Vacation - origin late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin vatio(n), from vacare (be unoccupied) (See vacate). Vacate - vacat 'left empty,' from the verb vacare. ~the dictionary widget on my computer.
I've been carrying around that definition on a miniature green index card for more than four years now. I originally wrote it down and began reflecting on its meaning when I first began writing this story. Pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike would use that word to describe why they went, or why they were there, or when they would go, or why you were going. How was your vacation? they would ask. It never seemed to fit to me, neither before my journey, and especially not afterward.
Vacare. A word that's sort of pleasing on the lips when you say it, but like a bad lover who looks very good, it promises much yet leaves you disappointed and insatiable. Again, and again, and again.
It's going to be five years since my journey, and it still doesn't fit, not in any traditional sense at least. I suppose we could get into discussions about vacation and emptiness in the Buddhist sense, and how one can experience emptiness on the Camino and it being a good or even a rapturous thing, but I wasn't thinking about emptiness in the Buddhist sense back then. I would tend to say the opposite, that what I experienced was fullness, and the opposite of unoccupied, and not by any means was I "left empty." I think there is no better way I can put it other than to say that one returns to one's self, or one awakens to one's self, without having the conscious foresight or knowledge that one was off one's self to begin with. Of course, there is that little matter that something drew you to the Camino in the first place, and that little matter can't be dismissed or trivialized. 'There are no little things,' I quoted in one of my entries, and indeed, urges and forces that draw you to that which is numinous deserve an altar of honor and play.
Vacare, vacare, vacare. I like the sound of that word. It would make a great vocalise, but it still has nothing to do with going on the Camino in my mind.
Marc and I had great mini-fights over that topic, by the way. He would prefer the term "discussions." The argument was always over his going on the Camino to be "free," versus my insistence that you can't escape life by checking into the Camino like a hotel once a year. The discussion would always start like this:
Yes, Deb, but here on the Camino I am free.
Free from what Marc?
Free from my life. I have many obligations: work, family, my vines, eh Deb? You don't have so you don't know.
Oh yeah? I know your obligations are waiting for you when you return, so you aren't any more free here than you are there.
But yes, Deb, here I am free! Just walking, meeting the peoples, laughing...free!
Do you really think you should use the Camino as a means of escape? It could be dangerous, you know. And besides, you're Catholic and this a pilgrimage. You're headed for Santiago.
Yes, Deb, it's very important, but today we are not there, we are here, and I'm free.
Hmm, sounds like escaping to me.
Escape. How do you say "escape" in French, Marc? Wait a minute, do you understand the word escape?
Escape? What is escape? How do you spell it?
E-s-c-a-p-e, exactly what you're doing on the Camino, Marc.
Well, since I am not sure what it means in English, I think it means free. (He laughs.)
Nope. (I laugh with him.)
Yes, I think so.
Nope. It means you run away.
Maybe...I don't know...Nooooo! Deb....okay...but only for a short time.
Short, long...doesn't matter.
Running away, Marc.
It's funny to me, because many times when I get a brief email from Marc he often closes his message with, "Run!" to tell me he has little time and must go, although clearly he isn't consciously referencing our former mini-fights. I would give a lot to sit across a table from Marc and have a café con leche and a discussion these days.
These days. Fateful words. Words which bring me back to why I'm writing again.