August 26 – September 5th
For the next couple weeks, cotton top cumulus clouds floated in and out of my peripheral view like the day dreams passing through my mind as I walked. You know the clouds I am talking about, the ones that resemble animals and angels. Scattered randomly across a light blue canvas, they have provided us with intermittent relief from the hot afternoon summer rays. For this we are grateful.
The weather is changing now. A giant cloud paint brush has wistfully stretched our animal clouds across the sky giving them a whimsical quality more like art on canvas.
Early mornings are cooler now and afternoons are hotter. Summer breezes are more frequent and the slight drop in temperature threatens to push out one season and bring in another. We are rooting for fall to come quickly.
It is September and the Spaniards are returning from their month long vacation. The Camino de Santiago is not a vacation destination for Pilgrims, it is a trek. It is a personal journey and it is defined differently by each Pilgrim.
When Dan’s father retired, we remember him saying “Well, I’ve climbed the mountain as high as I am going to, but it is MY mountain.” This is ‘The Way’ of the Camino. It is different for everyone because everyone is different. This is ‘OUR mountain’.
I like the fact that for the most part, titles don’t exist on the Camino. Pastor, Doctor, Writer, Student, CEO, Businessman, Mechanics, Teacher, Housewife, or Vagabond …only Pilgrim and that title unifies us, it does not divide us. Our shoes are all worn and our socks are all dusty. We all sleep in bunkbeds and hand wash our laundry. We have no preconceived biases based on titles.
Pilgrims from around the world have joined the Camino trek in Burgos to hike the Camino. The fair weather Pilgrims have returned home. The ones that stay have a decision to make. Hike ‘The Meseta’ or take a bus around it, skipping it altogether, or ship their pack ahead and walk unburdened. The Meseta is not for the faint of heart. It is the name for the flat, plains on the plateau of central spain. It is hot, dry, and villages are not as frequent to rest or replemish.
Like all pilgrims, we have faced physical and mental challenges on our our trek. This afternoon we experienced both hiking from Burgos to Hornillos (12.4 miles). It was hot and my feet felt like I was dragging tree trunks. I turned to look at Dan and decided singing a little ditti was in order as he was dragging too. He echoed back with a song he was listening to on his iPod. That was all we could muster up to encourage each other. We rounded a bend and I saw a small grove of trees off the path. When we reached it we found four overheated pilgrims, and we had an instant bond. “There is cool water in this spigot” one said.
This same pilgrim soon passed us on the trail. An hour later when we reached the outskirts of Hornillos, there under a shade tree sat the pilgrim who gave us a big toothy grin as she clapped and sang us a victory song. She waited there and greated each Pilgrim who had been at the spicket earlier with the same victory song. She didn’t know our names or our titles, but we had shared the same challenge and overcame. I can’t help but wonder how much better off we would all be if we cheered one another on like that?