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.
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…
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.
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.
Yesterday was a strong day for me which is not always a positive thing. Though I felt very good on the walk, I over did it and my ankle has been painful since last night. So I decided to play another grace card and skip the 15 miles today with the steep incline in the beginning 😉.
Even though the mantra of the Camino is walk, wash, eat, sleep, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for reflecting at the end of the day. Pilgrims meet at the end of the day, thoughts are exchanged about the walk and various parts that were difficult, beautiful, and inspiring. Drinks are sipped under umbrellas in the late afternoon sun and dinner plans are made. After dinner there is hardly energy to discuss the plan of attack for the next day and get ready for bed.
Yesterday I walked past the ruins of San Anton a 14th century convent. While not much is left of it I was particularly captivated by the blue skies through the two arches and the detail on the facade.
There was a serenity about the site and after a few minutes I decided to continue on. I was probably only about 10-15 yards away when I heard some beautiful harp music. Really, harp music! I walked on toward it and this is what I found..
It was a real oasis of hospitality. The owner treated everyone like treasured friends and along with pouring drinks he gave each of us a thick slice of deep red watermelon. A spot of shade, a cold drink, and soothing music to cradle one’s heart. The 30 minutes or so that I spent there refreshed my feet and soul.
And today? I’m writing in the lobby of our hotel. I have a glass of white Spanish wine and there is some Enya music playing. Sometimes a Christmas song comes up in the shuffle. Bliss 😊
Maybe we should all stop around 4:00 pm, have a cold drink with some olives or nuts. Put on some soothing music and reflect of the goodness of God’s creation.
Coffee from a vending machine and a two week old protein bar for breakfast. The sunrise more than made up for the marginal breakfast.
This morning I woke up and for the first time I had that sense of “oh my goodness I’ve been doing this for more than two weeks and I still have almost 4 weeks to go”, and it’s not the physical thing it’s beginning to be the mental game
Even the monuments along the road are becoming different. In the beginning they were piles of rocks beautifully placed want to top another sometimes pictures, sometimes flowers, sometimes little handwritten notes; I think of them as memorials of love.
Now I pass a marker and it seems to have a pile of stones haphazardly thrown on it and sometimes a shoe with a hole in it.
It seems to speak of more despair and fatigue than the initial joy of the journey.
And yet God is present here too.
Psalm 139 v. 7-12 NRSV
7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Dear God, I may not always feel your presence and yet I know you are near. I have all that I need because the Camino provides. Thank you for your grace. Amen.
Every day on the Camino has been different. We started in the Pyrenees, moved on to some steep ascents and declines in the foothills, traversed the Rioja wine country and its rolling hills, and now we are in a flat area. We walked to Burgos yesterday and fortunately the lady who runs the hotel where we stayed told us of an alternative route which took us through a long and beautiful park. Otherwise this is what our walk might have looked like.
I’m not sure how to describe this journey. As I said every day is different: the terrain, the weather, the food, the people. I can hardly remember where I was one or two days ago. Nor can I remember where I’m going to.
On the Camino they say you walk, wash, eat, sleep. It’s true. When I arrive someplace I wash my clothes, then myself. Then we walk into town to find someplace to have a drink or eat. Tonight our little jaunt brought us to a small bar.
This is the map where pilgrims place a pin where they are from. And all along the wall people have left notes and souvenirs of their journeys. And somehow I am part of this.
Why did I do this? How did I come to be here? What am I doing here? I don’t know. I only know that we’re about to eat and later go to sleep and in the morning I’ll start walking again.
For now I am grateful for the small apartment we are staying in, for the simple meal prepared, and for the clean laundry drying.
Today this is my life and tomorrow it will be the same.
Yesterday Glen missed a camino sign and walked a mile and a half when he saw this.
Do not go off the road
He turned around and went back 😉
Sometimes I think one of the things I did right is the way I packed my backpack. Everything is in its own little stuff sack (toiletries, clothes, electronics, misc). So every night I get them all out and lay them side by side like little Lilliputian sleeping bags.
At least I know where everything is.
Sometimes a Damm beer tastes good after a long day of walking.
This morning I woke up at 5:00 am, an hour and a half before I needed to. I felt refreshed and awake and ready to tackle the day ahead…21 miles. But my body was in a complete state of shutdown. The Spirit was willing but the body was not. So I decided to play a grace card and skip walking today. Thirteen straight days of walking was too much. I sent Glen on his way and had my own little adventure.
I had breakfast in the hotel and chatted with some of the guests. There is a group of 20 women doing the Camino together. It’s a challenge for them as they walk at different paces and yet are expected to arrive at the destination together.
Then I got on a bus to head for our destination, Ibeas de Juarros. As I got on the bus I heard, “Hey I recognize you!” It was a woman we met in Estella staying at the same hotel. We chatted for the 15 minutes we were on the bus together. It was very companionable.
On the Camino people weave in and out of our lives. All have been so interesting and so friendly. Sometimes we meet people that aren’t even on the Camino like the couple we met in Huarte. We happened to be in the same bar having a glass of wine. They were ready to leave but they ended up getting another glass and we chatted for over an hour.
When I got to Ibeas I had some lunch, checked into the hotel, and rested. My tracker wasn’t happy. It told me my rings were not as far along as they usually are so I shut my tracker off to give it some rest too 😁
The Camino has been more crowded than anticipated. There are not the long stretches with no person in sight, hours to contemplate whatever it is God is whispering. Before I complain about this I try to accept what comes my way with the attitude that this is a reflection of life itself.
There are two common questions asked on the camino.
1. Is this your first Camino?
They say that your first Camino is never your last. I have found that to be true. I met a man named John; he’s 78 years old. He gave me some directions and seemed knowledgeable so I asked if this was his first Camino. He told me it was his second. Then he told me he finished his first with his wife in June 2019. Upon their return home he told her he wanted to go back and do it alone. Her response? Of course! She was already thinking of returning next year alone.
The second question?
Why are you doing the Camino?
The answers here are all over the place.
I walked the Camino after my first wife died and now I want to share the Camino with my new wife.
I quit my job and I’m trying to figure out what comes next in my life.
I’ve wanted to do this for 40 years and this year I’m doing it.
Today I met a Norwegian woman who said that she wanted to be more intentional about expressing gratitude for everything that God has done in her life. Her answer gave me a gentle pause. I don’t feel particularly grateful for the blisters on my foot, but I am grateful for her wise words and conversation that carried me along and made me forget my blisters 🙂
People say two things about the Camino: the Camino will provide and, express gratitude for all the Camino gives you.
There is a legend on the Camino that is associated with the town of Santo Domingo. The story goes that a couple and their son are making the pilgrimage to Santiago. They stop in Santo Domingo where the daughter of the innkeeper falls in love with the son. Unfortunately he rejects her advances so she decides to hide a silver cup in his sack and accuse him of a crime. The next day the parents start out and the son somewhat later. He is stopped and searched and the cup is found. The punishment for theft is hanging. Sometime after the execution the parents realize that their son has not kept up with them so they backtrack to find him. When they discover he has been hanged Santiago (St. James) appears to them and tells them he is still alive. The parents run to the judicial official of the town to tell him that Santiago has declared their son to be alive. It so happens that this official is sitting down to a dinner of roasted chicken. Having witnessed the execution the official tells them that their son is as dead as the chicken on his plate, at which the roasted chicken rises up from the plate clucking.
I’m told but cannot confirm, that this story is so beloved that a hen and a rooster are always kept in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo.