UTERGA – I joined the Camino in Pamplona on day three of the French Way bypassing the treacherous Pyrenees’ Mountains. Even without climbing up and down the mountains, it was a tough day, as I imagine most first days are. Difficult mentally, spiritually, and physically. Interestingly the day before I had walked much of the Pamplona route without knowing it from the train station. To mark the route there are brass scallop shells on the pavement that one can not miss, once one realizes they are there to guide you.
In some ways I think this is how an awareness of God works. We walk through our lives traveling the same path as everyone else, until we realize God is guiding it all, then it is hard to miss. I wonder about the Pamplonians, do they still see the guidemarkers, knowing this is part of someone’s Camino. I remember my friend Beverly, relating how when she went to a medieval chapel that featured the oldest prayer labyrinth, how she tried to walk it while the throngs of tourista passed over not knowing what they were trespassing over.
The Camino is a solitary exercise, both in language and companionship until the day’s end. Then in the Albergues, these dorms set up just for pilgrims, we chat from our bunk beds and then gather for a family meal later that night. Each night a different set of guests and stories, bound for a night, and ever looking to gather again. It reminds me of how transient this experience can be. Only for this night will this group from Korea, Germany, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia and Texas/Ghana be together.
I met the first noticeable landmark of the Camino today. As I was climbing the hill I passed the spot where the devil tempted a very thirsty pilgrim with a water for the price of his soul. When he resisted, legend has it that Saint James came and struck the ground with his sword, and water gushed out. It’s only a trickle today, but nice and cold.
I stopped to fill my bottle and wondered about the nature of temptation and meeting God, or his messengers. As our lives are sheltered from adversary seeking comfort and safety are we closing the cracks that God can break in, and disrupt our existence? If successful in what we seek, will God not visit us? Will we even need him to, know God has, or will what we have created be enough?
I continue up the hill to meet the plate steel cutouts of pilgrims through the ages, and of course, join them. It seems like a right and a good thing to bow down to pray, dedicating this trip to God.
From here it is an easy walk down hill most of the way to the town I will spend the night, far short of the place I had wanted to be, but night is coming, and I am tired. I may have joined this camino, but it is really the Camino that has joined me.