Sunday, 21 August 2011

Post Camino Reflections ...

I realise that what with all the excitement ´n all, I haven't followed through with my promise to tell all about my non-Camino. I shall begin to put this right every day this coming week (ojalá). But please don't forget the Post Camino Questionnaire below...

Having driven as much of the Camino as I have walked (and the Ruta de la Plata many times by now) I tend to think of myself as a Motorperegrina as much as a walking pilgrim. For two years now, I have had very good intentions of walking from Santiago to Finisterre and Muxia. Last year, two cracked ribs kept me from doing that. I drove it instead, and another 2,500 klms to boot (no pun intended). This year it was stitches on my leg, there post-removal of a nasty basal cell carcinoma which now, thankfully, is history!

I went to the hospital in Santiago for the 10 stitches to be removed. It was a day earlier than suggested on my little piece of paper from the surgeon in Málaga.
"Mujer! Estás loca?" was the reponse from the doctor when I told him I was planning a little 230 kilometer walk. This was agreed by all in both Castellano and Gallego. "Crazy pilgrims!"

Anyway, it was not the doctor but the leg that decided it in the end. Each step down on the right leg felt like it was pulling at my muscle (and with inside soluble stitches, it probably was!).

Once again, the Motorperegrina made her way to Muxía. There to fall in love as you all know by now.

But I am getting well ahead of myself.

One of my main reasons for going north this year (apart from that Homing-Pilgrim instinct) was to appear at the II Encuentro de Peregrinos in Villafranca del Bierzo. The conference is to take place every year between the Holy Year of 2010 and the next in 2021. Of my own appearance I shall say very little other than ask you to imagine being in a tunnel where you know there is an end and you know where it is, but that it seems like forever until you get there, and nobody else knows it is there at all! This is what it was like reading Peregrinos de la Herejia, the Prologue of five pages, to a group of completely Spanish-speaking pilgrims.

Having read through it in my head I thought that it would be easy: 20 minutes tops...? But reading out loud in a language that - even if you do quite well in it conversationally - is not your own is a truly horrific experience. It was just like being back in third grade when you haven't quite got those long and short vowels sorted out. Truly. I realised that I was not reading my words, but those of the translator Lorenzo Luengo. Lorenzo did a wonderful and eloquent job, but some of the words just would not come out properly and that was that. I found myself actually apologising as the back row began to talk and then the row in front of them (a bit like a Spanish church service actually).

It ended. Finally. I felt just mortified. As I left, Jesus Jato, that great legend of the Camino and hospitalero of Ave Fenix, took my hand and gave me a knowing smile.

They say he's a brujo. A witch. He knew just how I felt...

Despite the general humiliation, I did enjoy myself greatly. The response was good (and I sold a few books which at least helped me pay for some of my expenses). The best part was meeting Sienna Reynaga who was there on behalf of Lydia Smith. Lydia, as you may know, is the director of The Camino Documentary, a beautifully put together glimpse into the world of pilgrims and pilgrimage. Lydia is strapped for cash (aren't we all) and despite the promotion she has received from Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen (The Way), she still hasn't been able to finish it. Another casualty of a dream postponed for lack of (financial) faith. Click on the link to see the trailer, and if you think you can make a donation you are helping Lydia to share the Camino with many more people than just those who are able to traverse it.

Sienna and I hit it off immediately. She has decided to make her home in La Coruña having moved there recently from California. Sienna is a dynamo. In many ways she is everything I am not: genuinely open to everybody whereas I am more reserved sometimes; thriving on public relations where I would rather have dental surgery than do a book signing (last year, Sue Kenney, bless her, took the bull by the horns in one main Santiago bookshop, and virtually dragged people to where I was signing!) Sienna mentioned she needed a ride back to Santiago. "I'm going that way tomorrow," I piped up. That "casualidiad" (coincidence) seems to be morphing into a really good friendship.

As luck (on her part; really good timing on mine) would have it, we arrived just in time for the fireworks and light and sound presentation in front of the cathedral on the 24th of July. For me this was my third time; for Sienna the first. I say "in good time". In actual fact we had to wait for almost four hours. I brought the El Gallo de Santiago manuscript to do a final proofread. Sienna brought her laptop.

Within minutes, thanks to the Golden Girl, we knew everybody around us: Italians, Germans, Spanish, one very charming and garrulous New Yorker, and an annoying French group who came and stood immediately in front of us blocking our view. Everybody else was seated. They wanted to stand (for 4hours?) so that they could videotape it. "It'll be on YouTube in a few days," I said, "Far better than you can do it." "French! Speak French!" said one of the women glowering at me for living. I have a feeling I may have responded rather rudely (in French).

The display was, as always, crafted entirely for me. I wonder how the Xunta knows just what I want each year? This year it was a history of the building of the cathedral, starting with the leafy and pagan Celtic dolmens and a dragon which destroys them, rain, and the Stone Boat bringing St. James. The first basilica. The second. Almanzor and the burning of the Romanesque cathedral; the Portico (you've never seen nothin' til you've seen the cathedral towers spin round on clockwork cogs! Simply magic). In short, everything I have written about in The Camino Chronicles, especially my upcoming St. James' Rooster!

Finally, the doors open and we are transported into the cathedral to pay our respects to the golden St. James on his pedestal. (We all know who I believe is down in the basement...) A gigantic Botefumeiro swings out into the Plaza de Obradoiro to the delighted squeals of the childlike spectators.

And then the fireworks begin!

But don't expect me to really convey what it was like being there, go instead to:

This a pretty good version. Not as good as being there (it was all three dimensional. Brilliant) Watch it in the dark on full screen! And don't worry if the begining is a bit difficult to see. Just you wait ...!

Next time, I'll take you on a walking tour of Santiago. Oh, and I've got a mystery for you! If you can figure it out, I'll send you a copy of either Pilgrimage to Heresy (or Peregrinos) or my new, very limited edition, Being and Paradox, which otherwise, so far, is only available on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

Buen Camino...

Oh, and PLEASE, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE ... don't forget to fill out my Post Camino Questionnaire (see below). A great start and lots of very encouraging reponses. But things have slowed down. I want to try to get to 200 responses. It has only 7 questions and will take you 3 minutes, and I REALLY DO NEED YOUR OPINIONS

No comments:

Post a Comment