All along the way, summer fruits are either waiting to be harvested or have reached their potential and fallen to the ground fermenting in the creases of paths and edges of the road. The corn is the call for me to draw on a tune from Oklahoma! The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye and it is a beatiful morning! The fallen chestnuts are making it easy for various creatures to gather food and crushed by passing vehicles are offering up their inside flesh to be mashed up – I wonder if roasted chestnuts are a thing in Portugal.
Each tree seems to be weighed down by it’s fecundity. The word that appears for me on this day, is abundance. For as far as the eye can see there is food for every living creature and for eons cultivated land feeding generations of families, farm animals and pilgrims in this hierarchy of the food chain.
My eye is constantly drawn to what is familiar – pears, figs, apples, grapes, olives and limes. The briars of currents, blueberries and wild rose hip take a while to recognise and all the familiarity of European influence from the adventurous explorers that sits in my DNA wakes up and finds its way through my senses. There are plenty of gum trees too – and the baby blue gums bring their gun metal grey blend into the landscape and remind me of home more than once. With the familiar and the known there is always the opportunity to dig a bit deeper and see what might not be immediately seen. I stretch my sights to look for other species, find a squirrel, some ants and then a butterfly, feeling reassured there is more than fruit.
It took a while to find the right path, such a fitting way to start the Camino in Barcelos. Having arrived in Porto, the day before, more than 12 hours late at 330am and having not enough sleep, I was willing to follow any yellow arrow. But like all instructions in any landscape, a local is best to give guidance and eventually succumbing to local knowledge we found our path out of the town. It had been a circuitous entry into the camino and I loved the poetry of that, even though by the end of the day the extra kilometres were unwelcome by most parts of my body. Keep on walking is the only instruction and locals remind us all with love and kindness, exclaiming ‘Buon camino’ as they pass us on their daily village chores and like their ancestors continue to recognise us as pilgrims even when we don’t know that about ourselves. We get an instruction to slow down more than once – first in Porto from a guide and on the road to Ponte de Lima, from a villager with an umbrella who knows what is ahead for us and wants us to savour what his landscape has to offer us.
At the end of the second day of walking there has been an abundance of rain and after walking all day in it, there is not one part of my body dry. All I am going to say is North Face has a lot to answer for and the rain jacket was the subject of false advertising. The evening stop brings invisible and visible support and I find I go to rest, with a new heavy duty poncho for the days ahead that will be raining too, paper towels to dry shoes, shower caps are promising to improvise to protect and hold, and a laundry bag that will be turned into a backpack cover. I did read the instructions to bring good wet weather gear and thought I had …. but my wet weather experience from the driest state on the driest contintent is not the knowledge I needed to draw on.
It is always what is known that takes us to new places and from that place we are stretched. There are learning opportunities, there is the call to discover how to integrate, recognise and decode what is known and unknown, the challenge to respond to a mounting body of evidence that you are not prepared for what is here and what lies ahead – this is abundance.
Drenched from the rain, the skies have opened to place one more drop on another, and then another and so it goes until I am so soaked there is no where else for the rain to go and the water meets the road and perhaps …. just perhaps … combines with the fermented fruit and water turns into wine.
The harvest is yet to be made, even though all the trees and vines are so pregnant that look like they may soon collapse under the weight of their fruit. Just like any soon-to-be mother they have dropped and they will deliver soon. More than once, I instinctively default to the most ancient of prayers in my canon – Hail Mary full of grace. To be full of grace first before the child is delivered, resonates with me, in this pregnant food bowl of northern Portugal. And what would it look like for me to be full and about to burst? is this the lesson of the rain? What sparks might fly?