My “Eat, Pray, Love” Summer
Summer certainly held her grip, but alas fall is here again and I’m left pondering where to begin when I am already so many months behind. To say my summer was epic, just sounds too cliché, but it was just that. It was a summer of worldly adventure that no doubt left permanent marks on my heart. The kilometers I crossed on foot, by plane, and tuk tuk tell tales that will forever remind me of the life I want to shape for myself. To summarize, it was my summer of “Eat, Pray, Love.”
I caught myself the other day in class when I was teaching my kids the Spanish word for soap, jabón, saying jamón instead. I would no joke walk 10K right now for a bocadillo de jamón washed down with a glass of Rioja. I certainly didn’t starve along that ancient pilgrimage route. The pinchos were a plenty and tortilla a daily ritual. Even the pulpo gallego had me wanting to backtrack for more. I credit the twenty days of walking on the Camino de Santiago to the fact that I didn’t leave Europe looking like I had a tortilla around my waist.
I then must also offer up a bitter thanks to the relentless humidity and red wine detox of Southeast Asia for my post-travel form because I think I went swimming in pad thai and all the other amazing Thai delicacies.
Who can say that they walked both a Catholic pilgrimage in Spain and studied mindfulness and meditation under Buddhist masters in rural Thailand in one summer? I swell with emotion just thinking of the faith that filled my whole being during my travels. The most poignant piece that I took from the two perspectives was just that, peace. The peace of the pilgrim walking westward to Santiago and the peace of the monk practicing mindfulness painted a clearer picture for me of the purpose of prayer. I dove deeper into my own Catholic faith with priests and pilgrims along the dusty roads of the Meseta and attended vespers with Benedictine nuns. Their evening prayer had a meditative quality heard in the crescendos of their pious chanting. And just weeks later, before dawn in a forest monastery in northern Thailand, I rose with the Buddhist monks to share in their morning chant. With my legs folded awkwardly on a worn mat, eyes almost closed, I felt a deeper connection to those who devout their lives to God.
As sure as the vinto tinto flowed, so did the love. The letters themselves appeared continuously, etched in the splintering wood when I paused to rest my feet or carved into substantial stone on the edge of a peak. It was there, in the limping, worn out pilgrims I walked beside and in the rural Thais kneeling in the dust, waiting for the monks to pass to offer their daily handful of rice. There was kindness, compassion, mutual respect and understanding. I had to take one gigantic leap out into the world to feel the L.O.V.E. with such magnitude, but it struck me. And somewhere just shy of Santiago, it opened me to real love with an Italian I met along the way, but I’ll save that story for another day.