Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sahugun to Burgo de Ranero

IMG_5754It was one of those off-kilter days.  I hadn’t set up a destination to send my daypack to the next morning.  Maybe the run-in with the angry hotel owner the day before had soured me on picking places out of the guidebook. So out of denial or laziness I ended up carrying everything in my big backpack.  I was strong after seven days of walking, right?

I texted Tami to see when she was leaving, and she texted back that she’d already left at 7:30. She hadn’t wanted to disturb me.  That was fine. I thought we would catch up with each other later in the day. There wasn’t a good place to have breakfast near the hotel, so I just started walking out of town.  There had to be something in the next village, called Calzada del Coto.

Well, Calzada del Coto was totally locked up.  After walking for an hour on an empty stomach and no caffeine I was a little punchy.  I was used to villages with all the doors and windows closed, but this morning it bothered me.  I can remember bad dreams as a kid where I went from door to door in a panic and no one answered.  That’s what this village reminded me of.  I spent at least 30 minutes circling through the major streets and back to the beginning of town and no cafe/bar!  Not a good use of walking time.

So I kept going, and going, and going. And I could feel the pressure of my heavy pack on my feet.

Finally, in Bercianos, I saw signs of cafe/bar life up ahead.  Some enterprising person had opened a cafe/bar right as the Camino entered town.  IMG_5762It was a sight for sore eyes! Coffee!  Brunch/Lunch!

I took off my pack and ordered cafe con leche, and a tuna empanada.  Yum!  I checked my phone. Tami’s text said that she had gotten in a taxi with two French pilgrims and she was now in Mansilla de las Mulas, two stages ahead, and was sorry we were out of synch.  I was sorry, too, but totally understood her need to keep moving to make it to Santiago.  I noticed that there were very few pilgrims  on the Camino that morning.  It’s the most popular part to bus through. I complimented the cafe owner on such a nice place, and he said that the Brierley guide was sending pilgrims on the alternate Roman Road route, bypassing his village, so he didn’t have as much business as he’d like.  He and his wife were so nice, and I hung out with them for awhile enjoying the sunshine.

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Past Bercianos, I was back on the classic senda path.  Someone had set up a chrome arch, which was one of my favorite sculptures on the Camino.  Very simple, but it reminded me of the various “gates” we’re supposed to pass through in our lifetimes:  birth, puberty, falling in love, aging, etc.

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There was a rest area next to an Ermita (locked!) and I took off my boots for awhile to give my feet a rest. Pink and green socks for a spring Camino! I was all by myself for awhile there by the Ermita and felt called to do Morning Prayer on my Iphone app.  An elderly man came by with a bucket and he said he was gathering herbs for his chickens!IMG_5756

I got into El Burgo Ranero and checked out Albergue La Laguna, and I must not have looked too impressed.  The albergue guy was Italian and said, “I you should go down to Piedras Blancas, you might like it better.”  It was a nicer place, and my feet were hurting, so I stayed. Turns out the same people own a group of albergues and hostals in the next few towns.

My room was directly over the bar and the place was packed with men drinking and being very loud.  I went downstairs before dinner and the Italian guy I’d met at the other albergue was hanging out there.  “Isabel! (I sometimes become Isabel because people in Spain couldn’t pronounce Beth) you must meet my friend.”  His friend was an older Spanish pilgrim whose Spanish was so fast, I got about every 20th word.  “Mas lento, por favor!” I said over and over, but he never slowed down and I found myself nodding my head as if I did understood.  It was old school conditioning to be the female who just keeps listening.  Then I thought to myself, “this is ridiculous,” and excused myself to go call my mother, which I did.

Dinner turned out to be excellent fish, and the wine of the house was better than usual.  I picked out the place to send my daypack  in the morning.

The guy at the desk whose job it was to call the pack shipping company said, “you know it’s only six kilometers to Reliegos!”  Yes, six kilometers was fine. After 17K  with my full pack I was ready for a shorter day of walking.

So the end of the off-kilter day found me in a warm hotel room with radiators to dry my clothes on hoping for a easier walk, and a cafe con leche and tostas before heading out in the morning.

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Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Moorish Whore, a novel by Rebekah Scott

As I walked the Camino, I realized how little Spanish history I knew.

Being in Spain for almost a month between my two trips in 2013 and this time in 2015, I was struck by its singularity within Europe. As a gigantic Peninsula, it’s essentially an island, cut off from France by the Pyrennes. It never went through the turmoil of the Reformation in the 16th Century. Although there was that thing called the Inquisition! Spain was not involved in the two World Wars.  After the Civil War of the late 1930’s, Franco became dictator, and Spain stood alone for more than 50 years.

I also didn’t know much about its early history. I knew the Moors had occupied much of Spain in the Medieval era. Statues of St. James as Matamoros, or Moor Killer, were everywhere in churches along the Camino. El Cid was remembered as a great hero in Burgos. In Najera, I saw tombs of the Kings of Navarra. In Leon, there was the Pantheon of Kings, going back before the 12th Century. The Knights of the Templar churches and the Castle in Ponferrada were spectacular. There was a rich history in Spain. The Camino drew me in to learn more.

14672620Rebekah Scott’s novel, “A Moorish Whore” took me back to the 11th century of Medieval Spain.

The main character, Zaida bint Mu’tamid, is a princess of Moorish Seville who was carried off by Alphonzo the I, King of Castille and Leon, as a prize of war. She was baptized a Christian, given the name Isabel, the King married her, and brought her to the north of Spain, to San Fecund, which is now Sahagun.

We see the world of 11th Century Spain through Zaida’s eyes. The novel’s female perspective is one of its strengths. She loves the King, and the children she bears. She brings cleanliness and running water to her town. She is more educated than the monks in power in San Fecund, who never accept her, and see her as an infidel. We witness and cheer her on in her struggle to survive in a harsh land run by violence and intrigue.

One of the delights of reading the novel was recognizing a place in the book. It’s just outside of Sahagun. It  had a feeling of being “out of time.” There’s a little bridge over the river, and a stone chapel built in the 11th Century.

Spot just before Sahagun.

Spot just before Sahagun.

In the novel, Zaida finds understanding with the hermit Esteban who lives there, and Pilgrims walking to Santiago stopped for respite. Zaida adopts the little waystation, brings in running water and sanitation, and builds the chapel. She befriends the people who live on the riverbank, who catch crabs and fish. It was a wonderful reimagining of what a place was like centuries ago. There are so many ancient places along the Camino just like it. Each of them has a history that has been lost to time. As Pilgrims, we go by quickly, snap a photo, and move on.

Scott reveals Zaida’s strong character through a swirl of memories and the story deepens as we learn more about her life back in Seville. Her parents are notable characters, and we learn that life was not at all perfect before she was “chosen” by Alphonzo. There were power struggles within the court, and, as a young woman, Zaida was used as a pawn by her own family, too.

The plot thickens towards the end of the novel, and builds towards a surprising finish. Zaida/Isabel is a survivor and a strong woman. “The Moorish Whore,” brings her and her time, back to life.

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Signs of New Life

  

There were many reasons I wanted to walk the Camino this spring. To finish, of course, to fill in the missing piece of the Meseta that I’d bussed through in 2013.

There was also a desire to have some time to reflect and meditate. The Camino gives you many hours walking alone.

I felt like I needed some time to listen for what God wants me to do next in terms of ministry. What is life-giving? How can I offer my gifts?

Some of those questions got muffled by the meeting of people and the physical challenge–and fun–of walking again.

Then the day I left Sahugun I decided to carry everything that I usually shipped in my daypack, and I walked 20k to Burgo Ranero. It felt heavy, but I felt strong enough to carry it. Well, the extra weight really pressed on my weak point, my ankle tendons. My left foot was hurting the next day. One of the lessons of the Camino seems to be that I have to learn some things over and over again.

The next day I had to go slow, and there was grace in that. It was a contemplative day. I saw the beauty of the simple things: the trees planted along the senda pathway, and how they created a rhythm. You could interpret it as monotonous, but that day they were like prayer beads along a string, one after another, predictable, and pulling me along.   

  

Periodically, along the path,  there were monuments with the Cross of St. James on top. I sat down on one, and no one came by for a long time. I was alone. There were stones left on the ledge. 

  

and on top. I took my pack off and found a stone or two to add. It felt good to bless each one with a thing I wanted to leave behind.

The flowing streams reminded me of Psalm 42, “as the deer pants for the waterbrooks, so my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.”  

Then I noticed the freshly- plowed fields, and the red earth. 

  

The Camino was plowing my soul, getting it ready for the new thing that I hope God is planting in my life. There were lots of examples of new life along the Way. 

  

I spent some time reflecting on what it meant to walk in Eastertide. I was walking in the midst of a beautiful Spring–much more dramatic than at home in my drought-striken Bay Area. It was a long time since I’d experienced a real Spring. 

It made me think of the contrast with all the crucifixes in the churches I’d visited along the Camino, and the tradition of Semana Santa–Holy Week processions–in Spain. There was so much emphasis on Christ’s pain. 

Out here in the campo, the church of the Earth, I felt the overwhelming power of the Resurrection pushing up new life, renewing everything. I could feel the earth humming with energy. Christ was here, on the Camino, renewing us pilgrims, and the whole Earth, giving of himself.

Going slow was a good teacher. Once again, I said “gracias” for all that God, through the Camino, revealed to me, and would reveal to me in the future.

  

  

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela, Spiritual Growth, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

In Sahagun

Tami and checked into a cute Hostal run by a French couple at the point where the  Camuno enters Sahagun. We both had our own rooms. I was ready for some privacy, and my own bathroom. The room was tiny, barely bigger than the two twin beds pushed together, but it was very cozy and looked out on the Camino. And it clear with a hairdryer.

My feet were killing me. So I lay down on the bed and elevated them, and caught up on the blog a bit.

I’d sent my daypack into a different Hostal that I’d picked out from the Brierley guide. After my feet felt better I went out to find it. No luck. So I went to find some lunch. Walked downhill deeper into Sahugun and there weren’t many places open. Lots and lots of “Se Vende” (For Sale) signs and boarded up shops. It was a reminder of how bad the economy still is in Spain.

At the bottom of the hill I ran into Bill and Aimee, whom I’d met atAlbergue Jacque de Molay. They were in search of lunch, too, and I joined them. Turns out they live in Santa Fe but are both from central Louisiana, where Hale is from. We had a great time sharing our stories and enjoying a notable lentil soup with chorizo that had the depth of flavor of a Gumbo. They raved about a place in Mexico called San Miguel de Allende as a place to learn Spanish.They go there all the time. I was struck by the synchronicity of meeting them and Nancy, who both had “CenLa” connections.

After lunch, I found the Hostal where I’d sent my daypack and regretted sending it there. The proprietor answered the doorbell and really wanted me to check in; he was desperate for business, but I had already checked in at the other place. I didn’t quite feel unsafe, but I was uncomfortable. It was another reminder to me how bad the economy remains in Spain.

I talked with the owners of my Hostal in the lobby about it. Clearly, it was the very beginning of the Pilgrim Season. I think there were only 3 people staying in their place that night. Our disjointed conversation in Spanish and English, with a French overlay (which I don’t  speak!) made me aware of how flexible people are on the Camino about communication. They’re comfortable using a kind of Esperanto of whatever language works, and aren’t afraid of trying something. I’d entered the zone where I was comfortable not understanding everything that was said. I seemed to understand enough, and know when to ask for clarification–or not–and that was ok. We don’t ever live in that space at home.

Sahagun was a little disappointing, a lot of the really old churches I wanted to visit were closed. But later that night I got together with Tami, and Andrew,from England.

We walked to the ruins of the 10thC Abbey, and Andrew was very knowledgeable about them.

Andrew and I had talked several days before about the psychological dimensions of saying hello and goodbye to so many people that you meet on the Camino. It gives you insight into how you make friends in real life. The same patterns apply on the Camino, but they’re amplified. Now that I’ve walked on the Camino three times, I realized that I was thankful when I met people and I shared contact info with some people, but I was able to appreciate them and let go. I did not need to be “with” a group or a buddy the whole time.

There was a difference, too, because I wasn’t going to Santiago. It gave me a somewhat unique perspective. Most pilgrims had to keep moving quickly to make time on the long haul across Spain. I was reminded of that when Tami and I entered Sahagun, where there’s a monument that marks the halfway point to Santiago.

I had moments of wishing I could continue further—the stretch past Leon to Molinaseca might be my favorite segment—but I was also thankful to be doing a shorter pilgrimage, and to be present to the charms of the Meseta.

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To Sahagun

When I left Albergue Jacque de Molay I had one of those first thing in the morning thrills of freedom. The day was wide open, and exciting. I love that feeling! Zing! My legs felt strong, and everything I had was on my back. (Well almost everything. My daypack  in the vestibule waiting for Jacotrans.) I wonder why I don’t feel it more often. It must be all the endorfins. 

The Camino followed the Autovia for most of the day. I enjoyed the huge directional sign that pretty much described my Camino 3.0: Burgos to Leon!

We also passed out of Palencia and into Leon. The way marker looked like it predates the Autovia.

I love the layers of ancient and modern along the Way.

A little farher on, I ran into Tami again. She had ended up at the other Albergue in town for the night. (There are less than 100 people in the village. The Albergues are the only businesses.)

It was good to see her, and we walked all the way to Sahagun together. We’d only met a few days ago, but it felt like I’d known her a long time. She and I were comfortable saying hello and good-bye, and wordlessly knew when to give each other space. We both wanted to experience the Camino solo, but enjoyed each others’ company. She had walked the whole Camino multiple times. The rigor and beauty of the Camino challenged her and gave her peace, as it did for me.

Her more evangelical vocabulary of faith was different than mine, and yet we talked about God and I enjoyed her perspective. She talked about “knowing Christ,” and it made me think, “do I know Christ? I strive to follow him, and worship him, but do I know him?” Thought-provoking.

The last few kilometers to Sahagun were tedious. The Camino wound through a lot of indescript and abandoned houses with “se vende” signs. Just as I was going into “grind it out” mode we came upon a spot that had a strong spiritual energy.

It was a like a place out of time: a little Roman bridge that crossed a fast-running river. The weeping willows were leafing out and there was an ancient (locked) chapel on the other side. We stopped and took pictures.

There’s that saying that pets cross over “the rainbow bridge” when they die. I wonder if I’ll cross over one of the many beautiful bridges on the Camino when it’s my turn.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

From Carrion to Terradillos de Los Templarios

My short day to Carrion had a strategy to it: the next stage on the Camino is a whooper, and I wanted to be rested for it. The first section is 17 k on the flat Meseta without any services, including water. This was where I was thankful it was April, not July.

The dotted yellow line is the Camino. I could have stopped at Calzadilla, but I got caught up in the excitement about a 27k day to Terradillos, and went for it. 

  

It wasn’t too bad, really. Sun and clouds, no rain, cool temperatures. The first couple of hours I listened to the birds and was lost in my thoughts. The second couple of hours I listened to old favorites like James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album, and John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” singing along as loud as I pleased. Then there were a couple of necessary pit stops. None of those services, either. Had a big salad for lunch at Calzadilla. The bookmobile was also in town.

The afternoon was harder. Just when I was feeling draggy, a Dutch woman came up alongside me and we talked for the next two hours. Her name was “Jacqueline, like Kennedy” and we had a fun time. Turns out that she is from Neighmegan (sic), the same town Hale and I visited when we hitched a ride inParis  with a Dutch couple named Meip and Albert. They took us home with them. They had three little kids, who must be forty by now.

Jacqueline had 20 year old twin boys, and was a widow. We talked about kids and husbands and our Camino experience. She was going to Santiago.

At the end of the day we got to Albergue Jacque de Molay, and just about fell in the door. Bride of Frankenstein.

The Albergue was one of those Camino oases run by a family who know the needs of pilgrims. They washed your clothes for 7€, a bed was 8€, and dinner was 10€. There were 4 young Korean  women in my room and Jacqueline. So it looked like a snore-free night.

After some Spanish ibuprofen 600mll, and a shower, we all gathered in the dining room and had an excellent meal. I had my only trout this trip. I sat with a Spanish woman from Pamplona, a Swiss woman, and a Finnish woman. My Spanish got a workout, but the Swiss womsn did some working around in French. Jacqueline was reunited with her pilgrim family, a boisterous group. I wished I could have joined them, but I was too tired to be boisterous, and went upstairs to enjoy a full nights’ sleep on my bottom bunk.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Final Kilometers and Request

Hello, friends of the blog! I’m 8k away from the Cathedral in Leon,my final destination. If any of you are up right now can you send me some energy? I’ve got the a case of the Pilgrim limp and taxi temptation.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Carrion for the Second Time

I walked through Carrion filled with wonder. There was so much more of it than I’d seen in 2013. Plazas and stores, and finally, a sparkling river. 

     

I circled back to the 12th C church of Santa Maria. It was open. That was where we’d had the classical guitar concert, Mass and pilgrim blessing in 2013. In April, things were quieter. Fewer pilgrims, no Mass that night.

  

  

 This crucifix was German, from 1350. It has the same Y shape as a famous one in Puente la Reina. How did it get to Carrion? Did a German pilgrim carry it here?

A beautiful Madonna and child from the 13C.

St. James, as a pilgrim. I said a prayer for the people of St. james/Santiago, Oakland, back home.

Spending time in Santa Maria made up for all the closed churches along the Way. I was so thankful to return to Carrion and to be a Peregrina again. I gave thanks for good health and prayed for all the injured pilgrims struggling to continue. Carrion was the place where all the days of walking 20k+ caught up with people. It had probably always been that way.

Later that day I met Tammi for a walk around town. The light was beautiful on the buildings, and people were out enjoying the evening, and greated is with “Buen Camino!”

 

  

  

We talked about our prior Caminos, and how there’s always more to learn.Then we found ourselves behind a church that overlooked the river. It was so quiet we could here the water burbling far below. “The 23rd Psalm,” was all Tammi said. Indeed. 

My experience of visiting Carrion again showed me how much bigger God is than the little boxes we create for God in our minds. It was filled with Camino moments. The Holy Spirit, Espiritu Santu, flowed through that day, like the river.

 

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Albergue Espiritu Santu

I’d sipped my daypack ahead to Albergue Espiritu Santu in Carrion, so after “second Breakfast,” I went off to find it. I was thinking of treating myself to a night at the 4 star hotel San Zoillo, in a former monastery at the edge of town. But when I found the Albergue, I decided to stay. 

 

It’s in a former parochial school, and run by nuns. They’re a different order than the singing nuns that run Albergue Santa Maria. 

I rang the buzzer and Sr. Maria Antonia let me in. She was dressed in street clothes, and like many Spanish people over 65 she was less than 5 ft tall. She had a warm, authoritative way.  “Yes, they had my mochilla pequena. Did I want to stay?”  I was a little skittish about Albergue life after my Fromista experience, but Sr. put me at ease and the price was right: 5€!

She took my passport and credential as usual, but asked first if I was de Alemania, or German, like everyone does. I asked her about the convent and if there were many sisters in residence. She said there were just s few, in their 80’s and 90’s. There was not a shared vesper service as far as I could tell. Then she gave me a thorough tour of the campus and was very clear that the door was Cerrado! at 10:00. Yes! Comprendo! She showed me all the statues of Mary and then the Pilgrims’ meditation room/chapel and sleeping rooms upstairs.  

  

Camas, not bunk beds! Best of all, there was excellent wi-fi everywhere! I thanked her and settled in. It turned out that Tsmmi had already checked in and had the bed next to me.

Pilgrims were sunning themselves while their laundry dried in the warm corner of the former playground. There was a nicely equipped kitchen, and I decided to go buy some groceries and have salad for dinner. When I came back a young guy from Ashland, Oregon was organizing a dinner party so I added my salad to the mix. 

There were many cooks in the kitchen: French, Swiss, German, and a young woman from Seattle. They were all the age of my kids. Vino Tinto was poured as we cooked, and multiple languages ricocheted around the tight kitchen. 

Sr. Maria-Antonia came in and reminded everyone that they needed to be quiet and in bed at 10:00. Everyone nodded politely and thanked her. These young pilgrims were walking 30k a day, and they were tired by 10:00. The Oregon State student was walking the Camino in flip-flops. I guess you can do that when you’re 18!

   

 

I had arranged to walk around Carrion at 7:00 with Tammi, so I broke bread with the young-uns and then let them continue, which was fine because I felt slightly old.

Later, at 10:00, we were getting ready for lights out and Sr. Maria-Antonia came in with another Sister and said “Buenas Noches” to each one of us. I got a hug.

  

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Memories old and new in Carrion de Los Condes

Carrion was the other place I’d stayed on my “bus tour” through the Meseta in 2013, and like Fromista, I looked forward to seeing it again now, from a new perspective.

When I was in Carrion in 2013, I could barely walk from my ankle tendinitis. I arrived at the Pilgrim Statue

at the entrance to town via taxi.  I made it one block to the plaza Santa Maria by the Albergue Santa Maria, run by the nuns, and waited for it to open at noon. I didn’t see much more of Carrion than that little area. When Gina and Kai arrived, I had dinner with them, and hobbled back to the church for the pilgrim concert, Mass, and blessing. That was one of my most treasured memories of Camino 1.0. Gina and I went to the Mass and Pilgrims blessing in Roncevalles at the very beginning of the Camino, and also shared the experience in Carrion. The nuns made little paper stars for the pilgrims, and the priest laid hands on each of us individually. There were tears, sweet tears.

The next day I hobbled to the bar/bus station and bussed to Leon. There were lots of other injured pilgrims, so I felt ok about going on. But I was beginning to realize that my injury was not going to disappear anytime soon.

Fast forward to 2015. I set out on the short 6k leg to Carrion after the cafe at the Albergue opened at 8:00. I met up with Tami on the road, and we visited as we approached town.

  

We arrived in no time, and stopped at the Cafe Espana, which doubles as the bus station. It brought back memories from 2013. The same nice guy was behind the bar selling bus tickets, beer, and making espresso. The same eclectic mix of Pilgrims, old men playing cards, and policemen were there, drinking coffee, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

  

As Tami and I sat down for “second breakfast,” one of her Camino friends came in. She was Australian, about my age, and she was very friendly. She told us her amazing Camino experience from the night before.

She was the only one staying at an Albergue out in the country, and she and the Dutch man who worked there had a long, soulful conversation. He told her that he had been asked to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple in Holland who were friends with his grown daughter, and now the boy is 4 and calls him father, and the Dutch man’s life has been opened up to a whole new phase by becoming a member of this unexpected extended family.

 

She was teary because back in Australia her 27 year old son had just come out as gay, and she despaired that he would never be a father. But her evening with the guy at the Albergue opened her heart and mind to new possibilities, and that gay couples could have kids, and that her son could be a father.

She marveled that it felt like she was supposed to be there, and that no one else was staying there, so she had the time to talk all evening with the Dutch guy.  That’s the magic of the Camino sometimes. It seems like there are many synchronicity, or maybe as tired Pilgrims, we are more open, and God has an easier time reaching us.

Then I started crying, too, after sharing that our daughter is the same age, gay, and that I’d had similar feelings, but now had faith that all would work out. We laughed and hugged as Moms and Pilgrims, and that was a Camino moment, too.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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