October 8: What a great day! The weather was fine, the scenery was excellent and the company was superb. The sad part is that our French friend Geraldine left us this afternoon to return home as planned. Just before we got into Astorga we met a young Aussie couple that Geraldine had become friends with earlier in her walk. They were delightful and I’m hoping we run into them again on the trail. Geraldine bid us all a tearful goodbye.
As we have walked the past two days, Geraldine has played us some of her favorite music in several languages and we have sung songs together. She is very playful as you can see from the picture and she has a huge heart. She showed us pictures of a small German church that she called “my church” because it expresses her spirituality so well. The gorgeous, modern stained glass windows are wholistic in design and include symbols of all the faiths of the world. She is Catholic but her vision is not limited by denomination.
Because the “Way of St James” is based on Catholic tradition I expected that there would be more pilgrims who were devout, practicing Catholics, perhaps a bit narrow in their views. There may be some of those but I haven’t met them. Indeed the predominant pattern is that people may or may not be rooted in a particular tradition, but they are open to a wide range of spiritual understanding and experience. In many ways we have more in common with each other than with many in our own churches.
So I have been journeying with a pagan, a Roman Catholic and some of no particular faith. But at heart we believe much the same things. It’s a rich experience. Julie, for example, had some minimal church experience as a child, but her father had rejected the church at some point and she saw the limitations more than the gifts of Christianity. Until she met me. In all our discussions she said that I had “restored her faith in faith” because she realized what a gift my church has been for me and what a healthy and open minded church can be. I wasn’t trying to convert her, just telling her my experience. She even watched one of Jenny Carter’s sermons one night and loved it (and Jenny).
The other thing that is special about the Camino is that because so many are walking for spiritual reasons, it is easy to get into conversations about the things that really matter without a lot of preliminaries. Often the simple and common question “why are you walking the Camino” will begin these conversations and before you know it you’re into matters that most of us don’t talk about in our own congregations.
On the physical side, today was generally easier, at least once my body, which thought it was all over after a two day rest, stopped complaining about being set to work again. My cold is nearly gone. The changes came home to me when Julie and I were heading off to find dinner. We stopped to look at an excavation of a prominent Roman home on the street. About a block later I realized that I had not photographed it. So I ran back to take the picture then ran again the block and a half to catch up to Julie. I realized that apart from having a cold my weary feet would never have let me do that before. My feet and legs have clearly toughened up. And I wasn’t even breathing heavily.
One of my goals, if you remember, was to lose some weight . I have definitely lost some though I have no way of knowing how much. I have tightened my belt a notch (inch) and there is definitely less paunch hanging over my belt. The bigger question is whether my improved eating habits will transfer to back home. When traveling with Astoria it was easier because she doesn’t eat enough to keep a bird alive. But Julie has a robust appetite so we are more likely to go out for full meals that are more than my body needs. I’m getting better, though, at leaving the food on my plate when I am full. (But I did have chocolate cake for dessert tonight. Sinfull!)
That’s the news for tonight. Thanks again for your comments. Keep them coming. It is so encouraging.