It’s Time To Clear Off the Tables

Photo via Unsplash

Last night I had a dream about climbing a snow-covered hill on the Camino.  I could see a group ahead of me, Christina and some other familiar faces among them, all cresting the hill and out of sight.  It wasn’t snowing, but there were at least six inches of thick wet slush on the trail, weighing down each step. Suddenly, a strong wind lifted me off my feet and carried me, not unlike a bird caught in a crosswind, off the trail and into an adjoining field.  I saw my fellow pilgrims getting further and further away, continuing on as I stood far from the path.  Just up the hill from my landing place, was the extension of a long, endless cafe.  The building began at the crest of the mountain, back on the Camino itself, but stretched out all the way to my part of the field, like a long one-floor corridor with old dusty windows and wood-framed doors.

When I walked up to see inside, rows and rows of unused, antique cafe chairs and tables lined the corridor, clearly untouched for years.  It had a spooky, forgotten quality, and I worried in the dream that I might see something unexpected in the shadows of the dream cafe.  But suddenly, in the distance back by the trail, I saw the cafe’s lights begin to flicker on, showing signs of life for the first time in what was clearly a long time.

As quickly as the first gust came along, another gust of wind lifted me back to the Camino and I enthusiastically began to climb to the snowy hill to catch up with my fellow pilgrims.  The incline became so steep that I began digging my hands into the snow, pulling myself up the hill.  But I wasn’t angry or afraid at this point, just fighting through the all-too-familiar exhaustion faced at the end of each Camino day.

At the top of the hill, I saw my friends already heading down to the bottom.  And to my right was the cafe, slowly transforming into a fireplace-filled, cozy haven, pilgrims slowly getting their cafe con leches and taking their places together at each table.  The owners were wiping off the dusty tables and flipping lights on one at a time, heading back and back across the snowy hill where I had just stood.

I tried to call out to my friends, but they couldn’t hear me.  All I wanted to do was wipe off the dusty tables too, help prepare a place for all my fellow pilgrims to sit, rest, and talk, but I didn’t know how to stop moving without feeling lost or left behind. Though I woke up before I could make a decision, I felt comforted to see this dream cafe reopening, the tables getting cleaned off, the old dark corners of the meeting place becoming lit up after years of darkness in the snow.

I woke up with this dream infiltrating my conscious thoughts, the feeling of the snow between my fingers and the exhaustion of the climb still present. I couldn’t shake the feeling of longing to clean off the cafe for everyone to rest for a moment and check in with each other.

Then Ben came out of the kitchen and told me the news from Las Vegas.

Now, I can wax poetic all I want about our community coming together, sitting at a Camino-esque cafe together to figure out how our humanity can possibly move forward past this constant and preventable tragedy, but I know that poetry without action can be just as bad as staying silent.  And so I feel frozen at the moment. I feel like we are on a never-ending path of useless discourse and bickering, a cyclical debate about how many lost lives are worthy to spark change.

I went back to the Camino to be reminded that humans will fiercely care for one another in the moment without even knowing the other person’s name. I went so I could swim in the ocean of non-apathetic society.  And I found it–again.  We were all there–all religions, political views, cultures, backgrounds, ages, races, moving forward together. No one more important than anyone else.  And now I mourn our global incapacity to do so off the trail.

Since I’ve returned, I’ve seen so much self-ignored fear, so much denied trauma, so much swallowed anger.  And it leads to this inexplicable exhaustion in so much of our culture–this fatigue, an annoyance with life, work, and change.  And so when events as horrific as the hurricanes, the shootings, the racial inequality continue to occur, so many of us shut down in shock, we hide in denial, we say, “No that can’t be true!  You’re being dramatic!  Why do you have to be so angry?”  Because if we were all forced to face these tragedies face on, if we have to truly accept that they could have been stopped or lessened by our actions, then we would have to face the difficult healing and mourning process that we have pressed down for decades.  We would have to hurt.  We would have to change.

This is what something like the Camino does.  It says, “Look at your pain!  It’s right here, you can’t deny it anymore.”  So you either keep walking or you sit the fuck down and lean on your fellow pilgrim.  If you’re angry, you scream, if you’re sad, you cry, and if you’re hurt, you let yourself heal.  There’s no room for destructive denial masked as clever logic.

I’m angry and I’m sad today, and I so painfully long to sit at an endless table with my fellow pilgrims, my fellow people of the world.  Together, we’d find the answers.  I don’t know what to do right now, because I am still processing what I, as one person, can possibly do.  So in the meantime, I will clear off the cafe tables the best I can–I will try to find a way to make space for new answers–and pray, hope, invite, and demand that we come together and sit down soon to figure out a better way to live.



I’ve turned off comments on this post because this writing was simply for me to process how I’m feeling today–and I realized the logic may not make sense to everyone.  Please consider sitting with the ideas that came up for you instead of responding.  Thank you as always for reading.

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