Camino de Santiago, Spiritual Practice, Travel

My Camera as Spiritual Teacher

Yesterday, while walking alongside terracotta rolling hills, bright blue sky above bulging with huge pillowy clouds, my camera stopped working.  The fully extended zoom lens was stuck there, as if it had taken too much Viagra and couldn´t change its shape.  I pushed various buttons, trying to get it to budge, but no luck.

My first reaction was annoyance at my Nikon Coolpix, then at myself for buying it.  Since I decided to come on the Camino just a few weeks before I flew to Spain, I didn´t have much time to do research and shop around.  Indeed, in the spirit of the Camino (where one accepts the bed one is given, and the available food, rather than get too picky about it), I wandered into my local Office Depot which was about to move and was having a sale on almost everything.  Perhaps I could find a lightweight camera for less than $200?

I had my eye on another model, but the clerk couldn´t find the box and battery, so he offered me a slightly better one at the price of the first, but told me it would be final sale.  I decided to take my chances.  Standing there amidst the beauty, my mood tanked as I wondered if I had made a mistake, been too impatient or hasty with my decision.

Then I remembered a woman I met the first day, who told me she planned to take just a few pictures (for her mother, not herself).  There are many people walking without cameras, and I figured it wouldn´t hurt to spend the rest of that day absorbing the scenery rather than trying to capture it in myriad ways.   Did I really need to photograph every single of the 500 miles of the trail?  And I realized that I had been working the camera hard, zooming it in and out, snapping dozens of images a day, and probably not charging the battery as fully as I needed to since it took so long.

Perhaps my poor camera simply needed to rest.  As did I.

Later on, I spotted a church high on a hilltop, with craggy mountains looming behind it, undulating farmland below it.  It was the kind of scene I would have whipped out my camera for; instead, I stopped and looked at it, trying to record it into my memory.

When I got to the next hostel, I plugged in my camera.  After 20 minutes or so, the lens retracted and closed.  As the camera snoozed, I lay down and thought about all the things I saw that day.  The scene I remembered most vividly was that hilltop church, which I hadn´t photographed.  Without the camera as intermediary, I was more present.

Maybe, I need to consider putting my cute Coolpix away, or at least using it more sparingly.



About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais champion, Aikidoka and explorer of internal and external landscapes.

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