Saturday, 10 September 2011
Not close enough
Although the bull still stands on the horizon few pilgrims pass. August has come and gone. There are no queues waiting on the office opening. The weather has turned and today the rain beats down on Santiago. Still the tranquility of a quieter city can change in an instant, like yesterday out of the blue 200 young people arrived in a long line from the Camino Portuguese. So too when the sun eventually appears and the sound of the buskers fills the streets competing with the chattering bustle of the tour groups. Amongst this I overheared a conversation between one of my colleagues and a pilgrim. This colleague is very special. A person who has no guile, as we would say in Scotland. In the most disarming and charming way she was challenging the pilgrim. She was challenging all of us. “Do you really mean your pilgrimage meant nothing spiritually to you?” she asked to confirm what they had written. “Walking through the beautiful countryside, thinking about your life and meeting and sharing with other people was only a sporting or cultural experience?” she teased with mischievious eyes. “What about thinking about how you might change your life now? no thoughts at all?”
Could a cold beer taste more delicious than the first glass on arrival? Those special moments only pilgrims know about. When the pack is laid down. The throbbing of relief when you sit and the weight comes off weary feet. Boots off, toes curling in delight at the freedom and the heaven of a long hot shower becomes bliss on those evenings when a hot bath is available. Then reviewing the day over dinner and planning tomorrow over dessert.
I was very lucky that we were joined on our journey by Rebekah. A friend. She brought new things to talk about. Another person to be silent with in the mornings and chat with at dinner. She just brought herself and we all got to hang out together for a while. Friendships are funny things I’ve realised. Some people you think are going to become friends don’t and others become life-long friends. It is a strange alchemy. Mostly it seems to me friendships work when friends don’t ask or expect each other to change. Just to be. I have but a few. All deeply valued.
It was here Rebekah gave the best one liner of the trip when she said with huge understatement, “this place could actually be the Bates Motel if they had shower curtains.”
That very morning we walked into the dawn. It made up for everything.
Later we got slightly lost. Road works had disrupted the arrows. We found our way back to the route. We looked up and an arrow pointed to our destination.
If God is in the face of friends and the intimate companionship of walking the Way together, I’m closer to God. If God is in the breathtaking vistas, the flowers and animals, the path that never seems to end but always does, I’m closer to God. If God is in the kindness of strangers who have appeared on every Camino, then I am closer to God.
How close I ask myself? Not close enough...I’ll need to walk again.