Cloister of the Monasterio de la Magdalena

Thirty one days into our journey on the Camino de Santiago and the walking continues to get more difficult. As we started yesterday morning, the rain was coming steadily down and our legs were very heavy. We climbed out of Sarria in a wave of multi-colored ponchos as peregrinos new to the Way joined those of us who’ve been marching along for weeks now. We were quiet and I realized that we really need a rest day. However, neither of us wants to delay our arrival in Santiago. We will press on.

Curiously, though we are tired and our legs are heavy, we are conditioned for the walk. Galicia is all hills and it appears that it will remain that way for the remainder of our journey. Proper breaks and staying fueled ameliorates much of the discomfort. Yesterday, it rained about half of the day and we actually had a good bit of sunshine – a welcome gift for our spirits.

We are seeing and talking to many pilgrims now as we near the end and those of us who have been at for so long feel joined in a small club of “old timers.” Yesterday morning, we met Colum, Jeremy, and Ella. You may remember Colum and Jeremy as the “stuffy Brits” we encountered in Rabanal. We’ve seen them at every hotel since and I finally went over and introduced myself. They are actually Irish brothers and Colum had lived in New York for the least 20 years. Jeremy was quiet and reserved but we all smiled as we discussed the challenges of our journeys and found much common ground in our trials. Ella, Colum’s wife, joined them in Sarria to complete the last 100km with them. It is so interesting what we find in others when we take a moment to know them.

Farewell Sarria

Our Irish family struggled greatly yesterday. We left Sarria together and Kieva was moving very slowly. Liguori and Jim took turns pushing the stroller and walking with Kieva. Liguori told us she was named after the founder of the order of Redemptorists, Italian Bishop Alphonsus Liguori. The baby, Lorchan, appears to sleep most of the day and smiled broadly for me when we saw them climbing the hill in Portomarin later that day.

Climbing into Portomarin

We decided to dedicate our day yesterday to my friend who passed away and our family members who have gone before us. We’ve found that “offering up” the challenges of our day for these intentions gives purpose to the difficulties and helps to keep us focused spiritually. A happy side effect of this approach is that it also helps keep our mind off of our own difficulties. A good lesson for any difficult day we face.

100km to Santiago de Compostela

In the time we spent preparing for and considering this journey, we alway maintained a sense of the mystical regarding The Way. The magic of the unknown. What would we discover? What “signs” might reveal themselves? Who might come across our path and what might they reveal? Whenever we told others of the upcoming trip, eyes would go wide with “Wow!” and we’d get comments like “you will be changed.” The further we get into the Way and the closer to our destination, the more clear it is that the we are being shown the same “secrets” that life and faith have been teaching us for years.

  • You get out of it what you put into it.
  • Your attitude sets the tone for your day and the things you experience in it.
  • People are basically good and generally get better with the amount of effort you invest to know them.
  • There is magic in this world if you allow yourself to see it.
  • As much as the world has changed over thousands of years, it, and the people in it, are still very much the same.
  • You are stronger than you realize.
  • Big things can be accomplished with small steps.
  • We all basically seek the same things: purpose, fulfillment, companionship, growth.
  • Begin or quit, stay or leave, you decide.
  • Our greatest limiter sits between our ears.

The list goes on, but the point is made. Talking with Marta this morning, she summed up the Camino de Santiago: “The Way is a metaphor for life. The ups, the downs. The joys, the disappointments. It is all here.” I will share more about my chat with Marta in tomorrow’s post.

Iglesia de San Juan

Last night, we attended Mass at St. John, a Romanesque “fortress” church that was moved stone by stone from the old town which was located in what is now the Rio Mino far below today’s location. A dam project forced the old town to be move up the hill. Just prior, we enountered a group of Spanish peregrinos who we’ve seen several times and who have a penchant for needing to go to the restroom outdoors whenever Sally and I come upon them. Dino, Carlos, Mark, Peter, and Joseph always greet us warmly and were quite impressed when I told them I needed an Orujo yesterday, Mark said, “ You learning fast!” On the Camino, we are all a family. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson.

On to Palas de Rei today.

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