Friday, 20 March 2009
There as some days when you know something is going to happen. This day was one of them. A steady walk through rolling countryside that would finish at St Juan de Oretaga. The destination was not where it was going to happen. It was not an important pilgrim land mark as St Juan, rather the opposite. A small village that had little going for it called Epinosa, a road side stop in the middle of nowhere, was to be the place of meeting. I knew this was going to be the place where something really happened, but I did not know what. I think a little background would be helpful here. In the 1980's I have been involved, at a distance, with a Church based in Anaheim, California. It was led by a late middle aged bear of a man called John. John had a team of young people who helped with his ministry. In this band was one Eddie Espinoza.His surname sort of stuck in my mind. And so it was on that peg that my spirit hung a feeling that something was going to happen. I know Eddie's surname and the place name are only vaguely like each other. But to a dyslectic like me it is near enough. So I can hear you asking 'what happened'? Nothing really and again everything. There were no flashing lights, or heavenly music, no pilgrim with great insight only the still small voice as the prophet calls him speaking words I need to hear. The day began in the usual way. Got up and dressed had breakfast and walked through the beautiful countryside. It was getting rather hot as I got into Epinosa. As you enter the village you walk past a fountain with the sign ' Aqua non potable'. I was annoyed by this sign. What good is a fountain that has water that is undrinkable? I got angry to myself as I crossed the main road to the other half of the village. Walking past the tourist office on the main road I headed up the slight hill to the top of the town. And was there that the small voice spoke. It told me not to get out of my pram over the fountain or even that I was thirsty. If I was not on the pilgrimage I would not have these problems, but as I was, then the joys and sorrows were all part of the deal.Or to put another way the lack of water was a sign that I was on pilgrimage. I was enjoying the pilgrimage and therefore enjoying the problem was not a negative but rather part of the experience. I thought about it for a while. It seemed to me that there was much that I could view in this light. And the great big problem was one of them. It was part of the signs of life and should be met rather than complained about. I remembered the scripture rejoice in all things. It seemed to me that I had found something important in this new approach to life. I had spent so much of my life wishing for tomorrow so I could be out of whatever was unpleasant about today. I was wishing my life away. When I should be enjoying every experience for what it was~ a sign I was alive.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
I am now as fit as I will ever be on this trip. I wonder if I push it, can I do more than one and a half sections in a day. Looking at the guide I see that today's section takes me to Santa Domingo, but can I get as far as Belorado. Twenty five miles now sounds possible. Could I do that much? I decide to go for it. There is no time for touristical stops. The birds on the wall in the Church of Santa Domino are only seen briefly, though a side door that lets you pray in the church without paying to go in. Because of the great big problem( if you have joined this blog for the last few pages you will have to go back and pick up the early story)I really want to get this done as soon as possible.Every day I am talking on the phone for a lengthy time. I want to get home and fix it. So I get on as best I can and as quickly. It is interesting looking back on this part of the pilgrimage.I see that I missed so much, things that on later pilgrimages I did see and touch and experience. These things did add to the quality of the experience and were , then, valuable.However I also see how one day fitted with the next to be a message to me. This message was not completed for some time afterwards. There would be four more pilgrimages before that day. It was all related to the bgp. And it was all about it resolution of the same. So I steamed ahead. I over did it on this day and the next. But even that was part of the message. Tired and hungery towards the end of the day, 22 miles later I saw the welcome Alberque sign, not at Belorado, but 4K before at Villamayor del Rio. This house was out in the countryside. Fields around it and very peaceful. They offered a meal in the evening. This I booked. After the washing and the usual stuff for the next day I settled in a chair in the garden to take in the stunning view. It was great. After the shower I felt good... good and stiff. I had had a rest so I was not so tired even though I could feel the effects of the day. I wished for a gin and tonic, but there was none to be had. The house here is really part of a farm. No bar and I could not be bothered going up the little lane to the local. So I sat in the deckchair at the edge of the field and watched the wheat grow. As I sat I realised that in spite of everything I was enjoying this and inside I was unwinding. There had been many tears about the gbp along the way and even more heartache. But the joy of the Camino was breaking in,just a little. So for this one I'll leave you as I enjoy the sunset, the meal to come which was straight forward Spanish farmers home cooking and excellent in its' way, and a good nights sleep.
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
The rest of the day went quickly, By now I was well under way. The previous day had not been easy. It had been very long way and I was tired. Navette came and went in a cup of cafe con leche. And the rolling countryside just kept rolling along. At last the edge of Najerra came into view. I did not find the outskirts very appealing, but I must say that I was not much in the mood for tourism. It was getting a little too much by now. Walking down the hill into the centre of the town did not increase my interest. The motorists were bent on playing that well known pilgrim game that is one of the joys of Spain~'Squash the pilgrim'. This game can be played in any town or village where pilgrims and narrow streets with high walls can be found. On turning the corner I saw the river and isn't it beautiful. The banks looked well kept and really are a jewel. I asked a passerby where the albeque was she told me cross the river by the bridge and it was at the far end of the right hand bank. So off I go, to discover a wooden temporary build that has replaced the monastic house that was the the stop for the night in Najera. It seems nice enough,but oh so busy. I find a bunk and sit on it. It is in the middle bank of bunks. It is as I like it, on the bottom level. At that moment a man arrives, who turns out to be an artist painting his way to Santiago, with his girl friend. They talk loudly to those around them and me about the painting he has done that day and they explain that today they have not walked very far but have done many paintings. The girlfriend is a little fed up that it is stop, start, stop start. Never a really good days walking. I wonder if I should have brought some painting materials with me. The artist opens a folio of work for us all to see. At that moment I am thankful for my camera. I would not like to walk and carry a folio like the one he has. It is difficult enough carrying the stuff I need to wash, sleep and dress with. He finishes in a while and I sit on the edge of my bunk.By this time I have struck up a conversation with the lady on the bunk opposite me. She is about forty and pleasant person to talk to. She is here with her friend. They are both from London. Her friend is in publishing. She does not say what she does for a living. We talk for some time.I tell her that I have got into the swing of doing 20 plus miles a day. She says that they are going slower.I say that I am enjoying clocking up the miles. She says that the thing she enjoys is that , I quote,'the floaty feeling that comes when you are walking and your mind drifts off'. She describes it further. I do not really understand. But I will. I most certainly will. What she has spoken off is the gate of mysticism. This is the heart of a Christan pilgrim prayer experience. But for this pilgrimage and for a year or two it will remain closed to me. It is interesting that I had experienced what she was talking about, but like a gate I had not gone through it into prayer. We are now beginning to get to the areas that this blog is to discuss. I hope that you now understand why I wanted to relate my first experience. I do not think that my first pilgrimage is very different from that of others I have since spoken with. I am reminded of the verse in the scriptures. Enter by the narrow gate that leads to life. I think it is a narrow gate into God presence in pilgrimage. Most bounce off the 'floaty' stage and do not explore it. So their pilgrimage is meaningfully for many reasons, but does not quite get down to the deep places of the soul. Pilgrimage is mystical.