I look at the faces of my friends as we drink and laugh. There are more smiles now. The trail has begun to settle over us. The days, the miles, the nights, it’s all becoming a familiar routine, something known, something accepted. The crispness of that first day, the spotless backpacks, the unworn shoes, the fresh clothes, they are gone, replaced by the first smears of dirt, scuffs and scratches, sweat stains, and the growing sense of place each bought.

In high summer, so many pilgrims pass that anything more than a sip would risk leaving nothing for those behind. In winter, a few cups each barely scratches the day’s hundred liter barrel. We take our glasses and remain sitting against the fence, ignoring the dirt, laughing, toasting in different languages, sharing inside jokes built over the last few days.

The day’s steps will come, but steps on a trail serve nothing without all that surrounds them. Sitting in the sun with our cups of wine is as important as any distance walked. Moments between friends over a dinner table, memories flooding your mind in the still silences, the pain of sore muscles in the morning, regrets and joys playing behind your eyes, letting go of the weight weighing on you, it’s all as important as any mile.

A man walks by, heading back the way we came. Blue jacket, grey pack, white hair. I look up and a rush of joy fills my heart.

“Clement!” I yell.

I jump up, waiving at him and running over to give him a hug. How long did we walk together? Two or three hours? Maybe four? But seeing him feels like running into an old friend.

“Where are you going?” I ask. “Come hang out.”

He points down the path, says something about seeing the wine fountain first, which gets a roar from all of us, raised glasses, and pointed fingers. Clement turns and sees the fountain hiding against the wall. We cheer. He didn’t start with us, he only ever met me and Christina, but he is one of us all the same, part of our family, part of our bit of fabric woven together by the Camino as each of us travels our own journey.

He settles in near me, dropping his bag to the ground. I stare at it for a moment, remembering the white shoes dangling off the back.

He catches me looking and smiles.

“Realized I didn’t need them anymore,” he says.

I nod. We don’t say anything else. We don’t need to. The journey continues. 

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5 thoughts on “Europe N to S: The Fountain (3/2/17)

  1. Your post reminded me of this quote from Lao Tzu: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” And by the way, I knew those white shoes were gonners when I saw them hanging from the picture you posted of Clemens that first day. We have all been there. A toast to your trail family.

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