Day Five. Stunning beaches, Spanish dogs, fellow pilgrims, and steak.
Day Five. Stunning beaches, Spanish dogs, fellow pilgrims.
Rain, rain went away, but the morning was still cloudy, the air chilly. Those convertible pants/ shorts came in handy, bottoms zippered in to keep my legs from frosting over.
As I walked out of Laredo, it still looked abandoned. No doubt the Spanish custom of dinners at 10 and 11pm kept them in bed until later in the morning. Maybe that's not such a bad idea. What is it with we Americans, so obsessed with our work that we rise at 5 or 6, get into traffic at 7, and head home 12 or 13 hours later? The Spanish like to be with family--siesta time still closes most towns down from 2:30 until 5 for the big family meal and maybe a nap. Back to work for a few more hours, and then tapas with friends and late, light suppers with family. Spain is not the big economic power of the US, but I am impressed with their general well-being, even in the farm towns I have been passing on my walk. They appear to be a very hard-working people, but not to the exclusion of their human relationships and the deeper values that make life meaningful. Still, these 11pm dinners are challenging, especially if you plan to walk 20 miles the next day and need to start early to get there!
I met some interesting Camino people on a small ferry we had to take together this morning. Betty and Barbara are friends from Virginia. One works in DC in a lobbying firm, the other in Virginia teaching high school. They both decided to undertake this journey because they are looking for a change in their respective lives, and hope that the Camino will give them some perspective. I could relate to that. I'm in a similar situation myself. Simon is from England. He is a landlord for some high-end properties, and he apparently lives pretty well off the rental income. So well that he has already done one route of the Camino already this summer and is now on our route doing it all over again. When he completes it, he will do a THIRD route to the Cathedral of St James. He estimates that he will be done with his walking in October. I told him he must really like walking, and he said, yes indeed. And he is clearly the expert. I encountered him several times today along the route, and he was always 'taking care of business'--washing his feet in a public fountain, changing his hat/pants/ shoes depending on the time of day and weather--and always he would pass me again in a very driven, professional way of walking the walk. I guess he really does like walking, but I wondered what exactly was behind his drive to do it three times. I wonder if I'll get the chance to have that conversation with him.
A good half of today was walking on some spectacular beaches, or above them on a mountainside. The sun finally broke through, and the skies were really awesome. I ditched the bottom half of my pants and shed the light jacket I was wearing, and marveled at how beautiful is this creation in which we live. There was a dog on one of the beaches who was having the time of his life with a big stick. His owners--a husband and wife--would throw it ahead as they walked the beach, and he would enthusiastically, delightfully run to pick it up, whereupon he would return to them, drop it and bark at his masters to throw it again. I mean he LOVED this game, and I watched him (and heard his bark) for the entire length of the beach, which was over two miles. It made me laugh out loud and keep a grin on my face for most of the walk. This was dog joy, and it made me want to be one if it could keep me that happy for over two miles! And then I saw a parallel-- a baby, maybe about two years old (what do I know?) who was completely naked, running into the gentle surf to her mama with the same kind of innocent enthusiasm and joy as the dog. Neither was burdened with the responsibilities of life, neither understood the pain and the suffering that life brings. But their embrace of the joy? Oh man...how I pray for that to return to my life in the same pure way it exists in theirs. We have a lot to learn from dogs, and babies!
The Camino left the beaches for the latter part of the day, and I was walking through truly beautiful pastoral landscapes. Lots of newly seeded fields, many cows chomping in rolling meadows. At one point I walked beside a garden that was hosting some baby goats. I had never seen goats that tiny: they looked like puppies. They stared at me as I took their picture. What kind of monster is this, they probably wondered in their own baby goat reasoning.
Right afterwards I passed a very old country church--solid, made of thick stone, and no windows. It looked like a fortress, and maybe in those days that's what the church meant to the poor people who lived in much tougher times, a fortress against the hardships and heartaches that surrounded them. It's a very different understanding of what I hope the Church to be now: not a fortress, but a place of light and hope and joy as authentic and innocent as a dog or a baby frolicking on a sunny, beautiful beach.
My feet and my back were a bit sore when I finally arrived in the little town of Guemes, where my night's lodging was reserved. I took a simultaneously cold and hot shower--cold water in the tub for my feet, hot water from the shower head to relieve the rest of my aching body.
This is a little town, and there are no grocery stores, or stores of any kind. I thought I shouldn't make my evening meal the chocolate bar I bought earlier, so I opted for the restaurant in the small hotel where I'm staying. Spanish steak and fries with some wine--what could be better for a meal at 11pm? But I have to get to bed now because tomorrow I need to be in Santander, and I can't be like the Spanish and start my day at 11AM! And as I speak, everyone at the bar--I mean EVERYONE-- is singing some Spanish song at the top of their lungs. I wonder, will I hear it up in my room?
Thanks to God for beautiful beaches, joyous dogs and babies, and Spanish steak!!