As we’ve begun to explore the woods behind Tiny on Shanti’s daily walks, we have been struck by the difference between walking here, in Ross Ferry, NS, and walking the Camino. The Camino has drawn pilgrims for thousands of years. There are dirt paths and cobbled roads and city sidewalks. Roman walls enclose some of the terrain. There are smaller and larger villages and even cities all along the way. There is even a given destination – Santiago de Compostela.
Behind our tiny house is forest. There are some paths – probably made by people logging in the past – but they are now covered with sphagnum, staghorn clubmoss, and other mosses and lichens we don’t easily identify, forming a soft green grey way. There are no yellow arrows or scallop shells to guide us. And it seems that other humans have not passed this way recently. There are fragments of old dishes on the red granite gravel road we walk up, but no footprints – not even of deer.
On our first morning’s exploration in the woods we tried to stay parallel to the Great Bras d’Or channel so we wouldn’t become hopelessly turned around. But we would lose sight of it as we tried to find ways to avoid the thick brushy patches of evergreens. It was much easier to walk between moss and fern patches that beckoned with their yellow, frost-touched gleam, than to follow a straight line. Since that first morning we’ve come to trust our general sense of direction a bit more, knowing that, at very least, we will eventually come upon the gulley that parallels the north side of Tiny that we can then follow home.
Across the channel there are no houses, there is no noise, there are no lights. Until the 20th century when modern roads were built, boats travelled the waterways, connecting communities. We could be in a Cape Breton equally as old as the Camino, where the “ways” were not paths on the earth, but more invisible ripples on water. While we deeply loved our Camino pilgrimage journey, we are grateful to be living in a place where the marks of human presence are the exception, rather than the rule.