FILLOBAL – After two days of chipping away at the long hill up to O’ Cebreiro, I finally crossed over into Galicia, the autonomous region that is the final province of the Camino. Once in Galicia, and the other side of the mountain, the weather changed from the mid 80s to the 50s, walking among the clouds and rain. So good to see the rain which I had not walked in since the third day of this journey. Nice to break out the rain gear I had been carrying, and make it worth its weight.
All day long I thought about John, and what he said about the Camino being a physical manifestation of my spiritual journey, and the back pain I had been carrying these past days could be a physical manifestation of my spiritual pain, or the hurt of the soul.
“What does this pain represent?” I asked the Camino. Silence. But asking seemed to make my back hurt less, and I’ll take that.
Many of the churches of Galicia were open today, and I don’t know if they are always open, or just open because of the rain. They made a great place to duck in and let the storm pass, and having 20-30 minutes to pray, and look at their altar space and wonder what are the people who make this church like?
I didn’t have to wonder with one church because it was open for a funeral. I stayed in the foyer, greeting everyone who came in, but not attending the actual service, that would be rude. I did enjoy napping and listening to the cantor chant the mass of the dead.
This was another day of mostly walking alone and half of it in the rain and thinking about something my chiropractor, Rosanne Butera, used to ask:
What is your body trying to tell you that your soul will not acknowledge?
Pain is a big part of the Camino, and there seems to be no escaping it. I spoke with a pilgrim walking back from Santiago and toward Rome my second week.
“Do your feet still hurt?” Yes.
“Do your muscles still get stiff?” I asked.
“I would not use that word stiff,” he said smiling, “it is more like they seize up if I sit for too long.” I could relate.
“Still hurts in the afternoons,” he answered.
Peter told me about a young Australian he met who was carrying 45kg (90lbs) in his backpack. When Peter asked him why, he said that he thought that pilgrimages were supposed to be hard.
I think his point was that different people find different things hard but where there is challenge there is an opportunity for stretching and growth, both physical and spiritual. Pain is just part of the growth process.
It is one of the things I miss about walking with Peter. He was so wise and thoughtful and if he were here (instead of in Santiago) I’m sure he would tell me hard is not bad, especially if I am able to find the strength, over time, to keep going and keep grinding away on the things I came to the Camino to seek clarity on.
“Bring Camino to your home” a volunteer told us one night at an evening blessing. “But do not bring your home to the Camino,” he cautioned. At the time I admired the symmetry of his wisdom, even if I was not sure what he meant. As I near Santiago (I’m less than 100 miles) I find myself contemplating how to bring Camino to the home Suzanne and I share. Will I be able to apply her wisdom to our lives in Ghana?
I have no hard statistics, but I would say one in four of the pilgrims I talk to are repeat offenders; this is not their first Camino. Swen, his sixth, Mary and Sister Marsha, their third, MaryAnna and Kay, their second and today I met a woman from South Africa who did her first Camino in 2006, and now is on her tenth. At night we share stories of Camino junkies, wondering what part of this journey did they not get, or did they find their home on the Camino and the rest is just lived to return to it?
I want to want to walk another Camino, but right now, I can’t want what that want leads to.
Galicia is beautiful, mystical, and farm country. The Camino path is an earthy, wet smell of manure, horse and cow, but I also see sheep and chickens. Homes built above barns, and huge stacks of corded firewood tells me it gets cold here in the winter.
I go to sleep tonight wondering what spiritual pain is manifesting itself in me, hoping tomorrow will be better. The pain makes it difficult for me to connect with God and think about anything else.