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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Day 7, Stage 6: Pontevella to Villalba (11.5 km/7.1 mi)

Now, The Way begins to turn south and west, leaving the ocean and traveling through grassy meadows populated by picturesque farming villages and beautiful farmer groves with willows, birches and oaks.

We have moved through the principality of Asturias and into the principality of Galatia, where evidences of Celtic influences abound. I passed a Neo-Gothic town cemetery – I’ll try to add the picture – which has stone niches where caskets are laid to rest, stacked up four niches high, with large spires on top.

Some of the spires have simple crosses, others more ornate and still others have Celtic crosses, with an open circle in the middle of the cross, representing the sun – its dawning and setting, or incarnation and resurrection – all enclosed in the circle representing the earth.

It is said that, because of the Celtic influence, the Galatians are “superstitious” people. The spires on the top of the cemetery are meant to dissuade the dead souls from returning to their caskets, hoping to “pinch their toes” if they try to walk along the top.

It is said that there are also many “witches” here who practice “earth medicine”. They are said to help lost souls find their way back to Paradise, something which the Catholic Church here has long quietly – some say silently – supported. 

Anything to avoid the “mischief” that can happen when a soul is not where it should be or doing what it is meant to do.

It is pouring down rain here today, with thunder and lightening punctuating the drama of walking in the rain. I’m so very glad my Columbia hiking boots are waterproof, but the rain slicker I got is less than advertised. I didn’t get soaking wet but let’s just say that my body was not as dry as my feet.

There is something about walking in the rain that is magical all in and of itself. The occasional bursts of fog add an ethereal quality to it that has a sense of the Holy about it.

The brim of my hat covered my eyes nicely and the hood from my jacket kept everything in place. The rain stayed off my glasses, allowing me to see. I kept my head down, mostly, but reminded myself every now and again to look up and around.

My path was mostly through back roads and farmland. Cows bellowed and geese honked, donkeys brayed and dogs barked. I saw a man out in his side yard chopping wood, his German shepherd sitting nearby, neither of them seemed to mind the rain.

I did get lost. Once. The Camino markers are pretty clear here in Galatia, but, well, I missed one. I was only about ¼ of a mile off the track, however, when our driver Jose Marie and guide Ignazio came by in the van and got me back on the right track.

One peregrino said to me, “There is no shame in getting lost in the rain. It happened to me on a sunny day. Twice in one day on another summer day. You are doing well. This is your Camino. There is no right way. There is no wrong way. There is just your way. You do your Camino your way and let others worry about what it means to be lost – or found.”

Tomorrow, we begin the last 100 km of The Camino and prepare our hearts and minds to enter the great city of Santiago on Saturday, the 20th. This city has been the destination of peregrino for a thousand years.

I’ve been thinking about “lost souls” and destinations and being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. 

I am taking inspiration from this poem by Jan Richardson:
This is not

any map you know.

Forget longitude

Forget latitude.

Do not think

of distances

or of plotting

the most direct route.

Astrolabe, sextant, compass:

these will not help you here.

This is the map

That begins with a star.

This is the chart

that starts with fire,

with blazing,

with an ancient light

that has outlasted

generations, empires,

cultures, wars.

You cannot see it all,

cannot divine the way

it will turn and spiral,

cannot perceive how

the road you walk

will lead you finally inside,

through the labyrinth

of your own heart

and belly

and lungs.
But step out
and you will know
what the wise who traveled this path before you
the treasure in this map
is buried
          not at journey's end
          but at the beginning.  

I am filled with gratitude that you have stayed with me this far, encouraging and supporting me and praying for me.

Thank you.

1 comment:

David said...

(((((((((((((((((((((((((dearest Elizabeth))))))))))))))))))))))))