Thiviers is quite the place. Coming into town on the road it does not look that interesting. But get to the church via the big hill – is there any other kind – and one enters another era. Yes the centre ville is anchored by the eglise and a small but beautiful square buttressed by quaint streets alleyways and paths. And no cobblestones, which are awful on the feet, especially in heels – or so they tell me.
For once the ville’s core is vibrant with shoppers and looky louies like moi. I sat at a corner cafe and had 3 grande cafes. It was grand. In some cases you have to be careful as a grande cafe means a large cup but with a petite dose of cafe as in demi-tasse.
Interesting that a woman pilgrim stayed at the shelter with me. Her name was Bridgitte and she came from Lyon. Her family was in the wine business. And she travelled alone. That took guts. Her English was as good as my French so we got along just fine. We chatted at dinner for about 2 hours. She and a girlfriend had backpacked in America for almost a year. Visited California, the east coast and even Quebec – in January and February- brrrrrr. She was headed for Limoge though. In her 50,s I would say. Great.
I left Thiviers about 0630 am. As I was heading out of town they were setting up for the village market. In some respects I wish I could have stayed.
I arrived at Sorges around 10. The Pelerins were all full, which confuses me as I haven,t met any other pilgrims for awhile. And again what frustrates one to no end is the lack of response from these sites. They want a day’s notice but never answer your emails and ignore your phone calls. A waste of time. I got here and it started to rain so I booked into an Auberge. I can afford to treat myself once in awhile. Again I had to laugh at the French mileage markers. At Thivier the road sign said Perigeux 37 kilometers. I then did 10 kilometers and the road sign said Perigeux, 33 kilometers. So do not trust French distance road markers. The datums are much more accurate.
Sorges is the truffle ( Truffe ) capital of the world or so they say! I did see a boar cross the road earlier this morning so perhaps they are right about Sorges.
Why do this? Someone asked. Why this walk, this pilgrimage, this Camino? I don’t have an answer for that question. People do this for a variety of reasons: religious, spiritual, forgiveness, a life crisis, physical challenge, atonement, absolution, penance, clear the head or out of sheer boredom. Everyone you meet here will have an answer. Some will not answer you at all, saying it comes from the heart, from within, while others will tell you their life story when asked about their mtivation behind this excursion. For me? None of the above really. My good friend Ted who did the Camino a few years ago tweaked my interest in it. Ted lost his wife quite awhile ago to cancer as well. But unlike my wife his wife died a lot younger than Marijke did. I can’t speak for Ted but for me this journey has provided me with a distraction from the grief. A focus in which to see if life really is worth continuing. From what I have seen and experienced so far there is beauty all around us with a spirit of giving, a selflessness that deserves our attention and our recognition that life really is worth living to the fullest that one can possibly achieve.
I find that when I am alone with thought, walking and attuned to my surroundings, experiencing an “ah ha “ moment or some epiphany of recognition, that I can reach a level of happiness, of sheer joy and acknowledgement that there has to be some presence, spiritual or otherwise, watching over us, protecting us and guiding us through this journey. We are not alone. There has been only one other time in my life when I have experienced a similar high. And that was when I was sailing. At the age of 22 / 23 I had the fortunate opportuniity to sail to the island of Saipan from Honolulu Hawaii. As you can imagine, alone at night, with nothing but the stars to accompany you and the dancing, glittering phosphorescence of the sea for entertainment that your mind wanders with a myriad of thought. Things become clearer, enlightened and not complicated by the day to day nuances, distractions of living. One is at once at peace with oneself and with the world at large. One is happy. And that is how I feel right now with this walk, each and every day.
Like Michel and Yannick I was confused about my life’s direction when I was sailing. But I was fortunate to have had a mentor in Mr Ted Culp. I met Ted and his wife in the sailing community at Waikiki. He was a lot older than me at 49 years but he treated me as an equal and like his son. There were many hot Hawaiian afternoon get togethers over some Oly,s where he would share his life’s experiences with me. As a US Navy WW 2 veteran he had much to share. Ted convinced me to consider a Navy career once I had sown my restless ways.
Ted gave a great deal of himself to others. He volunteered his time for over 5 years at St Jude’s Hospital for Children in Memphis Tennessee. Ted was from the Bremerton Washington area. He passed on in May 2011 at the age of 87. Ted would have been able to see the logic in a Camino. He died 37 years after I joined the Royal Canadian Navy. And it pisses me off when people apologize to me for thinking I may be an American after finding out I am a Canadian. Some of the best people I have ever met are Americans.
Ted is the inspiration for the Ted Culp character in my book KUROFUNE: The Black Ships. I was very fortunate to have met Ted and Laverne. I can only hope that Michel and Yannick have a similar experience as I had and sort out their own lives. I am sure they will.
This song is a reflection of an easier time in my own life:
The Kinks were one of the most under-rated band ever.