Notes for a New Day will recount some rather older days during the next few months – journal entries from my pilgrimage on Spain’s camino in 2013.
Every muscle in my body hurts. Every one. I am so tired and agonizingly sore that I wondered at one point, imagining one of my children on the railroad tracks with a train speeding towards them, if I would have the energy and strength to run and push them out of the way. That is really tired. More pain than I can ever remember feeling, except perhaps (and only perhaps) childbirth.
But it was all worth it! The scenery and weather today were absolutely glorious, even if we were dragging ourselves, step by silently labored step, to Los Arcos, which is a mere 14 km from the previous town. The very first albergue we hit had a room. A huge relief! A dormitory with seven bunkbeds, all full now, I think. I am prostrate on my upper bunk, finally finding a little strength to write this mess, after lying still and aching for the last hour or more. My son is below, reading and not feeling much more energetic than me, though I his young muscles are probably not screaming with the same outrage as my now-beyond-middle-aged ones.
But I want to write about someone else we met last night at the albergue in Lorca. As a group of bedraggled pilgrims sat in the sun, a young woman rode into town on a bicycle with a baby strapped into the back seat. Most of us expressed some shock – who takes a baby on the camino? and where was the baby’s helmet? I learned soon after that the baby and her mother were to be in our room. My displeasure must have shown (I needed sleep!), because the young mother quickly assured me that her baby slept very well and wouldn’t disturb us, which was mostly true that night. In fact, baby Olivia was utterly delightful, teetering around our room and checking on each of us. In the morning, as we said our goodbyes, I asked why she was biking the camino and she said that she wanted to experience the generous and kind side of people. That traveling with a baby was so difficult and people were often not very nice about it (oops), but that on the camino she had only experienced generosity. She told me about one young man who had helped her through the mud of the previous day, and a group of girls who handed the baby from one to another and then the bike itself through a particularly treacherous spot. I looked at Olivia and asked, “are you helping others to be kind? How good of you to do that.” She had already helped me to be kinder.
The pilgrim’s dinner tonight was not particularly good, but the long table was full of interesting people. Four Canadians, two of whom were retired firemen and another who had walked the camino five times. And I was seated next to a mother and her son – there are lots of mothers and daughters on the camino, but this is, so far, the only pairing like us that we’ve encountered. I have to admire my son for being brave enough to walk with his mother. I gave him lots of chances to say no, but maybe it helped that I was paying for everything! Oh, and the woman I sat next to is an Episcopal priest from South Carolina. Of course.