LOGRONO – Tapas, tapas, tapas, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food wise it has been a great day. I feel like I must be walking through ground zero for Tapas, and everywhere I go today, that is what is on the menu. Fine by me.
I brought a flag from Ghana, but no idea how to display it. I’ve seen people pass me with their flag sewn on their backpacks (mostly Denmark), but I wanted to “fly” Ghana’s. As I was leaving Sansol, I saw these two sticks of bamboo in the center of road and walked past them, barely noticing them. I felt the Spirit say pick them up. “Why?” I wanted to ask, but I’ve had enough of these experiences to know its best to do and not to ask. So I walked back and for the next hour wondered what am doing with these 14” bamboo sticks. In Torres del Rio I run into Doris and Eileen, the pilgrims who started in Munich, and joining them for a Café Americano, it occurs to me, these sticks would make fine flagpoles. A few minutes later the Ghana flag is mounted on my pack. The Camino will provide.
For the pilgrimage being a religious exercise, there are surprisingly few churches open. Passing by the huge twin towers, seen from miles away, the doors rarely open. I don’t know if it is a general statement on the state of the Church in Spain, or the press of pilgrims that come through to make it, frankly, not worth the effort. Still it makes me sad not to stop and pray, and experience what God feels in this place. So far, it has only happened once (during a rainstorm), but today, being Sunday, the churches are open.
Still in Torres del Rio, I start to walk by an old building that no longer functions as a church, but for one euro I am welcomed inside. This 12c Knights Templar built chapel once served as a beacon for pilgrims but today, most pass by unaware of its history. The Way is like that. People are so focused (myself included) on making the next town, or getting their 20, 30, 40 km (12, 18, 24 miles) in that few stop and learn about what they are passing by. For the record, 20km is about all I can do.
“There is no right or wrong way to walk The Camino,” I heard an unnamed pilgrim say, “only how close you come to walking the one made for you.” I feel judgmental complaining about those passing by without really passing through and I don’t like it. I have been walking slowly, and stopping to take pictures, so slow that several Caminos have already passed me by. One can not fully experience their Camino and hurry, I feel, at least that is how my Camino is seems to be going.
Along the way I pass the mount of hope and regret. I don’t know what its official title is, but here people have left notes, pictures, and inscribed rocks with their hopes and regrets.
Coming upon this valley, it looks like a trashbag has burst, but on closer inspection, each scrap has a message, each rock has an inscription, and there are pictures.
I wonder did people specifically bring these pictures for this place, or were they overcome by something that compelled them to leave something here?
I’m overwhelmed by the raw intensity of feelings expressed, like what those who clean the Wailing Wall (in Jerusalem) must feel (people write their prayers on scraps of paper and them jam them in remains of the 1c wall of Solomon’s Temple).
Arriving in Logrono late afternoon, I check into the Albergues, wash my clothes, and set out to find dinner (more tapas). I pass by their grand cathedral, it’s open and I am invited in. Mass is about to start. Its all in Spanish, but it is beautiful. Other than an occasional Sanctus (Holy), I have no idea what is being spoken, but the form…that I recognize.
It feels so good to know what is going on even if I’m not sure what is being said. That is the beauty of tradition, something that feels absent in Ghana. What the priest is doing, I have done, I even recognize the Sacramentary he reads from, similar to the one I used to use. God is being worshipped in this place, and I am thankful to join their community.
Today felt like two different walks, the first was my Camino punctuated by stone outposts that must have served as a refuge for 12c pilgrims.
The second half, felt like I joined someone else’s Camino. It is crowded, and gone are the wildflowers, live oaks, and rural landscape. We are approaching the third largest city on the Camino. Even without the guidebooks telling me this, I know. We are approaching an urban environment, and it feels different, wrong, and the press of people, mountain bikes, and security shows me that something has changed. Its no longer my Camino, but one I am sharing.
Could it be exactly what St. James is trying to teach me about The Faith? It was never really mine, or about what I believed, but about a faith I am sharing. Its not me and Jesus, but us.