A Pilgrim Tale: day ten

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Listen. Put on morning.
Waken into falling light.
~W.S. Graham

On the road before dawn, we watch the sun bleed into the sky in gentle swaths of pink and purple, like water moving through cloth. Underneath this sky lies a patchwork quilt of red earth, green fields and the white stubble of harvest.

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We have begun the day walking with Rhys again. In Azofra we join David and Jan (her camino parents) outside a cafe for breakfast. Rhys’s ankle will begin to haunt her later in the day and she will have to stop short. We will reconnect one last time in Burgos.

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We spend part of the day walking with John who is retired from the military. He has some pretty fascinating stories about his various deployments. Now he leads hiking expeditions all over, mostly to places nobody has ever heard of. This is his second time to walk the camino. James, who we met yesterday, is also walking with John. It is good to get a bit more of his story as well. But they are too fast for us, and we eventually bid them Godspeed.

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Gathering clouds provide us with rainbows for a while. The sky is an ever-changing canvas. Mesmerizing.

We walk 28 kilometers today, a bit farther than usual, to insure we make it to Grañon. The parochial albergue here, San Juan Bautista, is legendary on pilgrim forums. Tonight, we will find out why.

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The hospitalero who registers us is a volunteer from Germany. He explains to us how things work. We will all gather at 4:00 to wash and chop and make preparations for the communal meal. Vespers is at 5:00 in the church below, then dinner. He shows us to our attic room where mats are spread out on the the floor. We have arrived with Jan and David. Soon we are joined by the lads (Lasse, Mike, Paul), the newlyweds (Damien and Psicobeta), friends Claudia and Felipe, Davi and Noe, and a new friend named Winnie. Winnie is the first person we meet who has had a personal, and painful, encounter with bedbugs.

Dinner is soup and salad, bread and wine, and it is DELICIOUS!! Crazy how all the pieces and parts we washed and sliced come together to make something so wonderful. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the Camino itself–this weaving together of individuals into a whole that is so much more. There is conversation and laughter, and passing of bowls and bottles, and it feels for all the world like the very best family holiday dinner you have ever been to.

After dinner, we all help wash up. Then we gather in the choir loft of the church, in candlelight, for a time of reflection. People tell a bit of their story, or sing a song, or just sit and take it all in. A young woman, whose name I wish I remembered, (Isabelle–Thx, Damien!) sings The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, “the language of Jesus”, she says, “and the language of so many who are suffering right now”. Her voice is clear and strong and full of love, and excruciatingly lovely. This is a profoundly sacred moment.

Later, I crawl into my sleeping bag and ponder what it might be like to come back here and volunteer myself. Someday…

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Paul demonstrating the use of a communal wine bottle. No, he did not drink all of it. 😉

Travel Note: If you should decide to walk the Camino yourself, PLEASE, do yourself a favor and stay at Albergue San Juan Bautista in Grañon. It is the kind of extraordinary experience that can only happen on The Way. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll see you there…