LA CORUÑA / SANTA IRENE – On this last day I leave early (5am) from the beautiful Alburgue I slept in last night in Santa Irene. I had planned to walk 3km more yesterday, but found this place offered a communal meal, and it would be my last chance to gather around a common table; my last supper if you will.
Usually the communal meals are some sort of broiled chicken and fried potatoes. One pilgrim joked it was like all the Alburgues got together and decided what the Pilgrim Menu was going to be and this year it’s chicken. But this last supper was a roasted Hake, a popular whitefish here. It is the best I have had. It’s the pilgrims at the table that make it a communal meal, not the food, and this place has both.
Each region seems to have something that makes it unique. For Galacia it is “horreos,” long narrow mostly empty grain storage buildings next to the road. They are everywhere, but don’t look out of place, more a product of it; like they grew naturally out of the landscape. The oldest I see is from 1914, before World War I, and the youngest of the historic horreos (there are new ones too) is dated 1944 (right after the Spanish Civil War, and during WWII, in which Spain did not participate).
They are uniform in size and construction but not materials. Wooden, brick, and mix of all materials. Most have crosses on their uprights. I found one with field corn drying inside, but most were storing tools or empty. I thought they would be fun to sleep in, like a very sturdy tent.
One of the new Pilgrims I met a few days ago is from Germany. Anya is an international economic lawyer and very well traveled. She climbed Mt. Fuji, explored Machu Picchu, walked to Base Camp at Mt. Everest and plans on seeing the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the fall. Perfect, I think. I had been carrying meds for malaria and parasites for a month, and a few days ago I tried to toss them. Santiago told me not to. Anya asks about diseases African, and I share a few of my own experiences. But not to worry, I tell Anya, I have the cures, and if she would like, I would like her to have them. The Camino provides, even if it is for her next adventure, and for me, a transfer of 6oz of backpack weight.
Walking alone in the afternoons I realize I like the story of Suzanne and I moving to Ghana better than I like living it. I don’t feel the blistering unseasonably hot afternoons when I’m listening to podcasts. Today it’s a PlanetMoney investigation on why the crime rate in the States suddenly decreased in the 1990s. Over the years I’ve read about several theories: Malcolm Gladwell attributed it to Broken Window’s Theory, but the podcast disproves that. The FreakEconomics guys said it had to do with Roe v Wade, but the podcast doesn’t unpack that, nor do they talk about the Denver pastor who was credited for that community’s dramatic reduction in violent crime by his driveby praying ministry. This podcast concludes it was reversion to the mean.
“Reversion to the mean,” the folks at MathWorld write, “is the statistical phenomenon stating that the greater the deviation of a random variate from its mean (the average), the greater the probability that the next measured variate will deviate less far.” In other words, the more things get out of whack, the more likely it is for them to move toward normal. The podcast claims crime had gotten really bad in the late 80s, and in the 90s it went down, or as they claimed, reverted to its mean.
I kept hoping Suzanne and my mean would revert to our mean, but I’m realizing there is a new mean in town. The sad thing is, if things suddenly got better, the getting better would be a deviation, not a reverting.
We walk through Eucalyptus forests. I know I’m not supposed to like them as they are a fast growing, invasive, trash tree, but the shade they provide gives a nice break from the sun. Eucalyptus is grown for wood pulp.
Our story grew out of a previous mean, and while it makes for a good story, it didn’t jump “the pond” well, and I’m not a big fan of its current narrative.
The narrative of a good story has three elements:
- An Introduction (once upon a time there was a…);
- The Trouble (and then suddenly something happened…);
- The Resolution or struggle (So the hero… makes the story interesting)
A long time ago in a land far away a family moved to Africa for a year of adventure. One year turned into two, and then they returned to Texas to resume their lives, except they didn’t. Five years later the parents moved back to Africa and at first everything was wonderful. But then suddenly she began working longer and then longer hours. He noticed this and tried to woo her back but she was caught in the gravitational force of the institution. Like those before her who’s orbits had failed and burned out, he saw her lacking the will or escape velocity to save herself; her orbit was decaying.
So the hero…changes the narrative!
“The Moth” is another podcast I listen to about storytelling. They say the most moving stories are rooted in vulnerability, but are not too emotionally raw. The really good stories come from the scars, not the wounds that caused them. Their narrative contains some element of the storyteller reflecting back on the experience, like a voice over at the end of a movie telling you how everything worked out.
Around noon I stopped in an interesting but disturbing church building. This 14c stone building is naturally cool, and it feels good to rest, pray, and admire the artwork. I’m calling her “Our Lady of the Eyeballs,” because that is just what Mary is holding. Why is the question.
Mary holds a platter tilted slightly toward her so that we can’t see what is on the platter, except I hold my camera above the platter to see what was on it. Why I did that I don’t know, but the image clearly shows two eyeballs. Seriously, two eyeballs, sitting in small pools of blood on the platter. Mary, Mother of Jesus what have you done? What is this deviation from Mary’s mean all about?
The last three hours is a concrete slog of traffic-filled miles into Santiago. It is awful and I’m already in a pretty dark place, and won’t talk to anyone. It takes a lot to get me in a dark place, but if you’ve ever seen me there, well, I’m sorry for you. Why did I do this stupid walk? What was I thinking? I can’t solve these problems I’ve been thinking about this last month. It is so hot. My feet really hurt. I’m hungry, dehydrated. How much further do we have to go? Those #$%^ bicycles.
Arriving at the Cathedral–Peter’s description of it being a bit of a letdown is a typical British understatement–it is a circus. A festival is going on and there are busses of tourists everywhere. I’m overwhelmed by the noise, the crowds, all the beggars, people selling trinkets, and a jazz band is setting up for an evening concert. I let Suzanne know I made it, but don’t want to talk. She understands, saint that she is. I think about walking back out of town but instead I find a room for the night and take a long nap.
I decide my soul needs to catch up with its body. I had arrived physically, but the spirit was still several days away.
Tomorrow I may really arrive, or the day after.