Tag Archive - Family

Ripened Love

love

Give me a ripened love
full of recollection…

love tender and fragile in
the wild, impatient spring when
romance was new and
each day a discovery

love that has borne
the heat of summer defending
its yield against storm
invader
drought
sending roots deep
to drink the earth

love that has endured the
measured violence of pruning
and known the consolation
of the Gardener

Give me a scarred love
bent by wind, whose branches
tell a story long in the making
fruit distilled
to a warm dark sweetness

ready for the pressing
and aging
still to come

and the final surrender
and the drinking up

~sm

for my darling who has loved me long

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A Pilgrim Tale: epilogue

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It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.

~Selma Lagerlof

Mike and I take the bus to Finisterre. It is the first time I have ridden in a motorized vehicle in five weeks. It feels strange. We pass a lemon tree, and I realize I can’t smell it. A woman works in her garden, but there is no scritch scratch of the hoe. When we first glimpse the sea, I don’t smell the salt, or feel the ocean breeze, or hear the birds. Everything is at a remove. Like I am watching the world pass by on television.

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Long before the discovery of the “new world”, Celts and Romans called this westernmost town of Galicia Finisterre because they believed the world ended here. They named the coastline el Costa da Morte, Coast of Death, because so many ships sailed from here, never to return. Finisterre was a place of pilgrimage even before Santiago as ancient peoples came here to see the place where every day the sun died.

It is not uncommon for Santiago pilgrims to continue to Finisterre and/or Muxia. We do not have time to walk it, so we have chosen to ride here for a couple of recovery days before flying home. Jan and David, on the other hand, began the walk this morning, and we made our most difficult goodbye yet, waving to them from the window til we could not see them any longer.

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The Hotel Langosteira, feels like a little slice of heaven. Bright, light-filled rooms decorated in white and blue with whimsical touches of colored glass, mosaic, and reclaimed wood. And our balcony overlooks the sea. All for just 40 euros/night. Oh yeah, and we have a bath that we do not have to share with anyone! I take LONG, HOT showers just because I can. πŸ™‚

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On our second day, we walk out to Cape Finisterre. Here we see the Faro Lighthouse, a cross, a bronze boot, and several burn sights where pilgrims have incinerated various items they do not plan to take home. Mike and I seat ourselves on a rock and are looking out over the sea when I sense someone approaching us from behind. Suddenly a familiar voice says, “It’s really pretty, huh?” Jorge! We knew they were heading this way sometime today, but figured the odds of our running into one another were low. But what does camino magic care about odds?

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We follow him round the hill to find Steph and Kathy, both of whom ceremonially toss their boots into the sea. Or thereabouts. πŸ˜‰ Jorge launches a pair on behalf of Catherine who has already begun her homeward journey. We take one more crazy group photo and give one last round of hugs. Then, Mike and I watch them walk up the hill. I can’t look away until the last of them has vanished into the sky. And I know this pain of leaving is part of the price of having known and loved such amazing people. It is a price worth paying.

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Mike and I carefully make our way down to a large rock near the foaming surface where we can feel the spray against our face. Here we sit for a very long time without saying anything, just letting all of this–the excruciating beauty, the accumulated fatigue, the hard letting go, the satisfaction of completion, the whole extraordinary experience of these last few weeks–have its way with us.

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We walk back to town and have a late lunch near the harbor. I spend the rest of the afternoon journaling. Trying to capture the stories while they are still fresh in my mind. Hoping the rough notes I have written in snatches here and there, along with the photos, will help me remember. Because they are stories worth telling. Of this I am sure.

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Recollection is the final discipline of the pilgrim-poet-traveler, which entails recalling the vows taken before departing, revering the idea that once we have been blessed with the gift of the journey, so now we must bless. We can continually recall beauty through the practice of memory, through daily acts of imagination that seize the moments that once seized our hearts…

The art of pilgrimage is the craft of taking time seriously, elegantly. What every traveler confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel…is the way we spend our lives.

~Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

*Thank you, Jorge, for the group photo.

A Pilgrim Tale: day thirty-three

I don’t remember rolling up my sleeping bag or packing away my gear for the last time. I don’t remember walking down the hall to brush my teeth, or lacing up my boots. But I am sure I did all these things.

I do remember that the sky was the color of rose petals. And the air was cool, but soft. And we walked mostly downhill, til we were in the city. There was a monument. Then the city was like any other.

And not like…

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We breakfast at a cafe where we see the familiar tortilla. And the very unfamiliar rose tea. And all the tables are indoors and everything is clean and bright and the owner moves about calmly and easily and some people look like they are dressed for the office. And I wish we were bumping into one another and sitting out on the sidewalk and the owner was bustling and something about the place was a little run down, and friendly.

Jan, David, Mike and I stop at the inn where we will share a room tonight and drop off our backpacks. It feels wonderful to be walking without them. It feels strange to be walking without them.

We decide to head to the pilgrim office straightaway before the line gets too long. This turns out to be a good idea. But we almost miss Jorge, Kelly, Otto, Jose, and gang. Almost. We had walked with Otto for a while earlier this morning, but he and Jose went on while we were leaving bags. And yet, like iron filings to a magnet, we seem to be drawn to one another.

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We find Jorge and Kelly, Kathy and Catherine in the square just as several others arrive. We hail Otto who is walking away and take a group photo. This picture will be one of the treasures of the Camino for me. Then we run into Nathadeo who we haven’t seen since we sang with the nuns in Carrion de los Condes.

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This is one of my favorite stories from the Camino. These two gentleman walked the whole 800 kilometers of the Camino Frances, from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, just like we did. All the mountains and valleys, all the rocky terrain and narrow, briery paths, all the puddles and cow patties. Here is the difference: the fellow on the left, he’s blind. Watching them move in concert is like listening to a duo that has been singing into one another for so long that they breathe together. Some friendships are given to us as examples, to know just how far love can go. This is one of those.

The Cathedral is undergoing renovations which means that we cannot access the Portico of Glory. We walk round to the other side to enter. We queue up to “hug” the statue of St. James. Then, we walk down to the crypt to venerate the body of our Lord’s own apostle. This is a solemn moment.

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Coming out of the cathedral, we run into Paul and Lasse who we haven’t seen for days. Mike is not with them. He too will arrive on this day, but we will not see him. Jan and David will find him in Finisterre, though. AND we see Adam, our friend from Poland, with whom we also have lost contact for a bit. We have one last beer with the boys and share a few final tales of the road. Bittersweet.

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We choose from a dizzying array of tapas for lunch, pop our head into a few shops looking for gifts for our kids, our granddaughter and our godchildren, then go back to the inn for a little rest. We head over to the cathedral around 6:00 to snag a seat for the 7:30 pilgrim mass and who should we find resting just outside, but Damien, Psicobeta, Filipe and Claudia! They have walked 40 kilometers today to be here for the evening mass. It is SO GOOD to see them.

Shortly before the mass begins, a feisty little nun comes out to teach us a couple of responses we will need later in the service. Then the mass begins. Like all of the masses along the way, this one is in a combination of Spanish and Latin, so I understand little. But it is nice to know the responses.

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You may or may not have ever heard of the Botafumeiro. It is an inordinately large censor. Incense has been used in worship since the pre-temple days of the Old Testament. It is still essential in the practice of Orthodox and Catholic Christians today. But I’ll bet you’ve never seen a censor quite like this one. The story goes that part of the reason for its size was to help cover the stench of the pilgrims. This, I believe. (The above photo is its support structure.)

The Botafumeira is not used at every mass as the cost of the incense is prohibitive. But we have heard that it is commonly used on Friday night. So we are glad to be here on Friday. Still, it’s not a sure thing. Til we see the men in red cloaks, one of whom carries a shovel (as in a garden shovel, you understand) full of charcoal and incense. Then we know.

However extraordinary you imagine it would be to stand here, it is a thousand times more so. I have provided you with a taste. But only a taste. The music, our prayers arising as incense, the weary bodies so full of miles, the stories, the love that has knit so many of us into one another…

And then it’s over. Except it’s not. We walk out into the night to find our young friends again: the newlyweds, Damien and Psicobeta, and friends Claudia and Felipe. We talk about their long walk today and they ask us if we remember the spiritual Mike and Paul sang at Granon. “We have been changing it up a bit as we walked,” they say. And right there, in the gathering dark outside a cathedral in Spain, they sing…

I believe it too.

Go with God, dear friends!

I miss you already.

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Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.

~John O’Donohue

A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-nine

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This morning we walk in light rain through dairy farms and down woodland paths.

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We stop for lunch in Portomarin. The remains of the old town lie along the river creating an eerie and tragic feeling of destruction. The whole of it was flooded when they built the Balesar reservoir, with the exception of the Igrexa de San Juan (Church of St. John) which was moved, brick by numbered brick, to higher ground.

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By the time we arrived at Casa Garcia in Gonzar it has grown cold, which is unfortunate because tonight’s quarters are unheated. With outdoor bathrooms. The adorable hospitalera leads us out of the bar/reception area and past the cemetery. “This is not your room,” she says. πŸ™‚ Thank goodness. But our room does share a common wall with the dead. Jose reports to us that the neighbors are very quiet. πŸ™‚

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The room is beautiful with stone walls and floor, large timbered rafters supporting a wooden ceiling. Also, we are sleeping with our friends again which is always fun. And Mike and I have side by side bunks again which means we can snuggle when it gets cold. πŸ˜‰ I will be consoled somewhat for my middle of the night trip to the loo by a wide sky FULL of stars.

We hear rumors that a fire is roaring back at the bar and we pretty much leap from our sleeping bag cocoons to check it out. We plant ourselves in a circle, knees nearly touching the stove. It takes a while, but we finally thaw. The evening ends with singing, as it so often has.

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Of all the communities available, the society of true seekers is the only one I want to devote myself to.

~Albert Einstein

*Thank you, Otto, for kindly sharing the video with me!!

A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-eight

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Jan says she wants no steep uphills or downhills on her birthday. We cannot make this happen for her. However, the rain we have been promised never materializes. So, there’s that.

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Early in the day we pass a little hippie retreat with fruit and bread, eggs, nuts, juices, tea, and lots of hippie love in a cool open timbered barn with sofas clad in colorful saris. A soft spoken woman, probably American or Canadian we think, floats out the door of the house with more bread, and 5 yellow kittens at her heels. Everything is donativo. We suspect we might have stumbled into some kind of commune. But, the food is welcome as our first cafe is ten miles into the hike.

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We pause for lunch in Sarria, a hillside town that marks the starting point for some pilgrims. To obtain a compostella, a certificate of completion of the camino, you are only required to have walked the final one hundred kilometers. Some pilgrims begin here because physical or time restraint does not allow them to do more. Others, because they can not be bothered. These are easy to identify. They are loud and flippant. They usually carry only a day pack and send their luggage ahead. They stop at all the kitchy souvenir shops (also new in Sarria) and buy tacky bumper stickers and t-shirts. They are tourists, not pilgrims. Touregrinos. Learning to live with them graciously will be a challenge.

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After a burger and a beer, we resume our walk. By now, we have been joined by Jorge and Kelly, Otto and Jose, and their whole gang. We walk the final 3.6k into Barbadillo with them, belting out Neil Diamond hits.

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Casa Barbadillo has accommodations that are modern and efficient, but the dining room is a showcase of antiques; a whole wall of sewing machines, plus cameras, telephones, and more. They are so lovely. Here we gather for Jan’s birthday dinner. The table is full. Friends take turns singing Happy Birthday to Jan in English, Portugese, French, German, Spanish and Hebrew.

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We laugh at Jose and the waitress who have a playful banter all night. She is so funny. We also have a tender moment with him. He asks us why we are walking the camino. After giving our various answers, we ask him the same. He explains that he walks in gratitude for the extraordinary life he has been given. His eyes fill with tears as he says this, and so do ours.–Turns out, Jose is an important attorney in Brazil. He has presided over the bar association, and he and his wife Suely have raised three lawyers in their home. Since coming home, we have seen him in photographs with national leaders in very important meetings for the good of Brazil.–But on this night, and on this camino, he is one of us. We end the evening singing Willie Nelson tunes. Jose loves Willie. πŸ™‚

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Santiago is close enough now that we can feel its pull. But, I think each of us is also struggling with the thought that soon this family that has grown so dear to us will be once again scattered to the seven winds…

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If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces.

~Frederick Buechner

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*Thank you to David for the birthday photo, and to Mike for the photo with Jose as well as the crazy currencies at bottom of post.

A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-seven

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Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

~John Muir

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A steep, 2.3 kilometer climb brings us to the summit of O’Cebreiro, and out of Castille into Galicia. At breakfast, we encounter our first Tarta de Santiago, a sweet almond cake, a Galician specialty that will be present at every cafe hereafter.

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Also unique to Galicia are Pallozas, whimsical round buildings with thatched roofs originally meant to shelter livestock (and sometimes humans). Now, they are often used as vacation homes. Some are elevated, others are nestled into the hill.

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There are jawdropping vistas ALL DAY as we are in the mountains and can see FOREVER! Stone fences stripe the landscape making us think of the Galicians’ Celtic cousins in Ireland. Some fences have huge slabs of stone. It is difficult to imagine how they moved them there.

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Early in the afternoon, we have a rather curious experience. As we pass through one of many cattle farms, a farm wife runs out to us with a plate of crepes. She sprinkles sugar on one and hands it to us, then another, finally a third empties the plate. Then she puts out her hand, “Donativo?” We hand her a couple of eruo coins, one of which drops in a fresh cowpile. No worries. She picks it up (with the same hand that held the crepes), wipes it on her pants and puts it in her pocket. All good. (insert Edvard Munch Scream emoticon here)

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Later, we see a woman working in her lush, verdant garden. And just past this, the most gigantic chestnut tree I have ever seen.

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We land in Triacastela for the evening at one of my least favorite albergues of the trip. It is only approximately clean and the bath fixtures are all in one room. Oh yeah, and they are butterscotch colored. I am glad the day has been cold and I do not really need a shower.

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Dinner, on the other hand is FABULOUS!! I feel sure it was all good, but frankly all I can remember is the dessert: Queso Y Membrillo. Also a specialty of the area. We will have it again, but it will never be quite as good as this. Pungent, whipped sheep cheese with tangy quince preserve. Brilliant!! Quite possibly the best thing I ate the whole trip.

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We have not been at dinner long when we are joined by Jorge and Kelly, Stephanie and Sarah, Otto and Jose, Lynn, Susan, and the whole gang who are staying at the adjacent albergue. There is hugging and laughter and an impromptu group photo.

Back in the albergue, fellow pilgrims have been boiling chestnuts collected along the way. They offer us some. Prepared in this way, they taste like potoatoes! Jan’s favorite. πŸ™‚ We stash yogurt and fruit in the fridge for next day and turn in early.

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One week til Santiago…

*Thanks, Mike,for the elevated Palloza.

A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-five

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Up before dawn, as usual, so that we enter Ponferrada in golden lamp light. By the time we reach the 12th century Knights Templar Castle, however, there is light enough to make out its turrets and drawbridges.

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We breakfast in a cafe just across from the castle that looks as though it could be part of the castle cellar with its arched stone roof. Or a bodega. πŸ™‚

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We are back in wine country. The Bierzo region. There is harvesting going on. And leaves are beginning to put on their fall dresses. The effect is spectacular. A glorious feast for the eyes. And the nose.

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When we arrive at Albergue de la Piedra, in Villafranca del Bierzo, the young hospitalaro offers us tea and coffee and directs us to tins of biscuits on the tables. He and his lovely bride receive us as though we are guests in their home. “de la Piedra” means “of the rock”, and it is so called because, well…

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This photo is taken in our room!! The whole structure is built into and around a giant hunk of granite. And our windows open out onto a flower-clad balcony and the gurgling river below. That river will be our lullaby. But that’s not all. Oh no! Jan, David, Mike and I are in a little alcove for four that opens into another room where a whole host of our pilgrim family is also sleeping: Otto, Jose, Jorge, Kelly, Kathy, Catherine… There is singing. Of course. And goodnights a la the Waltons.

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Otto keeps collecting stories. Sometimes the stories come looking for him. Like today. The words below are his. (It will be helpful to know that Otto’s much beloved late wife is named Maria Luise).

Today as I was walking alone, this 80 year old Spanish woman suddenly came out of her house and started talking to me in Spanish. I said no comprende. No espanole. She kept talking, she insisted on telling me something. Where is Jose when you need him I thought. I knew he was behind me. After a few minutes he showed up. Please I said …what does she want. She wanted to tell me that I reminded her of her husband who died years ago in a accident. So I politely listened to her story as Jose translated. When she finished I asked her name…she said my name is Maria Luiese ..I kissed her and she gave me a big hug…I know the door is open God but what are you trying to tell me…believe me you can’t make this stuff up…buen camino…Otto

Buen camino, friend.

A Pilgrim Tale: day eighteen

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No, the Hobbits don’t live here!

So says the sign in Moratinos. πŸ™‚ These are bodegas. Wine cellars dug into the side of a hill. Historically, each family made enough wine to provide for their own family for a year. Their wine-making operation would have taken place in these bodegas. Afterwards, the wine, and perhaps food as well, would have been stored here.

The job of digging these out was often assigned to children. The soft clay was easy to dig, but when they pushed it out the chimney ventilation shaft to add to the mound, exposure to the air dried and hardened it to a stony surface. They would dig the bodegas in the winter, but the children would be nice and warm as they worked inside.

Some bodegas are believed to be 500 years old. Most are not used any more for wine-making, but as storage cellars or party rooms. (Hence the antenna, I suppose.) πŸ™‚

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When we get to Sahagun, we meet John. His was one of the many stories Otto told us yesterday. His wife died on Easter Sunday. This pilgrimage is part of his healing. Around his neck, he wore a chain with both their wedding rings. His bride had instructed him to find a couple to give them to. She assured him he would know them when he met them.

Two nights ago, he stayed at Espiritu Santo in Carrion de los Condes (as did we). While he was there, he realized he knew who he was supposed to give them to. Espiritu Santo means Holy Spirit, by the way.

He invited Jorge and Kelly to have dinner with him. At dinner, he reached across the table for Kelly’s hand. He slipped his wife’s ring on her finger. It was a perfect fit. In the same way, he asked for Jorge’s hand. Let me pause here to say John is rather small in stature. Shorter than me, I believe. Jorge is a big, strong firefighter. He looks a little like a linebacker. And yet, his ring also fit perfectly. Now, Jorge wears a chain around his neck with the rings he and Kelly will wear when they are married.

John kindly tells us the story again. His voice is soft and reverent, but his eyes dance.

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Sahagun claims the title of half-way point on the camino, although the math is a bit fuzzy. Regardless, we stop and take photos and commemorate this important “thus far” moment.

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Along with the stories, each day brings a whole panoply of images. Some extraordinarily lovely. Some merely curious. Many evenings, as I lie in my bunk awaiting sleep, these wash over me until the line between dreaming and waking is irrevocably blurred. I leave you with a few from this day…

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In silence we must wrap much of our life, because it is too fine for speech.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Pilgrim Tale: days twelve and thirteen

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25 September: I’m surprised to see pΓ’tΓ© on the table for breakfast, along with the usual bread and butter, jam and tea. But I like it. πŸ™‚

Today, our pre-dawn start will cost us. When we come to the edge of town, we lose our arrows. We wave flashlights, scanning buildings and posts, looking for stone pillars. Nothing. We back track. Not another pilgrim in sight. We know that the highway will intersect the trail in a couple of kilometers, so we decide to take our life in our hands and walk along the shoulder with headlights glaring in our eyes and early morning commuters furiously racing past. It is only mildly terrifying.

That which does not kill you makes you stronger. ~Nietzsche πŸ™‚

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The sky is dazzling. Again. Clouds move in ever changing formations over steep hills, then fertile plains. I can’t not look at them.

At San Juan de Ortega, we stop at a cafe for second breakfast. πŸ™‚ Here, we have our first encounter with “faux pilgrims”. I am confused by their tiny day packs with scallop shells, and their makeup, and their stylish, but impractical, “workout gear”. Then I overhear one of them explaining their “marvelous setup”. A bus picks them up at their hotel in the morning, fresh smelling with cute hair and make-up. They send their luggage ahead on the bus, while they carry a tiny day pack with snacks and sunglasses. And when they have gotten their little workout in, the bus picks them up and takes them on to their next hotel.

This bothers me more than it probably should. And I ask myself why. Is it righteous indignation that this deeply meaningful journey is being somehow cheapened by people who treat it so lightly? Or is it something far more petty and immature–a greediness that is not willing to share the glory with those who do not do the work? I’m not sure. But I will have opportunity to explore this topic again later, as we near Santiago.

We stop at Albergue Peregrino in Atapuerca, where we enjoy a picnic supper with David and Jan, swapping travel stories until sleep overtakes us.

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26 September: We pass through three eerily quiet towns where buildings in ruin sit side by side with tidy modern homes. At Orbaneja, we find a whole collection of our young friends breakfasting al fresco. A bit further, there are two young women traveling with dogs. I wonder how they are getting on as most of the albergues do not permit animals. Probably, they camp.

We take the highway route into Burgos by mistake. Industrial and bleak. However, it is a fun surprise to see hometown company Bridgestone Tire with a compound that occupies several blocks.

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Mike and I decide to forego the large municipal albergue and stay at Divina Pastora. Missing our friends, but it will be good to have some quiet. There are 16 beds. They open to pilgrims at 12:00. At 12:05 we are assigned beds 15 and 16. Whew! Incidentally, Divina Pastora does not accommodate pilgrims that ride bicycles or who send luggage ahead. Also, there are three hard and fast rules: No smoking. No alcohol or drugs. EVERY pilgrim MUST shower. I really appreciate that last one. πŸ™‚

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We enjoy a delicious tapas dinner with David and Jan. Then we bid a difficult goodbye to Rhys who is busing ahead tomorrow to Sarria to meet up with her mom and finish the camino from there. Goodbye is not my favorite. But for Rhys, and for us, there are still hellos ahead. Still more beautiful threads to be woven into the glorious tapestry that is The Way.

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Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.
~Thomas Merton

A Pilgrim Tale: day nine

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We spend the whole of today walking with our camino niece, Rhys. (See if you can make her out along the wall.) She is still recovering from an ankle injury that required her to bus ahead a couple of days to Logrono, but she is being very brave. We talk about her many travels, including a season in Korea as an English teacher. We talk about the wild beauty of her home state of Oregon. We talk about the complexities of family and friendship. And we sing. Her library of classic rock, as well as Veggie Tales songs, is pretty impressive. πŸ™‚

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All along the Way are impromptu altars: Sanctuaries of stacked stone. Crosses of sticks and grass and bits of fabric woven into chain link fences. Tokens of pilgrimage. Of making place for the sacred. Right here. Right now.

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There have been stories of a minstrel. This afternoon, we finally meet him. He is walking his camino in a suit and hat and carrying a guitar. We sit together on a scrap of broken wall while he rolls a cigarette and tells us a bit of his story. Tonight, we will hear his music spilling through the open windows of our albergue as he and his band of merry men sing us to sleep.

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When we arrive in Najera, we check into the association albergue. Ninety beds in one room! The hospitaleros are all vounteers who have walked the Way themselves. They are very friendly and helpful. They receive our donations and assign us beds. As Mike and I are married, we are given two of the bunks that sit side by side. This a nice surprise.

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We stash yogurt in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s breakfast, hand wash a few laundry items and hang them out to dry, then walk to a cafe along the river for lunch/dinner. Here we run into Jan and David, then Kendra and her new friend James who, as it turns out, lives in Brentwood, about 15 minutes from us.

Our sleeping quarters are close and hot, and one woman just across the aisle from Mike throws open her sleeping bag to reveal more than any of us really want to see. But, it is nice to be able to hold my husband’s hand as we fall asleep to the Celtic strains of the minstrel…

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