Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Caminante, son tus huellas" por Antonio Machado

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

-Antonio Machado

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road–
Only wakes upon the sea. 

-Antonio Machado 

This poem was introduced to me this spring (2013) in an advanced Spanish conversation class, and I fell in love instantly. The English translation is presented here to give an idea of what the poem says, the meaning behind it.

Of course, por supuesto, the translated version does not quite capture the feeling or breadth of meaning given in Machado's original; that's to be expected. The words caminante, ("traveler," "walker," or even "pilgrim," though peregrino is technically the term for "pilgrim"), camino, and senda (both "path") carry meaning that cannot be conveyed properly in English.

I learned this poem in context with el Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of Saint James) - the lengthiest spiritual pilgrimage in the world (about 800 km), made by thousands every year for months at a time, from the west of France across the north of Spain to the city named Santiago de Compostela for the remains of St. James housed in its cathedral. Traditionally, pilgrims were Christians making the journey to visit the remains and to pay homage to the saint. Today, caminantes take part in the Way of Saint James for any number of reasons.

The shell is the symbol of the journey and can be found along el camino as a guide for peregrinos on the way.

The Way, a movie directed by Emilio Estevez, gives an account of a father (played by Martin Sheen) who commits to finishing el camino for his son (Emilio Estevez himself) after he dies walking it. Inevitably, the journey turns into a major spiritual experience for the father, who also meets some fellow peregrinos crucial to reshaping his outlook on life. I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in el camino, whether interested in taking it or just learning more about it. This film has become one of my favorites - not only because it works to inspire me to make the journey on my own - but also because of its killer soundtrack. ;)

As I am about to embark on my own adventure - to the city of good air in the country of silver - I reflect on this poem and on el Camino de Santiago with the hopes that I maintain the spirit of the peregrino, of the pilgrim, whose aim is to venture, discover, learn, be changed, deepen, broaden, and really live. Think Into the Wild.

At this point, I think I'll take the liberty to depart with a favorite excerpt of mine from Walden by Henry David Thoreau, whose account has inspired me to live fully and to take advantage of life's abundant opportunities.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

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