My Brierly guide to the Camino says that this humble village, once a stronghold of the Knights Templar, marks the halfway point on the road from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. And perhaps my Camino only began this afternoon.
Yesterday morning, I thought otherwise. I waited for
Marian while watching kites and pigeons fly in and out of the belfry of a
church in Fromista. Here in rural Spain, birds seem to make more use of
many churches than humans do. Many steeples are nesting grounds for
storks. When Marian finally joined me, I told her that I thought we were
probably reaching the halfway point. She moaned. I don´t want to be
halfway, she said. It could be worse, I said. You could be halfway
through life. I reminded her that I am halfway to 120. The exchange
prompted discussion between us and silent reflection as we walked alone
For myself, I began to think of my return home and
what I would take with me. What would I say the first morning at
breakfast with Katie? What would I do next? Would I be different? The
Camino will change you, Andre had told me in Navarette. Had I been
changed at all?
I thought it made sense to think this way. After all,
in the Middle Ages a pilgrim was only halfway when he reached Santiago
de Compostela. There were no trains to Madrid or planes to Boston in
those days. He had to walk back, doubling his distance and providing
plenty of extra time for such questions about homecoming.
Marian was thinking other thoughts, as I learned this
morning. I think I´d like to do this again, she told me as we headed out
of Carrion in the pink glow of dawn. Maybe from Le Puy, she said. Le
Puy was the starting point of the first recorded pilgrimage by a bishop
in AD 951. Then she looked at me. Don´t get me wrong, Dad, she said, but
next time I want to do this alone.
I took no offense. In fact, I told her that if she
wanted, I was OK with splitting up for a day or even a few, just to see
what we saw. She didn´t say anything more, but thought her own thoughts.
We walked on, following the straightest path on the
Camino so far. Imagine Kansas without private farms, just field after
field of grain. We followed the old Roman road for 11 kilometers into
Caldadilla de la Cueza, where we stopped for lunch, made with
ingredients we had carried with us. From there, as the midday sun beat
down with a purpose, we wound along beside the highway for the last 10
kilometers to Terradillos de Templarios.
For a while, we walked with our friend from Lausanne, Christian, who warned us that the two albergues in
Terradillos might be filled. Christian and his walking partner,
Martino, from Lugano, had phoned ahead for reservations, a measure
Marian and I have so far refused to use. When I told Christian that I
was already thinking of home, he said he thought one should go all the
way to the end first and then see what one sees.
As Marian and I came upon the Albergue de los
Templarios at the edge of Terradillos, I told her that I had no fear for
the outcome. I said I was ready to walk on until we found beds for the
night, that I was entrusting things to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. She
smiled, but as I soon learned, she was thinking her own thoughts again.
She went inside the albergue to inquire and
came out two minutes later with her head down. I figured, no dice. When
Marian told me that, in fact, they had one bed left in a single private
room, I immediately said that I would happily sleep on the floor. But
she had other thoughts.
Don´t get me wrong, Dad, she told me for the second
time today. But what if you took the room and I walked on? She started
to launch into an apology, that she wasn´t trying to ditch me, but... I
cut her short. No apology needed, I said. It´s a great idea. She didn´t
shrug this time, she smiled.
Then she told me that for the last twenty minutes of
our walk into the village, she had been thinking, What if there´s only
one bed? What would Dad say if I suggested he take it and walk on? She
kept imagining this scenario, one bed for two people, and then it
After I checked into a perfect monk´s cell (complete
with private shower and toilet), Marian and I shared soft drinks and ice
cream on the veranda of the albergue here. Then kissing her on
both cheeks in the Spanish manner, I saw her off down the road, bopping
along quite happily, it seemed, secure in the knowledge that she had
traveled in Asia for four months before meeting me in Europe, and that
after all she speaks Spanish. I had warned her only to take the first
available place, not to arrive somewhere unknown after dark. I said that
if I didn´t see her before then, I would look for her at the latest
Mass this Sunday at the cathedral in Leon.
So four days after Marian and I broke off from the
Famous Five, my daughter and I have separated ourselves. We´ll see just
when we get back together. Tomorrow (Friday) morning I hope to leave
here before dawn, walking under the stars. Then maybe I´ll begin to
understand what this Camino is all about for me, and what I will be
taking home. At least, I will do my best to empty myself, as Andre had
advised in Navarette.
As for Marian, I´m sure she will be fine in the care
of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. After I had showered and done my laundry, I
returned to the veranda and, looking down the road where she had
disappeared, said a rosary for her safety and her destiny.
[NOTE: This series of posts on my Camino continues here.]