The loneliness of this entire journey has only made the company that we have come across all the more valuable. Via Francigena is not as popular or well known as the Camino and because of this you rarely come across any fellow pilgrims. But when you do there is a shared delight at meeting another human who is on the same journey as you. The solitary human exhausted from travel finds comfort in meeting someone else who ‘understands.’ Since the beginning, at Canterbury, we had heard of a lonely Italian who had left the day before us and the other day we found his breadcrumbs at a place of rest in Thérouanne (a cold bowl of pasta left behind and a small note in the guestbook). I feel as if I am chasing after this Italian now who I will most likely never meet. The mystery is fun to entertain at the very least.
Nic and I find only welcoming places to rest our fatigued bodies and the kindness of everyone we have met amazes me. I am grateful for even the smallest bit warmth– just a smile, please just smile at me and I will be grateful. I am at the beginning of my pilgrimage and I am filled with only love and gratitude (sometimes my heart is weighed down by past pains that show up in unexpected ways, but that is alright). I am in love with the world that I have the privilege to be in and I could not ask for more. Once I have reached the end in three months time I cannot even imagine the person I will have become.
Tonight Nic and I are staying in Amettes. A kind French woman has opened her home to pilgrims and provides not only a refuge but also food to eat. We are joined by two other Italian pilgrims, although they have opted for the faster way: they are travelling by bicycle. Over the course of dinner (a simple meal of potato and bread and egg) we had too much beer and shared in both joy and laughter. I cannot say that I have had so many enjoyable meals before in my life because each night, each dinner, has been special.
Tomorrow we are leaving for Villers Châtel, which is slightly off of the original path, but we want to stay in the castle that is there. The French woman who is giving us a place to stay tonight night told us about it and said she would call ahead to secure lodging. The only worry is whether or not we will make it there tomorrow (I have twisted my ankle and cannot walk very well right now). However, I feel confidant in our abilities, and my tendency to push through all pain.
My brother, Joseph, has been sending me messages over the course of my pilgrimage and he reassures me that I am a painting in his mind, which is all I could ever ask for quite honestly. I know I have love back home and I know that I have love inside of my tiny body that will push me forward. Joseph believes that I am on the path towards enlightenment, but he also tells me that he believes I have been on this path for a long time. Sometimes I wonder if he is right, but mostly I feel as if I could never truly be an enlightened individual. I only know that I have more than I could ever need or ask for, and yet the world is still trying to give me more (perhaps it is a trick, perhaps the world is trying to burden me so that I cannot escape).
In three months what will become of me? Would anyone like to take a few guesses? Please, I would like to know who I may find waiting for me in Rome.
I want to share other thoughts with you soon, thoughts that do not pertain solely to this journey.
My heart aches right now,