Sunday, February 19, 2012

Camino Entry 5

(Note: Santa Cova, mentioned below, is a small chapel clinging to the side of the mountain away from the main monastery of Montserrat. Check it out here:

Day 5, November 29th, 2012
69.6km completed to date

Expenses, Day 5
Resupply: 9.67
Extra night at Montserrat: 10.00
Total: 19.67
Trip Total: 148.81

Martin, the German from Essen

I met Martin last night – he was my only other companion in the pilgrim’s quarters. He cuts quite the interesting figure: a few years older than me, a bit taller, long shaggy black hair, a feathered hat, short baggy yellow pants, two knee braces, and a long staff. The metal endpiece he made himself while working for a blacksmith in France . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Martin speaks fairly good English despite his stutter (which makes my own limitations in Spanish feel much smaller). He’s from a town near Essen, in Germany, and had always wanted to visit Santiago. One day he woke up and decided to go. I met him at the end of day 84.

Martin is full of interesting stories, as one would expect. He’s slept in forests, barns, and train stations. He’s made mushroom soup from ingredients he collected himself. He once traded a giant fungus for a 30km car ride.

He’s stayed in monasteries several times. While not a religious person at the beginning of his trip, Martin says now that he suspects there is something else but that it has no name. There was one order of monks that he stayed with in France that he was good friends with – they were a very young order (35 years) and were always smiling and playing jokes on each other. They sent him from monastery to monastery until Le Puy.

Le Puy is one of the starting points of the camino. Located in France, it is a city built in a volcanic crater. In the center of the crater is a huge stone, on top of which is located a church. To get inside you must take a tunnel stairway cut through the rock that emerges into the center of the church. I want to visit. Minecraft is real life!

Martin makes me dream of another camino. This time I have some time constraints, and I am not equipped to wander as I will. Martin has a tent and a kitchen – I do not. Next time I will . . . I could re-equip and change my plans, but I think not. One camino at a time. His camino is not mine this trip, but that’s okay.

Already considering other routes. Santiago to Jerusalem?


My visit to Santa Cova was a reminder that some places are only powerful at certain points of our lives. It was more crowded this time, and the maintenance guy was scraping candle wax off of the catch pans. Even holy places need maintenance. Even though it was not the moving experience that it was before, it remains a place where I can concentrate easily and I renewed the prayer that I said last time I was there: “Let me be strong enough to act despite fear.”

It is a good place, a familiar place, but I have drawn all the strength from it that I can. Also, it didn’t open until 11:30, and so I lost an hour and a half of sunlight. Today may turn into a rest day . . . fitting enough, as Montserrat bears more than a passing resemblance to Rivendell.


Yup. Rest day today. For the best, after what my calves are telling me on the back from Santa Cova. The brother I talked to today was more distant than yesterday – I hope that I’m not taking advantage of the monks’ generosity. It is 10 euro a night to stay here after the first night, a sum I have no problem paying. It’s at least 20km to the next hostel, and even on flat terrain it will take me six or seven hours to get there. Down a mountain . . . too far.

And I got to hear the boys choir sing. As much as I think that putting that kind of performance pressure on young children is a little weird, it was a hugely powerful musical texture. I was still feeling bad about needing another night here, and wasn’t sure why. Hearing them sing opened it all up. I’m afraid – afraid that I will fail. Afraid that if I lose momentum, I will never regain it. But I will! All I have to do is step out the door tomorrow. It doesn’t sound like much in writing, but an hour ago I was sitting in the basilica with tears running down my cheeks, oblivious to all the silly tourists shooting video around me. I am afraid of failing! Such a simple realization.

Later that evening

From the Tao te Ching, verse 42

“…Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.”

Also, from verse 44 discussion:

“…success and failure are equally irrelevant to him (the master) because his heart rests in the Tao.”

I’ve been searching since I graduated for an external or internal yardstick of success to replace the one that school provided. Maybe I’m missing the point? There should be no yardstick

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