December 30, 2010
We left the albergue in Nájera after everyone else had left because we went to the post office to send more things to León. I decided I didn’t really need two pairs of pants and sent ahead my warm-ups and a turtleneck; I figure I reduced the weight by at least a pound! Before going to the post office, as the others were leaving, I saw Pablo making himself a hearty sandwich with the left-over chicken and thought that he maximized his cooking well. When we did leave, we walked following the arrows and found ourselves walking through a pine forest. We walked at a brisk pace since it was not too steep a climb. Soon enough we arrived in Azofra. Becky had been telling me about the place and wondering if she was going to be able to visit with her old friend, the hospitalero, Roque, whom she remembered so fondly from her previous pilgrimage. We walked into town and as we walked by a café where the Italians were; they invited us to join them–we declined. And instead walked into another quieter place where we inquired about Roque. No, the owner informed us, the albergue had closed and he was no longer an hospitalero. I sensed that Becky was a bit sad. The woman was very friendly and chatted with us; she also discouraged us from staying in Azofra and insisted that we should get to Santo Domingo. We discussed our options: stay in an hostal, or walk the remaining 15 km to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The woman offered a third option: take a bus to Sto. Domingo! It seemed the perfect solution, especially because we did not want to be too tired the next day when we expected to walk to Grañon to be there for New Year’s Eve.
The woman also gave us information about bus schedules and where to go take the bus. When we walked over Becky spotted an elderly gentleman standing at the bus stop. It’s him! she exclaimed, as she dashed across the street to the bus stop on the opposite side. Sure enough. It was Roque! He regaled us with stories as we waited for the bus. He had come to wait for his wife. He told her about the nuns whom she had delivered a message to four year prior. They are related, primas carnales. I suspect it is the same as primas hermanas for us. It was a happy reunion.
The bus came and we said goodbye, but not before I got a good shot of them. It was just so good to see Becky so happy! Then as we drove away in the bus, she told me the story of how he had encouraged her to take a detour to Cañas. She leapt out of her seat, There, there it is, that’s where I went, she cried, as she pointed to the Abadía in Cañas in the distance. That is where St. Francis allegedly stayed when he walked the Camino in the 13th century. In our walking to Azofra we were passed by the Koreans who is walking with an Italian, but they are not in Sto. Domingo when we get there. No doubt they went on; it’s too early for them to turn in. The other men are here, a Belgian, and a Korean who forgot his diary in Nájera and had to pay 25 Euros for a taxi to take him back to retrieve it. There are two other Italians and a Basque.
In Azofra we met many “angels” people who helped us. First the woman at the cafe who gave us directions and urged us to take the bus–we wouldn’t have met Roque if we had not listened to her. When we were standing at the marquesina, the bus stop, a furgoneta sopped and a man got out and crossed the street to tell us that we had to stand on the other side or the bus wouldn’t stop. So many kind people. I have a mental picture of a woman who stands outside the second story balcony wearing a white dress and a bright orange delantal. It is striking because the building is also whitewashed and the orange apron stands out as if it were a splotch of sun. She folds her arms and leans forward, calling to some men who arrive below. Her bright orange apron flutters in the wind.
Later that afternoon we arrive in Santo Domingo de la Calzada and go straight to the Albergue. It has been modernized and has all the conveniences although it is nondescript on the outside. There is a minor crises as there is no hospitalero and the local members of the asociacion are taking turns taking care of the pilgrims.
We rest a bit and then go for a touristy visit to the Cathedral with its many legends. Santo Domingo is known as the patron saint of engineers, especially bridge builders. The story I read is that he was denied access to the monastery because he was illiterate; however, he would not be dissuaded from a life of service, so he built many of the bridges that still stand in the region to make the pilgrimage easier for the pilgrims. One particular story that caught my imagination tells of a young man who was falsely accused of a crime and was hanged. But the saint interceded on his behalf to the King who had ordered the hanging. When the King refused the pardon claiming that the boy was already dead, the Saint said, he is as dead as the chicken you are eating. At which point, the chicken sprang to life and so did a rooster. So in the church we now see a white hen and a rooster. We pay 2.50 E to enter the cathedral and see a display of a “Belen Napolitano” and of course to see the chickens in their elaborate black wrought iron coop.
I take a photo of an impressive statue of St. Anne with Mary and Jesus. I don’t recall seeing too many of the three figures together either in paintings or in statutes.. I am attracted to the representations of Mary. She is everywhere on the Camino. I sense that she walks with us. It is a strong feminine energy that makes us strong. I draw from her strength.
MEDITATION FOCUS: Service. In the Camino as in yoga, I am often reminded of the rewards of service and feel drawn to such a life. I imagine Sto. Domingo’s devotion to the Camino, to the pilgrims. His reward. And I remember Xavier and his commitment to come back to the Camino. I think of all the hospitaler@s who come and give of their time to care for the pilgrims, for us. I am grateful and I offer my own service in whatever way I can to make life better for all pilgrims on the Camino of life.