A year ago today, I walked and remembered my friend Annie Serna on her birthday. We stayed at an apartamento turísitico, Casa Raichu, and quite a welcome site it was–a small miracle, really!
Here’s what happened: as we left Hostal Roncal in Cizur Menor we headed to Uterga where we planned to stay–that was where Becky had stayed four years before. We went by beautiful country with several markers, descansos they call them in New Mexico, along the Camino. Some are in memory of a person who died while on the Camino others are erected by pilgrims in thanksgiving and are dedicated to certain saints, the Virgin Mary being the most common object of veneration.
As we walked we also saw huge wind turbines, the giant windmills so unlike the ones of Cervantes’s day. These are giants with elises that make an eerie sound as they gyrate producing electricity for the region. We walked practically under the giants and the sound was such we could not carry on a conversation. They are magnificent and I am inspired so I compose a poem to them; but I don’t write it down and forget it except for the line: “Que capacidad de transformar al viento! Que talento.” It makes sense to have them here with the winds as they are…but even as they are elegant and majestic, they do mar the view and disrupt the peace and tranquility of the Camino.
At the Alto del Perdón, the highest peak since Roncesvalles at 950 meters ( by walking to Roncesvalles via the Camino by the highway we avoided the highest, the Col de Lepoeder at 1450 meters), we meet a man from Pamplona who comes to walk “para despejar la mente” ;indeed walking in the wind along the hiking paths will clear anyone’s mind. He says we are muy valientes to do the Camino in winter. It is something we hear often. Someone sent me an email calling us “Brave.” I guess that is the translation of “valiente.” Either that or mad, Becky and I joke.
The mud was deep and clayish and our boots were heavy with it. Becky’s new boots held out and she was very happy to have them. As we walked, I thought of many things and had many insights. And I kept Annie in my heart. Walking in solitude, I get many ideas for poems, novels, books, plays, stories, and I also think of my nephews, my nieces, my students, my friends and family, and I send them energy. Everyone–que valientes! They are so strong, they struggle so hard to reach their dreams. I thought of my tocaya, Norma Alarcón when I see a rock that is the exact shape of a turtle. I make offerings along the way: my walk, my energy, my gifts I offer to the universe to take and use– ” I am an instrument of our peace…the prayer of St. Francis. He made the pilgrimage too! I think of Xavier the pilgrim who made the onion soup and his desire to live a life of service to others. Everyone is a pilgrim. we are all on our own paths. I am grateful that it has not rained as was predicted and that despite the mud and the rocky path, we are safe and sound in Casa Raichu, Apartamento Turístico.
Oh yes, I was going to tell you how we got here. We did get to Uterga, but when we arrived, at the albergue, it looked abandoned. So we went looking for the man with the key. An elderly woman came to our aid: she had few teeth and her auburn red hair contrasted sharply with the two-inch roots of grey, but she was a kind and generous host. She let us into the plant-filled foyer of her home to get out of the cold, while she called the man who had the key. He came with the stamp, stamped our credenciales and informed us that the albergue had been closed by the municipio since August after a bed broke; now it was being used to store all kinds of things used for the town’s fiestas. No way anyone could stay there.
They both insisted that we should head to Puente la Reina, 7 km away. It was almost 5 p.m. and the sun was making its descent rather quickly. We knew we would never make it. But we went on, after all there were no albergues or other lodging possibilities in Uterga. So we walked to Obanos in the dark and knowing–from the guidebook–that the two albergues there closed for the winter. We sat on a bench to have a bit of bread and cheese and despair as much as we gave ourselves permission to. Then, miraculously a sign appeared announcing Casa Raichu. We called the number and Raichu–nickname for Raimunda– met us at Casa Raichu on calle Larrotagaña in Obanos, Navarra. There is one other pilgrim staying the night. Pleasant man who make small talk. Can’t recall his name. The room was fabulous: embroidered cotton sheets, real soap in the bathroom, all the hot water we wanted and nice comfy beds–no bunk beds tonight!
We began a nine day cleansing of my liver, detoxifying and clearing at the higher level as well as the physical and energetic. I attribute my migraines to a lazy liver that does not detoxify properly. I am working on it during the Camino. Also the ringing in my ear. I want it to stop!
MEDITATION FOCUS: The universe works in mysterious ways. As I contemplate the prayer of St. Francis and why it has been my favorite prayer at different times of my life, I come to the realization that I am of service. That I set myself up so that I take care of others; tend to others; become the big sister. I am learning to let others take care of me. Becky has become the big sister. I let her.