Day 10: Paring Down
Logroño to Nájera: 29 km/18miles, but without steep inclines. The walk passes through Navarette, famous for pottery, and includes vistas of fruit orchards and vineyards, churches, cathedrals and monasteries.
The idea with the Camino is that you pare down, live simply. You only bring what you are willing to carry, and so you only bring the bare essentials. The pilgrims eat simple evening meals together, typically three courses—cabbage soup to start, fish or pork for the main dish, and then dessert. The sleeping and showering arrangements in albergues are rustic—bunk beds, no-frills bathrooms. And then, of course, there is the walk.
One foot in front of the other, day after day, to Santiago de Compostela.
I had the following on my packing list (most of which is sitting sadly in a box in my closet):
2 short-sleeve shirts
Long sleeve shirt
2 pairs of leggings
A sari (for skirt/dress/privacy curtain)
(PJs) Tank and boxer shorts
2 sports bras
3 pairs of underwear
REALLY GOOD SOCKS
Sleeping bag or sleep sack
Tiny quick dry towel
Health kit (ear plugs, eye mask, sunscreen, meds)
Toiletries (toothbrush/paste, body bar, comb, razor)
Phone (charger, adapter)
Journal and two pens
One backpack – 30L or so
A stone from home to leave at the Cruz de Ferro
Will and I once took a long trip (seven countries in thirty days) with only our backpacks—different, larger ones than we would take on the Camino. I brought three changes of clothes with me and washed them in the hotel sink every other day, and at the end of the trip, I was so sick of them that I held my backpack upside down over the trash bin outside our apartment and shook it out.
Clothes for the Camino have to be no frills—cute shoes that aren’t comfortable will literally mean the end of the trip, anything that chafes will be a nightmare, and things that don’t do double-duty have to be considered carefully. It’s not about how you look, and essentially, with these packing lists, everyone is going to look about the same, anyway.
It’s about living simply.
It’s about paring down.
Here in my 1,000 square foot house, I have way too many things. I honestly don’t know where most of them come from, but they can’t all be blamed on Will. We went on a house diet a few years ago, and then, when we turned around, things had crept back into our lives—papers, magazines, empty boxes and bags, well-intentioned gifts we don’t use. I’ve set some strict rules about when I can buy new clothes (only when I’m getting rid of old clothes), and still—there are too many shirts and skirts and dresses hanging in my closet, which is especially obvious during a pandemic, when the only outside people who see me are neighbors and my people on Zoom.
(Also, thanks to the pandemic, I have an empty bottle collection that is threatening to take over the garage.)
Some of my friends, I’m sure, think I’m too obsessed with paring down, probably due to a dozen Facebook rants and a bit of Marie Kondo worship.
This is probably obvious, but it’s not just about the stuff. Yes, I like to be able to walk down the hallway without walls of junk caving in on me. But things have begun to feel like an emotional burden to me, not just a physical one. They have a weight beyond what can be measured on a scale.
I’ve begun to feel the same way about people, although it feels a bit gross to admit that. But life is fluid—new people come into it, and the people who were there before may not occupy the same role anymore. Maybe this is a gentle drifting-away, maybe it’s a hard block on social media after a racist post that just can’t be ignored. (Maybe that racist post is one I would have ignored a year ago, scrolled past, rolled my eyes, shook my head. Sometimes it takes a while to see what is useless, who is harmful.)
The pandemic created its own paring down, of course. Whether we were looking to purge or not, it happened—planned trips, big events, birthdays, regular routines, all gone.
Something I’ve picked up in the midst of this is yoga, previously an occasional practice and now part of my new routine. (Will came through the room as I was writing this and wants you to know that he has been doing yoga with me, too.) My favorite part—and the part I struggle with the most—is clearing my head, pushing away thoughts, getting to a pure sync of mind, body and soul.
To get there, you can’t carry all that baggage with you.
You have to let some things go.
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