The Camino as it exists today is a constant tug-of-war with the ways of this world. We plan it. We squeeze it in. We arrange our overnight stays, stops, and mileage per day.
All of this would have been a foreign concept to the pilgrim of the past. One walked to Santiago to pray, or to visit the relic, or to get the needed certificate, but the timeframe was much more fluid. The pilgrim walked as far as he/she could, with staff and water gourd and bread, depending upon the charity and kindness of those he/she met along the way. Or, one was ill, hoping for healing, and made one’s way as far as the body would take one, also dependent upon the kindness and hospitality of those along the way, both travelers and residents.
A pastor friend of mine once commented in the midst of a youth trip, “We make plans, and God laughs.” That was uttered after out backpacking trip had been completely re-arranged because of heat, an injury of one of the sponsors, and upon seeing our intended campground for the return trip engulfed in a forest fire from miles away, requiring us to go on and find makeshift accommodations.)
I was supposed to walk from Pontevedra to Padron today.
When I woke up, it was pretty clear that my body was not up to that, nor was another member of our group who had fallen on bad knee the day before. W
We opted for a “rest day.”
While the rest of our group took off for the 12 mile walk, we went back to bed. An additional 2 hours of sleep and antibiotic ointment on infected blisters overnight had the desired effect.
The two of us navigated a bus to Padron, meeting a lovely German couple and a man from Austin Texas whose 3rd Camino had been cut short by his own knee injury. We shared the comradery of transport and conversation. T
The experience made me wonder how many pilgrims through the ages had found alternative transportation along the way. Certainly a passing hay wagon, or cart would have been a tempting and welcome relief to the walk. The walkers along the way told the story of a family whose father had cancer but who had always wanted to do the Camino. They found electric bicycles to the answer, pedaling most of the way but using the motor assist for the weakened father to complete the journey. It isn’t, after all, the destination as much as it is about the journey.
The Bus dropped us off in Central Padron where we caught the trail again and walked the remainder 2 km to the hotel for the night, passing along the way Iria Flavia, an ancient church in Padron that was once the Diocese seat of power before it being moved to Santiago. We stopped, prayed, admired, and from out of nowhere a lovely old lady appeared and asked if we needed a stamp, and graciously marked our credentials.
We arrived at our hotel ahead of the rest of our group, (albeit, only a few moments before our “uber-hikers” and settled in, and then I positioned myself on the covered vestibule to greet our group as they arrived. It was a very hot Galatian day, and the sun was a bit merciless, so they did come in weary and ready for a break. There is something nice about being able to welcome and play the part of hospitality.
They, who had walked through the day, were worried about me.
I got up and walked around the table without much limping and with renewed vigor and we cheered one another on.
This is Camino. This is discovering (or re-discovering) that people are essential good when given a chance. This is re-discovering the power of shared experience, and how encouragement takes us all much further along the way than criticism or tearing down. One of the things that we were reminded of over and over is “it is YOUR Camino. Make of it what you need.”
Today I needed a day of rest.
Today I needed to be the one greeting those coming in instead of being the last one dragging in.
Today I needed to meet a German couple who are also walking, bussing, and riding the Camino. They were off to see a Monastery that I would not be able to visit because, quite frankly, after a day’s walk I’m just too bone tired to do anything else but eat and sleep.
It is YOUR Camino, do what you need to in the midst of it, and wonder of wonders, it is quite probable that you will make the Camino for someone else along the way.
Buen Camino — Merle