“Brian, wow! This verse jumped out to me and made me stop… ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct your paths’ (Proverbs 3: 5-6). I hope you have the most wonderful experiences on your journey! I know that you will touch so many people along the way and what an amazing opportunity, as you will be touched by them as well! I cannot wait to hear about all your experiences! I know that you will find yourself refreshed and rejuvenated in all ways! Many Blessings! Kristen W.”
Each page in the journal given me had a verse of Scripture. Some of those who wrote, chose the page based upon the verse. It was always remarkable how God seemed to time the page for the day, and for the lessons connected to that verse.
So, that “trust in the Lord” business! What a reality that became on this Camino.
Early in the morning, we said our goodbyes to each of those rooming together at the Albergue. And then we each began to make our way off into the darkness. We didn’t know whether we would meet up again or not on this journey.
Nannette and I had decided to bus into Bilbao from Lezama (a town about 7 miles away). This was to avoid a long walk up a huge mountain on the way into Bilbao. “I just can’t walk over that mountain!” was what I had written into my journal. The Reverend Mother from the Sound of Music would have sung otherwise, I know! Also, it was a means to avoid a long walk through the industrial areas of Bilbao. Friends, who had previously walked the Camino, had suggested taking the bus. Lezama was on the fringe of Bilbao.
We had not walked far up the road from the Albergue, with the dawn breaking, and my feet hurting, when I mentioned to Nannette how much my shoulders were already aching. She glanced at me and said, “Here, Brian, stop for a second.”
I stopped and turned toward her. She walked up and said, “Brian, you don’t have your straps adjusted properly.”
She pulled this strap and loosened that one. “See, you want this strap tight, and these loose so your pack sits above your shoulders.”
“What did you do, take a pack adjustment course?” I joked. And, of course, she had! That’s Nannette — a researcher to the core!
“Actually, before I left,” she told me, “I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to adjust my pack, how to pack it, how to use poles, etc.” I had never thought to do that!
And sure enough as she adjusted my pack so the shoulder straps were lifted above my shoulders, the weight moved to my hips. I felt an immediate relief. There was this huge gift having this friend on the Camino.
We walked through the country some, along pathways overlooking green valleys, and then mostly along the BI-2713, the main road. I knew my heart was changing, for I wanted silence. That was a new experience for me, to know that I just wanted to be quiet. But, on this day, for a while, Nannette began to share about some frustrations from her work life back home.
At one point during the day, I had a chance to journal, and wrote:
“Done! I am done listening and talking. Today I wanted silence! I had to remind myself that I am not here to counsel or answer questions. I’m here first for my camino. I wanted Nannette to stop talking.”
Communicating just how odd it was for me to feel this, or to be clued into these feelings, is difficult. It was not like me to even notice. And to be frustrated felt so foreign.
It would be as odd as a fish saying he wanted to sit on the beach for a chance to sunbathe!
It was just not like the me I had known. But it was the new me. And I could not find a way to actually tell this to Nannette, who would have totally understood. This was about me, I hope you realize, not her. Nannette is a dear and beloved friend, yet today. And friends can talk with one another. It was me who was in this unusual place.
After some length of time, I asked, “Didn’t you want to leave work behind?”
To which she looked up, surprised by my question, and responded, “Oh, I have.”
After she said this, however, she stopped talking and we walked in silence. I thought, “I should have spoken up earlier.”
But then, I began to feel conflicted inside — about having said something, about wanting silence over listening, about feeling unwilling to listen. Like that was wrong.
Breathing this new air of silence was a strange thing. “Who am I, Lord? Who am I becoming? And how will this ‘painful walking thing’ I am doing, ever get me to where You want me to be?” And it all came back to one fact: This whole journey was a lesson in trust.
When we walked into Lezama, it felt like we could have walked further, and yet, we were thankful we didn’t have to.
The Basque of Northern Spain do not just run marathons or race on bikes, no, they run marathons through the incredible steep ups and downs of the mountains (notice the 1200 m ascent and descent on the poster) and ride bicycles over the same.
As we walked, Nannette called over to one of the race workers asking where the bus station was. Nannette was always boldly willing to speak to anyone, always assuming they would be able to speak English. And it seemed every time she did, they could and loved helping her. There was no station here, only a street corner in town where the bus stopped!
We found the bus schedule on Nannette’s phone and had over an hour to wait for our bus. Nannette also found that there was a train station, so we walked up to that, bought tickets there, but after standing on the platform, alone for a brief time, realized it didn’t run on a Sunday!
We walked back to the bus stop, watching as marathon runners arrived into town. I felt a little guilty for waiting for a bus around all these amazing athletes, but still, we sat down on the sidewalk, against the wall, for the wait. When Basque guys began to queue with us for the bus, and one asked us about the schedule, then we knew we were in the right place.
The bus arrived and the trip into Bilbao was short. Wifi was available so we could connect with home. At one point, when the bus had stopped, I asked the driver if we were near the Estacion in Bilbao and he said yes, this is actually as far as he would go.
Had we remained in our seats, next we would have been riding back to Lezama. We got off and walked around the corner, finding the Tourist Office. We got maps and directions and learned how to use the tram that ran right in front of Pilpil hostel, where I was registered. Nannette and I split up, as she headed off to her hostel, and I to mine. En route I encountered this darling family:
I checked in at my hostel and had a few hours to be silent. I showered. Washed clothes. Dressed. Rested. And then just sat relishing the chance to be still.
We had arranged to meet at the floral dog in front of the Gugenheim Museum at 6 pm. We met there with Carol, Claudio, Lorenzo, Petra and Maja (the mother and daughter from Germany), and Bennie (also from Germany). Everyone who had walked into town through Lezama applauded our wise bus riding decision! Here’s us a bit later.
There was this area of Bilbao called The Seven Streets, which was known for the best pinchas in Bilbao. So we walked and walked and walked so far to get there, and finally found a place to eat. The place we ended up at was possibly not the best pinchas, but we had this great time laughing, talking and sharing stories together.
I wrote: “I miss praying. I like praying with meals. I like praying in life. I like praying my way through.” But prayer had become breath and movement, silence and quiet. But then, after we all separated to head to our different lodgings, I got terrifically turned around and lost. God had given me a great chance to pray, but instead, I just got scared!
I had been walking for 40 minutes, when I had been only 20 minutes from my hostel at the start. And I recognized nothing around me. It was dark in the city, and I decided to ask some guys ahead of me for help.
From the expressions on their faces, and from the fact that they pointed me back behind me, told me, I was oh so far from my side of town. I had been heading in the opposite direction from my destination. So, feeling ever so lost, and confused, I about-faced. It was a hugely disorienting feeling to have believed I was heading in the correct direction only to discover I had been going the opposite direction. It made my head swim.
I then got scared. “What if the guys had misunderstood me, after all we had been speaking in Spanish?” So, to confirm I had correctly understood, I stopped at a bar and asked again for directions to the Gugenheim Museum (the largest landmark and a short walk from my hostel).
The bartender looked at me with great concern, and said this long sentence in Spanish. I understood none of it! He came out from the bar and walked me back to the street and clearly communicated with Spanish and hand motions — keep going this direction, this direction, no matter what the roads do, stay this direction. Twenty minutes!! I was grateful I had learned the word for “20”!
I reprimanded myself: “Seriously Shimer!! You were just 20 minutes from your hostel when you began walking, nearly an hour ago!”
My feet hurt so badly. And, my heart hurt worse as that voice of shame spoke words of condemnation. A police car whizzed passed me, stopped and an officer jumped out, and picked up someone’s dropped purse from the sidewalk. Apparently cleaning up after a purse snatching! The officer leapt back into the car, and it whizzed away again. I held my backpack to me, and began to breathe deeply as I invited Jesus into this continual walk “in this direction” in the deepening dark. That helped.
Since I knew I was walking toward the museum, I also knew my street with my hostel would be on the left prior to reaching the Gugenheim Museum. So, I began to glance down one street after another. I was looking for the lit up back of the Bilbao Football Stadium. There was a game on and they have this huge exterior, mega screen what would be broadcasting the game to everyone in the streets. That stadium was just behind my hostel.
As was typical after 9 pm, the streets were crowded with joyful, shouting, laughing, talking people of all ages, sitting and standing at street-side tables, out for dinner, drinks and the big game. When I glanced down the next street, I saw the stadium, so I turned.
Soon I passed the “China City” restaurant, where I had eaten dinner my first night in Bilbao back on August 20th! I knew I was only a few blocks from my Hostel. I wept with joy! I was so grateful. I arrived back at the Hostel. I wanted to kiss the ground, but thought better of it. I had never felt better than when I crawled into my bunk bed that night, surrounded by the eight other sleeping people, breathing into trust, which I had learned sometimes looked like getting lost and being found again.