Day 21. Villar de Mazarife to Astorga. 31km.
Day 22. Astorga to Rabanal del Camino. 20.4km
Along the route to Santiago, you regularly pass fellow Pilgrims wishing them, Buen Camino! That expression offers each pilgrim, regardless of language, an opportunity to wish each other well and hope for them safe passage to their next destination. While only just a simple greeting, its importance holds the truth of the Camino: That we all may walk safely with one another and with God until we reach the end of our journey.
One of the most difficult aspects of the Camino de Santiago is leaving another pilgrim. Like all things in life, people move with and through our lives for only a given amount of time. Some walk with us along our journey for great lengths, while others may only walk with us for a short stint. Each person, nonetheless, holds a great wisdom to reveal to us. For each person contains the loving presence of God, and our time shared with them conveys that unique expression of God’s love.As you pass a pilgrim, you recognize the shared unity we all hold as we walk our road together. Some times, step by step. Other times, kilometers apart. Like the night sky, we shine like individual stars uniquely different, but wholly sacred as we make our way to Compostella.
My steps have been shared along this Camino with a large variety of people.
In the beginning, we walked step-in-step with Daniel, a 19 year old from Kopenhagan and recent high school graduate (who had serendipitously studied a bit at Cincinnati St. X) doing a gap-year before university. His youthful energy and spark provided much joy and delight as he often bounced up the hills with great ease. After the first 10 days however, he needed to travel ahead to maintain his timetable and soon the distance of our steps increased. Buen Camino!
For a good portion, our steps were shared with a group of Italians, who were strangers when they began, but soon quickly, with their shared culture and language, bonded as a family. While we were not always with them, their familiar faces, warm smiles, and delicious meals were a sweet treasure to behold. Over the weeks and days on the Camino, our schedules did not always align, and our strengths did not always hold, so gradually we and they slipped away from one another. Buen Camino!
A mother and daughter from Austin, Texas, Savannah and Mel, walked with us for a great bit of time and it didn’t take long for us to call each other family (especially when albergues would often house us together in our own rooms!). Our laughter often went into the night and even past silent hours, though we rarely felt tired on the trail as we strengthened and supported one another’s steps. Over coffee breaks, meals, beer breaks, sandwiches, blister surgeries, foot infections, and pillow talk, we entertained one another and shared a unique love that could only have been birthed along the Camino. Unintentionally however, we too separated as we decided to stay on retreat at a monastery and they decided to press onward. Buen Camino!
While the Camino might be a step away from our typical rhythm of life, this journey to Compstella is merely an extension of our journey towards heaven. Parents and grandparents die and we are left walking our familial journey alone. Friendships change and courses are diverted and we are left at times traveling our relational journey alone. Locations change and our compass struggles to reconfigure and we our left in new situations and scenarios alone. In all aspects of life, we will at some point find ourselves saying good-bye and transitioning to a new understanding of self. Our only constant in our journey of life is ourself and how we relate to God and others.
As we wish one another Buen Camino, may we all honor each other and recognize the need for a safe passage to our final destination.