I woke up this morning to a text from one of my best friends with a photo of a beautiful baby boy named Calvin, who she would be taking home today. The adoption agency had contacted her just the day before. I couldn’t imagine receiving better news from home than this. I knew it was going to be a good day.
And it was. A gorgeous day, a sunny day, a nothing can go wrong today kind of day. I walked the whole day with Chip, enjoying easy conversation. Friendships are accelerated on the Camino. People you only just met a few days ago feel like friends you have known forever. I think this is because we are all experiencing something very unique, each person’s Camino is different, yet we are all learning new things about ourselves each day with so much time to reflect. And sometimes you want to share that with others, even if you hardly know them.
We officially left the Meseta behind yesterday in Astorga. The transition was obvious today as the topography became more varied. Snow capped mountains glistened on the horizon, trees lined our path, the new scenery further buoying my spirits.
We walked into Rabanal del Camino at noon, a short day that we both needed. My hip flexor started hurting a couple days ago; Chip has been nursing a bad shin splint for over a week.
Rabanal is a sweet little town full of stone houses and cobblestone streets, like a village suspended in time. It was nearly deserted just a couple decades ago before the resurgence in popularity of the Camino. Today it has four albergues, two tiendas and a few cafes.
The albergue didn’t open until 2pm, so we sat at a picnic table in the midst of the ruins of what appeared to be an old home, its crumbled walls enveloping us. And then we heard beautiful voices coming from up the street. So we followed the sound into the church, about halfway through the Sunday mass.
I had participated in one other mass on my first night of the Camino in Roncesvalles. I was struck then and today by the incorporation of song, really more like melodic chants, throughout the service. The sound was mesmerizing.
This church also felt very special. Unlike many I have visited along the way, it is small, simple, and full of blemishes. Instead of golden altars and elaborate statuary, there are cracks in the plaster, and the walls are crumbling in places. Yet it is warm, and light and comfortable, its simplicity allowing the devotion of its parishioners to take center stage.
We came out of the church to find that the albergue had opened early. After choosing a bunk, I made some tea and went back outside to enjoy the first sunshine in a week. The volunteer hospitalera from England commented on my gloves, which she knew I had purchased in Peru. Apparently, each year she volunteers at an orphanage for at least a month in Arequipa, where Alex and I spent three weeks in August. It was great fun to reminisce on my time there.
Later in the day, I walked to another albergue where, according to signs around town, you could get a donativo massage. I didn’t expect much, but I figured regardless of the quality, I was happy to have someone rub my back for twenty minutes. And that’s basically what I got, a lot of quick motions, without much attention to detail, and elevator musak playing in the background. Although it is not a massage I will long remember, I enjoyed the quiet time to reflect on my friend and the amazing adventure she and her husband were about to embark on.
I made it back to my albergue, which is run by volunteers from a British organization, the Confraternity of St. James, in time for afternoon tea and cake, which the local shop owner had baked in honor of the hospitaleros’ first day as volunteers. This was followed by a tasty pasta dinner that I shared with Chip and Jenny, another vegetarian from Scotland.
After dinner, we walked across the cobblestone street to the church for the evening vesper service, sung in Latin. On our way, we were treated to a full arc rainbow spread across the evening sky, the perfect end to a beautiful day.
In the church, I lit a candle for my friend and her new baby, with the hope that she will be a brilliant light in his life, and he, in turn, in hers.
Today I walked 10 miles.