I have just experienced an amazing hour visiting the Hospital del Alma or Hospital of the Soul here in Castrojeriz, today’s destination. it is an old house filled with photographs, simple sculptures and other pieces of art which capture wisdom from life’s journey. Many are accompanied by quotes like:
I asked to be rich to achieve happiness and was given poverty to become wise. I asked for all things in order to enjoy life and was given life in order to enjoy all things. I received nothing of what I asked for but was given everything I dreamed of.
If you judge people you don’t have time to love them.
You cannot teach a man anything; only help him to find the answer within himself.
Time is very slow to wait, very fast for those who are afraid, very long for those who mourn, very short for those who celebrate; but for those who love, time is everlasting.
These sayings, paired with powerful photographs, moved me nearly to tears. What an oasis of love midway on the Camino. As one whose life journey has been the seeking of the gift of wisdom, this was a treasure trove.
I walk in solitude most of the day and I find everything I pay attention to is amplified. Today, Astaria was telling me about an elderly neighbour who happily announced he was returning to France to where he fought in the war to place a wreath for his friend who died there. He returned very happy and was dead within three weeks. He needed to complete this last task.
In response I told her about Canadian veterans returning to Holland and being enthusiastically cheered by young Dutch people far too young to remember any of it. I choked up trying to tell her this and could hardly get the words out. I also remembered visiting the military cemetery at the Bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand. Walking the rows of graves and reading the names and ages of those dead soldiers brought home to me like never before the tragedy of war.
I learned today that my Aunt Marion died yesterday. She was a wonderful lady, warm, loving and witty. Her death was expected but I regret that I didn’t get to see her and won’t be able to attend the celebration of her life. My mom and dad were blessedly present when she passed and she was at peace. It will be hard for Mom who was her only sibling and they were each other’s best friend.
Today is also my son, Trevor’s, 41st birthday. I have thought about both my sons often as I have walked and felt a great deal of gratitude for them, as I have for Susan who follows every step of my journey and waits to join me. Trevor said that he feels like he is walking with me for a bit of each day. I am so blessed!
Today was my first day walking through the meseta, not a difficult day, physically, apart from the tendinitis in my ankle. I was expecting more of a desolate wilderness than I found. I started in the dark and walked into the dawn. It was very beautiful and more rolling than expected. I guess if it were 40 degrees C then my experience would have been different but it was mostly cloudy with a cool wind. Perhaps the worst is yet to come.
It seems like everything that happens on the Camino can be seen as a metaphor for life. But I find myself wondering if that is more true than the rest of life or whether we just have the luxury of time to reflect on it all. Maybe all of life could be like this if we were awake and paying attention.
It occurs to me that some of you, my faithful readers, might have questions about this experience. Feel free to add a comment with your question and if I can I will try to answer it.