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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Camino - Arrival in Madrid

Je suis arrive!

Oops! Wait. I forgot for a moment where I am. Madrid. Right! A two hour cat nap on the plane can make a body discombobulate like that.

He llegado. I have arrived in the beautiful city of Madrid. 

This statue of Neptune is right in front of the entrance to my hotel on Paseo del Prado, right down from the Prado museum. There is a bicycle race today, as you can see, which ends here with Neptune. There are about 6 drummers who are beating out a Very Loud welcome on large drums. 

No siesta for the wicked. Not today, anyway.

Neptune, God of the Sea, is depicted with a trident in one hand and a coiled snake in the other. He is standing on a chariot, drawn by two sea horses and surrounded by dolphins. It's pretty dramatic.

Apparently there are fountains to Greek gods all over the city.   I walked by one of Cybele, the Great Mother and Roman goddess of fertility and agriculture, atop a chariot drawn by two lions, the mythological creatures Hippomenes and Atalanta.

When you are a tourist, you look at these things and, perhaps, check them off your "to see" list.

When you are a peregrino, you wonder about their metaphorical significance for your journey. 

Land and sea. Male and Female. Lions and horses. Dolphins and Sea Horses. Coiled snakes and tridents.

Both statues and images amidst fountains of water. 

You wonder and then you move on, noticing things. Being awake and aware and intentional. 

Mindful. That's the word the Buddhists use. Mindful.  
More on this in a moment. 

My plane arrived at 7:15 AM. I had gotten about two hours sleep on the plane. I made it through customs, found my way through the underground maze of the airport to the baggage claim area, and breathed a deep sigh of relief when my suitcase came by. 

I wasn't entirely trusting of the baggage handlers at Salisbury, MD, Charlotte, NC or Madrid, Spain.  I'm not sure why I wasn't trusting of them but I did file that anxiety away for closer inspection later on, even if simply to acknowlege it so that I might greet it when it makes its next appearance.

And, I'm quite certain it will, again. At least once or twice in the next 12-14 days. Because trust and anxiety almost always travel together, and they whisper secrets to each other. 

I had hoped that my hotel might have a room that was ready and I was ready to pay extra to go to it early but, alas, I was being called to endure. 

So, I did.

I found the address to St. George's Anglican Church in Madrid and, using my iPhone map, walked 30 minutes to get there in plenty of time to have a cafe con leche and a small bacon quiche for breakfast in a Bistro across the street from the church. 

There was a "High Mass" at 11:30 AM. That's what the sign outside the church and the webpage said. Well, the congregation did sing hymns, and they did chant the psalm. Fr. Paul did chant the Sursum Corda. Yup. He did. 

Did I mention that the congregation sang hymns? Apparently, that counts for "High Mass" for this congregation which seemed comprised of equal parts British ex-pats and Africans, with a small smattering of actual Spaniards. 

Everything was in English, of course, and the mass was directly out of the CofE (Church of England) "Book of Common Worship". 

King James would have felt right at home.  Except for a few hymns which included "Here I am, Lord." That  was included in a wee blue bookie in the pew entitled, "St. George Song Book."

And, this particular beauty entitled "And Can It Be Said That I Should Gain" Hymn. I took a picture of it and have included it here. You can click on it and it will be more readable.

The tune was a rousing British number which repeated the last two lines of each verse in a very typical British crescendo. 

The congregation LOVED it and sang with great gusto.

It sorta reminded me of the hymn in our hymnal, "The Spacious Firmament on High". Check it out here. I can never sing that hymn without my arms moving enthusiastically as I imagine British troops marching by.

Fr. Paul encouraged us to take home the paper and read and meditate on the verses. "It's all of our theology, right there, all summed up." He was particularly fond of the second verse:
'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies;
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
I especially loved the beginning and ending lines.

"'Tis mystery all!" And, "Let angel minds inquire no more."   

Apparently, even the mysterious creatures we call angels can not fathom The Great Mystery that is God. 

Which brings me back to the issue of Mindfulness. 

Our Pilgrimage Leader is Valerie Brown, whose unique perspective has its roots in Affrican and Caribbean ethnicity which she weaves together with her Buddhist and Quaker spirituality. 

She writes: 
"Pilgrimage travel offers time for reflection in a way that often does not happen in daily life. It is a step on the path to conscious awareness of the unconscious forces that control our lives. Without time set aside to reflect, to take stock, to ask Big Questions about life's meaning and purpose, or just to be, we can miss out on what is truly meaningful and important. We  can easily live adrift without intention or direction. Asking Big Questions points toward courageous action."
It occurred to me this morning, as I watched the hustle and bustle of readiness and, in my exhaustion, was particularly sensitive to the brisk pace of the service, that our time in worship probably ought to be a "mini-pilgrimage" but more often than not, it is not.

Most of it can feel really sort of perfunctory, practiced solemnity. We bow. We raise our voices and then lower them for effect. We might even pause breifly at various points.

I am remembering the time Ms. Conroy said to me after church, "We see you, you know."

"Excuse me?" said I.

"We see you counting us. Let the ushers do that. You are supposed to be leading us in worship and you can't worship while you're worring about the ASA (Average Sunday Attendance)."

She's right, you know? A smartass, to be sure, but an absolutely correct smartass.

But, there really is no time in the midst of the standing and the sitting and the kneeling and the juggling of prayer books and hymnals and the chanting of psalms and singing of hymns to ask Big Quesions or to just be.

R.D. Laing, the British psychiatrist, wrote: "There are three things people fear the most: death, other people, and their own minds."

I think that's true.The church is really awful about avoiding talk of death. We speak of resurrection, but we never talk frankly and honestly about death and dying.

I think we got all boggled up in homosexuality and sexuality for so long so as to avoid talking about the Really Big Questions in life.

Like each other. Especially, in the midst of our great diversity, what we might have in common.

And, despite our delight in proclaiming that we Episcopalians don't "leave our brains at the door" - which is horribly insulting and demeaning to other denominations and religious persuasion - there are some things some Episcopalians will NOT think about.

We just repeat the "company line" or the "trend du jour". That leads to really sloppy - or what John Snow called "flabby" - theology.

I'm constantly aghast at Episcopalians - some of whom are ordained - who don't know the Cathechism or Outline of Faith in the BCP. They haven't a clue about what sacraments are - much less that there are two sacraments and five sacramental rites - so they often just make stuff up.

R.D. Laing was absolutely right about death, other people and our own minds. I suspect Laing had been to a CofE church more than once in his life.

I think that's why mindfulness is so scary and pilgrimages are a lot more work than they look on the surface.

I think people intuitively know this, which is why we avoid them. Fr. Paul, for example has been at St. George's for five years and it occured to him today that he has never gone on Camino. He is thinking now that won't happen because he's being transferred to a church in Switzerland.

When the woman who drove the fiacre (the taxi) from the airport to the hotel heard that I was walking from San Sebastian to Santiago said, in the most beautiful Spanglish accent I think I've ever heard, "Oh, you can rent a car. You drive that in two, maybe three hours. Then, stop. Have something to eat. Is nice. You will like. Then, you can have more time to see more of Spain."

I didn't try to explain.

So, I've mulled over all these things whilst sipping proper lemongrass tea in the lovely if not just slightly pretentious Tea Shop in my hotel. Afterwards, I went to my room - FINALLY - and took a delightful and much needed two-hour nap.

And then, I did nothing. I was introduced to this Spanish proverb by the Tea Shop owner
How wonderful it is to do nothing,
And then rest afterward
Now it is time for dinner. I'm not yet sure where I shall go or what I shall eat but my mind will certainly continue to feast on the Plate of Mindfulness, which contains a portion each of the possible meaning of the appearance of Neptune and Cybele, as well as a very healthy serving of the stuff that might make the mind of angels inquire no more.

I'm so glad you're with me on this pilgrimage.


David said...


Lindy said...

This is great. Thanks for the post. I'll be wondering about your days on The Camino.

Chilebnr said...

Am ah zeeeeeing!