Day 1: St-Jean-Pied-De-Port to Roncesvalles

Last night, lying on my bed in the alburgue, I couldn't sleep. I kept wishing that I had more time to meditate, to write, to do all the things I wanted to do as a director before I began the Camino de Santiago. Today, as our ascent into the Pyrenees began, I got what I wished for... But I didn't see it that way at first.

For whatever reason, I had a hard time keeping pace with my crew today. Yes, this first day, hiking 24km up into the mountains out of France, is supposed to be one of the most physically challenging. But I was being truly wimpy. Pilgrims much older than I were passing me by. men riding bicycles up a mountain were passing me by. I told my friends not to worry about waiting for me, and pretty soon I could no longer see them.

At first, there was no meditation as I walked. All I could think of was putting one foot in front of the other. Then I got angry... Angry at myself for not doing better, angry at my friends for all being so fit, then angry at myself for even thinking such a thing. ( I seriously had a moment where I wished I'd hired a person I knew was less fit then me just so I'd look better at that moment. It's amazing what grumpiness can do.)

But then I fell in step with Jordie, an Australian woman who came to the Camino seeking mountains, a landscape so different from her Northern Australian home. I met a Norwegian who lives in Spain and actually knows about Winston-Salem and has been there several times (because he's in the cigarette business, a fact he was hesitant to share. Of course, I'm really glad he did.)

Just as I was saying to him that I was sure he'd be the only person on the Camino I'd meet who actually knew about Winston, this woman stopped. Her daughter, Aslan, went to UNC School of the Arts (my alma mater) for modern dance.

As the day went on, I caught up with my friends a few times, we stood together on grassy mountains and watched horses run by, laughed at sheep marked with red or blue dots on their bums, and feasted on our simple bakery lunches. But as I slowed down, because I couldn't help but slow down, I found myself meditating in the journey, the meditation I had so craved the night before. It took forgetting myself, letting go of any comparison to my friends, and focusing on the beauty of the new people I met for me to let go and be thankful for my slower pace. I am sure that, as the days go on, I will get stronger. But I hope each of us in this film crew has the opportunity to step out alone and be with others, even dare to be just with ourselves. Hopefully, as the days go on, I will take the time to choose that path, and not wait to be forced into it by circumstance.