As we make our slow way across Spain we try not to think of the many many faster ways there are for getting from one place to another.
Many years ago, in my student days in London, I was training to run the Glasgow marathon. My friend and I were in the lab, getting our shoes on, when a colleague asked what we were doing. We replied we were going to run to Richmond, a distance of some 10 miles. He asked, not unreasonably, “why don’t you get the bus?”.
Last year when Jen first walked the Camino, I joined her in Sahagun and we walked for three days to Leon. I returned to Madrid, to fly home, on the very fast Renfe train. The train went from Leon back past Sahagun in about 18 minutes. It had taken three days to walk that. Three days.
We take travel over vast distances so much for granted. I recall throwing things at the TV during some holiday program I saw a few years back. A couple were being interviewed. They were in Goa, in India, and were complaining that whilst it’s all very sunny and all that it does take a long time to get there. “Why does it take so long to get there?”. Why does it take so long to get there!!? Because it’s stupid far away… that’s why, what’s wrong with you?
Someone famous and wise once said that the only way to truly know a place is to walk through it. I don’t know if I ‘know’ Spain particularly – I fear that I walk in the ‘pilgrim bubble’, a parallel place that is layered on top of Spain. But I would second the notion that walking is the ‘human’ pace.
Here’s a simple experiment to try…
Get yourself out into some woods on a sunny day. Put on your sunglasses and start walking. Look at the trees as you walk.
I was doing this early on in Galicia and I was struck by how much the world looked like an ultra high definition 3D movie. The skinny trunks of the larch trees slid past each other at different rates depending on their distance away from me. I then was struck by why I was struck by this.
In day to day life you go so fast through the natural world. I would bet that most folks out there reading this will pass through nature in a car and at a pace where the 3D-ness of the world isn’t particularly obvious. It happens too fast.
So when I walk through a larch wood on a sunny day with my polarising specs on, my reference point is the cinema. It’s in the cinema that I see 3D movement in the woods. Crazy!