Ultreya one finds on line, as defined meaning, onward. Yet it seems to have more depth and as offered by passers by to the pilgrims of the famous Camino de Compostela Camino in Spain, it means ” forward with courage”. And for sure that pilgrimage would require not only courage, physical stamina and pure faith in a higher being as well.
After reading Shirliey MacLaine’s book The Camino in May of 2001, I wanted to try the pilgrimage at some point in my life. Ms. MacLaine is one who often inspires me in her books and actions. Yet the fall of that year brought a very different mindset to most of us throughout the world and rather then think about a pilgrimage to find my true self, I began thinking of finding a safe place. A place where my family and close friends could retreat if the need arose. I was too close to the tragedy of the Twin Towers on 9/11 to think it couldn’t happen again and just take in stride.
So I set out to find a place that may offer that haven and ended up not where I planned which was the mountains of New Mexico where it seems God truly visits each morning and says good night each night. It is such a sacred place that it seem to offer the safe haven I sought even though I am definitely a beach type person. Yet there was to be a different direction to take. My own camino so to speak. My own pilgrimage. I did not realize it at the time however the pull was definitely strong to bring me to the small village where I currently live.
The past month I spent on my hands and knees painting the base boards of my rather large house with the only interruption the rub of a cat. Sometimes music flowed. Other times I painted in silence. Hour after hour in the mindless work. Almost zen like work. Stroking on paint careful to not touch the walls or the floor. Watching with each brush stroke the transformation. The lightness being brought from the ground up to the room.
Each week I worked several days for many hours a day. When I began to become sloppy with a drop here or there, I stopped for the day. Washed my brush, set to dry for the next day.
My thoughts wandered from one subject to the next. From one event to the next. Almost in a trance like state at times, I recalled events. Some hurtful. Some joyful. Some funny. Many, well most having had impact on my life. Many of the events that happen in this small village…the people creating those…I recognized the similarities to those in the past. To family members that I had issues with. To teachers. With a major milestone birthday happening for me this month, I have so wanted for things to be sorted out somehow in my mind. Forgiveness of some of the actions. Some of the many negative things that left scars. I wanted to have all those vanish so that the remaining years would be those of freedom and peace. All this came to me as I moved slowly about the floor painting the baseboards of the house.
Each day brought some form of mindful cleansing. Maybe it was the lightness that seem to appear as I brushed on the paint turning dark, drab, beaten base boards into lovely fresh, clean, light ones. Maybe it was that the work did not seem like work at all although if I had given it thought, may have been daunting due to the size of the house.
By the time I reach the last room to paint. A room where I have boxes of books stashed. A room not really used, except by the cats. To reach the baseboards, I had to move the boxes and one was partially open revealing Shirley MacClain’s book The Camino. I sat for a few minutes on my knees flipping through the book. Books I really like that touch me in some form are marked with the date of reading…sometimes reread and remarked many times. Paragraphs are underlined and starred in the margins for ease of reference of what touched me. So it was with The Camino. It was not something I thought about while spending time on my knees painting for so many hours, so many days. Sometimes sore from the same position. I did not consider that in some ways it had become a spiritual journey for me. Sorting through all sorts of stuff and by the last day feeling freer, lighter and more in tune with who I am then ever in my life. Nor did I think much about the reason I am where I am. Where I live or why I was brought to this village.
When I began looking for a place other then the mountains of New Mexico, I first saw a photo of a building in the village included in an advertisement. I thought it looked charming. Like a place where one could settle and write books. Paint or roam the countryside. When I stood in front of one of the buildings on the main street at my feet laid a string of turquoise beads. The kind one catches at a Madi Gra parade. I felt it was a message from my Mother who had at the time not that long before passed and whom I would over the years of living in the town come to be aware of the undermining issues in our relationship. The betrayals. The belittlement of my Dad. Of me. In so many ways she was a special and extraordinary woman. She did a lot of good for a number of people yet the two of us seem to have other dynamics which I would over the time of living in the village come to recognize and long to let go.
By no means was my month of painting baseboards anything compared to the struggles and challenges one faces to take the pilgrimage of The Camino. The courage it takes to even set out to do so. The courage to continue when the body is screaming to stop. By no means did I even come close to what I think would be an incredible spiritual journey. Yet sometimes I think we make a pilgrimage, a journey of discovery that on some levels parallels. The book appearing just as I am completing the long project that required solitude, endurance yet brought so much peace to me seem to offer a message that I had at long last concluded the pilgrimage. That I could now let go. That the issues were seen, worked through and now released. And I could now look forward to a life of peace and joy. While it probably seems silly, it is exactly how I have felt. There has been a prevailing peace and tranquility unlike any I have experienced. And while I spend a lot of time alone, it is not bothersome to me. I like people yet I don’t have to have people to have a full life. I don’t have to be popular or busy all the time to feel fulfilled. There is more depth to life then a farcical race to run.
So I now look about the house see tremendous light. Tremendous peace and know it is time to release it to a new owner. It is no longer an ugly place or heavy in spirit. It too has peace and light.
And so it is that I begin to move forward to the next stage of life. To leave all the troubling matters melting into the floor seeping to the ground to be buried once and for all, freeing me to move onward. I think it is that all of us have a journey. Have a pilgrimage to make and I don’t think we have to embark on one such as The Camino to find our true self. I think if we are aware and can feel the weight lift. See the light appear and feel the peace at long last in our hearts then we can begin to see the colours of spirituality in its fullest. And there in lines the courage to move forward. Ultreya to all.