Monday, December 31, 2012

Camino Entry 32

Where am I today?

Entry 32, December 26th, 2011

Expenses, Day 32
Burgos Cathedral: 2.50
Postcards: 2.20
Burgos Munincipal Albergue: 5.00
Chinese Food: 12.00
Churros con chocolate: 4.00
Replacement toothbrush + toothpaste: 5.00
Total: 32.70
Trip Total: 738.53

Another beautiful day today – not a cloud in the sky. Cresting the ridge out of Agés we found a huge series of concentric circles, made of white stones placed by pilgrims in the heath. It was very strong – a rock in the center had “love” painted on it.

Also from the ridge we could see Burgos, and beyond – the meséta. I am excited – time to put on some serious kilometers to León! My feet feel great, and my boots feel like sex on two feet. It is not the enemy, impatience, that urges me on, but enthusiasm!

Cleber found me a perfect walking stick at the albergue last night. It is exactly the right height and is smooth and straight. I appreciated it on the way down the hill. Now I feel like a real pilgrim.

The addition of the stick is tempered by the fact that I keep forgetting things. I left my watch behind on Christmas Eve, and this morning I left my whole toiletries bag behind. No great loss, as I only had a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, soap, and toenail clippers, but an annoying one. I need to find soap, and the floss was useful to have as string.

We ate Chinese food today in Burgos, as the Master was craving rice. At the restaurant (La Gran Muralla – the great wall) we were translating through three languages – Korean to English to Spanish to the server, and back from Spanish to English to Korean to the Master. The Koreans didn't want to tip – old animosities die hard, I guess. The food was okay. My stomach was feeling unsettled earlier, but is doing alright now.

The cathedral here is amazing, easily on par with Notre Dame in terms of raw beauty. Gothic, Gothic, Gothic!!! But for something so rich and ornamented, it was surprisingly bright inside. I always expect Gothic architecture to be very dark, but it never is. I guess it really is all about light. El Cid and his wife were buried here – it was not so much a cathedral as it was a complex.

And so rich in storytelling! Everywhere there were tombs and chapels of so-and-so and such-and-such, all covered entirely in Christian imagery. The choir in particular; each seat had three different scenes engraved on it from different stories – that makes hundreds of narratives in that space alone! How can anyone keep track of so much history?

If I had to describe Spain in one word, it would be “richness.” Rich storytelling, rich architecture, rich food – we found another chocolatería. Chocolate con churros, mmm . . . the place was all decked out in Charlie Chaplain stuff, which was a bit of a non-sequiter; not that we were complaining.

Later I was in town again to find a toothbrush, and the place was bustling. Christmas in Spain seems to begin on the 25th and run until January 6th, the day when the wise men arrived (and the day that children get their presents). People were caroling in the plaza, food vendors were everywhere, and it was packed!

I stopped and listened to a street violinist for a while. Here on the camino, without iPod or computer, I feel starved for music. Anything I hear is like water to a man in the desert – it falls straight into my depths. I crave it. Harmonies are the sweetest treats in the world. My sensitivity is heightened . . . I love it!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Camino Entry 31

**New Feature!**

Where am I?

Entry 31, December 25th, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The family is at home right now (almost exactly right now, actually) opening presents and eating breakfast. I just crested the top of the pass on the way to the monastery of San Juan de Ortega. We may not stop there, because it's probably closed – Agés is the next city. We'll see.

I'm so glad to be here, even though I'm missing Christmas.

We passed through an old forest on the way up the mountain. In the stark winter light, the trees are black and white splinters, crackling in the brisk air. Fragile brown moss covers everything and crumbles to dust between the fingers, draped over branches and stone alike. The only green is a bit of long bladed grass and the clusters of pines scattered here and there. A hint of red bubbles through the undergrowth – stinging nettles.

An old, twisted forest – a muted palate of browns, grays, and reds. The clay is laced with frost underfoot. Winter in Spain.

Expenses, Day 31
Albergue, Dinner Menu, Breakfast (Agés): 20.00
Total: 20.00
Trip Total: 705.83

The albergue at the monastery was closed, so we moved on. I did stop and take a look inside the basilica, though. It is not every day that one has a basilica to themselves on Christmas.

San Juan Ortega is mostly in the Romanic style, with a huge Gothic sepulchre in the middle. Everything was in white stone – with the brilliant, washed-out winter light coming in it was quite beautiful and absolutely quiet, like a forest after a snowfall. I sat in front of the tomb of San Juan de Ortega – a plain, unadorned thing (1080 – 1163), and lit a candle.

Who would have guessed a year ago that I would be here adventuring, visiting the tombs of saints and sleeping in caves!

I could have asked for no better Christmas present than an afternoon of quiet moments, and that's what I got. There was a hill later with a meadow and a scattering of old oak trees that I sat under for a while.  It is nice to know that there are still quiet places in the world, places beyond McDonald's and the internet . . . places with meadows and oak trees.

I crossed the ridge to see Agés, pop. 50, nestled in the valley below. The albergue is a maze of warm rooms and good smells – the last of the family have been departing throughout the evening from last night's Christmas dinner. We have a big pan of paella to look forward to, the eight of us. It will be good after today's 28km.

To read: “The Art of Possibility,” Benjamin Sander