I refer to "us" in this story, but I really mean "me." I cannot speak for Paco or Julia. We all walk our own trails. I´ll keep it general, and tell you about my own experience.
From the very start, in the misty hill town of Sarria, we attended Mass every evening, starting on St. Lucy´s day. Then and there a Mercedarian priest told us about how a blind woman used light and darkness to describe our lives here on earth, and how someone who has a light within doesn´t even need to "see" in order to get on with her life. He blessed us after the Mass, he stamped our pilgrim credentials and said he would say a Mass the next day for Juli.
And in Sarria a restaurateur (at Restaurante O Camiño, right at the start of the town) gave Paco a book he´d written about the Camino, its culture and pilgrims and legends. Throughout our trip it provided a background for what we were seeing and walking. It was more light for our way.
Then your prayers started taking effect. Several of you said you prayed for us while we walked, and I gotta say you are some powerfully well-connected people. The week before we began, this trail was a nightmare of snow, sleet, mud, rain, and wind. But from the moment we set out it was blue skies and green fields, a bit of water, some mist and clouds, and one morning of drizzle. Nada mas que primavera. Someone was smiling on us.
|Julia, Ana, and Carmen|
But it all worked out. Things tend to do that on this trail.
And the trails, nicely set aside and safe from vehicle traffic, are peppered with candy wrappers, water bottles, cigarette packets, tissues, and human shit. Some of the most beautiful stretches are unspeakably polluted with pilgrim trash. I found a big 40-gallon bag in the blackberry bushes at one point near Ligonde, and filled it to the brim with empty plastic bottles and cans within a half kilometer. Disgusting. I suppose this is the price we pay for walking the most heavily-used portion of this very popular hiking trail. I wish something could be done, though. (Something to thoroughly shame to perpetrators.)
It was a beautiful walk in many ways, and very good medicine. But it was not a "fun" camino. It was a purposeful walk. I very intentionally used the Christian infrustructure that was put there over the years to achieve a spiritual journey, and it worked beautifully. The Camino is not just spectacular scenery and lovely people, it is chapels, shrines, crossroads-crucifixes, monasteries, waymarks, and memorials, all of them calculated to bring the traveler´s mind back from its wanderings to the Eternal Verities.
I kept a couple of disciplines. I carried a rosary, and I used it at the start of every morning´s walk to just get warmed-up and contemplative. I was not overly obvious about it (I am not usually very forthcoming first thing, anyway!) The other pilgrims noticed, though, and respected my silence.
The only other overtly Christian thing I practiced was saying a silent prayer each time I passed a church, shrine, crucero, or other devotional spot. There were many. It was not only a spiritual moment, it was a physical break, too. I stopped walking then. It was a rest.
And walking with Julia, you need rests. The woman may have 15 or more years on me, but she goes like a moto! The final long day I was feeling pretty weary when we passed up Arco de Pino, at the 21 km. post. I pointed out the oversight -- it was time to stop, I said.
But no! It was still early! The weather was still so good! Everyone felt fine!
And so we walked on. We walked, ultimately, another 13 kilometers, right into Monte de Gozo. It was as long a day as I have every put in on the Caminos, and Julia was still full of beans at the end of it all.
There in the cathedral, for the second time this year, I ran into George Greenia, an old friend from Virginia, USA. (this is extraordinary to the point of ridiculousness.) We met up with another old friend. Lunches were lunched, plans made, addresses exchanged.
Kim phoned me. Back up the trail, after Arzua, Kim had met a little dog. She´d spent her last dime on the creature, and the pilgrim albergues wouldn´t let them in. They were up against the wall.
Paco and Julia decided to drive on the Finisterre, the Atlantic beach where many pilgrims finally end their travels. There was no more I could add to their trip. So I headed to the Santiago airport, rented a car, and headed back up the trail and see what new gift Santiago had for us.
Her name, so far, is Rosey. She has a little black nose, a wiggly-waggly tail, and an underbite. If Lulu does not eat her she will fit in here just fine.
|christmas gifts: critters and maple-leaf mittens!|