A Pilgrim Tale: day five

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Do not forget that to live is glory. ~Rainer Maria Rilka

Up and out early walking through farmland and past towering haystacks where I half expect to see “Jack from Ireland”. (Inside joke for those who have seen The Way) We are joined for a while by an ebullient school group out hiking with day packs. They chatter a mile a minute and sometimes run ahead. One of them has a bag of tiny kinder eggs that he is passing out to his mates. He stops to hand one to me. 🙂

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Out across the rolling landscape, one can see several hill towns scattered about. Villages were built on hills: a. so that you could see the church from far away, and b. because they are more defensible. And here’s another thing: everyone lives in the villages. No farmhouses dot these great sweeping expanses of farmland. No sheds or barns. The farmers live in the village and ride their tractors out to their fields. Great towering windmills whir in the distance. We are slowly overtaking them.

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We have been playing leapfrog with Rhys and the guys all morning. Part way up the hill that will finally deliver us to the windmills, we stop under a scrap of tree for a rest and a snack. Claudia and Gabbi are eating yogurt from glass jars. Mike tells them the yogurt must be really good to justify carrying a glass jar all this way. Claudia assures him, it is. 🙂

Mike and Paul join us. Mike stretches out on the grass, and Paul enlists our help in a clandestine project. He has “borrowed” Rhys’s video camera. He assigns us all crazy tasks. For instance, I am supposed to describe the texture of egg salad. He will knit our responses together to make a hilarious little Camino souvenir for Rhys that she will not discover til she is home.

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At the top of the hill are iconic iron statues reminding us of pilgrims who have walked this way for centuries before us. The windmills stand sentry all along the ridge, as far as the eye can see.

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In the afternoon, Mike and I decide to take an optional detour out to Eunate, a beautiful 12th century Romanesque church with links to the Knights Templar who once were the guardians of the Way. It is extremely hot. And more than once, we will question our decision, especially when we learn that the church is only open to visitors at certain hours and that we will need to wait more than an hour to see the interior. We pull off our shoes and lie on the grass in the shade for a bit, then resume walking.

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On the up side, this walk has taken us past some of the most verdant farmland we’ve seen. Padron peppers are literally dropping from the plants. There are artichokes, asparagus, corn, sunflowers, olives…

In Obanos we run into new friends Tad and Melinda and walk the remaining 1.8k into Puenta la Reina with them. There is an albergue in the basement of Hotel Jakue, and this is where we decide to stay. We are assigned to the Paulo Coelho room(!) which makes both Melinda and me very happy. We talk about The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage and she tells me about his On Being interview. I load it onto my phone to listen to tomorrow.

After doing a little laundry, Mike and I walk into town to see the Iglesia del Crucifio, so named for the unique Y shaped crucifix brought here by medieval pilgrims from Germany. It is only one of three such crucifixes in all the world. We are unprepared for the impact of our encounter. The whole of it is carved of wood. And the figure of Christ is so compelling, so full of anguish, that I can’t breathe.

We don’t talk much about it. I think each of us is guarding this profound moment in our hearts in our own way. But when we are home, I will walk into Mike’s office one morning to find a postcard of this image leaning against his computer. And when we compile a list of “luminous moments” from the Way to share with friends, this is the first one he mentions.

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The remembrance of Christ’s sufferings cures the soul of rancor, so confused is it by the example of Christ’s love. ~St. John Climacus