Today was a big change from previous days since I walked alone. Clint was off to another town, off the Camino, to see some fine religious art. I chose to continue walking and found it to be a wonderful experience. The route I followed was one of the suggested alternate routes and instead of walking on a path next to the highway, my route followed a river, with shade trees and, most importantly, very few pilgrims. I was able to walk for several hours pretty much by myself. This was very conducive to personal meditation and contemplation. I didn’t have to concern myself with holding anyone up, or having to wait for someone, or trying to keep up, or carrying on a conversation – not one of my strong points. I just went at my own pace, resting (or not) when and where I wanted. It was a blissful experience. I tend to be a solitary person and not having anyone to talk with was not a detriment to my enjoyment of the Camino, but a positive.
Eventually my path joined back up with the main route and for the final 5 or 6 kilometers I too walked besides the highway on a featureless arrangement known as a “pilgrim autopistas.” Once in town I located the Albergue Espiritu Sanctu (Holy Spirit Albergue), after a bit of searching, where I spent the night. The sisters operating the albergue pretty much only spoke Spanish, but their welcome was genuine, heartfelt, and impossible to misunderstand. I was greeted with a simple glass of water in a throwaway plastic cup, but it was wonderful. The Camino is teaching me to truly appreciate simple things in life – a glass of water, a piece of ripe fruit, a spot to sit in the sun or shade, a friendly welcome smile, a simple Camino grace.
I also thought a bit more about pilgrimage, trying to discern why my pilgrimage is different than just an adventure or great vacation. Many people on the Camino only appear to be here for secular reasons. But the Camino has so much more to offer to those who are open to receive its graces. I was able to see that a pilgrimage is more than just a slowing down, a stepping back, or a passing through. To gain all a pilgrimage has to offer there has to be an intention or underlying purpose in the destination and in the meditation or contemplation that occurs while on the pilgrimage. I’m still trying to sort this all out, but I believe the true meaning is beginning to solidify more for me. At other times I feel like the Camino serves as a kind of penance for my past sins (which are many.) But, I usually feel way this toward the end of the day when my feet and body are hot, sore, and tired.
My Camino grace for the day was a free guitar concert that was presented in the local church in the early evening. The artist (whose name I did not write down, unfortunately) was superb. He played a one-of-a-kind stringed instrument that he had arranged to be built to his personal specifications. It is a 19-string instrument and I feel certain he is the only artist in the world who could play it properly. This was the last in a series of concerts given on Friday evenings throughout the summer in Carrion de los Condes. By coincidence, even though I arrived a day ahead of my planned schedule, I arrived just in time for this wonderful, free concert. What a gift! Was this a Camino grace or just another random coincidence? What do you think? After the concert we attended the pilgrim mass and every pilgrim in attendance was invited to the chancel to receive a personal blessing from the priest and a simple gift from one of the nuns – the end to another perfect day on the Camino.