Ebb & Flow

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CW Johnson Ebb Flow sketch Santa Colomba River, with pilgrim.
The author on a river crossing near Santa Colomba on the Camino Francés, September 2021. Photo-illustrated sketch adapted by the author from an original photograph by Anne Johnson.

Ebb & Flow

by CW (Chuck) Johnson | Champlin, MN

I awake refreshed, or at least refreshed enough.
Daily pilgrim chores—repacking my pack, securing a bed, hand-washing laundry—
have become as routine as brushing teeth.
I find my rhythm on the trail or maybe the trail’s rhythm finds me.
I am present. No past. No future. Only now.
   Anxieties melt away.
    Confidence crests.
     My mind empties,
      And flows
       With the moment,
        With the beauty
         of my surroundings,
          With admiration for
           my fellow pilgrims,
            With serenity,
             With Him.
My body is wrapped in a quilt of gratitude,
And within that moment I’ve arrived.

Then, like a wave breaking on the beach and retreating to the sea, it dissipates.
The bruising on my feet can’t be ignored,
The rumble in my stomach requires attention,
A queue for the toilet irritates,
A forgotten worry reforms,
My pace is too slow, my clothes didn’t dry, the day is too hot…
I am distracted by my frailties,
And no longer float within the moment.

This wave will crest and break and recede again.

And again.

One of these times I hope to find a way to bottle it,
Or at least become so thoroughly drenched that the moment lingers longer.

Editor’s note: This poem is from Johnson’s collection of poems, stories, and songs, So I Walk: Poems, Songs, Legends and Lore of the Camino de Santiago (self-published, 2023, find it on Goodreads).

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