Day Eight. Missing information.
As I left Los Pintos (my pension/hotel) I had to take one more look at the beautiful flowers that Agota, the caretaker of the place, had planted out front. They were beautiful, and she was very proud of them. Agota was very sweet, humble, and wanted me very much to be comfortable in my room and in her place. She didn't speak any English except 'welcome', which she said over and over again with a lovely smile. I of course didn't speak any Spanish, but I tried to say gracias a lot, and beautiful (referring to her flowers). I kept say bellisimo over and over and she always seemed a little perplexed but smiled anyway. I realized later that I was confusing Italian with Spanish, and the word for beautiful in Spanish is actually hermosa. But hermosa doesn't sound anything like beautiful, so I think I can be excused, but I wonder what Agota thought I was trying to say.
It reminded me of the time I was on service trip to Mexico with some Fairfield students, and one of them asked me if I would say Mass in Spanish for the woman that was hosting him. Sure, I said, thinking, how hard could it be? If I just read the words in the Mass book phonetically, it might be poorly accented, but they'd basically understand. Nope. It was a disaster. I don't know what I was thinking. I had no idea how to pronounce most of the words, and the poor pious women who attended looked like Agota when I said the word bellisimo over and over. What an idiot I was to think I could properly even read a language I had never studied.
The day was a bit chilly, but the morning was beautiful. In the film world, many people feel that the most beautiful time of day to shoot a scene is 20 minutes in the morning or evening, when the sun has either not yet risen over the horizon or has just disappeared beneath it. You get about 20 minutes of sky 'glow' during those times, and it is called the golden hour. This morning the golden hour was glorious. I had these magnificent mountains to my left and the impressive sea to my right, and the light of the sky made both seem a bit unreal, almost like a perfect set at Disney World.
The Camino took me on a path beside the sea that from moment to moment was yet another outstanding vista. I was completely alone for hours in this Shangri-la. At times it was so beautiful I desperately wanted to turn to someone to say "look at that" or "isn't it amazing", but there was also a sense that this was a gift meant just for me at that moment.
I was so taken up with the colors: the multiple shades of green of the grasses, the trees, the bushes, the flowers; the subtle blues of the sky and the ocean; the yellows and browns of the path; the purples, oranges, yellows, reds of the wild flowers everywhere. I thought what it would be like to lose your sight, this for me the most wondrous of the five senses. My father's eyesight failed him in his twilight years, the effects of diabetes, and he was only able to see shapes of dark and light. He loved to watch movies, and I can only imagine what a loss it was for him, these images of light telling stories on the big screen that he could no longer see.
Of course loss of hearing would also be a terrible thing. I stopped several times today to just listen to the sounds of the nature all around me-- the ocean waves, the wind in my ears, the distant sounds of dogs barking, the incessant calls of birds. What was it they were trying to say over and over again? Maybe most essentially, "I am here, I am here, I am here". Maybe in some way that is what all creation is groaning to say--an explicit statement of existence, of life embraced and surviving even In the face of death and diminishment. I came across a tiny mouse on the path, lying on its side, clearly dead. I stopped for a moment. It was only a tiny mouse, and soon it would become a part of this landscape. But I felt something for this life, and stopping there was my acknowledgment that it mattered in some way. St Francis came to mind.
I used to teach a book in one of my courses entitled, "The Age of Missing Information". It was written by Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist and activist. His general thesis is that despite the fact that we have more 'information' available to us than at any time in human history, we have actually become ignorant of the most important information about life. Walking these past eight days, especially through pastoral scenes and rugged coastal territory, I have gotten a much deeper sense of being part of the environment and of nature. When you walk, you notice things like the place of little mice in the world. You notice the sky a lot more, and learn to look for tell-tale signs of changing weather patterns. Without aid of a motor, you discover the human energy it takes to conquer even a small hill. And when you are thirsty or hungry from all that expended energy, you realize how little you know about where good water comes from, or how to find (or grow) edible food. Sometimes I think it would be a good idea to spend some significant time working on a small farm like many I've seen along this route. You can learn a lot about what you are really a part of on this planet. You can find deeper information, and significant wisdom.
The rest of the walk was equally beautiful, but relatively uneventful. My feet began to hurt around the 18th mile, which thankfully was towards the end. I spotted a threatening cloud formation heading my way, and thought I could see that it was dousing the landscape ahead with some rain. I was getting ready to pull the rain poncho out and I was feeling pretty miserable (those tired feet), and I wasn't thrilled at this natural occurrence. But then the path suddenly veered over next to a small soccer stadium with a large overhang over the seats, and I think God took pity on me. As soon as I got to the stadium seats, the sky opened up, and I mean OPENED up. It was actually deafening, the rain coming down in buckets on the metal roof above me. And I was happy, and dry.
I'm in Ribadesella (don't ask me how to pronounce it), a small town beside the sea. The room is nice, but small. I'm ready to go to bed and dream of working on a farm!
May your night be blessed!