God Bless Every Corner of this House.
That was above the door of my Auberge today. I prefer Auberge to "hostel" because they are much nicer. This one is a B and B and serves breakfast. It has Spanish flair in the tile work and stone flooring with massive antique chandeliers in the hall. A man from Venezuela greeted me with a glass of water and olives.
Today's walk was beautiful and brutal. I put on slightly wet clothes from the night before's hand washing, knowing the heat would dry them and I would be less sweltering. By 10:30 am the sun is full force. I walked for about 8 hours which is pretty good for the first real full day.
I passed tall periwinkle summer wildflowers in a beautiful meadow, and bushes that looked like thistle bushes as tall as I am. I was reminded of my grandparents Indian Lake house that had periwinkle wildflowers all around in Pennsylvania. This is just south of France. Imagine a thistle that grows as tall as you are. I passed postcard picture perfect sunflower fields where 7 foot tall sunflowers were baking and smiling at the pilgrims. Now I know why people come in July. Everything is at its unharvested peak glory. I passed long unharvested wheat fields. I had only seen photos of the sort of full wheat before (or a few stalks in vases in churches) so I had to grab a head of a stalk and study it. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never hunger. " Imagining apostles eating wheat on their travels I pinched some kernels from their hulls and ate them.
There was a long steep incline hill to a spectacular vista. At points during the long hike uphill carrying my backpack in the heat I thought I would not make it. "He who turns back is not worthy of the kingdom" came to me. A Japanese young man offered to fill my water bottle with his larger thermos. I was so grateful. When we got to the top of the hill there was a truck where one could by fruit so I bought an orange we split. I also met an American man named John and his 15 year old daughter Jesse who was teaching her life lessons on the trip like-just when you think you can't make it and are about to cave in, a ray of sunlight, refreshing winds and level ground greets you. This was true today as I started teetering from the heat I hit a patch where the wind was blowing over a tiny stream. Thank you Holy Spirit for the wind.
While the uphill climb was exhausting, the downhill to the next village was brutal. It was a steep slope covered in large rocks. I don't mean pebbles. I mean fist sized rocks such that it was an obstacle course dodging rocks in how not to turn out your ankle. With a heavy back pack pushing you forward down a hill where you are dodging the larger rocks to steady footing on rocks that are moving beneath your feet it was slightly terrifying. I had to take several breaks and moved very slowly. The people who were doing the best had walking sticks which for that part was mandatory. I wish I knew. When I saw the serious hikers with two walking sticks I thought that was a little extreme. Show off. Now I know how essential it is in going down a very perilous steep slope with rocks. When I saw that hill i thought-you have to be kidding me-this would not be allowed to even exist in America because its a lawsuit waiting to happen. Someone is bound to fall or sprain their ankle. I landed hard the wrong way on mine but thank you Jesus this didn't seem to do much damage because I could walk it out without any pain.
So lesson No. 1 of the day-if you are bringing a group to the Camino, especially with older people, walking sticks are mandatory. The kind that look like ski poles at sporting goods stores with rubber tips work the best to grip the ground. Professional hikers know what they are doing. In fact if I were taking a group I would insist people have to have them (I want to say as a basic liability precaution because I am a lawyer and think like that.)
I passed a beautiful roadside church where I prayed for people on my list. There was a massive carved painted wooden altar piece with an image of Christ on the Cross in this chapel that was unbelievably beautiful. I also passed a statue of the Madonna and a large iron cross with the Camino shell emblem in the center along the route. I suppose that is supposed to evoke an image that we share in the suffering of Christ. Not sure how that works when your suffering is self inflicted!
I can basically read Spanish with a dictionary and am picking up vocabulary here and there. It should be a mandatory class in American elementary schools because 20 percent of the country is Spanish speaking and the larger Spanish speaking world is vast and beautiful.
Every Spanish person I met has been without exception extremely gracious and hospitable. I have been called "bonita" more times than I can count- I have been offered water and a place to rest and pray. People on the Camino look for opportunities to share and bless people. I was delighted to give an extra phone charger to a Norwegian young woman who lost hers.
Faith in humanity restored. I am reminded of the jingle that I learned on a mission in the Dominican Republic with Presbyterian Missionaries "Mi Dios est muy grande, muy fuerte et podoroso, no hay nada que no puedo hacer"(My God is very big, very strong and powerful and there is not anything he cannot do." Amen.
So I am going to be bold in my prayers. God please give me an advance on a book deal for my birthday:-)