Monday, June 11, 2012

Camino de Santiago, Day 29: O'Cebreiro to Pintin

You´ll look in vain for Pintin on maps of Galicia, the rainy region in northwest Spain of which Santiago is the regional capital. It's a tiny pueblo, no more than a few houses strung together, but it's on the Camino, so it has a pension, and we're staying there Monday night.

Let´s just say that we´re 6 kilometers short of Sarria, 118 kilometers short of Santiago, and plum out of gas. I´m beginning this post at 7pm local time on Monday evening after leaving O'Cebreiro this morning at 7am and arriving here an hour ago. I'll keep this post brief because I'm paying for balky internet instead of using free wifi, and because of my gas shortage.

Some short takes:

I told Marian as we were packing this morning before 6am that we've started our final week on the Camino de Santiago. She moaned.

After breakfast, as we headed uphill from O'Cebreiro (wait, our guidebook said nothing about going uphill from here!), I said that I was beginning to feel like my dad, who cut short our Civil War battlefields trip by about 5 days and 10 battlefields. If I see one more Civil War battlefield, he told me one morning, that will be plenty. After getting soaked to the bone on Sunday morning's climb to O'Cebreiro, I told Marian that now I was thinking, why isn´t four weeks on the Camino plenty? Is a fifth necessary?

She shot back a line from our pastor, Father Barnes: "Remember, this is a pilgrimage."

You will be tired, she said, but repeat after me: This is a pilgrimage. (I repeated it.)

You will be cold and wet, she said, but this is a pilgrimage. (...)

You will hear old strange European men snoring and see their butts, but this is a pilgrimage. (...)

After walking 21 km in the morning, we ate at lunch in Tricastela, a destination town in our guidebook. We might have stopped there for the day, but we had agreed Sunday night on a plan for our arrival in Santiago. We decided to stay at the municipal albergue 4 km short of Santiago on Saturday evening. This will allow us to make like the winner of the Tour de France on Sunday morning and stroll into town in plenty of time for the noon mass, with fans cheering and honking wildly, as if we were riding up the Champs Elysees.

So at lunch today we thought we should go beyond Tricastela, but which way to go? Our guidebook suggested a 20 km route to Sarria, the next destination town, but it noted also a 30 km alternate route that stops at one of the oldest monasteries in Europe. I had a crisis of conscience, thinking we really should check out the monastery. But in the end, we said no to evening prayer with the monks and yes to the shortest route to Santiago. That´s how we got to Pintin by 6pm.

Did I call Galicia rainy? Yes, I did. You know Vermont? Imagine Vermont in the wettest month on record, in springtime when the mountain run-off has turned ski season into mud-time and every form of vegetation is green and dripping heavily. That is an average day in Galicia. At least it's the average of our two days in Galicia so far.

Marian and I both bought heavy-weather ponchos Sunday night and today were glad we did. It rained steadily in the morning, then abso-bloomin-lutely poured in the afternoon. We were fully outfitted in rain clothing, our packs had separate rain covers on them, and over everything we wore a pack-and-person-covering poncho. Still, Marian went through three pairs of socks, and I would have done the same, only I have just two pairs with me. My legs were soaked through the poncho, waterproof leggings, and a bathing suit, for goodness sakes.

And yet I didn't really feel so bad. As we trekked the last thousand meters into Pintin, I told Marian that my head might be in outerspace, my feet in mud, but the rest of me was pretty much OK. After four weeks on the road to Santiago, I´m in some kinda shape.

I have been thinking a lot about my father and mother lately, especially now that I am reading Richard Ford's new novel, Canada, on my Kindle. It is narrated by a man looking back on his youth and especially on his parents, a seemingly normal couple who one day up and rob a bank. I'm giving nothing away. Ford tells you about the robbery on the first page, plus some murders to follow, and the first quarter of the book is a build-up to Dad and Mom's botched bank job, which I've only just read about.

So I don't really know where the book is heading, though his Mom is headed to prison, that he's already tipped off. Somehow, it all makes me think of my own Dad and Mom, who never robbed a bank, just for the record. The beauty of Ford's story, though, is its meditation on the mystery of family, and especially the mystery presented by one's parents. Who was my Dad? Who is my Mom, who has lived on four years past his death so far? And why and how was I born to them and what does it mean or matter?

It's had me thinking that in fact family is the greatest mystery, or at least the first one we humans experience being born into and brought up by this particular circle of people. It seems to me this is why family, the traditional one-dad, one-mom family, is so important and central to our humanity. Without this mystery, without our own little Holy Family, will we ever have a chance of understanding all that is holy?

I promised short takes. That's my last for what it's worth tonight.

[NOTE: This series of posts on my Camino continues here.]

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