Words and photos by Karly Siroky, Columnist
Our lives are the sum of micro movements. Every second of every day, an infinite number of unpredictable factors wholly predict the course we travel—the people we meet, our life experiences and where we find ourselves—right here, right now.
Independently, these factors seem trivial. A butterfly in Bali couldn’t possibly cause a hurricane in Bermuda. Or, could it?
When it comes to this theory, historically, I would call myself a skeptic. A doer, a dreamer, a manifester—if I can imagine it, I can achieve it. The big, sexy, provocative life changes that unwittingly earn you a following on YouTube? That’s what I’m known for.
For example, had you asked whether I could see myself walking across Spain, I would have laughed. Yet, it’s incredible what you can accomplish simply by placing one foot in front of the other.
Take, for example, this Camino.
Yellow arrows nudge us a little to the left, a little to the right. One lonely pilgrim walks alone till she is joined by a second, then a third till a thousand footsteps flock together in a miles long murmuration toward somewhere called Santiago.
Life measured in milligrams—plastic pouches of pills: Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D—192 total, I think little of their weight till I drop them into a pack already brimming with “the essentials.” Every ounce matters.
One drop of rain may seem innocuous, till it joins with another, and another, till suddenly your clothes, your shoes and your backpack are soaking wet.
Kilometer for kilometer, calorie for calorie, we strive to keep our bodies in homeostasis. Two walkers, one with legs an inch longer than the other, indiscernibly at first, one will cover far more distance than the other.
The snails which bravely endeavor to cross our path—their movement invisible to the impatient eye—assuming they are lucky enough to dodge a hundred hikers’ muddy boots, will they make it to the other side?
It’s the difference between HU-mmus and OO-mus. Ask a Spanish store clerk for the first and he’ll regard you quizzically. Ask him for the second and he’ll gladly escort you to Aisle 3.
One word mastered, then another, and all of a sudden you’re making conversation and reservations for five beds at the next hostel in a language you didn’t even know you spoke.
One plastic bottle plucked from a culvert and carried 1km to the next closest recycling bin. Does it make a difference?
When I really started to believe was after checking the pedometer built into my iPhone. Our longest day on the trail: 53,451. Rough calculations put our total steps from St Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago at well over 1 million.
These little cues and clues are there to guide us—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes, when it appears they may be leading us down a dark and mysterious path, we question their validity. Yet, we must trust, that through the mesas and mazes of our lives, they are pointing ever westward.
Micro movements are what bring us exactly where we need to be, exactly when we need to be there. In yoga, the slightest shift in alignment and a stretch is deepened. Decimal rotations to our internal compass where ESE becomes NNW, and we keep ourselves pointed in the right direction.
What control do we have over these movements? Is there such a thing as free will? Are our whole lives predetermined? Do we have any semblance of agency over our future?
The key is not to force any of it. We can no more predict which door will lead us to the right answer than we can cast a grain of sand into the ocean, dive down, and snatch it up again. We must instead keep an open mind, trust in what is, follow the yellow arrows and believe that what we are seeking is also seeking us. We must lay on our backs in the river, and let the current carry us as it may.
For example, three days after completing my Camino, I found myself rehabilitating in a tiny fishing village on the Spanish coast. Placing my feet in a pool of saltwater, I was joined by a young man from Austria. As pilgrims do, we exchanged the colloquial greeting:
“How are your feet?”
Connecting over our mutual Achilles pain, the conversation quickly morphed from physiological to psychological. He shared with me his hopes and dreams. Truthfully, instead of working as a software engineer, he felt called to serve others. I pointed out that perhaps he had a future as a coach on the Camino. A spark flickered.
“That’s it!” he exclaimed.
Later that day, he thanked me for potentially altering the course of his life.
My American friend, a spitfire of a redhead, walked the Camino last year. As she passed through a blink of a village, a group of fellow pilgrims beckoned her inside a nearby school. The teacher, knowing his students may never see the big wide world, brought the world to them, asking passing pilgrims to share a story, song or saying from their home country. She chose the choogie-woogie dance.
Months later, the Portugese pilgrim who was watching amusedly from the shadows that day marks that moment as the beginning of their romance. She moved from Seattle to be with him. In addition to a charming apartment, they now share a tiny plot in a community garden, growing vegetables from seed, and so much more.
As the sun filtered through onto our urban picnic, we toasted over glasses of vino verde, and he looked into her eyes, “To the small and beautiful things of life.”
Change need not always be earth-shattering. Sometimes, small is powerful.
Karly Siroky is the founder of Karma, a brand strategy and visual design studio that helps nonprofits, small businesses and altruistic organizations place people and planet over profit. She and her team believe that good goes around. In 2013, Karly traded her corporate cubicle for the open road and remote wilderness. Her column offers a heartfelt look into life as a digital nomad, entrepreneur and servant leader of a creative team. Karly also serves as Lucia's design advisor, helping craft, guide and nurture our visual identity.