Monday, February 27, 2012

Camino Entry 9

Day 9, December 3rd, 2012

143.7km traveled

I've decided to take the Cami de San Juan de la Pena, the Northern route.

Expenses, Day 9

Pastry and Baguette: 1.50
Resupply (shop with nice lady): 4.37
Hostal Ca L'Angeleta (c/Pons i Arola #5): 15.00
Internet: .50
Mass: 1.00
Total: 22.37
Trip Total: 248.73

One thing I will miss about Europe is the pastries. If the town is bigger than 500 people, you can get some fucking good pastry.


The Catalan independence movement is strong here; lots of “Catalunya lliure” graffiti.

Quite a pleasant day today. I've been out of the hills and in farmland for two days now – mostly flat dirt roads where the going is easy. Overcast, but no rain. I'm stopped for a rest at Castell de Remei, an interesting old military camp from the 19th century. The main building is castle-like, although I'm not sure how effective the fortifications would actually be – they are mostly decorative. There are some other museum buildings, a petting zoo, and a nice restaurant; altogether it's a cozy little tourist trap. There's also a refuge for Fransiscan monks. With the leaves red and orange underfoot and the evening sun mixing with the cooing of doves, I am quite content to rest my feet for a bit.

Lots of irrigation systems here, which tells me that the summers must be brutal. Troughs crisscross the fields and duck under access roads with a combination of vertical shafts and a bit of siphoning (insert illustration here).

Also, cemeteries here are always walled with a large number of above ground graves, and are marked with the skull and crossbones. Yarr!


I learned a lesson about walking today. Don't look at your feet; let them do the walking, not your eyes. If you look at your feet, you will get tired. Instead, keep your eyes on the horizon. It keep you moving forward.

So, the three lessons so far:
1. Let others be generous.
2. No pilgrim is alone.
3. Let your feet do the walking.

I stopped in a little shop in Tournabous for supplies. The lady there was very nice – she spotted me as a pilgrim right away. I was able to make myself understood (everyone in Spain is being very patient with me, despite the fact that I am a functional idiot) and got some delicious food (cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese . . .). She even gave me some gummies for free . . . I was happy thinking about it for quite some time. She's a bright light in the world.

Traveling brings out the best in people, both the traveler and the host. It has me thinking about the saying that the world gives you what you give it. This is one of the mechanisms that allows that statement to be true. Everyone has both positive and negative potential – you just have to act in a way that allows others to be positive. Like the master in the Tao te Ching, enabling the people – “We did it all by ourselves!”

Being a pilgrim does bring out the best in people, myself and the others around me. I have to trust strangers and rely on them, and so far people have been universally good. I still do not believe that humans are fundamentally good, but just because our potential for good and evil must be balanced doesn't mean that our actions have to be.


I am getting in touch with old powers on this trip. Old wisdom. Sleeping in the woods, building fires, walking alone in the wilderness, meeting monks . . . even the concept of pilgrimage is an old power.

Today while walking along a particular bit of path I had a vision. Not much of a vision, more of just a feeling. The path, the weather, the pack on my back, the farmland, and my sore body . . . my mind is quiet enough that I heard it resonate with one of my ancestors. They had done something very similar, and I felt a great kinship with their sharpness of mind and drive. We thought so similarly that it was like slipping into a comfortable shoe . . . I knew him better than anyone I know in the present, because he was me.

But yeah, very short, and not strictly a vision. Maybe it's just tricks of the brain? Does it matter?

Speaking of old things, I went to mass tonight in search of a stamp for my credential. I went with the lady who runs the hostel – an energetic, forceful, assertive old woman whom I cannot understand a damn bit (sometimes my Spanish is okay, but tonight it has been kicking my ass). Ever been to mass in an 11th century church? Neither had I, until now.

The priest was running a one man show, with only the altar boy and girl for help. I was amazed that he would just burst into the hymns by himself with no pitch pipe – a fine baritone that everyone else mumbled along to. Also amazing is how the lord's prayer is instantly recognizable, even in Catalan and even to a Unitarian. I never realized how important rhythm is to prayer . . . just like poetry.

There was some music during the bit where they eat Jesus' flesh (some weird symbolism to me, but hey). Just as visiting Austria helped me understand Beethoven, visiting old churches has given me a new understanding of baroque and old church music. The place is inseparable from the music – it is the perfect sound for its respective places. I wonder if this is true of all music . . . and I wonder if the rhythm of walking is getting into my body the way that the rhythm of the ocean was when I was living on a ship. I want to get back to composing and find out.

After the mass I was leaving when the altar boy ran up to me. “Just one question,” he asked in perfect English.


“You're English?”


“Ah!” and he ran away. I wonder if he's ever met an American.

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