© Angela Varricchio. ALL THE RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.
Faint daylight along the French Way of the Camino de Santiago. 2009. Spanish yellow mesetas are fluttering, and a mild temperature is dunking the air. The vegetation is variegated and the sound of a brook fresh water is inviting me to take a bath. The branches are bending by the weight of fruits. Silence. The classical day for a solitary contemplation. “Buen Camino!” she introduces herself. Her softness of a matryoshka’s, which is colliding with an enchanted forest elf smile, still persists in my retina. The transparent eyes are mounted in a wan visage, whose cheeks seem to be coloured like in a Flemish oil painting. She is smiling. Almost whispering, “Where are you from?” she is mustering up the courage. “I come from Poland”, she is answering to me. I am bewitched by her pace, so slow and melodic, in the geometrical lines of the grain fields. I continue to observe her movements.
We spend two hours walking along the street to arrive at Castrojeriz. “We could have lunch together,” she is proposing to me. I am accepting it instinctively. She is quite demure, not at all introverted. We start to talk about our hobbies. “I am fond of music, singing, gardening, and taking photographs.” But there is only a part of her countless hobbies. “Our bathroom was our dark room all the time.” Slowly, I am starting to discover a stratified plot of land which discloses her richness in the variety of seeds. “Also biology and science” and “everything what would involved creativity.” I have never thought that a scientific subject could be creative. She is flooding me agreeably. Soon, I understand where all this human beauty comes from. “My mum made me believe that education is my treasure, and nobody can steal it”.
After one day and a half and kilometres of plants, we arrived at Población de Campos, the Province of Palencia. We took a rest in the albergue. When we woke up, we tied to speak in English, but the fatigue caused a weird ability to invent neologisms.
She is starting slowly to open up, with few inhibitions. Underlining the fact that she does not think she will be someone’ s wife in the future, she is lowering her eyes. Then, after having explained her something about my love relationship, she rocks me. “I think I will be a Sister in Mercy”. Knowing exactly to be in front of a special person is immediate. A free spirit, a sensitive nebulous entity which goes in and out the reality. An agitated soul. “I am used to read the Bible. I can find answers to persistent questions about the meaning of life, my role in it, my values.” She starts to explain how that experience has changed the perception of herself. Then, she is telling me that she had been spending two years as a novice. In that period, “for the first time in my life, I felt I was being loved, and I experienced the love very much…In my family, we hardly talk about our feelings. Maybe that’s why I really do not remember words, such as I love you”. I analysed these words, understanding only the surface.
Walking about 20 kilometres, we arrived at Carrión de Los Condes. I would want to continue our journey, but the rain is obliging us to stop. I am observing her, sleeping on a spartan bed a few minutes before eating our food. In the morning, she told me that kayaking, cycling, walking, hiking along mountains are her daily bread. Thinking about a probable nun as a motionless marionette, closed in four walls permanently, is an evergreen platitude, in which is simple to fall in. And I am the umpteenth quarry. She needs to move and to explore. It is no amusement. It is a hunger for an intellectual movement. Now I am starting to understand her more and more.
The following morning, we decided to wake up early to make up for the lateness because of the rain. In the middle of our walk together, she asked me to stop. “Don’t worry, I’m only tired”, she continued to repeat to me. I am not so pushed to contradict my travel companion, especially when a bag flattens my vertebrae. We take a rest. Only the day after, I discovered that her foot index nail started to break after God-knows-how-many kilometres under the Spanish sun, her pale skin mouldy in scorching boots, and ground by unexpected stones or slippery slopes. Even if she is not showing me it, I can understand that her pain is difficult to stand. The hospital is closed and we are getting frustrated. Despite I disagree, she is deciding to carry on. During our brief walking, I am starting to speculate about the origin of her resilience. I read about the difficulty of the communist atheistic government to extinguish the fervid spirituality of Polishes. Northern territory inhabitants are used to stand. The ice whitens the nature, shaping the personality. Pale snow becomes the background of the movie in the animated theatre of the mind, like the patched bed sheet of the 20′ s French jury-rigged silent cinema. Activating fantasy helps to stand the freezing wind. She was born in the one of the coldest winter of the twenty-one century, when the North State of Polish government declared the state of emergency, due to snow disaster. It was not a coincidence. During the aurora borealis, to appreciate the shining green dance of little particles, the darkness of the North Pole is fundamental. It is like a chiaroscuro.
Then, we met two pilgrims who were having breakfast with croissants. After having known her problem, they gave us as a gift two train tickets. That bizarre coincidence…The destination is the city in which we should have found the hospital. We arrived at Sahagún. In the first aid, we met a volunteer, whose job consisted of helping pilgrims. This elderly man started to bandage her foot index with a Tampax, found distractedly in the first aid kit. Obviously, he could understand what exactly he just gave her, but she left him to continue until the hilarity becomes uncontrollable, and they started to bend over with. The hindrance of an old generation, not used to pronounce not even the word “menstruation”, is vanishing in the air completely. Her radiant, but sober personality is devouring instantaneously each attempt to close the conversation by a gentle old man, too reserved by a really embarrassing situation. Sometimes, black horses are so clumsy and dolt that they are socially isolated. An unrealistic puzzle whose final design needs time to be seen completely. But she is the exception which confirms the rule.
Personally, I tend to associate shyness to flatness in personality. An automatic mental trap. But the Baltic ambers, simply to find during a promenade along the cold Polish shores, are monochromatic only apparently. Turning them in a bright day, they unveil multicoloured nuances. Air bubbles, manifold creatures from the palaeolithic era, like villages inside a French boule de neige. A static glass ball inside which the life moves. I have just found mine.