A Dog, A Bee, and A Steak Dinner
There is a long flat portion of the Camino that you enter during the middle of the 30 plus day trek to Santiago de Compostela. It is miles and miles of high mesa with little shade or change in landscape. Just field after field of wheat and poppies as you meander with the sense that today looks just like the day before. It is in this setting that I found my physical and emotional state in the flats as well.
Haste Makes Lost
It started on the day I wrote my last blog post. Since it can be very challenging to write in the albergues I took a day to stay in a budget hotel where I could get some extra rest, be free of distraction, have my own shower, and write a blog post. Since I had the luxury of not being forced to leave by 8:00 AM I decided to sleep in and travel the 25 kilometers I had planned later in the day. At first, my plan worked great. I walked briskly beginning about 12:30, four hours later than my usual departure time. However within a couple of hours my plan started to deteriorate.
Storm clouds gathered on the horizon and as lightning appeared I pulled out my phone to see how far away the lightning was. At this point I missed a turn and ended up 3 miles off course in a small town on the wrong side of a mountain. Suddenly a big dog came out of nowhere and chased me, barking and drooling. I kept fending him off with my walking sticks and saying "no" which I assumed was a universal term understood by Spanish dogs and all dogs everywhere to mean "no". But my assumptions were once again incorrect. To no avail. The dog made it clear that pilgrims, or at least this pilgrim was not welcome in his town and he persisted until I reached the city limits.
Finally, clear of the town and the dog, I walked toward a bypass which was to take me over the mountain and back onto the Camino. At this very moment a swarm of bees flew by me and one flew into my ear. I shook my head vigorously, but the bee remained. Reluctant to put my fingers near the bee, I shook my head more vigorously as some passersby in a car looked at me curiously. The bee, as the dog before him, finally decided to leave me in peace and without leaving its stinger behind.
Ascending the mountain to cross over I kept coming to dead animals and lots of flies. This caused me some alarm since I was alone and where I come from in Colorado if you find a series of dead carcasses you at least should keep your head on a swivel because whatever got them may have you in its sights. I sang and played music loudly as I checked behind me every 100 meters or so. My Spanish friends later informed me that no such predatory animals exist in this region of Spain and at most the animals either died of natural causes of maybe from a fox.
As I walked alone the entire day I began to receive text messages from several of my friends asking how I was and encouraging me to my destination where they had already arrived. How humbled and touched I was by their concern. it lifted me kept me going. As I walked alone that day, I thought about my life and my family. About all the things I am grateful for. As the trail blurred through my tears, I had an overwhelming sense of grace where I knew somehow on a very deep level I had been watched over not only on this day but throughout my life.
Upon my arrival my fellow pilgrims had made dinner, including some of my favorites to "cheer me up" (steak and dark chocolate). I was so overwhelmed that my friends for only a few days would demonstrate such a big hearted response to my self-imposed adversity. The Spirit of the Camino can bring out the best and worst in us. On this day, I saw the very best in my friends respond to the very worst of my circumstances. Little did I know that even greater challenges lie ahead.