I am trying to bring this up to date so that I can get back to good old Diego Gelmirez before I go to Canada. I have been invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference on Gnosticism at my old university, Brock University, in St.Catharines, Ontario. I don't know really what I am going to speak about as my brief so far is "Why do you like Gnosticism?" I likened this to why do you like vanilla ice cream?
Watch this space...
Anyway, the date is July 20th, a Thursday. It is time to leave Acacio's, but before I do I have a promise to keep.
I told Sandra last night that if she wanted me to, I would be happy to drive her on to where she thought her friends might be. Some purists might consider this "cheating". It isn't. In Sandra's case it is an extension of "listening to the Camino". By doing so - and I guess I have to claim a small part of this - she has decided to press on.
Sandra is noticably more positive than she was yesterday at the same time. I drive her to Belorado. We say goodbye and I leave her with my internet address and hope she will be in touch. She may not be. That's OK. I do not ask for hers. She will have many more adventures before she arrives in Santiago in perhaps three weeks time.
Upon my arrival back at Acacio's (he is seated in front of the computer in his trademark black baseball cap) I remark that one has to be especially careful on the Camino to only encourage but not interfere. Perhaps it is my training as a therapist which dictates this. Perhaps it is the "Prime Directive". He agrees. But I think in encouraging Sandra I have done the right thing.
Just before I am packing to leave, several pilgrims enter and all are worth mentioning. First of all, there was Pamela. She is an American woman who is about to defend her doctoral thesis in October. The theme is Metaphor and Foregn Language Learning. I have a Master's myself in Applied Linguistics and so we get to talking. She is about my age. I really enjoy talking to her and take some photos. I say I will send them. "Promise?" she says. Yes, of course I say. Three weeks have gone but now I am in a position to do so and I hope she will forgive the time gap. She is someone I know I could make a friend of.
Another person, with whom Pamela engages in an animated conversation, is a Finnish photographer. He shows us some of his work. It is of an obvious professional standard and I am not surprised when he says shyly that he is "well known" in Finland. His name is Ville and he tells us he is currently living in Los Angeles but that he dislikes it and misses his homeland. I write down his e-mail too.
Just before I leave a young man walks in with a few others. He is noticeable because he has on a string around his neck, a tea box. In the tea box is a baby bird. He is from Austria and he tells me that he found the bird by the roadside the day before and that it is more animated today. Privately I think it is unlilkely that the bird will live. I share this with Pamela and she agrees. But his face has such innocence and the bird is so important to him that we decide that no matter what happens, both will benefit: "Austrian Bird" and its carrier.
Then there is Gerardo, from Mexico. He hands Ville and me a piece of paper offering to do foot massage. I look up and see a face I have known for centuries. It really takes me back. "I know you, " I say, "How do I know you?" His sweet face smiles and he shrugs. It dawns on me. "You have taken a vow if silence," I say. He nods. I take a photo, and ask him to write his name. Then he passes on.
This meeting still haunts me.
Sharing love and Caring. All part of the Camino and life. As is loss. And Mystery.
Once I leave I realise that I have to make up for "lost" time. It's been fun but I am on a sort of self-imposed schedule now and I have promised myself a couple of nights at the Monastery of Leyre in Navarra. I need some "down time".
Never make plans, especially upon the Camino.
I go to check out the pilgrims in Azofra only to find that the tiny refuge I visited - and in which Miranda and Alex in Pilgrimage to Heresy shelter from the thunderstorms - has been closed and superceded by what looks to be a true 5 star albergue. When I arrive there are pilgrims laid out beside the foot pool. Wow! Things have changed. Not only that but there are 60 bunks on offer. I get into conversation with good-looking Sebastian, a fellow hypnotherapist from Denmark (may God help me: if I were only 20 years younger!) and he tells me what I have expected: get up early, wait for places, or go private. I have heard this all the way along the Camino Frances.
And then on to Puente la Reina. Even before I enter the Church of El Salvador, I can see the storm clouds gathering and after I exit (having had my feet washed!) I can hear the thunder getting closer. For me it is like Azofra 1999 once again. I stay in the church portico and take atmospheric photos as it seems to recede. But I have a good memory. I know it will be back.
Just after Eunate at the beginning of the Camino Aragones, my suspicions are realised and it really begins to chuck it down. This is very dramatic in the foothills of the Pyrenees and I enjoy the challenge of the drive until I take a wrong turn and end up somewhere down the road to a quarry.
With the storm, the night has come on early and I know I must get to close to Sanguesa and simply follow signs. The problem is that Sanguaesa, being a town with medieval roots and roads to match, has a complicated one way sytstem and by the time I have been one way twice going in the wrong direction I am beginning to get worried! By now it is past 10:00 at night and I can't see three feet in front of Simone for the rain!
Then there it is. A Sign! Right, off the road: "Monasterio de Leyre". Yeah!
Um...no. There is nothing right of the exit but a quagmire.
Luckily I just about spot - on the other side of the road (which I can barely make out anyway) there is an equal sign: "Monasterio de Leyre". In other words, for those of you not familiar with Spain's odd but effective way of crossing from one side to the other - the road to the Monastery was actually on the other side of the road from where I was.
I crossed gingerly as it was impossible to see where the road began or ended, or if anyone was foollish enough to be out on a night such as this (ah hem...).
Once across, one of the first things I saw was a darkened, ecclesiastical looking building. Or at least at 11 at night, that's what it looked like: the lights were out, but there was an impressive looking gate. Finally! The Monasterio de Leyre!
I pulled up to the gate. There were no lights but you don't expect monks to have lights at 11 at night. I wondered if they would let me in: a poor pilgrim, lost, scared, wet...laid small by the forces of Nature.
There was a sign on the gate. "Cerrado por Reformas". If you read Spanish you will already know what it said.
"Closed for Restauration".
Well, what do you do in a situation like that?.
You have to laugh.
I laughed until I cried, and then - I laughed some more.
Then, I said "Screw it", and slept in the car!