I have already received many BIG holiday gifts for this year... they were Camino related. Not only was the trip literally gifted to me in great part by family and friends, but, on the Camino, I received many more gifts: new friendships, new experiences, and now, precious memories.
I was able to appreciate the Camino on both the micro and the macro levels through my senses:
The visual beauty of the Spanish countryside: rocky and hilly terrain, the bright spring greens of the vineyards, orchards, and fields, the gorgeous fat, puffy clouds, the buildings, roads, signage, and fountains...all created from local stone... the insects, slugs, and lizards that were visible to me because I was moving at the speed of feet.
The sounds of cuckoo birds (real ones!), cows, sheep, horses, and chickens... all part of the daily walks. I'm not sure I would count the sounds of the many snorers in each hostel as a gift, but it was certainly an experience!
I touched smooth stones, felt the result of a run-in with a stinging nettle, and touch-tested figs (they were, sadly, hard and under-ripe). My strongest touch memories were felt in my feet...making sure they were connecting securely with Mother Earth at each step.
My sense of taste was delighted by fresh cherries picked as we walked past cherry trees...Spanish green olives...cheap and easy to find in la groceria. I loved my morning tea con leche calliente (tea with hot steamed milk). I totally enjoyed my occasional real Coca Cola (made with sugar, not corn-syrup), Spanish chocolates from the chocolate factory in Astorga, and fresh fruit! Nothing better than a break for an orange and a short rest!
My sense of smell was a special delight on the Camino as my allergies were not acting up...no pollen sensitivities! I loved the freshness of walking in the woods and through the countryside. Later, though, I did NOT love the consistent and persistent cow manure aroma. But, being able to smell it caused me to appreciate when it stopped...when I set foot in the eucalyptus groves, the cow smells were magically gone! And, when I stepped out of the groves, they (just as magically) reappeared. Mom Nature is powerful! On the last part of my Camino, I walked alone and was very conscious that I wanted to be fully present for this very special time in my life. I literally took time to stop and smell the roses...all of them...at least one sniff from each of the 100s of rose bushes I walked past. Priceless!
Remembering my wonderful (and priceless) Camino experience puts me to thinking about holiday gifts...perfect seasonal gifts! I want to give the gifts of good company...delightful times shared with people I love; the gifts of good health (could be a regular walk date with a friend, some healthy vegetarian cooking, a nasal wash kit, or some "attaboys" to raise spirits); gifts of love (check out the book "The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate" by Gary Chapman to get a "heads up" on how these work). How about gifts of creative joy? When you receive a hand-made gift or when you work together to create a wonderful holiday lights display, special ornaments, when you decorate your home to welcome others...or cook special foods for others, create a special holiday story...very creative and joy filled! As special as sense memories are, what might a gift of delight for the five senses look, taste, smell, feel, and sound like? Unlimited possibilities to show love here!
May you receive all these gifts and more this holiday season!
P.S. I received an e-mail on the topic of "better" gifts...those produced in the USA by and for Americans...the concept: gifts of services...hair cuts, car washes, house cleanings, plowed driveways, cut lawns...you get the idea. AND, if you patronize local restaurateurs, local crafts persons and musicians they will be putting their earnings back into this community...and we will enjoy their creations...a win/win solution! The e-mail closed by saying that when we make these local purchases, we encourage our local businesses to keep plugging away at their dreams. I am ALL about supporting dreams!