Things did not go to plan. My reliable German alarm clock, Toby, surprised himself and me by sleeping in! Then there was a bit of a scramble in the small room as ten of us tried to get up and pack for departure simultaneously.
Mid morning Kathy and I stopped for an impromptu picnic with Jan and Christian on a hill overlooking the town of Astorga. They had been walking for three months and were well equipped with utensils and food; I watched in awe as they delicately sliced food into small portions to share with us. Christian sat beside me, and although I had felt blessed by his loving fatherly touch a week before, I found it a little too much that morning. I really enjoyed our picnic initially, but after a while I became anxious to move, and we left to continue our descent, leaving Jan and Christian to savour the view.
Arriving in Astorga, I headed to the albergue to register and drop off my stuff while Kathy waited at an outdoor café across from the Gaudí building. We had both wanted to see Gaudí’s work, but it was Monday and the building was closed. So we sat and had some lunch as Kathy battled with her decision to stay in Astorga or walk on further. She was very tired and conflicted. At one point she went and lay on a bench to get some rest while I watched over her rucksack. I began to feel hopeful that she might stay, but I didn’t apply any pressure. While I sat on my own, Eugene and Heather came to join me, enquiring about Kathy’s whereabouts. Then when Kathy returned we sat again for a while until she announced she was leaving, and I accompanied her to the outskirts of town. After we said goodbye, I watched her walk on ahead, noticing how tired she looked with the weight of the huge rucksack on her back. I wandered aimlessly around town afterwards and I was struck very quickly by the loss I felt at her departure.
I felt so sad. I knew I would miss her, but I really, really missed her, and although I hoped to bounce back after a nap, the feeling of loss stayed with me. In the supermarket, I wandered around hoping for inspiration, but I couldn’t make a decision, so I bought some water and sat on a bench in the square. All my energy seemed to have drained out of me; part of me wanted the Camino over because in some ways I felt it was.
In retrospect, I understand more about what was important for me about meeting Kathy and why I missed her so much. She had the capacity to see me and accept me. I felt seen by her as me, rather than some version of me that she might have imagined me to be. Furthermore she was sufficiently contained within herself to listen deeply and I felt safe to share my inner world. I didn’t need to edit my expression or wear a protective mask. In short, we were kindred spirits. Given that, it’s not surprising I felt her absence intensely; such an experience in everyday life is rare. Back home in Colorado, Kathy worked as a school teacher and studied spiritual psychology at Santa Monica University; in my view, what she had could not be studied – it was simply who she was.