This blog is a record of my observations, experiences and crazy thoughts about my 800 kilometer pilgrimage across northern Spain: the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (April-May 2009).
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Day 15 - Granon - Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Santo Domingo de la Calzada -> Granon = 6.5K (553.8K to go!)
0700 – Writing Over Vending-Machine Coffee con Leche
Last night a pair of lovely Dutch women invited me to share the meal they cooked in the albergue dining room. The women are dear friends and each year they meet to walk for two weeks on the Camino. They are delightful, laughing and joking, relaxed and enjoying their experiences. I am grateful to be included. They also share their meal with a pair of young Spanish firefighters (from Barcelona) who are also walking for just two weeks. I have little to add to their meal, but I offer up some Spanish sausage and wine and a loaf of bread. We eat and talk and laugh and sing for hours. It is a wonderful meal, but of course it is the companionship and not the food that matters.
It was kind of them to include me. One can feel quite lonely n a crowd, even among pilgrims. Language, customs, culture, concerns can all keep us isolated from one another. And at other times we reach out beyond our boundaries, borders and fears to make life easier for someone else. This is a lesson that may never be completely learned. One may need to keep working (throughout a lifetime) on the art of reaching out and selflessly sharing.
My American friend (R.) surprised me with a gift last night: a pastry chicken and 4 chocolate baby chicks. They are so clever and detailed. I laughed when I saw them. They are too cute - it is hard to eat them, but they are very tasty too!
The albergue was an oven last night. I lay awake, drenched with sweat. The light in the hallway flashed on and off all night long as pilgrims made another kind of pilgrimage (to the toilets). It was like an old-fashioned neon sign. I felt like I was in one of those old black and white detective movies at the flea-bag hotel.
The accommodations are nice at the albergue, but it is an albergue and there are many people.
Twice, the man in the upper bunk next to mine sat up in the middle of the long night and screamed (in French) at the snorers. I have no idea what he said and do not know if he was sleep-talking or simply angry and reacting to the cacophony of snoring and snorting. And in the early morning hours there were pilgrims up and flashing their lights as well as talking in their outdoor voices. People can be so unaware of those around them.
As the room grew lighter I observed a sweet, rather private moment between a couple across the room. This very tall, hearty man from Israel (with waist-length dreadlocks) was tenderly kissing the vulnerable cheeks and neck of his fragile, flower-like companion. He gently kissed her awake. I look away, feeling like a voyeur, but pleased to have such a lovely image to start my day with.
1400 – Soaking up the Sun in Granon
R. and I walked together again. We arrived in lovely Granon early in the day (only about a 6K walk!) but I insisted we stop here. Pilgrims who stay at the albergue in this village sleep in the bell tower. The hospitaleros also arrange for a wonderful communal dinner.
There are albergues and there are albergues. Many are quite large and aim to be efficient while others are small and warm and strive to be effective. I have looked forward to staying here in this unique albergue in Granon. This place is on the favorites list of many veteran pilgrims.
We are the first to arrive. We climb up into the bell tower and unroll the mats they provide us. We are tucked under the eaves. Above, outside, the bell tower is home to a stork family. In the sunny patio where I sit penning my notes, I can hear turtledoves coo and other birds chattering. The storks clatter their beaks. Roosters crow and a piece of farm equipment passes through the quiet streets. Spring flowers flourish and the perfume drifts through the village on spring breezes. Bees buzz, butterflies flit, and it feels as though time stands still for these few bright hours in the middle of the day. A grandfather stands tending a baby carriage as he talks to his friends, a kitten plays in the doorway across the street, a woman sings in her kitchen; life is good.
The mid-day siesta is alive here; a custom that might improve the quality of life of the world if we all adopted it. Even here on the Camino, many pilgrims rush around, and try to pack so much into each day. They wear themselves out and have no time to sit and be or to observe nature and people and the life unfolding around them The people in this village however, honor the joys of siesta.
I also like the rhythms of life here in Spain. People to gather in public place at 0800 or 1000 and again at 1700 each day. They come together throughout the day. They sip a drink and share.
From across the street, I hear an old man crying out. Is he angry or is he demented or suffering from Alzheimer’s. He asks questions over and over and makes demands. No one seems to answer. I wonder what his life is like. I wonder what it is like to grow old in this quiet village.
My thoughts are of simple pleasures: carving out a nest where I can enjoy the sunshine, a cat or two, fresh flowers, lunching under a tree (or under the stars). Time to read, time to walk the dog, time for “every purpose under heaven.” I imagine life in a light-filled space. I consider the house in South Carolina and wonder if I could build a quiet life there and simply happily-ever-after. Or is it merely inertia that draws me there. Or maybe I could initiate another adventure – build and run a guesthouse on my brother’s mountaintop in northern Malawi? A home and life in downtown Albuquerque or maybe a pleasant life in surprising Des Moines near family. Simple pleasures – libraries, churches, creative projects…baking bread to share with friends, building traditions, raising some chickens…a small business.
Life is good and filled with an abundance of delights. I am open to these opportunities and I am not outlining or making rigid plans. But I am willing to commit and willing to serve. I will find that path as surely as I am finding the path that is the Camino.
In April 2009, I began my 500-mile trek across the rocky paths and mountains of northen Spain. I finished my walk on the the ancient Way of St James (the Camino de Santiago de Compostela) in early June 2009.
I consider this a pilgrimage of gratitude. Each step was an opportunity to express gratitude for the abundance life offers; each footstep, one of finding joy. It was a humbling experience. It was a character-building experience. It was a spiritual adventure and a physical one too - who knew I was such a mountain goat? I hope you will enjoy my rambling, stream of consciousness obeservations of my experiences as a pilgrim on this historic pilgrimage route that really is only the begining.
Of course veteran pilgrims know: the Camino never ends - once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim. So, wherever YOUR path takes you, I wish you "Buen Camino".