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Mirror, Mirror…

Have a nice trip! And a beautiful meeting with yourself!
— a friend, the day of departure to Santiago.

Her father, who had made her discover the Way a few years earlier, told her: “— You have to leave from this hostel in Urrugne”.
The hostel closed in the meantime, so she started from Biarritz, where her train had taken her from Amsterdam.
Nobody start from Biarritz, which is not even really on the Way. And that’s how, this Saturday preceding our starts, we were already a few kilometers apart, unaware of our mutual being.

She left the next day, Sunday, with a sunny weather. Two days before me. But one day actually, since having walked from Biarritz to Hendaye a week before as a training, I started directly from there on Tuesday.
And each of us walked at his own pace.

I pushed myself from the start, fighting with my body and its weaknesses.
I remember thinking, “Should I slow down a bit and take the time to deepen some of the encounters, instead of meeting most pilgrims for an evening or two?” And then “No! It’s my Way, I’m going at my pace, and we’ll see what happens.” It also gave me the opportunity to meet more people.
So I kept pushing myself. St. James watched.

It is in Guemes after more than a week of walking that our paths have joined. She had slowed down a bit to not skip one of the most famous hostel of the path. I managed to walk (almost) 3 stages in 2 days, thus reducing my late in this unknown pursuit.

But in the midst of about 50 pilgrims present that night, we didn’t met, even if each of us had stay around the comforting fireplace on this rainy day. She just noticed me when I was designed as translator during the presentation of the hostel’s social project, for other french pilgrims who did not understand Spanish.

The next day I left early, with John the Irishman. He had then this prophetic word:

It’s all about the people you meet, Cedric.
The walk, the landscape, this is nothing.
It’s all about the people you meet.

We passed through Santander without loitering. Later, when he decided to stop, exhausted, I hesitated, then finally chose to continue a little further to the next hostel.
She also stopped here that night, later. But I was sleeping upstairs in the middle of a German group while she was staying downstairs, and the hostel was made in a such way that we still did not met.

It’s only the following evening, in the little hostel in Caborredondo, that we had the chance to introduce ourselves.
“— Oh! You are Cedric, the translator” she said, referring to the moment in Guemes.
After dinner, we had a lot of talking about everything and nothing with a bottle of wine. Unconsciously, however, we recognized ourselves.

The next morning, before leaving, while she was still at her breakfast, I asked her directly “— See you in Serdio?”, the next stop we discussed more or less informally at the dinner the day before, instead of the usual “See you later!” each pilgrim says in the morning when leaving.
“— I think so”. It was a kind of appointment.

That day was for me one of the most difficult of the Way. Starting too fast with a false feeling of physical freshness, I weakened dangerously on mid-day and only succeeded to finish this long walk - 35km - thanks to my willfullness (“5km more and then we’ll see”), supported by the strong idea that I could not miss this meeting.

She arrived one hour after me in a much better condition. I took the opportunity “I think tomorrow we should walk together. It will force me to follow a better regular rhythm instead of starting too fast.” She didn’t escape, and then we started walking together.

The following days we had plenty of time to talk while walking. Each telling in turn stories of his life.
The path has the particularity that it is easy to speak about oneself: the other is just passing in your life and you will probably never meet again outside this adventure. Telling personal things has little consequences. But here there was something more.
Little by little we started to recognize in our stories our own patterns, our own ways of thinking, reacting, feeling, interacting...

Curious, we dug to look for our differences.
Until going down to depths rarely - ever? - exposed to others.
And find the same thing - the same forces, the same breaks, the same avoidances, the same injuries - in a kind of mutual amazement.

The existence of such a mirror of self defies all probability. Unsettles. Changes the field of possibilities.
It is both an other and self.

Because the other is self, everything becomes extremely easy, comfortable. You just have to feel good to know that the other feels the same way. To think of something so that the other can say it immediately. To have a desire for it to be shared.

Our favorite jokes quickly became “— Of course you think that!”, “— Stop thinking like me! — No, you!”, or “— I said it first!”.

This meeting was also a permanent mirror offered in front of you. The opportunity to see an image you are not used to, your own qualities and flaws, strengths and weaknesses. To become aware of who you really are. Especially since the other is an active, talking mirror.
A mean of pursuing together the introspection each one had separately in the first part of the Way.

Because everyone has his own life, we had to split at the end of the Way, to leave each one in his own direction, but rich of another self, which we now know existing, there, elsewhere.

And I’m sure it was the purpose of this Way, revealed to us along the path.
St. James was generous.

— 6 June 2018

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