A Pilgrim Tale: day seven

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We leave our communal breakfast this morning full of anticipation. Early on we will pass one of the more popular landmarks of the Way: The Bodegas Fuente del Vino. For many years, these wine making families have refreshed pilgrims along their journey. A sign posted beside the fountain reads (approximately), “If you want to get to Santiago with strength and vitality of this great wine, take a drink and toast to happiness.”  Each pilgrim shows remarkable restraint, pouring only a few sips into cup or water bottle, insuring that those who arrive later in the day will also be served.

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If you should decide to walk the camino, I can’t imagine a lovelier time than autumn with voluptuous clusters of grapes dripping from the vines, freshly mown cereal fields, feathery fronds of white asparagus, and congregations of sunflowers that look as though they are praying, heavy with seed. We climb up to one hilltown after another. In Azqueta, we stop to admire two ancient grapevines that have had their way with one of the village houses, climbing all the way to the third story.

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Near Villamayor de Monjardin we are happily caught in a sheep stampede. We have been watching the flock move across distant hills for almost an hour before we finally meet. Later in the afternoon, we will pass another shepherd, resting in the meager shade of the only visible scrap of tree with his dogs and one of his flock, looking every bit the part of The Alchemist’s Santiago. Except for the cellphone in his hand, of course. 🙂

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We land in Torres del Rio for what will prove to be one of my least favorite albergue experiences of the trip. Not because of the albergue itself, which is clean and bright with an open window looking out over the church, but for people banging impatiently on the shower door almost as soon as I get in and rushing me out of the bathroom, and old men who insist on walking around in their tidy whities. Nobody wants to see that.

We walk around to the beautiful 11th century Knights Templar church, Iglesia de Santo Sepulchro. The lady taking our humble 2 euro donations is gruff and businesslike and looks tired. Once several of us have seated ourselves around the perimeter of the church, snapping photos and drinking in the beauty, she signals, rather humorously, that we should try singing. (I have read that the acoustics are extraordinary.)

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Mike and I begin to sing the Exapostilarion of Pascha, a hauntingly lovely hymn with simple, but beautiful harmonies. Something happens to the sounds in that place and they become a music far more exquisite than what spilled out over our lips. When we are done, our hostess’s face is radiant. “Muy Bonita!” she breathes. And she is completely changed. Later, as we sit at a table outside our albergue with the folks we met in the church, she walks up behind me and kisses me on the cheek. And I am reminded that music is a language of the soul and that connections of the heart sometimes have nothing to do with words.

One of the people we meet in the church is Kendra, striking both because she is very pretty and because she laughs easily. We have dinner together and discover that she has been part of the community at Trinity Grace church in New York, a church planted by our friend, Jon Tyson. She has just left her job as a textiles designer at Gap, moved back home to Philly and, like many of us, finds herself in a place of transition. Walking with open hands…

The readers will find in my diary a random collection of what I have seen of the road, views somehow remaining in my heart.
~Basho