Thursday, May 31, 2012

Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Carrion de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios

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 later.

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 happened.

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.]

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