AZOFRA – Yesterday I wrote “As you walk the Camino…will you in life after,” but today, channeling my brother Rod, it felt more like “As you walk the Camino, the Camino walks you” and walked did I feel today.
The weather was cool and dry as we walked through fields of vineyards, each spouting their tender new branches from the gnarly old stumps.
The stumps or vines were pruned some time ago, and I get the feeling they have stood dormant all winter, but now the spring rains and warmth have brought them to life. I learn it is the new branches that produce fruit, and if the gardener did not harshly cut the branches back, the fruit would not come. Seeing these vineyards springing to life occupies my mind with something Jesus said:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.
I’m walking through the heart of Spanish wine country, drinking in its beauty, and thinking about pruning. I know from my gardening experience a transplant does best if it is cut back after being planted. It lets the set focus on new root growth,, instead of sustaining existing leaves. But everything about it seems instinctually wrong, yet from experience I know it is truth, but ain’t easy.
To my eye in these vineyards, the branch cut off (no fruit) and the branch pruned (fruitful) are indistinguishable; God alone knows the difference. I say this because God and I have been working through on why I thought I was called to Ghana. To friends who have been with me these past years, you know I’ve been struggling. It feels like the great switcharoo, what my friend Mary Kay says:
Sometimes, God calls you to what you will say yes to, and once there, changes that call.
If it’s a change order, a door closing, being cut off, or a pruning, they pretty much feel the same way to the branch. A few weeks before leaving for The Camino I was seeking the Lord on what I am doing here? What I heard, not so much in an audible voice, but a thought that did not originate within me was “that is the wrong question, what if you had not been not here?” and I saw the faces of the students I’ve come to know, the faith conversations we have had, and the gentle nudge (or not) I’ve made here and there. It did matter, it did mean something, but why couldn’t it feel that way?
“I am the vine;” Jesus says, “you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Maybe the part The Camino is trying to teach me is how the “bear much fruit” part will involve pruning.
A few days earlier as I was climbing that soul-sucking hill, a pilgrim who was carrying a heavy load passed me. I can’t tell you what it does to my male ego when a 71 year old woman carrying a heavy load passes. All afternoon we had been passing each other, then resting, and finally when we both stopped, she offered me half of her fresh apricot she had carried all day.
When I eat with The Marys at the Pilgrim’s Meal later, MaryAnna said “I think she is a real pilgrim.” A raised eyebrow and questioning look (because I very much felt like a real pilgrim), she continued. “I think she is on Camino with something very heavy,” and I’m thinking about her ill-fitting backpack, laptop bag slung over her shoulder, and plastic bag full of stuff. Bag lady. “No, I’m serious, I think she is walking The Way to seek penance, or receive healing, or absolution. She is walking the way to right something with God.” MaryAnna is very wise, and sees things I miss. Tomorrow I’ll share more about Tzika.
Tonight we arrive in Azofra and stay at a nice municipal Alburgue. What is unusual about this one is it only has double rooms, by gender.
This Alburgue has been here in one form or another since 12c, but where we stay was built in 2004. It was a great sleep.