October 18: Today was a shorter day by design, about 15 km. Susan has it all planned out how we can keep each day to a manageable length and still get to Santiago on time. Tomorrow we will take the 10:15 bus to Arzua (missing about 14 km) and walk from there to Brea. Some of these plans are based around where we have been able to book accommodation, which hasn’t always been easy.
Susan’s tendinitis was a bit better today, actually moving to her other foot, and her calves weren’t quite as tight as yesterday. 15 km was a good walk for today. When we left our pension this morning, I decided to leave behind some cold medications that I don’t need any more (no use carrying more than necessary). Just a few minutes ago, Susan reported that she can feel a cold coming on. What luck!
It wasn’t only the meds that I left behind. I also left my iPhone/iPad charger plugged into the wall. Only this morning I got my Orange mobile phone and data service going again and now it looked like I wouldn’t have anything once the batteries ran out. It will be about two days before we will be somewhere that I can replace it and then it would be a European type that would not work at home without an adapter.
Fortunately, we asked for advice from Louis, one of the owners at the hotel here, who speaks good English. He phoned our last pension and they will ship it to tomorrow night’s pension. It may cost us a few Euros but well worth it. What great service! I have been amazed at my capacity to lose things on this trip: Marino socks, underwear, soap, shampoo, semi-important papers, my pack’s new rain cover, my Swiss Army knife.
As we get closer to Santiago, I am starting to review some of my original intentions as I described them in my first post on August 31st. I made it clear then that they were intentions rather than goals, that I didn’t want to predetermine the outcomes.
A Thin Place: I have been regularly aware of the ancient nature of this path. Notice that I never refer to it as a trail the way I would at home. It is either the path or the way, because it’s not like a wilderness trail. There are many reminders, whether in the 100 year old churches and monasteries, the ancient crosses or the ancient villages that this path is very old.
As I’m walking I often think about what it was like for medieval pilgrims who would have banded together in groups for protection, or how it was that the Knights Templar provided protection for them. I’m also reminded that in those days if you left on pilgrimage, you walked both ways and there was a real chance that you would never return. In that sense it has been a very different experience than a hike at home, though that is also sacred to me. (There are numerous markers along the way commemorating people who have more recently died on the Camino, including a doctor who died a couple of weeks ago.)
A Retreat: I intended to make this a time apart from the distractions of life at home. Although contrary to my intention I have checked my email I have not found it a distraction and I am grateful that people at home have handled matters without me. I have rarely checked the news and then mainly to discover who to vote for with my mail-in ballot (i.e. whoever has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate). I will be checking the election results. But in spite of these things I have truly felt this was a time apart in a different world. Even when I see a TV screen in a café I can’t understand the language. I have had plenty of time walking alone to reflect on my life.
Community: Yes. I have met some wonderful people. Some of them have become traveling companions while others have provided great conversations on the path or in the cafés. They have been from many countries and are walking for many reasons.
Being Present: I think I have made some progress in this but it is limited. I am most likely to be in touch with my surroundings when I am walking alone and the weather is good. But I still have to constantly remind myself to look up and around. If I’m not being intentional about that it is so easy just to look at the path at my feet. For the most part I’m only present to my senses when I’m actively trying to be. I don’t know if this will ever change.
There are a couple of other intentions that I had listed but to keep this post from getting too long, I’ll leave those for tomorrow.