I awoke at 2 in the morning and chatted with my family back home a bit and worked on my blog post. I have a ways to go. Fell asleep at 4 and awoke at 6. Up and out after breakfast at 710 and pushed myself. Made 10 km in 2 hours. The terrain was mountainous, a rocky trail through the forest. I walked alone. I arrived at an albergue and changed out of pants into shorts and out of my boots into my walking shoes. At the small cafe there, I enjoyed tea with milk and a pastry.
When I had arrived at the albergue, an English chap was just leaving who said “You may catch me and we can walk together.”
Well I was surprised that I did since he had stopped to make a phone call. He was on the phone to his daughter in Australia. We joined up after his call.
He was an older Englishman, named Tony, from a town near Liverpool. “Ugly place,” he said. His wife was heading into gallbladder surgery, for which his daughter in Australia thought he ought to return home. But his wife, knowing flights from Spain, said stay! He took time to text all the important parties, letting him know their decision!
The walk was solely along a small roadway now. We stopped for a snack at a bridge and rested there. We stopped for meal of the day in a town prior to our destination. It was a meal that came with several courses of soup, salad, fish with chips and ribs and chips. Also a bottle of wine and a bottle of water. Tony didn’t want any wine, so I managed to drink the whole bottle (!). And I ate nearly a whole loaf of bread. “Oh God!” I thought afterward, “What have I done?”
I felt a bit intoxicated and tired afterwards. I was glad we had to walk further. Tony was nonreligious, so we had an interesting conversation about faith or lack of faith, and the place that Jesus had found in my life. He didn’t connect much to that. His camino was simply a matter of vacation, it sounded somewhat like, a vacation from home!
We arrived at the albergue at around 3 pm.
It was not open yet, but was this enormous monastery, founded in 952, the Monastery de Santa María de Sobrado. All the crew I had walked with much of the way were there ahead of us.
The Spanish guys whom I had met days before were there with Nannette. They had had much to drink already — surpassing me even.
The albergue opened, and after being checked in by the monks we found out beds. A group of us shared one room.
I was nervous about the room. I had been told “never sleep in a place with wooden beds” for bed bugs can be there. We checked it as best as we could and felt confident we would be fine. The electricity was spotty.
We all went to shower which was interesting for although there were individual stalls, they were co-ed, all in the same room, so we passed the soap stall to stall, guy to girl, etc.
That night I was still stuffed, so went and hung with the Spaniards and others at a table at a restaurant where they were eating and drinking, but I drank water! Nothing more was needed. I left that group and wandered down to join Nannette at another place, but she was leaving there however another friend, Nicole from Majorca was there. It was a brilliant time of reconnection.
I felt strange to be so nearing the conclusion of this Camino. We all wanted to attend the prayer service at the monastery. But apparently there had been a miscommunication. We all sat in silence in this darkened chapel, with only a candle lit for some time. No one came. The place felt more spooky than spiritual. The whole building reminded me actually of the Ann Rice Vampire novels, of which I know little! Finally, I left and headed to bed.
I slept poorly, awakening at 3:43 am to get my phone and charger from another room where their electricity worked. I then read scripture and prayed and slept more. I got up at 5:45, gathered my things, carrying them a piece at a time, so as not to awaken other, outside of the room to the sidewalk that ran around the interior courtyard of the building.
I carried everything barefooted through the courtyard and out the huge heavy gate reminding me of Hogwarts (from the Harry Potter series) and through the outer courtyard to the tables by a bar in the town. There I greased my feet and began walking around 6:30 am. As I walked, I began to cry. It was some kind of a mixture of joy and sadness welling up from within me. I walked in the predawn hour and spoke aloud to the One walking with me. Again, Who am I? What had I hoped? Why was I disappointed or depressed?
The closest that I could figure was a mixture of things. I missed Grace. I missed her daily company. Today she was flying home, so that too felt huge. But also there was this nebulous thing that lacked definition. Certainly it was something to be reaching the goal of Santiago — I was less than 50 km from there now. But more than that, there was this sense that in this daily walking, in this journey, the Camino was working upon me in ways unbidden, simply because I was walking.
It was that strange spiritual work that I couldn’t put my finger on. Perhaps I didn’t need to, I decided. Perhaps I really didn’t need to know what was happening. Perhaps I was exactly where I was supposed to be: unsettled, uncertain, and stepping into an unknown.
One discovery I had been making of myself while on this journey was that while being a fairly spontaneous person, I really liked things that I can predict, recognize and know. Another discovery was that feelings, although I thought I was familiar with that realm, they freaked me out. I would prefer not to deal with myself, and instead focus on others around me. But God was insistent about facing my own heart as I journeyed.
As I processed these thoughts and feelings the walk began to feel good and I could actually begin to see and enjoy the awakening world around me. Birdsong filled the air. The light and the moon and the sunrise glinted across the horizon.
As I reached a really small village en route called Boimorto, I checked in at the pharmacy still looking for KT tape, the kind of tape chiropractors used. I had been checking at pharmacies unsuccessfully since Grace and I were in Gijón for this. At this tiny pharmacy, with room for perhaps six people max, they had multiple colors of this even. Taping my leg in the park across from the pharmacy helped immensely.
I arrived in Arzúa in mid-afternoon. The guidebook was correct. So many pilgrims, everywhere. It caused me to feel more and more alone, for I knew no-one! Friends and I had agreed on which albergue to head for. I arrived early. They had just cleaned the place up. It was so clean! I felt so much safer there than I had at the monastery. I showered, washed my clothes, hung them in the bright and warm sunshine, read, wrote, and rested all before anyone else arrived. That’s when I found these notes in my journal:
First from Gabri, who had clearly been reading my mind:
“Life usually offers us far more than our biases and preferences allow us to have. Beyond comfort lie grace, mystery and adventure.” Rachel Naomi Reman
Dearest Dad, Who knows where this note will find you after a long day of walking or a fun day of painting or something totally different, but regardless of what has happened today, I’m sure you’ve recently found yourself beyond comfort in some way. I’m so amazed and inspired by you in your commitment to this dream and I’m so proud of you for pursuing it so wholeheartedly. I can’t wait to hear all the stories of how you encountered grace, master and adventure along the way. I love you so much, dearest dad!
Then a second message, from Anna, Zack and Josie on the next page: “Dear Dad — what an adventure! Here we are, all setting off into these new adventures. I hope this time of sabbatical is everything it needs to be for you and that you find renewed strength, courage and life along the Camino. Take good care of yourself. Keep your eyes open, looking for “patches of Godlight” along the way. We love you and we’re praying for you.
It was the perfect day to have heard from family. Anna quoted from one of our favorite family authors, CS Lewis, who wrote:
“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.” (Link)
That afternoon Anna and Nannette and I hung out and caught this funeral procession.
Then that night for dinner a group of us hung out and shared stories.