Extracts from my book My Camino Walk – A Way to Healing (Chapter 11) IslandCatEditions – available as an eBook (Kindle, Kobo, iTunes) and print edition through Amazon.
“There is no dilemma about whom I will travel with today. By the time I’ve packed and had breakfast, everyone has left. I’m quite happy to be on my own again because I’ll be able to meditate and listen to the world. A cold wind blows and I find it hard to get warm, even with the exertion of walking. I plan to cover 21 km to the city of Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
Because of concern over the weight of my luggage, I only carry one guide: the Camino de San Diego Map, by Pila Pala Press, consisting of 52 pages. It outlines the route and shows distances between landmarks. It also lists some of the albergues where I might stay but is possibly wildly inaccurate because I borrowed this edition from friends and it’s almost three years out of date.”
“This guide is becoming increasingly dog-eared; it’s been my constant reference. I will have to find a replacement edition for the people who loaned me their copy, as with each page tear, it’s becoming an important memento of my journey. It will eventually look as battered as I’m feeling. To tell the truth, I’m starting to feel less of a victim, so perhaps a more appropriate description is “battle hardened.” I have regained my inner warrior.
When I began my journey, in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, it was with page one of the guide. Each day’s journey is represented by one or two pages. I am now on page nine and there are still another thirty-six pages to my final destination of Santiago to Compostela. I wonder how I’ll ever get there. Thirty-six more pages seemed such a formidable task.
I think back to other long endeavours I’ve undertaken. Four years of university seemed like a life sentence with frequent times of intense study. How could I keep up the momentum necessary to pass all my exams and successfully graduate?
The answer it Is to break a task like this into baby steps – then the whole process becomes more manageable. If I were to look at the entire route, including the three mountain ranges to be crossed, it might seem impossible. Breaking the entire journey into days, half days or even just kilometres makes it manageable. This is an exercise in working in the “now,” in the moment, and it’s wasted energy just think of the next mountain range to be crossed in another two weeks.
I see the city in the distance but, like a mirage, it doesn’t seem to be getting closer with each step. I look around and see an endless stream of pilgrims moving progressively onward. This onslaught looks ominous, almost mechanical, as if the pilgrims are characters from Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis. I begin to wonder whether these people are determined to snag what may possibly be the last available bed in Santo Domingo. I’m acutely aware that I may be somewhat lacking in human kindness and charity, but I want that bed……….
As I enter the city, I do my best to estimate the most efficient route to the refugio and fear that, if I take a wrong turn, I will have lost any advantage. I resist the temptation to hail a taxi for that final kilometre. I have to let go of some of my angst; this is not the best way of going through life. I need to trust more in the universe because, invariably, it will provide me with all that I need in life.
Ironically, there are lots of beds available when I finally get to the hostel, well located and only meters from the cathedral. As a bonus, my arrival coincides with the town’s annual festival. Tonight a concert will be held in the cathedral featuring three of Spain’s finest classical singers.
After dinner and a plentiful amount of wine, (far too plentiful) I reach the cathedral in time to find a seat for the concert. Great music in the setting of a 12th-century church: imposing and spectacular. Near St. Dominic’s tomb is a live cockerel, its presence due to the fable about a young pilgrim framed for stealing by a local resident because he resisted her amorous advances. The pilgrim was put to death by hanging, but it was reported to the son’s grieving parents that St. Dominic had held up the boy so he did not die. When the magistrate was told this, he said it was impossible and the youth was as dead as the chicken he was about to eat. The cooked bird promptly came to life and flew off the table.
Even if the story seems improbable, I’m aware that the walls of this cathedral have witnessed much history; energy is imprinted in the cold stonework. I close my eyes and drink in the experience and wonder why ancient buildings often have better acoustics than modern concert halls designed by highly qualified engineers. Are churches truly designed by God for the glory of God? Perhaps so!
With the music my minds soars high up to the ceilings of this Romanesque cathedral. There is something awe-inspiring and breathtaking about the human voice’s ability to affect emotion. It’s an instrument that most of us carry with us for life, and it’s natural for us to use our voices in song to celebrate our achievements and mourn our losses…….Above all, singing can take us away from that place of numbness, or absence of feeling, where it is too easy to dwell. All good art moves us in some way.