October 4: I can hardly believe what I did today. I slept well last night with almost no coughing and was refreshed and ready to go about 7:25. We started out in a steady but not heavy rain but I was quite comfortable. Then the rain mostly stopped and a strong side wind picked up. On those occasions when the rain came it was like tiny needles on my cheek. Again the path was flat and straight.
My goal was to find a pharmacy in Lahagún and load up with cold medications. When we got there we realized it was Sunday so nothing was open. An exception was the Irish pub we stopped in for lunch. The food was definitely Spanish but the Guiness was excellent.
Julie and I walked and talked almost the whole way – no real solitude but it felt right. We come from very different backgrounds but it is amazing how similarly we see things even if we use different language to describe it. Julie is a yogi who has been teaching yoga for many years. She is familiar with the whole tradition and philosophy, not just the poses, and though she professes no religion she is a very spiritual person and we see things remarkably similarly. Her Thai husband is Buddhist and sounds like a lovely man.
So the 23.5 km to Bercianos went by quite quickly – no ankle pain (though still some swelling) and my feet getting tougher all the time. As we approached Bercianos we burst into songs from The Sound of Music. No coughing.
Here’s where it gets more complicated. Julie had met a delightful French woman named Geraldine who had taken a liking to her even though her English is very limited. Geraldine had booked the two of them into a double room in a private albergue in Bercianos. I hoped to get a private room in the same place since it was the only place that offered them. But when we got there it was completo, full. The woman there spoke no English and in rapid Spanish gave me directions to the parochial albergue in town.
I must have gotten the directions wrong because I found myself about a km out of town with no sign of the albergue. Another pilgrim came by and informed me that it was 7 km to the next town. I considered going back or going forward to another albergue which offered single rooms. I was feeling very strong and good, and was enjoying the wind so I decided to carry on.
I loved it until about two km from my destination when the gale force wind was joined by driving rain which soaked my trousers and began to chill me. But I was still fine and just carried on (as if I had a choice). This albergue is not overly friendly or full so here I am now in a private room with twin beds, a wardrobe, a non working TV, and my own ensuite. I walked 31 km today and am looking forward to a more relaxed walk tomorrow when Julie will catch up to me. There will be rain showers tomorrow but less of them and less wind.
Of course, now I’m coughing and sneezing but hoping for a good sleep nevertheless.
I have been conscious that in the past few days I have not had any great spiritual insights. Lots of good conversation and enjoyment of the walking but no lights flashing. I am reminded that spiritual insight cannot be commanded. We can only be awake and aware and they come when they will. We can put ourselves into places where spiritual insights might come along – a church, a library, a study group, or a pilgrimage route. But we cannot command them to appear.
I think that on those days when I am in lively conversation rather than solitary walking, grist is being produced for that spiritual mill, the fruits of which are still to come.