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.
The best day of walking yet! People have said that you finally feel stronger after two weeks on the camino, and for me this is true. For the first time nothing hurts. No blisters, no sore muscles. About 25 km today, and it seemed that the last 5 were not much harder than the first 5. We walked through a lot of farmland, straight through the middle of small farms – which means we walked through and around a great deal of cow dung. The funniest moment of our day, though, was probably when we walked between two roosters who were calling back and forth to each other.
The day began with fog, but later a mix of sun, clouds, some warmth, some cool winds. No rain, no complaints. We have stopped at an oasis of an albergue in Aguiada, which served the best food yet during our pilgrimage, and, unusually, it was vegetarian.
I finished another book today – one that I didn’t actually enjoy so I won’t name it, but my son is reading it now and we’ll discuss later. I’ve moved on to Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, which is a hilariously incongruous book to read on the camino, but it’s what is available.
8:00 pm seems like a perfectly appropriate bed time on the camino. At least the right time to climb into my sleeping bag and read. Around 9:00 pm our host (or hostess?) began playing the upright piano that was outside on a a covered porch. The piano sounded as you might expect (out of tune), but the music was free-flowing improvisation, akin to music by Philip Glass. I should have gotten up to investigate, but I just laid in my half-sleep and enjoyed it.
Something I’ve been thinking about: litter and graffiti. There’s too much of it on the camino. A low point was peeking into a tiny boarded up chapel and seeing a small altar and ancient baptismal font, both covered with graffiti, as were the walls. Not anti-religious graffiti, which might seem to have a point, but just silly stuff with names and dates. And who throws their cookie packages and drink cartons on the ground while walking in some of the of the most beautiful countryside imaginable? I decreed that litterers should be hung, but my more reasonable son thought that was a bit harsh. I’m not so sure. Littering is lazy, disrespectful, antisocial, crude – it’s a sin. I hope it’s a mortal sin!
I was thinking about that word “sin” too. In Spanish, and in Latin too, it means “without.” To be without God.
But there’s more to this. I have seen needlessly judgmental attitudes expressed all along the camino. People who have walked from their homes in Germany or Holland or France look down on those who began in St. Jean Port de Pied (the traditional starting point of the camino.) Those who began at St. Jean feel superior to those who start in Burgos. Those who carry their packs (mine is 19 pounds) judge as somewhat lesser pilgrims those who pay for a service to take their pack from place to place. And everyone seems to look down on those who only walk the final 100 km (which is what many church youth groups do).
And here I am in judgment of litterers, so I decided to litter and become a sinner too. I took a used tissue and tucked it into a plant along the way. I hope no one can actually see it, and it will soon disintegrate, but I felt bad about this for several kilometers.