This is one of my most important stamps on this here journey. I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up after I got it.
I lost my Swiss Army knife somewhere before León. I had tied my pilgrim’s scallop shell to the zip of the pocket of the front pocket of my bag. As I walked the weight of the shell pulled the zip down and away went my Victorinox camping knife.
It was really important to me because my dad had one and it is a very vivid memory of my dad. His Swiss Army knife was sacred, holy, sacrosanct and not to be touched, handled, looked at, admired, desires, coveted, thought about or lusted over - without his permission.
I remember the knife was good for anything, as is the point and he probably enjoyed the power of being asked for it or being asked if he could put it to use to open a can, or open a bottle, or screw a screw in or out.
It was such a vivid part of my youth that I remember once my mum and brother surreptitiously took it to do some menial task and my brother cut himself. It’s a very, sharp memory I have of the rich, oxygenated blood pouring from his hands and my mother trying to arrest the bleed. They looked more petrified of what my dad would do or say when they found out that his knife had not only been violated but bled on.
I have never had caused to have one of hese babies, nor have I really wanted one until now. Having a camping issue Victorinox knife for me signified some sort of coming of age. I was a man. I am a man. Like my father was, and I can provide for myself, like he used to do but now I was my own and I could not be stopped. I was about to go from one corner of Spain to another. So what? I’m a man, man. I have a knife, and in fact the power that this knife had was only in the myth of it. In reality, it’s just a lightweight, well made, practical tool. However when I got it in Melbourne I felt this power, not for what it was but for what it meant for me to have one.
Then I lost it.
I was so fucking angry at myself, I HATED THE SCALLOP SHELL, I hated it with a passion. Why had my symbolism of manhood and what it meant to provide for oneself been stolen from me? Why had the universe, the Camino, this shell symbolising saint James and my sacrifice in his way been so cruel?
Then I put it in perspective, not the knife but the loss. I could have lost my medication instead, or my money, or the integrity of my bones, my health, I could have lost my passport! This walk is good for me and my soul. It has taught me patience, moderation and perspective. There is something about watching the sun rise or set and then seeing the might of the Milky Way appear, pointing to the town which bears its name, Santiago de Compostela. It does something to my problems. It puts them in perspective because what am I and my silly issues compared to the majesty and the might of the sun? Of the whole Milky Way, whose starlight has taken thousands, millions of years to reach my eyes. Here I am worried about a knife when the beauty of the Milky Way is asking for attention.
At the end of the day, it’s just a knife, one that had with it the way-too-heavy-and-impossible weight of my expectation. It cost less than $100. I got one that was even better in León for a WHOLE LOT less. And not only that, the store even gave me a stamp on my credential.
So now I have a new knife, the symbolism and the heavy albeit imagined weight of the old one has magically and thankfully not transferred over. This one is just a very useful tool to help me as I make my last 300km to visit the tomb of the saint. Maybe it’s fitting that his symbol, the scallop shell was the one responsible for me losing it. You can borrow this knife if you want? I won’t be as protective of it as my father was of his.
If you don’t return it though... you’ll see.
Well, in conclusion- I was so angry with that shell that I ripped it off my bag and I almost threw it away. I didn’t, I will attach it again with a new sense of pride, except maybe not on the zipper this time.
So when I went to see what features my fancy new knife had, I realised it was missing the toothpick. And I mean, I don’t use toothpicks because... why? And if you know anything about me it should be that I am mortally and absolutely terrified of talking to people, anyone, this is despite what I do for a living.
So, I was going to just leave it because who needs a toothpick and I don’t need it and I am just going to leave it but fuck it. This is new David, so I went back and got it fixed. This, ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between and outside that spectrum, is a new me.
I also had a chat to the shopkeeper and met his daughter and his wife. New. Me.
Some new photos of León are below.