Happy Birthday to my dear son, Henry, born 32 years ago today. This trip and much of this blog are dedicated to Sam, but is so important to remember Henry as a great brother to Sam and a great son to John and me. Henry, I am honored to be your Mom.
Today, I was off to an early start, with a plan to cover 19.9 miles. And, guess what? I did it! That was the longest walk (so far) in my life. I’m just sorry I didn’t take another lap around the block to make it 20 miles.
Burgos gave me as much trouble on the exit as the entry. The Camino markings in that city just aren’t good. I missed a marker early on, but figured it out pretty quickly. As I retraced my steps to the last marker I had seen, I ran across a stream of pilgrims. They knew where to go. I merged into the stream. One of the pilgrims said hello and introduced himself. He was Nate, a recent college grad, who is on track to enter the seminary in July. He was a charming young man and our conversation made the miles fly by. It was raining heavily the whole time and neither of us cared.
We stopped for a coffee at a cafe that had erected a tent to cover the tables. It felt like the Hunt Cup in the rain. Very crowded and very friendly, but, in this case, without alcohol.
Nate’s seminary decision puzzled me, given the major sacrifices required. But, he seemed undaunted. I used our time together to get answers to some questions. I got all sorted out on the importance of religious relics and how to get tickets to the Pope’s Easter mass (know someone, who knows someone who knows a Cardinal.)
I also talked to him about my personal crisis of faith that was triggered by Sam’s death. Bad things happening to good people as a general concept, has always been hard to understand. When it got personal, I was perplexed. He had no answer, of course, but hoped I’d find it on the Camino. Me too.
I said goodbye to Nate at the 12 mile point. It was his first day walking the Camino and I insisted that he take it easy.
I missed him on the second half of the day, where I dragged along alone. I did hit the start of the Meseta, that long stretch of plains that so many people view as boring. I thought it was among the most beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever been.
I came down the hill into Hontanas, my stopping place for the night. Goal. Score. Check. Town of my dreams. Bed of my dreams. Shower of my dreams AND dinner….
Before I close for the night, I have to tell you about the church at Hontanas. A 14th C church, much in need of restoration. Usually a Church like that would be a stone cold space. Not this one. The local people have made it a true place of welcome, starting with a thermos of green tea for all to share. Then there were handmade cushions to sit upon and a collection of bibles in dozens of languages for all to read. In front of them was a large vessel filled with sand, with candles burning brightly. A sign invited us to buy a candle and place it in the sand. I lit a birthday candle and said a prayer for Henry. He’s the slightly crooked purple one in the front.