A Pilgrim Tale: day eight

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Today is the first time I cry on the trail. I wake up in a funk. I have had my fill of other people deciding when I may and may not sleep, of sharing a toilet with 30 or 40 other people, of unpacking and repacking every. single. day. I am tired of no time to myself. No space.

Hear me say, “I love all the amazing people we are meeting on the Way!” Some of them will be forever friends. I am sure of that. Others are important encounters as we enter one another’s stories, for a moment, and talk about what matters. Conversations go deep more quickly here. Hearts are open. For this, I am grateful.

But…

I am in terrible need of a little quiet. I have journaled exactly one time in seven days. Last night I sat down at a table, pulled out my journal, and was promptly joined by a whole family we had met in the Church. As mentioned yesterday, we had a wonderful evening with their plus one. But, when we were done, I sent a couple of messages, posted a few pics to facebook, and it was curfew. I got to our room just as lights went out and had to brush my teeth without toothpaste because Mike (already asleep) had moved it.

So, between having no time or space to myself, having little say about when I sleep or what I eat, I am in a funk. I warn Mike first thing that it might be best for both of us if I not talk. At all. And for the most part, though we are always in sight of one another, we hike today alone.

I am tight all over and feel like I carry a stone in my chest. I pray. I listen to music. I drink in the beauty around us. But something is locked up inside me and I don’t know how to get past it. Then Audrey Assad begins singing in my ears…

I put all my hope on the truth of Your promise
and I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
and the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy.
Because you are good to me, good to me…
Your goodness and mercy shall follow me all my life…

And everything opens up. The tightness in my chest dissolves in tears, and accumulated griefs that are bigger than bathrooms and toothpaste and not enough quiet spill out my eyes. And this is the beginning of everything being better.

I will continue to wrestle with the tension of solitude and community. Whereas I expected a great deal of the former, I am experiencing mostly the latter. And maybe that’s why I am here. I’m not sure…

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Though I am preoccupied with my thoughts, I am not oblivious to the glory around me. We are back in the vineyards. These are littered with beehive huts. As the farmers live at some distance from their vineyards, they would have traditionally stayed in these huts as the grapes neared the pinnacle of ripeness so they might not miss that magic moment. Most are in various stages of neglect, but a couple are whole. Though not a fan of unsolicited graffiti, I have to smile when we pass one where someone has written “Albergue gratuite!” “FREE Wifi!” “Breakfast 3 euros”

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More snail gardens. They seem to love the anise. And I find myself wondering if you can taste the licorice when you eat them.

When we arrive in Logrono, a harvest festival is exploding all around us. The streets are thronged with people. There are streets artists, balloon bouquets, children in traditional garb; and in the plazas, smoke and food and great jugs of wine.

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We duck into the relative quiet of a cafe for a late lunch with David, Jan, Rhys and James. A well dressed woman in her late sixties comes over to our table. “Peregrinos?” she asks. “Si.” She tells us she too has walked the camino. Twice. Then she pulls up her sleeve to show us this:

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By mid-afternoon, the streets have cleared for siesta. We return to our albergue, where we join others crowding around the icy cold foot bath. We buy cans of cold beer from the vending machine in the courtyard and swap stories. And the conversation and laughter are good medicine.

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Later, there is a mass run to the mercado for picnic supplies, and we sit around tables in the courtyard and pass around cheese and bread, asparagus and chocolate, and pour glasses of wine, and spin the threads that continue to bind each of us to the other.

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Camino
David Whyte

The way forward, the way between things,
the way already walked before you,
the path disappearing and re-appearing even
as the ground gave way beneath you,
the grief apparent only in the moment
of forgetting, then the river, the mountain,
the lifting song of the Sky Lark inviting
you over the rain filled pass when your legs
had given up, and after,
it would be dusk and the half-lit villages
in evening light; other people’s homes
glimpsed through lighted windows
and inside, other people’s lives; your own home
you had left crowding your memory
as you looked to see a child playing
or a mother moving from one side of
a room to another, your eyes wet
with the keen cold wind of Navarre.

But your loss brought you here to walk
under one name and one name only,
and to find the guise under which all loss can live;
remember you were given that name every day
along the way, remember you were greeted as such,
and you needed no other name, other people
seemed to know you even before you gave up
being a shadow on the road and came into the light,
even before you sat down with them,
broke bread and drank wine,
wiped the wind-tears from your eyes;
pilgrim they called you again. Pilgrim.

*Thank you, dear Jan, for David Whyte. And for so many other gifts. xoxo