Because we had camped out last night, I wasn’t able to send my backpack ahead to our next albergue, which meant I had to “be a real pilgrim” and carry it myself. Wow. I have so much respect for peregrinos who make this pilgrimage carrying their burdens on their backs. It is a whole different experience. We only made it halfway through our day’s walk and I had had enough. We stopped for lunch and I whipped out my Spanish/English app and typed in for translation, “Would you please call a taxi for my backpack? I want to send it ahead to the next town.” So, I entrusted my burden to the smiling cab driver and merrily went my way unburdened.
I was telling Claus that I felt somewhat embarrassed, maybe even a tiny bit of shame, but definitely profound respect for everyone else walking the Camino “the right way.” He didn’t try to talk me out of my feelings, he simply gave me a picture to consider. He said, “If a bridge is built over a stream, does the person who walks down into the valley, through the stream and up the other side deserve more respect than the one who uses the bridge? If they are doing that because they want to cool off their feet in the water, drink from the fresh stream or simply sit by the ripples and enjoy nature that is one thing. But if it is because they don’t trust the construction of the bridge or the one who built it or they feel they are not worthy to walk over it, then I don’t know that is worthy of respect.” I know there is so much more to unpack in this imagery than about carrying a backpack.
I’m so glad I “walked over the bridge” because it turned out to be a really hot day and the walk felt extra long as the sun beat down upon us and sapped our energy. At one point, our conversation matched the landscape (which happens quite often, if we have eyes to see.) My instinct was to talk my way out of the uncomfortable emotions arising. Claus said, “You can use words to encounter or escape. Don’t talk about it, just feel it.” He felt like he needed to stop talking for awhile and let our conversation integrate and metabolize within himself. So, we both put our earbuds in, turned on our music, I put my songs on shuffle and, wow, I couldn’t have orchestrated a more perfect playlist if I had tried. Every song sang straight into me. I was so glad I wasn’t carrying my backpack. It made allowing the music to lift me up and away from the heaviness of fear so much more easily. The sun continued to drain us, the music lightened us and we finally arrived in Granon like wet noodles emotionally and physically.
The albergue was in the tower of a church. We were greeted by the embodiment of pure joy in the face of the hospitelero. She explained that we were welcome to stay because they never turn away pilgrims. We had to sleep on a mat in the overflow room at the bottom of the church but there would be room at the inn for us. We discovered rather quickly that this wasn’t your typical albergue. For one thing, everyone staying there had to cook the meal together, set up the room for eating and then wash the dishes. It was definitely a communal experience. And such a delightful one.
After dinner, we all retired to the choir loft which was lit only by candlelight. The joyful hospitelero had us go around the circle and share our intention for the camino and then she had us share a wish and then she had us turn to the person on our left and speak a blessing over them. One of the most surprisingly moving parts of this experience was that everyone was encouraged to speak in their native language so I understood very little of what was spoken and yet the spirit behind the words penetrated meaning that was beyond words.
When it was my time to share my intention, I said, “My desire is to recognize, trust and follow the voice of God coming from within.” The next time we circled around, I voiced my wish, “That the Camino who brought this man into my life would figure out some way that we could be together after the road ends.” That felt more like asking for a miracle than a wish but the Camino has proven quite powerful already so it was certainly worth a wish and a prayer. Claus was on my left so the next time around the circle I spoke a blessing over him that he would encounter, embody and enjoy freedom, joy, belief, desire and love without fear.
Next, we all sat in silence as our open hearts were knit together in this holy Camino moment. I would say that hugs were distributed all around but it was more like “holds.” Once you’ve allowed your hearts to be seen and held by a fellow pilgrim, a “holding” just feels more appropriate than a hug.