Tomorrow I walk into Santiago,
by the grace of God. As I prepare to enter Santiago I remember The Way this week…
It’s only 7ish and I’m lying in my bottom bunk of the albergue bed, exhausted. Ever since I’ve been lying down I’ve noticed the way the chickens sound in the chicken coop outside my window–an ugly, oddly comforting view. The chicken calls a kind of melancholy. A combination of shriek, cry and song. I’ve never noticed the sound chickens make before. My attention has gone to the rooster’s crows at dawn. But here and now I am able to pay attention to the seemingly painful cries of the chickens. I wonder if they’ll shriek their cry-song all night. A young couple a few beds over pushes bunk beds together. They lie in the pushed together bottom bunk, whispering to each other in Italian. So beautiful. The rooster crows. I’ve never heard a rooster crow at night before and wonder about his sense of timing. Another rooster crows in the distance. I think about the holy hen cage and all that I’ve seen and felt along The Way.
I’m not quite sure how to feel about the young Italians’ sweet whispers. I hope their whispers never turn into painful cries.
I go downstairs to bring my laundry in off the line, it’s late and I hope my socks will be dry. I put the still-wet socks and hoodie in a spot of sun that still feels strong even as it approaches 8 pm. As I place the clothes on the line, a man across the street carries a big stick and yells “Toma, toma,” at a runaway cow. I don’t know what he’s saying in Gallego, the language of this part of Spain. Not quite Spanish. The man runs to head the cow off. At the sight of the man the cow thinks better of escape and instead walks through the open door of the barn. Other cows follow. I sit in the sun and watch as the man corrals the cows with his stick and more “Toma, toma” calls.
The cows are great animals. So large to see so close to me. Right in the street in front of me. Walking up to a café to the trough just beside the patio where people eat and drink. Cows drinking. People drinking and singing Happy Birthday, first in Italian then in Spanish then in English. And I think how we all sing the same song in different ways.
The man walks behind the café across the street and soon shepherds the last straggling cows. When the last cow walks in, he closes the door behind him as he steps inside. This gives me an odd kind of comfort. I wondered if he would just simply close the door on the animals or go inside with them. The barn is cinder block with a corrugated steel roof. I think about the steel buildings my ex father-in-law built when he was alive.
I bring my dry clothes upstairs and as I lay out my outfit for the next morning I glance at the young Italian couple asleep, entwined in each other’s arms. Beautiful. I say a prayer for them.
I go downstairs to write a few postcards. This feels like an ending. I will miss the pilgrim life but its wisdom and insights are forever a part of me and so truly The Way never ends.
Maripaz, our very gracious albergue owner stamped my Peligrino passport when I arrived
and asked me if I like the Camino. “te gustas?” We spoke in Spanish. I believe the Spanish language, speaking reading and listening to it over this last month, has had a way of deepening my perceptions. It is a gorgeous language. I told her “me encanta mucho” (I love it so much) and that The Camino is important for life. I told her that a doctor in Carrion de las Condes and I talked about God and life and within the conversation he mentioned that being a pilgrim on The Camino and walking from St. Jean to Santiago is like getting a PhD in life. She smiled a knowing smile and said, “Claro.” (of course). She said I was “muy valiente,” (very brave) which made me feel like I’d already earned my mythical degree because of the look in her eyes. I told her I’d be walking into Santiago on Friday and mentioned it was the only PhD I’d have a shot at earning because I like life much more than school. We both laughed, she said “yo tambien,” (me too).
Today I picked out a rock to leave at La Cruz de Fierro, a place to drop your burdens. I picked out a rock that looks like a heart, one that’s been marred by the forces of nature. I will place the weathered heart among all the other troubles taken to the mountain by all the other pilgrims and I will leave it. I will not forget it but I will no longer carry its weight. I will pray to St. Bartholomew to work another miracle he is known for as he is credited for many miracles having to do with the weight of objects—I ask God if there is any object heavier than that of a weathered human heart. The metaphors of The Way continue. There is only one way to walk – forward. There is great beauty in the steps we take.
I love the sound of the bells on the sheep and watching the shepherds tend their flocks. And on The Way today I shot a video of the sheep. Just after I shot the footage I notice a lamb walking up the path. She was very sweet. And I thought about The Lord, how He’ll always search for the one that’s lost. I think of the beautiful picture I admired in the house I rented in Nashville with Jesus hugging His lost lamb and the incredible joy and love of the picture and how the little lost lamb came walking up the path right up to me.