God’s teaching for me today came courtesy of a young woman, who had walked through the Pyrenees as I had yesterday, along with a few of her friends. But let me back up a bit, so you understand the lesson taught.
Upon settling into the Albergue in Roncesvalles, I found myself a bit shaken over the day’s trial. First, and foremost, I was really drained, except for my nose which began to run like crazy; as if I had sucked up all that rain and was now returning to Zeus personally. A long, hot shower managed to bring the feeling back into my hands and warm my body up. And a late afternoon nap for an hour or so calmed me down. But I began to see the deficiencies of being a first-timer on a pilgrimage.
My clothes were thoroughly wet and filthy. After my “had-to-have” nap, I ventured down to the cellar where the laundry room was. “Packed” was the word that came to mind, and the hospitaleros proclaimed that they were swamped for the evening.
First dilemma; how am I going to dry my only fleece, my three t-shirts, my pants, my socks and my only coat. It was definitely too wet in the air for them to dry overnight laying around my bunk bed.
Second dilemma; my only shoes, my boots, were soaked and mud-encrusted, and unwearable. Besides they were downstairs in the boot room. I quickly accessed the truth that one needs a second pair of shoes – like sandals – to wear around the Albergue and out to supper. Everyone else had sandals. Did I miss the bulletin?
Third dilemma; I had not eaten since yesterday evening, and with the rain outside and no shoes, how do I go out to dinner in wet clothing and socks.
You know that when the going gets tough…. well let’s just say I hunkered down. Quite a few good reasons came to mind to say that I was in over my head on this trip so far. While my attitude was good, I was seriously thinking that I should take the next day off; to rest and hopefully let the rain pass on.
Dinner time came. In Spain, and for the pilgrims, there is a special dinner (cena) that is usually three courses, along with water and red wine. The price is amazing at around 10 euros ($13.00), and the red wine (by the bottle for the table) is full-flavored, local, and very smooth. Yet here I sit; still trying to figure out what to do. Perhaps I can borrow someone’s sandals. Perhaps I can just wait until breakfast, but that would just further deplete my battery cells. Pilgrims went to dinner. Pilgrims came back from dinner. I’m getting hungrier, so I solved my problem by padding the bottom of my boots with newspaper that we were all using to stuff our boots, so as to soak up the excess moisture, throwing on my one dry shirt, my waterproof poncho, and away I went to the restaurant. At least I solved that problem.
The next morning, before the wake-up call at 6:00am, I again seriously contemplated sticking around and taking a day of rest. I perhaps could use it, but I also sensed my hesitancy to venture back out into a world where I thought I was clearly out-classed. I came up with many good reasons why I should stay, and no reasons to go, other than a sense that I felt I was being called to go and walk. I didn’t come to sit around, but I just felt stuck.
At 6:00am, the lights went on, and we soon heard a most melodious tenor voice singing a Catholic chant – with a modern and humorous flair – passing down the hallway; encouraging everyone to rise and embrace the day. What came from the man’s mouth was encouraging, “It’s a miracle, no rain!” he sang out. Many jumped to it, while I lingered. After some minutes of watching everyone else prepare for the day, I pulled myself from bed and checked on my clothing; still wet. Now I had a real problem, for without at least my fleece to go under my windbreaker jacket, I had no real way of staying warm. A moment later I heard the voice of the hospitalero who had told me last evening that the washers and dryers were full for the night. “Perhaps if I could convince him to dry my clothes this morning?” A quick plea brought a simple response, “No.” An honest plea brought compassion and an open dryer. One problem solved; the physical. With the clothes dried, I packed and went downstairs to grab my boots.
I figured to walk to a town about four miles away where there was another Albergue. There I would stay, rest, and write for the day. As I collected my boots and unstuffed the wet newspaper from their insides, I could not but overhear the conversation between two young women. One was clearly distressed about going forward, and she was complaining of a sore throat; brought on by yesterday’s assault by the harsh weather. A hospitalero engaged her in conversation in an attempt to encourage her, and I found myself discerning not a sore throat, but a failing faith in why she came to the Camino to begin with. One plus one equals two; a truth for her and a truth for me. I ventured in with a few words about faith, and how this is the moment she has been waiting for; why she has come to the Camino.
Honestly, I don’t know whether she received it well, but I did. As my mouth spoke the words, I knew they were actually for me. Perhaps God had simply placed me in front of His mirror of truth. In any case, I understood now that there would be no stopping a couple of miles down the road. Zubiri, a town thirteen miles away – only to be had through a lot of walking on muddy and slick trails that would rise steeply and fall just as fast – was out there to be reached. The weather was still very cold, a mist and fine rain waited for us in the hills, and it was time to go.
Enjoy the Gallery of Photos I took along The Way between Roncesvalles and Zubiri!
Love & God Bless – Reese