Day Four. Stormy skies, ocean views, Walking Dead.
They said it might rain, and it did. But it wasn't miserable, in fact at times it was glorious. The skies were a show unto themselves, the angry clouds revealing beauty even in their fury. And as they reached down from the heavens they transformed the landscape, giving it even greater drama. Who determined that a rainy day is 'bad' weather?
My feet and my back recovered, sans blisters or back strain. Thank God for Dr Scholl and his products! Buying them at the pharmacy had to be comedic for the bystander as I tried to describe with dramatic hand gestures a blister and back pain to the pharmacist who didn't speak any English (and I am a Spanish no nothing).
I also lightened my load quite a bit, eliminating some of the nifty things I brought along that I could really do without, including some heavy jeans, sneakers, a camping pillow, and a bulky towel (pilgrims don't need to wash or wear pants). The backpack felt at least 10 pounds lighter and I could practically leap into the air with it on!
The Camino from Castro Urdiales to Laredo was a beauty. Mostly along the coast, with tons of gorgeous views of waters and angry skies. The rain was just an annoyance, a light sprinkle that tickled at times (with no pants, you feel every drop. Ok, I did have pants on). It's amazing how much of the coast still feels untouched. If this were the US I think it would all be overdeveloped with McMansions and resorts. Those do exist here, of course, but they seem to be confined to the centuries-old towns on the coast.
There were some dips away from the sea, through inland fields and small villages, and one short mountain climb. I passed some ancient churches, more cows and sheep, and beautiful landscapes. I found myself praying a chunk of time today for the people who wrote petitions for me to take on the journey, and at one point my emotions got me and I had to stop for a moment on that mountain. One of my greatest gifts from my Staten Island church family are the petitions that people write for me to pray over at Mass and at home. I am often overwhelmed with the pain that people all around me experience--loss of someone they love, diagnosis of a frightening illness, brokenness of a family, inability to pay the mortgage, searing loneliness. I think when we share one another's pain, it makes us more loving and it turns us all into family. As I resumed my walk, I passed a number of people on the path--old and young. And whether they acknowledged me with an "hola" or a smile or nothing, I tried to see them as vulnerable and unfinished as myself, imagining the petitions they might write. It helped me not to feel like a foreigner in this place. At one town along the coast I came across a bunch of men talking to one another, a very common scene along the way. They clearly knew one another well, and in all likelihood grew up together, grew old together. I was not one of them, this weird guy with the backpack passing by, but I felt like we shared a lot nonetheless.
When I arrived in Laredo, another city by the sea, I was impressed with their beach and their careful and beautiful development of its public access. I saw it in Castro Urdiales and here in Laredo: the Spaniards know how to be classy. They don't crap up their beachfronts with cheap commercial taste. As I approached the harbor, a man saw me and deliberately came over to tell me what I was about to see was "beautiful". And it was.
Strangely, after I got into my room for the night and went out to take a walk around town, it was virtually empty. Where was everyone? Unlike the last town, the beautiful streets were devoid of human beings, almost everywhere I went. It kind of got a little creepy, and I half expected to turn a corner and be fighting off a zombie from the Walking Dead, and me without a crossbow or a machete, as everyone knows you need to go for the head lest you be eaten and become one yourself. But wait, I'm on a pilgrimage, and that's only a TV show. Right?
If you don't see a posting here tomorrow...
Thank God there is a God even in Zombieland. Night all.