Three days into my pilgrimage, Monique and I arrived at Prémery which was the last section I would walk with her. The following day, I would be walking by myself for the first time – it would be my big start and I realised how much I had relied on her. I knew I would miss her advice, the chats we had, and her kind concern. From now on, each night, I would have to look at the map and judge how many kilometres I would be able to cover on the day, taking into consideration where the lodgings were as they could be two, three or more kilometres away from the path. I would have to deal with my insecurity and fear. The next morning, I checked and re-checked everything in my backpack, making sure that I did not forget anything. My throat was so tight that I could not speak, but I kept on smiling. I was taking my first step alone, like a baby, full of fear, hope and joy.
I got lost many times along the Vezelay’s Way as the symbols were quite far apart or non- existent. I would cross forests with no symbol; at each intersection it was a gamble with no one around to help me. Walking in a forest was another experience, as I lost my sense of distance, especially because there were no visible symbols and my insecurity came flowing back like running water.
There were very interesting events at the beginning of my pilgrimage: I had walked some kilometres through woods and fields when I arrived at an intersection in the middle of a forest. I could not see any symbols, even though I looked everywhere. I was gripped by fear and I did not know what to do. After some hesitation, I decided to turn to my right. I was very tense for the following few kilometres wondering if I had made the right decision, but I kept on walking just the same. After a while, I saw the symbol of the shell: I was safe. Tears welled up in my eyes and I started to relax a bit. I crossed more fields and I bathed in the solitude. As I calmed down, I began to enjoy walking alone, appreciating the beautiful scenery that this French region has to offer. It was a wonderful feeling, until, again, I could not find any symbols. Fear took over even more than before. I started to pray when suddenly I saw some little birds singing with joy along the track in front of me. I noticed a few on my right and only one on my left. The one on my left was singing higher notes than the others. The quick flapping of its wings and its high-pitched notes attracted my attention. The other birds flew away after a few minutes. Then the little bird from the left started to fly from left to right, right to left. Its voice was getting stronger and louder, as if it wanted to give me a message of courage and trust. It was magical and I started to walk again following the little bird. It did this dance until I arrived at another intersection where there was a symbol. Upon reaching the symbol, the little bird flew away. I had heard that if your mind and heart are open, strange things happen on the path though I was quite sceptical at the time, I kept an open mind. I rested against a tree to make sense of what had just happened, and, as I did, peace came upon me and enveloped me. It felt as if God or the Universe was sending me a message. It was unreal. I felt that no matter what, I would be safe always, and bit by bit I learnt to let go of one of my fears: fear of getting lost.
Translation: Elvira Sánchez