A Pilgrim Tale: day fifteen

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Whether we know it or not, we need to renew ourselves in places that are fresh and wild. We need to come home through the body of alien lands. ~Joan Halifax

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We rise before dawn, pack our gear, and walk up to the cafe for coffee and fruit before hitting the road. Several pilgrims are there before us, with road dust already in their shoes. They awoke at 3am to see a lunar eclipse. As we are somewhat disconnected from the world, we have missed the news of this phenomenon. We console ourselves by walking our first couple of miles into the radiant full moon.

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Five kilometers in, we pass through the ruins of the Convento de San Anton. I tell Jan that he is one of the patron Saints of Animals and she loves him at once. We notice several tau crosses, long associated with this order, and increasingly known as the Cruz de Peregrino (pilgrim cross).

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We come to the beautiful hill town of Castrojeriz around mid morning. Here, two wonderful surprises await us. The first of these is the Hospital del Alma (hospital of the soul). A door stands ajar along the main route through town. An inconspicuous sign bids all pilgrims welcome and requests that we honor the silence of this place. We step inside the cool, dark interior where herbs smoke in a bowl, the table is laid for tea, and all along the walls are lovely photographs with wise words underneath. We wonder through the rooms, then out to the garden which is filled with sculptures and plants, and where a meandering path leads to a grotto carved into the mountain. I find my breathing deepens and slows here. And the stillness flows into me and becomes something I can carry inside.

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The ideal man is he who, in the moments of most intense activity, knows how to find the silence and the loneliness of the desert. This man has achieved self-mastery. (One of the quotes along the walls.)

The other surprise we find at the cafe just down the street: Jorge, Kelly, and Cathy! We have not seen them since lunch at Orisson on day one. It seems Jorge encountered food poisoning, so they had to rest for a day. Though I am sorry for Jorge, I am delighted to see them again. Don’t worry that there is no photo here. You will see them soon enough. 🙂

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We pass the lads (and Isabelle) in Itero de la Vega. They have stopped here for the day, after waking at 3 for the eclipse. We grab lunch, then press on to Boadilla del Camino.

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All along the camino, we have passed field after field of sunflowers, many of them completely dry and full of seed. Yet, not once have we seen anyone harvesting them. Though I would still like to observe the machine that removes the seed from its head, I am pretty excited to finally see this.

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We secure lodging at En El Camino, one of the more memorable albergues of our whole trip. Though it doesn’t look like much from the outside, once you step into the courtyard, you are surrounded by an explosion of color. Lush plants, murals along the walls, sculpture, and a pool. Grapes grow all through the apple trees on the patio. And the sleeping quarters are in an old timbered house with bunks on the main floor, and cots in the floating, cantilevered loft.

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Though none of our party is brave enough to take the plunge into the frigid pool (some others do), we gladly sit along its edge and cool our feet. Our friend Adam is happy to find a fellow ukulele player who is traveling with ukulele in tow. It doesn’t hurt that she is pretty. 🙂

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After a delicious, hearty, communal Castillian meal, we drift off to sleep, full of memory…