This is the last entry to the blog. The suitable end for this pilgrim was the pilgrim’s mass at noon. Having been to very few in my life I didn’t know what to expect. It was impressive. One nun had a stunning voice and she led the congregation in song that many knew. There were many monks and red coats (sorry, I don’t know their title, but when I got my Compotsela (certificate) the day before they had a record where each pilgrim began their pilgrimage and we were all mentioned during the service by country of origin not by name. Most of it was in Spanish, a little in English and there was someone honoured in Polish which made Walter feel at home since he understood what was being said. All in all, a wonderful ending to an intense but excellent experience. The rest of the day was spend vegging. It felt great! Off to Barcelona tomorrow for a couple days of rest and then home. Thank you all! I appreciate all of your support during this endeavour.
I got up this morning knowing this would be my last walk on my pilgrimage, a little excited, a little relieved but mostly open to whatever. Rain was predicted and yes it did: lots and lots of rain. It was a little symbolic in a sense, a final cleansing before the completion of the pilgrimage. As I walked, I could hardly believe it was coming to an end. As I thought back, I marvelled at the fact that I actually walked over 700 km. It serves to demonstrate how when one puts one’s mind to something, and perseveres, anything is possible. Am I better for it? Absolutely! Am I one of those that will become a Camino junkie? No, I think not but the experience was everything that I had hoped for and more. We arrived at the Cathedral soaking wet because of the rain and we waited in line for our Compostela, a certificate of completion. Mine was for religious/spiritual reasons and Walter received one as well because as I had mentioned one only needs to complete 100 km. in order to receive a certificate. Walter got his for culture and sport. It is done! I will report on the Pilgrim’s mass tomorrow at noon and then the blog will be done as well.
The beauty of this experience is the constancy of the now. We know and have heard hundreds of times that there only is the now and yet the mind either takes us into the past or projects us into the future. While walking, there is only the now, the rhythm of the step, the rhythm of the breath and a constant immersion into the beauty of the environment. Slipping into this space for over a month now has created a familiarity which hopefully can be found at will when I am not walking the Camino. I have been asked by some who have been walking for much shorter distances like 150 km. if I have enjoyed it. “Enjoyed” is not a word I would use to describe this experience. Its been an important experience in my life, one, very consciously undertaken, grueling at times, but wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
All things considered, today was a good day. My affliction whatever it is, is somewhat under control with the use of meds that I got from the doctor and the Benedryl that Walter brought me. Although we started later than usual, we were walking in a cloud and could not see too well. It has been staying darker longer these mornings and now it doesn’t get light until at least 8:45 am. This reminds me how long I have been at this. I started very comfortably getting out walking in the light by 7:45 am. but that’s changed. Walter and I had much to catch up on and so this is the first time that I have gotten lost and we wasted a half hour of time and we walked an extra two km. Things have changed for me but its all good. Having company at the dinner table is lovely. Having someone I can lean into since I haven’t been feeling well is wonderful so even though my rhythm has changed, it feels good. My toe is working and now it’s only the largest organ of my body, my skin that is screaming loudly. The cloud lifted by 11:30 am; the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect for walking. The scenery has been stunning. We walked in and out of pine forests, villages, green pastures where cows and sheep spend their days. All in all, a tranquil lovely day in Spain.
The flare up left its marks on me that may take many weeks to heal. The itches aren’t gone but they are manageable, so far. I was told that if it is not gone by the time the meds are gone to consider coming back to a hospital for another shot. We shall see. No question the timing isn’t the best, but that’s life, isn’t it.
Walter arrived today at 7 a.m. and had his first day of walking. The weather and the scenery were quite lovely and I think he had a great first impression. He came to keep me company for the last 100 km. and he will get his credential from the church because it doesn’t matter that I walked 675 km before he got here, as far as the church is concerned its the last 100km. that counts. We walked on rural roads today, many ups and downs, beautiful vistas through hamlets and past farms where people are quite poor. There was a man in his 30‘s about 15 km. into our walk, who spoke a good english, sitting there with a basket of brown eggs and wine and salt. We stopped and talked and he said it was by donation. Both the eggs and the wine were delicious–a perfect lunch. I asked him why the yolk of many of the eggs are orange and he simply said that the hens need to be happy to lay eggs. If they are not happy there are no eggs. He did some sort of short cut and he was waiting for us about 5 km. or so down the road so that he could tell us about the orange yolks. He had thought about that question after we left and he needed to tell us that the orange yolks are from young hens and yes, he agreed that they are tastier. The Camino has changed for me with Walter here, different and that’s very fine.
Like I said every day has its challenges. This day was special. For some reason during the evening, I developed an allergic reaction to something and my body was on fire. I broke out in welts that were so itchy and at the same time painful that all I could do was put a facecloth with cold water to calm them slightly and keep me from scratching. I did not sleep for a minute all night. This thing, that I have never had before started at 10 pm and lasted until 7 am. It seemed to subside then and after breakfast I went to visit the doctor anyway. After 40 minutes of waiting and not knowing when he would show, I left without any antihistamines to my next destination. Bottom line, it was a miserable walk. Because I had had no sleep, I had no energy. My itches started around noon and I had another 3 and a half hours to go and then of course I can’t forget about my baby toe that has continued to make its presence known for quite some time now. The trip was a forever hell. By the time I got to the hospital I was a raving sobbing lunatic. My body was screaming and it was very hard to contain myself. No english but thank goodness for a program on the computer that translates from one language to another as you type. Thats’ how the doctor and I communicated. After two shots of cortisone, anti-histamine and drugs, I felt that I could cope. As for the walk, no memory of it. Its so interesting, if the body isn’t happy, nothing else seems to matter. In meditation its also true. If the body is uncomfortable, there’s no way one can meditate. Its a temple and/or a prison.
Day 28 is missing because my baby toe needed a day off. It was supposedly the second hardest day of the Camino but it poured and poured, was cloudy and the great views that were promised, were hidden, so I could better rationalize my decision to take a day off. Today, my foot worked because I honoured my body and gave it the needed break. I know that in the past I would just plough through, pain and all, but what for? So I consciously chose to do it differently. This is an important change for me. The Camino as I had mentioned weeks ago, has its daily challenges, no different than life, I suppose. Its just that when life situations are encapsulated in a 5 to 6 week Camino experience, its quite easy, if we choose to observe, to see when and why we react like we do – like project, have expectations, are reluctant to accept situations that cannot be changed, feel irritable or lonely, etc. Its a beautiful way of seeing the journey of life and most importantly, our response to it in this microcosm.
Every day has its challenges. Today was no exception. The extreme and very long downhill yesterday destroyed my healing blister and I am back to square one with it. The pharmacist lanced it after my walk today and we shall see what tomorrow brings. You may have noticed that the kms. don’t jibe because I was in so much pain that I took a cab at the last town. While I limped along I was reflecting on some observations of the last few weeks. I was introduced to Magpie birds in Colorado years ago and Spain is the only other place that I have seen them. It took me awhile to clue in but the landscape has no maple trees. Being from the part of Canada that I am from, it is strange to see a landscape without them. There are not that many trees. They are shorter generally and the leaves that are falling because of the season are either oak or poplar. Did you know that Spain is the largest exporter of olive oil in the world and was the largest exporter of wine until Australia stepped up recently and now has that position? I was surprised to learn that. I understand that in the south of Spain there are huge expanses of olive trees growing. One thing that impresses me very much is the material that they use for sidewalks. It doesn’t matter if you are in a city or a small village, the sidewalks are never cement. They pattern them with all kinds of rocks, stones, terrazzo, field and flag stones, slate, interlocking bricks as well as a more refined material than cement that is patterned and coloured. The roads in villages are beautifully patterned and one can see that there is much care taken. Since my head is down looking at where I am stepping as I walk, I have noticed these things. Most towns have plots of land that are divided up with knee wall fences of some sort or other and I have been observing from town to town that vegetables and fruit are grown on these parcels of land. I saw a man unlock a gate to get to his little plot today, where he grabbed two lettuces, put them in the trunk of his car and drove off. Where they can, they have chickens that are allowed to roam and find their food the natural way. As homes here are not like at home in that there are no backyards, it looks like there are co-operatives where people grow their own produce. I think its brilliant. All their food is tastier than back home and they seem to have a healthy relationship to the earth. In comparison, we eat plastic. An addendum to the cost of museums and cathedrals…..there is absolutely no information in English or any other language besides Spanish given with admission, so I am on my own trying to figure out what I am looking at and its importance. Then I saw the one and only sign in English on the road yesterday and I thought that maybe that’s why they stick to Spanish. If you can make it out, let me know. The last thing to mention and I have held off wanting to get at least halfway into my trip across Spain so that I can visit many the toilets along the way before I commented. There is no question in my mind that it is a 7th ray country, a country of order. It doesn’t matter how meagre or how deserted a place has been when I have needed to use the facilities, it is always clean and has toilet paper. This is quite unheard of in comparison to other countries and the one that I am thinking of in particular is Italy. Beauty matters, not bathrooms. As a visitor to this country, I appreciate their priorities.