DAY 27 TWO THINGS

There were two things I was particularly looking forward to on the Camino. The first was to take part of the drinking of the wine provided by the monks at Irache

The second was to visit the Ferro Cruz (the Iron Cross) and lay down my burden as symbolized by the rock I got from Zanesville.

I know I had expectations and that’s how we are disappointed but I couldn’t help myself.

I expected to see a tall cross anchored into the ground with stones piled around it and up the base of the cross. I wanted to take some time and reflect on all those burdens that pilgrims had carried with themselves and finally laid down at this cross.

Instead I found a small mound of dirt between 15 and 20 feet tall with the post holding the cross anchored at the top of that mound of dirt.

People were climbing up the hill in order to make a Rocky-like victory pose waving their trekking poles in the air.

I’m trying not to judge. I just wanted a moment to connect with all those who came before me and laid down their joys, illness, futures. And I didn’t want to walk upon those sacred stones. So I found a spot along the side and laid my stone down.

It’s the small white one.

So I have to trust that even though this moment didn’t deliver the spiritual high I was looking for that God received my burden with the same love that God receives all our burdens.

DAY 26 I MET A MAN ALONG THE CAMINO

Last night was spent in Astorga, a beautiful town that’s actually quite large but has the feel of a small old town. The cathedral is imposing, the shops are quaint, and the cafes on the plaza were meant for having a leisurely cafe con leche or a vino tinto and watching people. Since I didn’t walk yesterday I did not get a stamp in my credential.

About three miles out of Astorga this morning we came across this charming little chapel.

It’s right there on the side of the road, nothing around it. And there is a man standing at the door. He has one arm and one leg. He smiles at everyone and greets them as they enter the chapel. His bright blue clothes are a sharp contrast to the muted colors of the chapel.

He doesn’t see our new backpacks, iphones, or fancy earbuds. He just sees pilgrims who have stopped at this chapel.

There are old photogapahs along one wall of the chapel and I ask him who the people are. They are just very old photographs he explains. And yet those faces in the pictures seem to fit very well in this simple chapel.

Afterwards I go out to get my credential. I saw there were two stamps on the table at the entrance. He followed me back in and asked which one I wanted. He didn’t just nod his head toward the stamps as if to say, “Help yourself.” I chose one and he balanced himself on his crutch and placed a beautifully inked stamp on the paper. Then he put the stamp down, picked up a pen, and wrote the date.

I think of all that I have and all that I could do for others, and this man is serving me with grace and dignity. It was a beautiful moment for me to receive the gift of his effort.

In front of the chapel there is are several signs with the Pilgrim’s Prayer in several languages.

Jesus, my Lord, my friend,

You, the icon of God,

You, fountain of communion,

Of freedom and love.

You, who are my servant,

Walk always with me.

Buon Camino

DAY 25 THE BEAUTY OF THE CAMINO

I took the bus into Astorga today because the tendons in my foot were bothering me again. In fact it seems that the Walking Wounded are coming out again. Yesterday I met a woman who was recovering from a knee injury and this morning as we walked over to breakfast I saw our Cincinnati friends that we met on the shuttle from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port. She had a cab waiting to take her to the hospital up the road. The woman with the knee injury and I rode the bus in to Astorga.

It feels good to take a break from the Camino. We have a very nice room in Astorga and since I was here early I had time to find a laundromat and wash clothes in a real machine. After writing some postcards to our grandchildren back home I found a sunny spot in a cafe to have my lunch. I’ve been looking through my pictures and basking in the more beautiful moments on the Camino so I thought I’d share a few.

After seeing field upon field of sad sunflowers turned away from Santiago it was a joy to see these little ones growing and searching for light.

On a Saturday we walked through this town while the local farmers market was in full swing. These peppers were incredibly huge. This was also the day the we ate lamb stew in a little restaurant and the waiter told us his mother had made it. Delicious!

The view of the sky through the double arches of the ruins of a convent.

We suffered through some rain and were rewarded with the most vibrant rainbow I’ve ever seen. I was absolutely taken aback when I saw this.

There is truly so much along the Camino to warm your heart and take your breath away.

And God said it was very very good.

Buon Camino

DAY 24 CAMINO FATIGUE

“Just once I’d like to wake up when I’m done sleeping”

Anna, Downton Abbey

If the Camino mantra is Walk, Wash, Eat, Sleep, I have to say that after I walk and wash my clothes I barely have the gumption to wash myself. Dinner is never before 7:30 pm and by 5:00 pm I could care less about eating and often just lay my head on the table praying that I can go to sleep.

I forgot to relate to you all what happened yesterday morning. After we left our hotel we stopped at Cafeteria Alfonso for breakfast. Don’t let the name fool you this is not a cafeteria like we know it. Nonetheless the cafe con leche was excellent and I had a great pastry filled with lemony cream for my breakfast. I ordered at the bar and the bar man served me. Usually I ask “how much?” and pay, but for some reason I didn’t do this. When we were done we left. Later it occurred to me that I hadn’t paid so I asked Glen if he did. The answer…no. We were so tired that we just didn’t think.

So today I did a little research and while I didn’t get the full address I have the street name and the name of the cafe. I’m going to send the owner a note and 20€ to more than cover our bill and to cover whatever other pilgrims might have forgotten to pay with the rest.

As I’m writing this it’s 4:40 pm and I’d really like to lay my head on the table and close my eyes. Maybe I didn’t train enough, maybe I’m just not young enough…but like I said on Day 1, I don’t know if I’ll make it, but watch how good I fake it.

Oh, BTW I bought some new shoes and a new hat last night in Leon. I lost my green hat and my blue shoes had lost all their tread and cushioning. The good news is that all was 40% off 🤗

DAY 23 RANDOM RAMBLINGS

Today is a dry day spiritually. It’s cold, dreary, and gray.

We are walking into Leon which is about 13 miles but a lot of it is along the highway. Of course the last couple days have been along the highway so it’s not a new scene just not pleasant.

My feet, legs, and back feel good, but my heart feels uninspired.

I’ve been listening to some Taizé music and on a sunny day it feels like the whole camino is my chapel to worship in. But today it’s not working.

As I walk along the path I’m remembering the Scottish man who was walking barefoot and I wonder where he is and if he’s been able to keep doing the Camino in his bare feet.

I’ve begun to identify backpacks like cars, by the logo on the back. Maybe I could create a camino bingo game and market it.

Graffiti along the Camino has change quite a bit from the beginning. This is what I used to see…

Discern the truth, achieve the good…The Alchemist

For many days now this is what I see on the Camino…

So many of the signs along the camino are scrawled with this vitriol. Others come along and try to add their own take by changing the letters. And it looks like the same handwriting. It doesn’t strike me as being of the Spirit and I feel tired and beat down just seeing it.

So how will I make it to Leon today? By putting one foot in front of the other until I arrive.

DAY 22 IN THE MIDDLE

Middle Earth

Fool on the Hill …The Beatles

This is the view from our hostal in Moratinos. We are beginning to see more and more of these dwellings dug into the clay earth. Because the temperature inside these “hobbit houses” is constant they are ideal as wine/root cellars. Another fun fact is that hundreds of years ago parents would send their children in to dig out more clay to enlarge the cellar and for the kids to keep warm in winter. Why didn’t I ever think of digging a hole and letting my kids work on it in winter???

Middle Camino

On our walk we came across this small church and these two statues that form a sort of gate. It’s very unobtrusive. There’s no modern signage to announce the significance of this church. The path just winds past the church and between the statues. Only upon closer inspection did I see that one panel proclaims this place as the geographical center of the Camino.

I had in my mind that León was the halfway point but this seems much more appropriate. The Camino is an inner as well as an outer journey and it seems that this quiet little chapel along with its two guardians is the way to announce the midway point. A gentle reminder that God is at the center of the Camino.

Buon Camino

DAY 21 THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE DISGUSTING 👣

Dear Friends so far I have tried to share with you the best and most meaningful parts of the Camino. Today though it’s time to share with you a less attractive side of the Camino.

The Camino is good.

Pain is bad.

And then there is something so unbelievable that I must caution you before you continue. There is a lunchtime ritual on the Camino that may shock your sensibilities.

A Pilgrim or group of Pilgrims will arrive at a cafe for lunch and beers will be ordered. Then one or more of the Pilgrims will unlace his/her shoes and then peal off their socks. Feet are then inspected, bandages carefully removed, and blisters inspected. Sometimes the assistance of another pilgrim is engaged to inspect injuries that the original Pilgrim cannot see. Afterwards ointment is applied, bandages are replaced, clean socks put on, and the beer is drunk. Hand sanitizer optional.

Buon Camino 👣

DAY 20 THE SUNFLOWERS 🌻🌻🌻

Exodus 34.29:

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

There are a lot of fields of sunflowers in Spain. Not only is Spanish olive oil a prime commodity, but sunflower oil as well.

This field extends to the horizon and probably beyond.

Lately the sunflowers seem to be speaking to me. Their season is past and their heads are bowed. And they all seem to face away from Santiago. These are not the bright shining faces who have seen God and are ready to share that joy with the world. These are sad, dejected faces, looking for the sun, but unable to lift their heads to find it.

And yet there is more life in the sunflowers. Their seeds have been harvested for oil, food, feed for animals, and for planting the next crop. Another season is ahead for the sunflowers and once again they will lift their heads toward the sun.

As I look at the sunflowers I ponder my own life. What season am I in? Have I fulfilled my calling or is there an encore yet in my life?

I have a secret that not many people know about me. It’s nothing bad or shameful. Sometimes I dream about babies: one baby, many babies, babies of all colors, someone else’s baby, my baby. Whenever I dream about babies I have this feeling that God is about to birth something new in my life. Last night I dreamed about a baby.

DAY 20 A WORD ABOUT HOSPITALITY

Where else but on the camino can you stop at a food truck in the middle of no where and get a coffee served in a glass cup on a saucer with a real spoon…

…and a camino stamp?

Day 19 CARRY ON TO CARRION

Carry on my wayward son
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more.

–Kansas Lyrics to Carry on Wayward Son

Today we are in the heart of the Meseta. This is the flatlands of Spain.

Toto I think we’re back in Kansas

I have heard two metaphors for the Meseta.

1. The beginning of the camino is like birth to young adulthood. Birth is a great struggle and as one grows there are new challenges and many choices to make. The Meseta is that part of your life when you are more settled. You have a job, maybe a partner, maybe kids, maybe just a cat. But you have a routine: work, kids, cook, laundry, etc. You think this is what your life will be like for the rest of your time on earth. It’s just routine from here on out.

2. Another interpretation is that the Meseta is non-binding. There is nothing to do, nothing to see, just keep walking and in the walking you are able to let go of…whatever and be free.

I don’t know which will be true for me or if it will something else entirely different.

I started humming the Kansas song since we are headed to Carrion de Los Campos and then as I looked at the scenery so flat and unchanging, the words seem to speak to me.

I am weary and tonight I will lay my head down to rest. And tomorrow I will carry on.

Buon Camino

DAY 19 AND NOW FOR A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS

Today I’m going to do a little advertising.

Last night we stayed in the Hotel Rural Oasibeth. This hotel was sparkling clean, very new, and offered all the amenities of dining, bar, and breakfast, plus those I look for: a sunny balcony and a sink with a stopper. But what really set this hotel apart is the utter joy and hospitality that the owner Loli exudes. It is abundantly clear that she loves being hostess to pilgrims. In fact the whole staff follows her lead in graciousness.

Adding to the atmosphere of generosity is the amazing food. Without a doubt we probably had our best meal. I had thick slices of potatoes in a carabineros sauce and shrimp. A quick google search turned up a lot of recipes for the carabineros sauce, all in Spanish, but when I get home I am going to make this. It was amazing. Not to mention this was the appetizer and I could have made a whole meal of it. We also had some spicy mushrooms and Loli told us she cooked them with this…

It must be some kind of dried chillies.

Loli was so funny. She told us that in Spain they kiss once on each cheek, but in France it’s twice. I told her in my family we kiss three times (left, right, left) and she said her family too. I’m sure we must be related somehow.

You cannot imagine the kindness and generosity of spirit that lives on the Camino.

Buon Camino