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.
“Windswept” in books sounds poetic, rather romantic, and perhaps just a bit glamerous. Windswept for 8 hours on the camino is none of those things. People in the towns are wearing their winter coats, while people on the camino are wearing everything that they packed. Heads down against the unrelenting wind, each day colder than the last.
We arrived at an albergue around 3:30, and after a few hours in my sleeping bag I am finally feeling warm again. It seemed that we might be the only guests at the Albergue de Virgen de Guadalupe, run by an artist who signs his paintings “Petrus.” At first I thought we might be in a Hitchcock film, because this is a strange place. Perhaps it used to be a barn? Our host has an odd, unblinking look that was scary at first, but then we were joined by a German named Thomas at our nearly silent dinner and I thought we might now be in a Bergman film. Then four more pilgrims joined us – a jolly German named Holger, a severe-faced, tattooed Finn named Janne, a very young Brazilian, Pedro, walking his second camino back-to-back, and a German who spoke flawless English named Jaclyn. Janne, Pedro, and Jaclyn are traveling together, she on a bike and the others walking and running. It’s an odd trio, and now it seems that this might be a Fellini movie. Different languages, slapstick comedy, non-sequitors. It was surreal, and got only more so.
Our host offered to take us down to the village church after a dinner of lentils and barley. The churches we had come across during our days on the camino were almost always locked, so I was glad, now that we no longer appeared to be in a Hitchcock film, to take him up on his offer. Using his own key to let us in, he lit the altar candles, told our little group to hold hands and asked that we say The Lord’s Prayer in our own language. He then gave us communion from reserved sacrament. Possibly none of this would have been approved by the local priest, but it was actually very lovely. My first religious experience on the camino.