I awoke at 5 on a Monday morning in my fancy, tiled room. Considering that I had climbed into bed at 530 pm, slept an hour, then awoke and stayed in bed resting, praying, reading, watching a bit of Spanish TV, texting with grace as she began her journey over to Spain, then falling asleep again at 9:30 pm, I was surprised that I had slept that long!
As I began today I was struck with the strange quality of “time” on the Camino. At home all my life is by the calendar. “What appointments do you have tomorrow?” is a typical question for Karen and I to ask one another. My day is calendared. It is scheduled. The Camino removed all that. My only job was to walk. And when I finished walking it was to wash my clothes, eat and sleep. Nothing more, really. It was strange to think about. Sunday had truly been a ‘rest day’ unlike at home when I work on Sundays. I rested. So now today, I would begin to walk again, but there was a freedom in that reality. No other responsibilities. My only work was that of placing one foot in front of the other.
This morning I was aware that the Camino was shaping me. My way of life was shifting. My heart was shifting. My hopes were changing.
The Lord was speaking: “Don’t fear, Son. Don’t create a ‘No” where I allow. Don’t build a wall of a way. Don’t run from feelings. Don’t imagine that I am against joy or pleasure. Don’t limit Me. I’m larger, more expansive, more in love, more involved, more available, more present than you imagine. I’m more THERE Child, than you know. I love you, Child. I love you.”
I couldn’t wait any longer for it to get light enough to leave, so exited my room at 6 am, and climbed quietly down the stairs, left my key on the table in the hall, as I’d been instructed. I opened the door to the street, heard it latch behind me and made my way down the narrow roads to the highway and saw a sign for the camping area, which was near the Camino trail. I walked into this area. I had scoped out the trail from town the previous day so kind of knew what I was looking for. I did come out on the road from the town, but it was dark and coming up toward me was a group of pilgrims. I turned up the road in the direction they walked. And in doing so missed the arrow.
“I sure admire you,” my sister-in-law Marijo had written in the journal, “and all that you are and have become. You are amazing. Thank you for a most wonderful fabulous time/gathering. We wish you a beautiful upcoming journey. We love you loads and loads sweet Brian.”
My son-in-law Collin had written, “Walking is a pretty great thing. There’s no knowing where your feet will take you. Wishing your feet will lead you to great things! With Love, Collin. PS. Take care of those feet.”
This small group of pilgrims and I ended up on the same highway off of which I had turned. We walked up a distance in the black morning and then this French guy got out his GPS on his phone and began to search for where we were.
In many French words he explained how we were on the wrong path and needed to turn back. It was clear by his gestures and intonations that that was what he was saying! Here we were all crowded around him with the map from his phone blazing up at us, in the pitch black of the morning. So we turned around. I was anxious to get on the Way. I walked back to the road over which we had come and in going down it I found the arrow we had missed. As I turned up I thought perhaps I ought to wave them but looking back, no lights followed me down the road. So I thought they must have decided not to come that way.
I made my way up the path and indeed the trail crossed the same highway again. Guess I had not investigated as much as I could have the previous day. Then I started off into the country on this and many other country roads. The air was moist with humidity. Fog blanketed the fields and foothills. The dim light and lights from barns and houses cast a beautiful glow everywhere. It was enchanting.
The way took me across one field to another. The mileage sign said 534 km to Santiago. I tried not to think about how many steps that would be!
As the light dawned, it was a breathtaking, beautiful day. I loved the undulating landscape, the cattle I passed in fields, the light beginning to shine across the horizon. It was a precious walk. I came up upon a couple walking together and recognized Mark from Australia. We had roomed in the same albergue my first night on the Camino and again at the monastery. He was now walking with Clara from Italy. We chatted about the journey as we made our way up the hill. He asked how my leg was doing. I told him I had had no problems since the acupuncture treatment at the monastery, which he had witnessed. Then there was a split in the route. They chose to go straight while I tried out the path around the town. It was adventuresome.
I rested by this big church with symbols of pilgrims in front of it.
It wasn’t two hours after Mark and I had spoken, when my leg seized up. It was not on a particularly difficult hill. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe with pain and walked with great difficulty. I asked Jesus what to do and got a clear response: “My Son, slow down!” I realized that the reason I had not had trouble had been because I had been walking with Nannette, who helped me walk more slowly. I remembered that Nicole at the monastery had wanted me to go slower too.
“Seriously God, you do repeat lessons!”
So, I stopped. I rested my leg. I rubbed inflammation cream on it and massaged it. I ate something and took it easy the next hour plus into the town of Comillas.
Comillas was a beautiful, enchanting place. It was quaint with all these cobblestone streets everywhere.
It was built on many hills. I arrived at noon and had three hours before the albergue opened. I took my towel and money, passport etc. and changed from boots to shoes and walked down to the beach. There were many stairs to the street and I followed it down to the sea. The beach was stunning. I swam and laid in the sun. Ah. I went to a beachside restaurant and had three small beers and ate. Then I walked back up to the albergue which was on top of one of the many hills.
Max from Germany arrived and we had a great reunion. He had said to me that he hoped we would see each other again. I ended up standing with this group of Germans whom had met before. They were chattering and I could easily follow the German conversation. I met 76-year-old Elaine for whom this is her second Camino. She walked the Frances two years ago and had had her bag shipped place to place. For that reason she had bought a very basic bag but not excellent backpack this time.
However as she was seeking to carry her weight and discovered that there was no service on the northern route to ship bags, the backpack, made for a man, was impossible for her to manage. A woman at her first albergue said: “Elaine, take my bag. It is excellent, made for a woman, has all the supports you’ll need. I’m only hiking two weeks, I will use yours.”
So Elaine got this woman’s’ excellent bag and the woman got Elaine’s.
Elaine said: “The Camino provides!” So true.
The albergue opened. I showered, did laundry and shared the drier with a woman from Korea named Maria, so our clothes actually totally dried. Then I walked down to find the grocery. I found it then got lost on the way back. Took me a long time, with me asking several times. After I returned, I realized I had forgotten to go to the pharmacy so needed to head back down the hill. This time I asked for a map and directions at the albergue, got directions to the pharmacy, and still needed help finding the pharmacy.
By the time I returned, I was exhausted. Then I sat in the sun until dark on the rough stone steps outside the albergue enjoying this most picturesque spot!!!
This guy from Brazil who spoke highly accented Spanish and talked all the time as if people were listening and understanding him. He offered me some wine. He has bought himself a bottle with his dinner. I accepted one cup, and ate a bite of his cheese. I had also eaten two apples, cheese, chocolate and some of my sausage.
I awoke at midnight to use the bathroom and needed to climb down from my upper bunk. I wanted to be as quiet as possible, so swung my legs gingerly to the metal ladder. Coming at the step on the ladder from an angle caused the whole ladder to shift to the side, it unhinged from the bunk completely and to my horror clattered to the floor. Maria below me stirred. She folded the blanket on her bed and placed it down by her feet, then lay down again. I don’t think she ever truly awoke. No one else appeared to have awoken. I stayed as still as I could as the noise seemed to echo on forever. Then, eventually, I could breathe again, I lifted myself carefully down, placing a foot on the edge of Maria’s bunk, quietly slid the ladder under the bottom bunk and made my way out of the room.
As I exited into the common area, Mark and a couple girls laughing loudly and talking as they returned from what appeared to be rousing time at a bar. I could not imagine staying up that late on the Camino with the level of exhaustion I felt! They had more energy than I did, for certain. After returning to bed, I slept well.