Tomorrow, May 18, 2014, I go back to Spain to once again walk along the Camino Frances…this time only the last 100 kms, from Sarria to Santiago. I intend to post some pictures and some text as I walk, but given the limitations–I do not expect to have access to the internet on a daily basis–it may take a while before I post the photos. In any case, I am excited to be going back!
In the summer of 2012, I spent two weeks at the Universidad de Alcalá turning the blog into a book manuscript. I am now revising the manuscript and will be turning it it to a press by the end of the year. I am excited and hope to get the book that was never supposed to happen out and in the hands of all who are curious about the pilgrimage.
We walked the short distance to Mansillas de las Mulas, a strange name for such a nice little town! Once there we visited el Museo Etnográfico where we found a rich and well presented exhibit on the regional folk traditions.
Videos of traditional fiestas and samples of textiles, including clothing, and other material culture artefacts make the exhibit area lively and relevant. There were some visitors that included elderly couples who kept exclaiming how this or that is like they had “en el pueblo,” when they were growing up. The pictures of the “Pastorada” reminds me of the Pastorela! The dance traditional dress is similar to the dance dress in Mexico. I loved the jewelry and the pottery.
. We were at the bus station in Mansillas when a woman came up to speak to us; she is an ex-nun who lived in the United States for 14 years. She studied education and came back to Spain but the Spanish government would not validate her degree. She then received a second MA at the Universidad de Oviedo. She takes care of her 92 year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s. She speaks English with hardly an accent. Of course, she says, I left when I was sixteen and have not really been with my family since then. In fact she didn’t even see anyone from her family for eleven years. Then, her bus came and she left and disappeared from our lives just like that, she’s off to her small town north of Mansillas. It’s hard to imagine that Mansillas is the large town where she comes to buy groceries and such.
In León, I go to the Corte Inglés beauty shop to get my hair done; I really needed it! Also bought slippers for the rest of the trip. Since the ones that got messed up in Grañon, I have gone barefoot or worn socks at the albergues. We ran into Jose who had bought himself some boots that will serve him well. After our shopping and running all our errands, we had a good dinner at an expensive restaurant at Hotel Luis de León.
We find that Jose and Quentin, the Tarot-reading madrileño and the young man from Beligium, are staying at the albergue too and are also staying for a couple of days to visit the Cathedral and prepare for the last stages of the Camino.
MEDITATION FOCUS: As we walked today and passed by the small descanso and the shrine to the Virgen Peregrina, I ponder the many miracles and the blessings we have found along the Camino, from Becky’s boots to my own mystical experiences, i.e. the rosary in Rabé, my Dad’s fancy initial in the sky, etc. I am sure that my daily life is also full of such miracles, but I don’t stop to acknowledge them. At some point in our walking Becky tells me of Kathy Mossberg her Reiki teacher in Kansas City and I ask if we can get her to come teach a class in San Antonio. We put it out to the universe, and lo and behold here we are a year later, and several of us are at the Master Healer Workshop in Port Aransas. Another miracle!
In this last entry, I will post photos and leave the writing for the book where I can allow more time and space for a full description of our few days in Santiago, in Finisterre and back to Madrid and to Toledo where my Camino began. That was where I got the credencial that was stamped each night along the way back in December 15, 2010. It seemed eons ago, and I certainly was a different person then than on February 1, 2011. And I am a different person now, June 18, 2012 as I conclude this blog. I have decided the rest of the stoy will be part of the book project and I want to thank Rebecca Vela for allowing me to use some of her photos, but especially for her companionship, her friendship, and above all her willingness to walk the Camino once more, to be my co peregrina on this journey of a lifetime. Gracias a mis guias, mis “agneles de la guardia,” Marian and Josebe in Estella, Maria Jesus in Santiago, and all who provided shelter, food, and prayers along the Camino. ¡Ultreya! Y ¡buen Camino!
The day before we arrive, en la vispera, we walk to the albergue Arca de Pino where, technically, we will spend our last night on the Camino. On the way, we walked by a tree lined path. Neither Becky nor I recognized the bloosoms on the trees. The mysterious blooms turned out to be camellias! We asked two women who were out with their children, and they seemed surprised that we would not know what they were. Son Camelias, they said in unison.
As we kept walking we went by a memorial for Guillermo Watt, a pilgrim who died on the camino in 1993. So close to the goal! I stopped in front of the descanso, as it is called in New Mexico, and pondered his life. He was 69 and chose to transition right here on this spot, close to Santiago, but not quite there yet. I wondered who had erected the small shrine, who had placed the images and the stones at the base. I revernetly placed a stone as well. No doubt there will be others who come after me and also add to the growing pile. We had gone by other shrines, but none had impacted me the same way. Could it be because we were so close? And what about his family? Who was he? The details consumed my imagination. What happened? How was he found? Was he alone? So many questions!
As we walked this last stretch, I found myself enjoying the view and already being homesick for the wide open fields, the views of lush, fertile farmlands, alongside rivers. Here we could see it was still winter. In a few months, the trees would turn various shades of green, more like the the Galician panoramas I had seen before in my travels through A Coruña.
We stayed at the public albergue in Arca do Pino where we paid 5 Euros, the usual for the night in the staterun albergues in Galicia. It was a clean and comfortable albergue with hot waterfor showers but no utensils for cooking. There were few pilgrims walking with us, and we shared the albergue with two of them.
They were traveling separately, but seemed to konw each other. They also seemed anxious to leave early the next morning. So we all got up early and left on our last day of walking…the sunrise greeted us as we stepped out of the albergue.
As we approach the end, it is with mixed feelings that we go to bed. I want to end, to arrive, but I also fear that I will have finished the walk and not know what to do, how to go back to the world. Snug and cozy in my sleeping bags, I listen to the night noises and can’t sleep. but some time during the night, I do fall asleep. And it is in this sterile and not very spiritual setting that I have one of the most wonderful dreams of my life. In the dream, I am in a waiting room. I know that I have died and I await instructions with others who are in the same situation as I am. The room is full, but we are all patient as we wait to be called. Finally, I hear my name and as I go up, I am led into another room. Suddenly, I am aware that I can feel my father behind me. He has placed his hands on my shoulders the way he would do some times. I begin to weep because I am told I cannot turn to look at him. I hear his voice. I do not know what he is saying, though. He hands me a book! It is a large, leather bound book, and I know it is the book of my life that now has the Camino written in it. I know I must write about the experience of walking the Camino, of the small miracles and of the insights I have had and that I must share. It is part of my life’s plan.
The walk takes us through the highway and we almost miss the sign leading us out of town and on the Camino. A friendly horse bids us farewell and we are on the way. The foggy morning gives way to bright sun as the weather defies all predicitons of a rainy Galicia as we near Santiago. I for one am deliriously happy and feel elated. My heart sings as I remember Ana, my niece whose birthday it is and to whom I dedicate the day’s walk. We stop for a break at Cafe Bareto for what has become our customary snack of Bifrutitas de melocoton=delicious peach nectar, and a package of patatas fritas, potato chips.
As we leave the bar, lo and behold, there is Pablo whom we met way back in Nájera. He has finished the Camino and is doing it again, but this time he is with his cousin. He can’t believe we are still walking.
We joke that we are so hooked we don’t want to finish the Camino. There is some truth to that and he knows it for he has been on it as long as we have. They continue on their bikes, speeding away like hares on a race with the turtles that we are as we continue our slow pace walking.
As we apporach Ribadiso, we cross the Roman bridge that is still in use and approach the albergue where Becky stayed four years ago. It is closed since it is still early in the day. The turquoise blue door welcomes us and it reminds me of the blue on many doors in New Mexico, here, though, it is the entrance to an albergue that no doubt has existed for over a century. It’s strategic location by the river and right after the Roman bridge attests to its value. Plus, the sign in Gallego gives us a brief history of the place. We go in and peek through as Becky recalls her stay. The hospitalera is cleaning and getting the place ready for those who will come after us. The place feels cold and clammy. I am glad we will not stay here, although I also imagine what it would be like to fall asleep to the sound of the rushing waters of the river, el Rio Iso. We go on, continue on our walk.
We stay in Boente, the view from the upstairs window of the Albergue shows the back of the church and after we shower and rest a bit, we go out to get fruit and cheese for dinner. During our walk, I spy a sign for a beauty shop and take the photo. I may use it in my novel Champu. We’ll see. For now, it is an interesting sign along the Camino.
Meditation: El Camino shapes us as we make our path our own. Pablo on a bicycle travels faster and sees a different path than we. Becky returns to a place where memories beckon, where Roman soldiers once trod and where thousands of pilgrims have gone before. I go at my own pace, in my own way, I trust that the Camino that has been gentle and kind willcontinue to be so in my life back in the world as well as on the physical path of the stars. I ask that Ana’s path will also be full of light and joy. May her path as a mother be easier than that of daugther. The chain of generations continues through Ariana, her daughter, from Ari’s great great great grandmother, Celia, to her great grandmother Virginia, to her grandmother Leticia, through her mother Ana. That is the path back through generations until an ancestor from Spain comes to the Americas and the story goes they lived happily ever after, or not. A true mestizaje.
It is my mom’s birthday and I offer my walk to her. Her dementia is such that while she knows I am in Spain, she confuses this trip with others I have made and she repeats the story of how she wanted to come visit but my father would not let her and now it is too late. She will die con el deseo de visitar España. As the day wears on, and I tire from the walking, when we rest in the afternoon, I feel her presence and my siblings as no doubt they are gathered to celebrate her day in the family home on San Carlos Street inLaredo, Texas. That house that is full of memories and that she claims is full of our youth, our childhoods. She hears us laughing in the nights cuando no consigue el sueño. Since my Dad’s passing in 2004, she has deteriorated physically and mentally. I pray for her wellbeing and that she find joy in her memories fleeting as they are. She who gave her all for her eleven children who is now alone in the house built with love and joy but also full of sorrow and want. I know her path has not been easy, and now she erases that past and remembers fleeting images, sounds, and makes up the rest. Asi es.
We begin walking after cafe con leche and a croissant, and along the way, we find delightful villages with a different kind of grannery, conical structures that dot the landscape, cabeceiro in gallego, for storing corn we are told.
In Leboreiro I take the photo of the fascinating receptacle and of the church. The style is Roman, I guess with a weather worn image of Mary and the belltower. Typical of so many along the Camino, it is in need of repair. At one time I imagine it being in its prime with the pilgrims stopping along the way and a bustling medieval community praying three times a day and certainly on Sundays, the center of all communal activity.
Corn. That essential of Mexican foodways found its way to this village in norhtern Spain. The corn receptacle, leads me to think of my mother chastising my father for growing corn in our small back yard. Corn. One of the many foods he planted and harvested. Watermelon, squash, and tomatoes, of course. Our yard made small by all the plants growing there along with the herbs, manzanilla, cilantro, romero, and a huge lemon grass plant for teas. In many of the villages, I spot backyard gardens of leafy greens I don’t recognize.
As we continue our trek, we come across beautiful scenery. I can feel that we are getting closer to Santiago. No doubt in the summer this path is overrun with pilgrims. But for us, it is still quiet and peaceful. We are the only ones on the path for most of the time now that Jose has gone ahead with the young students who sent their mochilas ahead in a taxi and walked much faster than we. A more traditional grannery, called an horreo, suddenly there right before we get to the cemetery. These structures fascinate me.
I think I already mentioned how our Brazilian friend was fooled by an old man along the path who told him that it was where they kept los restos de nuestros antepasados and that according to tradition, he was to tap his walking stick on the ground three times each time he went by one of them. Well, of course, he did so until a priest along the way asked him what he was doing. When he explained, the priest laughed and told him that the old man had been pulling his leg. There was no such tradition and that the horreos held grain and nothing more. We all laughed as he told the story, but we also became immersed in our own thoughts of what we had heard along the Camino and wondered how much of it was false and how much was true.
We learn to discern truth from falsehood by listening to our bones. Yes, our bones. I can feelwhen things are not right, when something rings false. I have learned to trust that feeling and it has never failed me. En el Camino I have learned to trust and to allow the truth to unfold. There are many truths and I can only discern what is true for me.