camino de santiago, grief, sabbatical

The Road Seen, Then Not Seen

As we started walking today I thought about all the shells and yellow arrows that mark our way. All you have to do is follow the arrows and you’ll go the right way. I was miffed at first. Why can’t we get such a direct path in life? I was told the Camino is a reflection of life – where are the markers in my life?

However, as I paid more attention I realized that the shells and arrows aren’t constant. They show up as needed – at a turn in the road, as the road goes through a vineyard, next to a building, down a narrow street. There are times one of us might question whether we’re on the right path and then an arrow appears confirming our direction.

I think I have similar signs in my life. I question a choice or a turn and then I get a sign that this is the right direction. It may not be as bold as a yellow arrow or a blue and yellow shell, but it’s a sign nonetheless. A feeling, a nudge, a conversation, a song, a new friend, synchronicity… all signs.

Before I stepped out this morning, I read David Whyte’s poem “Santiago.” It begins:

The road seen, then not seen, the hillside hiding then revealing the way you should take, the road dropping away from you as if leaving you to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up, when you thought you would fall, and the way forward always found in the end

The way that you followed, the way that carried you no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you, no matter that it had to break your heart along the way…

We walked a few hills today and I kept thinking about the road seen, then not seen. Unlike Indiana, a flat state that allows one to see far into the distance, here I can’t see very far ahead. The road rises and then falls again. Up and down. Hard work then relief.

We’re in a valley for the night. From where I’m sitting in this bunk bed I can see a fiver flowing and I can feel a perfect breeze. I couldn’t have gotten here without going up then down again. I had to follow the road seen, then not seen.

Two years ago I was getting ready for a three month sabbatical – talk about a road seen and not seen! I had no idea what to expect; I just knew I needed it. Just as I was settling into it my life was disrupted and I never really felt like my sabbatical received the ending it deserved.

The road I’ve travelled often felt like it dropped out from under me, but I was always caught and held up. The road took away promises I thought were destined for me, but then I discovered it never really made the promise to begin with. My heart has been broken – will always be broken in some way – but new promises, promises meant for me, will appear on that road seen then not seen.

The poem concludes:

And beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond,
like another life, the road still stretching on.

I think the road will always be seen and not seen. It’ll keep stretching forward asking us to have the courage to follow. And so, I keep walking.


1 thought on “The Road Seen, Then Not Seen”

  1. That was beautiful, Anne! Thanks for sharing your insights with us 🙂 Reminds me of the song Bilbo sang in the Lord of the Rings, “The Road Goes Ever On.”

    Liked by 1 person

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