Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 11 - Me, Ourselves, and Why

Strange day today. Hard to even capture what it felt like but I think that's because I'm beginning to integrate my thoughts together, prioritize my day better, and go deeper into the friendships that seem to be emerging. As I was told by others who walked the Camino, physical pain disappears as a focal point.

I had a hearty breakfast at the albergue and set out for Sarria an hour away. By the time I got there, dawn just was starting to break. And for some reason the town was abuzz at 7:45am! This isn't typical northern Spain so I wasn't sure what I was seeing. As it turns out, the people were almost all pilgrims. Sarria is just over 100km, the minimum to earn a Compostela or certificate at the end of the walk. I was seeing the busy short Camino group on their first morning out.

While walking through Sarria in the semi-dark, I met an older couple who lived in Tinley Park Illinois (my home town) during the 90s. What a small world!

I also realized that I was on a distance cycle. Because I walk 30-40km each day, I see many of the same pilgrims who do the same distance. I pass them, they pass me, we stay in the same villages plus or minus a town. That's why I keep seeing Joseph-Maria from Barclona. It's his first full Camino and he's so tall and speedy that he passes me by several times a day (he stops often for a smoke). We may be traveling alone, but we are never alone.

I was intrigued by the town Portomarín. The very high bridge into town made me so anxious and I couldn't look over the side easily. More surprising, the evidence of regular flooding showed water levels could rise 20m. The bridge was this high to keep it from being regularly destroyed. Horrifically you could see many ruins at the bottom of the banks, where prior attempts to keep homes and buildings failed. It made me think of how climate change may force coastal cities all around the world to eventually do the same.

Conrad the Austrian cyclist introduced himself as I approached Portomarin. He's a young cyclist who was at the infamous vending machine yesterday. He started his Camino in Austria too but he skipped France and much of Switzerland. (Upon my return, I realized I actually had Conrad in those pictures, but we hadn't met yet. Once again, everyone is sharing the world with each other but do we really know each other?)

I ended up walking right past Portomarín because it was high on the hill, I wasn't hungry yet, and I couldn't see any buildings that drew me emotionally. I'm glad I did because by the time I got to Grosvar, there were only a few beds left at the primary albergue.

I saw Conrad at the restaurant / bar. How could I not run into him? It's the tiniest hole in the hill hamlet that has two albergues because it's the only place for 8km up the mountain after Portomarín.

Again the albergue had no wifi. But for some reason, I couldn't nap. Perhaps it's because I was hungry and after my shower the restaurant had already closed for siesta. At the men's shower, I noticed some clothes and hoped the owner wasn't stressed from leaving them behind. The front desk was already closed because we were full so I left them at the bench for the owner to find. I watched the older Asian gentleman who I saw since Astorga make a lovely salad in the kitchen. With no sleepiness, I washed the days clothes because with the gorgeous hot day, I was sure they'd dry fast. I continued to read "the Pilgrimage" by Paul Coelho, an ebook gift from Dan McCarrell. The mysterious spirituality that he evokes is analogous to my journey but on a different, more philosophical bent.

Then I watched scenes from The Way and found some of the scenes even more evocative. Superficially, I realized that I could point out some of the places and that I had eaten breakfast by the bar where Martin Sheen lost his backpack. But also, I saw how people come and go on this walk, some sticking around more persistently than others.

Later I headed into the restaurant and ordered the menu: for the first plate I had the mixed salad and for the second I got the cerudo de cerbo. Just as my coke and salad arrived, Elias and Jakob walked in. They asked to join me and we ended up having dinner together. They're at the next albergue on the sheltered rooftop because they came in much later. Evidently after almost 3000km, they're still young men so can barely wake up in time before the albergues kick everyone out at 8am.

I shared my fries because I'm really- almost to the point of baffling me- not that hungry after these walks and instead of craving carbs, I just have a hankering for protein. I was more than sated by my the pork chops and let Elias and Jakob enjoy most of my fries.

Conrad joined us. I was enjoying the conversation so bought all a round of cokes. Conrad is a 19yo university student in Vienna who is exuberant, friendly, talkative. I wondered if I was or am like him.

I enjoyed their company tremendously. Perhaps it's because they were so excited to be traveling on their own adventures, I recalled my own youthful backpacking trips in Europe. It felt oddly like a full circle, me turning fifty a couple months ago and rethinking my life versus me turning 21 thinking about life upcoming.

Am I really that different a person today versus then? Am I not using a trip through foreign lands in inexpensive beds to fuel my internal journey? What did I learn then and what am I learning now?

We closed the bar down. Funny saying that because it closed at 10 and we needed to get back inside the albergue before the 10pm lockout time. During that time a furious hailstorm came and went. I figured my wet clothes either blew away or were wet once more so just kept eating my helado. I learned that Jakob lived in NJ as an exchange student, and speaks German and English but also Spanish and Italian. The closeness of the cousins was wonderful - practically brothers - and made me notice that a journey with someone you care about is as important as a journey alone. It made me miss Stephen intensely.

I do try to speak with Stephen daily on Skype. At a minimum we try to text given the time zone differences. It helps but without wifi here, I grew homesick.

Conrad and I talked back in the albergue. He discovered his clothes in the shower room (yup the owner who forgot them was him), and we shared a dryer because though my clothes didn't blow away, they were sopping wet and hail-tenderized. We stayed up chatting while waiting for the laundry.

The difference between a personal journey and a shared journey weighed heavily on me as I went to bed. I had come here alone but now am expecting to travel somewhat with these guys and others. It made me think of all the people who said they'd pray for me on my journey and asked me to pray for the people in their lives.

Ironically, a passionately personal journey is more intense and deeper it seems when you walk in community.

No comments :

Post a Comment