Welcome Home to Westcliffe

Welcome Home - Welcome precipitation.

Welcome Home – Welcome precipitation.

Returning to Colorado after a two-month absence, I felt apprehensive. People were going to ask awkward questions. They would take a hard look at me.  Had I lost weight? Was I looking haggard? Was I going to leave the secular life and become a lay-sister? Just how had I been transformed by my five-week pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela?

Friends would wonder if they would still like me. And, pressing me for answers, they would want me to define the nature of my transformation. Even now, a couple of weeks after my return, I am not sure of the answers. I will not be joining a convent; otherwise, time will tell.

Hunting season and the deer have come to safety in town. Two of ten deer outside my bedroom window at dawn.

Hunting season and the deer have come to safety in town. Two of ten deer outside my bedroom window at dawn.

What I will say is that prior to walking El Camino, I never quite got that “living in the moment” thing. Just hearing the phrase would turn me off: Living in the Moment was too New Age. But as I sit here in Westcliffe, one look at the dining room table says it all.

The table groans under two months of bills, requests for monetary donations, Christmas catalogs, insurance claims,  bank statements, newspapers, and advertising flyers. Expanding folders stand ready to file the paperwork under appropriate headings. Utilities here, credit card statements there.

PIN number? What's a PIN number?

PIN number? What’s a PIN number?

The addictive nature of taking a pilgrimage has become very clear. On the road, you are completely divorced from local, national and international politics. Likewise, you are physically removed from paperwork and the demands of living in the 21st Century: the dripping kitchen faucet and the need for a new furnace are miles and miles away. No one wanted my PIN number. And at no time was I required to remember a password. The freedom was liberating:

I felt my load lighten; I felt my heart soar.

Walking The Camino erases all future demands. At no time did I spend a restless night replaying conversations and problem-solving. In real life, we hear the text, and we ponder the sub-text. On the Camino, you sleep like a baby and in your new-born innocence, you know nothing of sub-text. Most the time you don’t even understand the language of the other pilgrims. Communication is basic and straight-forward.

Prior to returning to the States, we spent four or five days in London. I love London… the jarring interface between the new and old, the refined and gritty, the rich and poor. The vibrancy of London and the multi-cultural juxtapositions are triggers to wondering.

Three young men rest in front of the British Library, currently hosting an 18th century exhibit on Georgian England.

Three youngsters rest in front of the British Library, currently hosting an 18th century exhibit on Georgian England.

Like Dorothy (who realized that she wasn’t in Kansas any more) I instantly knew that I had left The Camino behind me. Taking the Tube into the city, I was shocked by the rush, the crush, and the studied anonymity of the other passengers who went to great pains to avoid eye contact. And this, after five weeks of relying on eye contact and facial expression for communication with foreigners! The next morning, on entering the hotel elevator, I chirped “Good Morning.” Wide-eyed, the other passengers thought me deranged and retreated to the far corners. And this after five weeks of greeting each Spaniard with “Buenos Dias” and every pilgrim with “Buen Camino!

I left London a bit shaken. Would I adjust to life in the real world?

But as life is full of surprises, it took only one day to realize that I would make the transition without too much pain. To keep my backpack as light as possible, I had not taken any books for my reading pleasure. I was quite surprised how painful this was: day by day a mouse nibbled at a small hole left by the absence of books. Each day the hole was larger – so large that I could feel the wind whistling through it.

Arriving in Westcliffe, I looked at our book shelves for something that I might want to read, and I found two books that I had taken some time ago from our local library recycling shelf. The first discard was A Writer’s House in Wales by Jan Morris. What a treat! Finding this book felt so right. It was though a dear friend, knowing my love of Wales, had chosen the book just for me.

On opening the second book, a newspaper clipping fell to my feet. Picking it up, I was surprised to read a column written by me and published in The Wet Mountain Tribune. The subject was my granddaughter’s learning sign language prior to being able to speak. Given that Winnie has just celebrated her ninth birthday, this column must have been published more than eight years ago. To think that someone saved the column, and years later the column came home to me. What a happy homecoming!

Have I changed? I think I have, but I struggle to put the changes into words. What I do know is that if I have a few good books to befriend me, I can be at-home anywhere.

At-home

At-home

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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8 Responses to Welcome Home to Westcliffe

  1. Dianne says:

    Thank you, Doris. Welcome home. Looking forward to seeing you and Mark soon! Dianne

  2. timeout2 says:

    Off to Sedona for the annual family reunion. Let’s choose a date to have dinner at our house before we are overwhelmed with the holidays. I’ll call when we return from Sedona.

  3. Sherry says:

    So glad you’re home safe and sound!

  4. Nigel Orr says:

    In London. Pity to have missed you as you passed through. Back to Paris tomorrow.
    I’ve enjoyed your Camino tales.
    Nigel

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Nigel, We are sorry to have missed you in London. The good news is that Mark has retired and has left Network Rail. The bad news is that Mark has left Network Rail and our frequent stays in the U.K. have ground to a halt. How I will miss living in London!Visiting as a tourist just won’t cut it. The Waterman calls. Perhapscruising the canalswill bring us together. Or… you have a host of friends here in Westcliffe, Colorado – fly to Denver and as our guest you can rotate houses for a good couple of months. If you didn’t read my blogs written aboard the Waterman, check out the posts between May 3 and May 31, 2012. What happy memories. Happy Holidays!

  5. lola says:

    i just lost my husband and want out of where I live. thinking of Westcliffe. would it be hard to get hired help in winter? I am totally fed up with my town that has been besieged by rich new Yorkers. I live in a ex-quiet little fishing village gone bad with the rich and rude.

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Lola, Westcliffe is quite wonderful, BUT… if you are thinking of looking for employment in the winter, do not consider coming. Summer employment is somewhat better, but we have more people wishing to be employed than opportunities for employment. Westcliffe is a wonderful place to visit or retire; it is not so wonderful if you are hoping to make a living. Best wishes. A little fishing village sounds good to me.

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