Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Camino Entry 41

Today's street view:

This is the bar where I asked directions by scribbling Spanish phrases in my notebook.  Damn oath of silence . . . they sent me down the road to your right.

Entry 41, January 4th, 2012

¿Como voy a San Martino del Camino?

No puedo hablar hoy.


The above are my side of a conversation with a bartender in a little town outside San Martin del Camino, asking for directions. I'll get to that in a minute.

The Albergue in San Martino del Camino.  A chilly evening with no heat . . .

A few notes about the cathedral before I forget (I went back this morning before leaving León). There are a series of sculptures on the front, including a set of demon heads devouring the damned whole and spitting them out into vats of boiling oil. Yikes!

Also, the cathedral has two huge Gothic bell towers in the style of Notre Dame, but they are disconnected from the central nave, allowing far more internal surface area to be stained glass. An ingenious move.

Also, the count's palace (designed by Gaudí) is a subtle, restrained masterpiece. The windows increase in size as you move down the building, and the stone changes colors whenever the windows change size. It is a very small change, though – from light gray to dark gray at the bottom. Much different from his crazy stuff in Barcelona, and yet I can still see his touch. The way Gaudí paints with the colors of stone really captures the eye.

It took most of the morning to leave León. The usual slog through cheap housing, the industy and warehouses, and finally through freeway interchanges and all the in-between forgotten places. Places where damaged lawn chairs come to die, and where the municipal authority stores spare manhole covers. I took the alternate path, which was a good choice as it quickly left the freeway and made it into very quiet country. It was a good complement to today's oath of silence.

I kept the oath (so far, at least). A few observations:

I was happy all day. I don't know why, but the one who does not speak is loving and content. I wanted to smile at everyone and tell them with my eyes how genuinely I appreciated it when they helped me. In fact, my eyes have never felt quiet so expressive and twinkling. Even when I thought of people that made me angry it brought a smile to my face.

People treated me differently. A little bit like the slow cousin – even my compatriots on the road who know me very well. When you don't talk, people forget that you still understand. Also, they started to try to communicate with me non-verbally as well, even though I was certainly not deaf. I wonder if we have a subconscious urge to adopt the mannerisms of those we communicate with to facilitate communication?

I got lost at one point. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to be lost when you've taken an oath of silence? Hence my conversation with the bartender earlier.

It would be interesting to take one of these oaths for a longer period. I wonder what sort of music a person who never spoke would make?

Ernesto said something the other day that really hit home. I had just told him the story about _____, and mentioned that I was thinking of looking her up when I got home.

Why?” he said. “What are you trying to accomplish with that?”

Why am I indeed . . . one of the reasons that I came on the camino was that is was the only thing that interested me more than her. Now I am full of ideas, all of them more important than her, and she is suddenly less attractive.

Is this finally what I meant when I said that I could only contact her again when I didn't care about contacting her anymore? It doesn't feel like I expected, but it is good to be free.

To be honest, I will probably throw something her way when I get back, but I am not going to put much into it. There is more important work to be done!

Expenses, Day 41

Breakfast + lunch pastry: 10.00
Albergue Municipal San Martino del Camino: 4.00
Dinner: 8.00
Total: 22.00
Trip Total: 942.64

Song: “Nosotros”

Leaving a city (where I considered sleeping when I was lost) on the alternate path, I saw a shepherd with his sheep. This has always been a good sign on the camino – one with mixed meanings. It is a good sign, because it means that I am going the right way, but it is also sobering because it usually means that I am about to be challenged. Sure enough, I soon became unsure as to if I was heading the right way – the same demon arose to do battle that I defeated on San Juan de la Peña. I defeated him again, and after asking directions I found I was heading exactly the right way. I saw another shepherd there. Santiago smiles.

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