How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down…?


Though it’s a rhetorical question I sing, Derek Thompson has decided this one road matters! So, without any further ado, we present:


Some people call it The Pilgrim’s Way but my mother, God rest her soul, she named it The Road of Demons. She returned from each European trip less burdened and – in her own words – closer to God. I figure she actually meant further from the memory of her husband, my father. Last I heard he was still walking his own road and taking his demons along for the ride, housed in bottles like genies and eager for release.

She left us without warning on a spring morning, oh, two years ago now, when the blood red corn poppies swayed in the promise of summer. I tried with dad a final time, distilling my rage into tears for what had been taken and what would now be forever lost. He barely recognized me, while I saw something in him that only the saintly could forgive, and I wasn’t one of them.

The way I’d heard it from mom, he was one of the last demons she’d shaken on that long trail to Compostela, cast off at the roadside like dust from a sandal.

Two years on and I’m following in her footsteps, ready to lay my burdens behind me, step by step. Willing, at last, to stop blaming the past for a present that I perpetuate. I fancy sometimes that I hear her footfalls crunching on the ground beside me, or imagine her face peering out from the scallop shells when the sun strikes them just so.

I mark my time now, not by days or by the slowly turning shadows on sundials, but by the softening of my heart. It has been a long journey and my Pilgrim’s Passport is marked not only by the stamps of my refuge, but also by the indelible tales of my fellow travellers. We are all here for our own reasons, some seeking and some escaping. I’ve yet to decide which category is mine.

The night before we reached Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela I woke up sweating, gasping for air, and went out to the infinite stars. I knelt there, weeping, yearning for the conclusion of my journey, and fearing it too. The next day I lit a candle for my father and prayed for him, just like my mother.

Do you have the duende to walk this camino? (P.S. This is from the “Little Ashes” soundtrack…my husband–I MEAN–Robert Pattinson stars as the eccentric artist to end all eccentric artists, Salvador Dali)

Don’t forget to leave Derek a kind word and to share! Contest deadline is March 4th, 2017!!!

7 thoughts on “How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down…?

  1. Parisianne Modert says:


    Your words are a well orchestrated story of crystal clarity, a life’s pilgrimage dedicated to reflective & shared, human emotions lit in both irrevance and reverance. The contrast of these is believable in depth, because it embeds both the disillusioned mystery and the prayer offering.

    If Stephanie reads this, I would request that I be allowed to change my name to what I now go by on AWWYP.


  2. Tiffany V says:

    I appreciate the acceptance you write in the poetry of your character relationships, and the homage you pay to any and all brave enough to make this Spanish trek. I believe it is 400 miles from beginning to end. I also see veins of the magic you spin. It is a coming-of-age right of passage journey of acceptance (of self and other), shared in a story, and one that addresses the duality of them specific and the general when it comes to what we give names (and thereby power) to.

  3. Diane Cresswell says:

    This is a beautifully written piece Derek. I have read stories about those who have walked the Compostela and it has changed all who have participated in the journey. Also the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen is an excellent rendition of those who are looking to forgive and be forgiven. They are but steps along the journey, and your words lead us along the way. Masterfully done!

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