Monday, July 10, 2017

I'm Nobody Who Are You - Last Two Days of Singing the Body Electric from Conques to Figeac

Related image

Last photo of the Cathedral in Figeac from

I'm Nobody Who Are You - Last Two Days of Singing the Body Electric from Conques to Figeac

“After half an hour, the last of the stragglers had vanished into the trees. I stood with difficulty, bashed by the unexpectedness of this beauty, and my spread lungs roared,” Ann Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Walking out of Conques, I thought about the friends and the wonder I had felt in the village we’d wandered into the night before. I had no idea what to expect.  But the beauty of the lost space resonated.  After dinner, I’d wandered out to the creek behind out tiny auberge.  The water bubbled down from the mountains where we’d walked.  As a child, I’d spend years wandering between the rocks in a creek like this behind our house in Atlanta. My brother poked his head out from the bridge above, smiling.  It was a wonder to see him and hike together for these weeks.

But there was so much to reflect upon about this distinct voyage, merging the culture of this wondrous country and its countryside, our times with our families and ourselves.  We’d eaten another majestic meal.  The cost was close to nothing. But still the terrine, salad, tomato bruschetta, soup, salmon from the river below, cheese and dessert plates passed in front of us.  We discussed the church where we’d all sat the night before, chatting with all our friends from Australia, Switzerland, France, and Germany had passed through, stopping for a pint, where we rested and took in the moment. The kids ran in and out of the various shops, ate ice cream, and drank oranginas.  And we all stopped after a day of hiking, pausing to enjoy the moment, all our friends around us, talking.

That would be a high point in a long two week journey which brought  us bed bugs, sickness, sore ankles, hills, bugs, cows and countless joys.

Gradually, we all made our way into the majestic cathedral and its scenes from the last judgement. 
Outside we ran into the Australians.

“Lots of lessons inside,” I warned Ron, the 88-year-old man who’d made his way the whole trail.
Ron has been practicing mindfulness for years.  With a quick smile and a sarcastic grin he takes it all in. We talked about the trail, that he’d completed.  Its worn out most of us 40-year-olds.  He’s got four decades on us and is still wondering it.

“I’ll go in to see what I need to know,” he smiled.
“Remember, every sperm is sacred.”

Inside one can find the Statue-Reliquary of Saint Foy dates from the 9th and 10th centuries.  Mom had told us to see it.  As the myth goes, the statue is made from the head of Foy, who was killed in Agen when she refused to pray to the pagan gods, five centuries prior. When the idea of possessing relics bringing prestige to monasteries, an enterprising monk in Conque spent a decade winning the confidence of the protectors of Foy’s remains, seizing her remains in a theft described as a “furtive transfer” that brought wealth and prestige to Conques. Still the lectures about morality continue and hoards come to pay tribute to stolen remains.  The whole thing is a monument to a theft.  

Wondering the next morning, we all made our way up the two k ascent.
Frank, in his red socks, passed us by as we hiked upward, the sweat pouring from my forehead.
The inn keeper had given us instructions on a detour that would save us five k on the 25 k ahead. So we wandered along farm roads, with delicious views from each of 360 degrees.
By 10:30 Am, we stopped for a short break. Ron, Dave and company were hiking along with us, sitting for a coffee.

I showed Ron a copy of Miracles, by Walt Whitman.  
“That’s my favorite poem of the trip so far.”
“Try reading Ann Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Ron advised, looking about.
“Come on Ron,” his friends asked.
“They keep rushing me,” Ron smiled getting up. “Thanks for your help with the suitcases the other day.”
“I hope someone does the same for me.”

Looking about we started playing with two dogs angling for a treat. We threw them a scrap.  One started slobbering on the bag of a German hiker who had been walking the trail.
“Go!” he screamed. “I sleep with that,” he pointed at his backpack.

Finishing coffee, we all made our way our way through the final 14 k of the day, off the trail, not quite sure where we were going. I listened to the rivaling factions battle it out in my podcast on the French revolution.  And started to feel very small.  Walking through this countryside and its history, its not hard to feel small.

But thats why we form small groups, to organize and support ourselves and our communities of friends. 

“It’s a big country,” I had told Ron earlier in the day.
“It really is.”

Sometimes we feel quite small as we walk, our lives feeling inconsequential as we join the cavalcade of hikers, making their way up and down the hills and trails of the landscape, the 21 k from Conques to our next Gite.

There are moments when this tininess feels like futility.  In others, it feels like poetry, particularly when I read Emily Dickenson. She reminds me its ok to be nobody. Our futility is everywhere. But so is our fierceness, particularly when we smile and connect.

That night at the Gite, we ran into Joques and ate with some Germans, chatting about refugees and the trail. The kids played music. Number two and I tried to figure out pick up sticks.
The next day, Caroline gave Joques a pair of her liners.  He was dealing with blisters.  She lent everyone the foot cream that had gotten us through the trail.

We hung out for an extra long breakfast, chatting with Joques and our other new friends. 

So we walked and felt the body electric, the birds chirping in the distance, the cows hanging out in the fields, butterflies making their way through the sky.
It would be our last day on the trail. And we loved it.  The kids laughed.  Will and company stayed behind, feeling sick.  We are all fragile on the road, discoverring spaces in between along the way from Le Puy to Santiago.

The Camino is a journey of the spirit as much as the body.
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!” Walt reminds us.
But sometimes, its good to be nobody.
Frank passes us sitting for a break by a tree.
“Its magical,” he laments the end.

The kids want to do their own things at some point. But for now we’ve gone through four years of these marches of the body and the sold, reminding us to be kind, to get to know the other nobodies.
The road rewards and reminds us of our limits, of the smallness of this life, how little we are.  So we listen to the music, the ducks in the river and be.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman

O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child’s, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s, father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems;,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones, 
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, fore-finger, finger-balls, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, back-bone, joints of the back-bone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body, or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, 
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out, 
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you, or within me, the bones, and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!

Scenes along the way from Conques to Figeac.  

No comments:

Post a Comment