And the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14a). To pull this off Jesus needed to have a mom just like you and me.
For me the most important theological concept is the incarnation. The fact that Jesus was born into this world, again just like you and me, is incredible telling about the God I worship and how I am to live (on my best days I do try).
Over the last few weeks I have spent a great deal of time wondering through churches and cathedrals across northern Spain. Today I spent the morning in the cathedral in Leon. This is one of my top 3 favorite sacred spaces along the Camino. It is one of the finest examples of the use of light and glass in all of Europe. Unlike so many churches and cathedrals in Spain Leon cathedral in simple and unmolested by baroque art and architecture. The windows are simply magnificent. But non of this is the point of this posting.
As I wondered through the cathedral today it became very clear that the most common theme in the windows and other pieces of art is the relationship between Jesus and his mom – from the beginning of his life until the end. They even have a rather uncommon statue of Mary pregnant. Throughout Spain a common theme in sacred art is La Virgin De La Leche or The Virgin of the Milk. There are statues, reliefs and panting everywhere (especially in Burgos) of the young mother Mary nursing her first born. Unlike so much Spanish art the expressions of the people in these works is almost always very sweet and tended, with Mary and the baby Jesus looking directly into each other’s eyes. They can be quite moving.
There is just something about these works of art that speak of real love to me.
Moms can be amazing. I have been blessed with two of the best, my mother Jan and the mother of my children Priscilla. So on this Mother’s Day I would like to express my love, appreciation and gratitude to all the mothers in my life and all the women and men who have played that roll. Being as mom is about as hard a job as any one person could every take on (I know being my mom was no cake walk) – so thanks.
Happy Mother’s Day and Peace.
Stage 9 – Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado
One thing I have learned is that I should look at my elevation map before I leave in the morning – today was a lot hillier then I expected – nice surprise 😳. That said it was a pleasant 16 miles in unexpectedly cool weather (that’s good). Met some nice folks and reconnected with some others.
Not a lot to say about the day or at least nothing interesting enough to need to share – so here are my 2 favorite pics from the day.
Stage 7: Logroño to Najera
For those who do not know me very well let me tell you a little secret – humility is not really my thing. I am very well aware of my white male privilege (that’s what I have friends (you know who you are) and a daughter for) and I trend to either wield it like a sword or carry it like a shield. The sword to fight for justice when my access it helpful (I know I know) and a shield to protect my ego from the world. Now I know that that is not very nuanced, but for this story its enough and its my blog anyways.
My privilege leaves me thinking that I can do anything, the world (and my mom)has told me so.
Like I said humility is not really my goto but the Camino has this amazing way of stripping away your pride and making you come face to face with your shortcomings (its kind of like family that way.) Today was one of those times.
Let me start this tale of woe from the beginning. Last time I walked the Camino I had great problems with my feet. This time so far so good. This year however on the very first day ascending the Pyrenees I wrenched an already bad knee. Needless to say my knees have been bothering me ever since – not a problem, I have had knee issues my entire adult life and I deal (I am very brave)(side bar – A very wise friend, Clarke Hendley, once told me “you know Bob, sarcasm does not translate onto paper” and I have spent my life ever since trying to prove him wrong with little success).
Ok, back to my tale of woe: After my walk yesterday I was really hurting and even got myself wondering how munch longer I could go on. Proof that to much time to oneself and with ones own thoughts can make you think all kinds of negative things. So this morning when I woke up and my knees (yes now plural) were still hurting and I did the one thing I said I would never do – I sent my heavy backpack forward to where I am staying tonight and carried just a small day pack I keep rolled up in by bag for evening strolls. YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND – I said I would NEVER do this and I did. Guess what? A little humility and self awareness can paid off. 30km later I arrived feeling better then I had in days.
Pride has no place on the Camino and as I have learned one more time the Camino is a metaphor for life – A little humility goes a long way.
As we pass through this Easter season its nice for this old priest to remember that everyday has the possibility for resurrection – even if it is just a pair of beaten up pair of knees.
PS – here are a few pictures from the day
Stage 4 Pamplona to Puente La Reina. Todays walk was just about perfect. I started a little later then I like at 7:00 and spent about 30+ minutes walking out of the city of Pamplona. I am not a big fan of the time the Camino spends in Urban areas. It tends to be hard to follow the path as the markers can be difficult to find. If you loss your way you may need to walk back and find where you went wrong and it is both frustrating and seemingly huge waste of time. It is a times like this that you need to remind yourself that time is one thing you have plenty of. You can probably guess what’s coming next – I got lost this morning for about 15 minutes but was able to find my way back when I saw a couple of pilgrims on the other side of the park from where I was.
This is when the day quickly I proved. One of the pilgrims I saw was Stefano my Italian friend that I prepared dinner with the other night (see stage 2). Stefano is a recently retired doctor (immunologist) from southern Italy and a great talker. Passionate about everything, as far as I can tell, and an amateur botanist particularly interested in edible wild plants (how very Italian of him). The day consisted of walking 5 hours in both rain and sun, both up and down hill and getting and giving a language, cooking and botany lesson, with family and a little politics on the side (in full agreement on all things political that came up). It was a 5 hour conversation with long periods of silence on some of my favorite subjects.
The thing you learn quickly out here is that folks who come to Spain as a group tend to stay as one to the exclusion of others. Folks who travel alone meet far more people and experience the Camino not just through one’s own eyes but that through eyes and life experience of others.
There are all kinds of way to do the Camino
For many of us, myself include, traveling alone can be lonely but if you take the opportunity find others along the ways you can also find a new perspective. One of the wonderful things about my sabbatical this year is that not only am I traveling alone now, but later I will be traveling with Priscilla my wife – the best companion along the way I could ever be blessed to have.
It has been some time now since I last posted to this blog. Reading back over my last post I see that I never let you know that I made it to Santiago. Well I did. I had a great last couple of days of walking and arrived in Santiago a few days earlier than expected, feeling great with the exception of a pretty bad cough. I spent a couple of days exploring the city and meeting up with friends I had made along “The Way.”
Before returning home I spent a couple of days in Madrid seeing the sights and yes walking for hours on end around that beautiful and busy city. It took awhile to get used to the noise and crowds of Madrid after so much calm on The Camino but I enjoyed myself throughly.
Now that I have been back from my walk for a number of months I have had many chances to reflect on the experience. I can easily say that it was certainly one of the most interesting/challenging/fun/rewarding things I have ever done. By the time I reached Santiago I, along with my walking companions, was quite clear that while we saw no need to do this exact walk again we all agreed we wanted to do something like it in the near future. The fact that I would never walk the Camino Franc again was pretty well set in my mind – that said I am already thinking about doing it again for my 60th birthday as this walk took place in the year I turned 50. Oh well, so much for making up my mind.
MY NEXT ADVENTURE:
This May I will be trekking to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca site in Peru, by way of the Salkantay Trail. This is a very different experience and opportunity. While the Camino was 500 miles in 30ish days this trek will only be 30ish miles in 5 days. That said this trip should prove to much more physically demanding as it takes place at times at attitudes of over 16,000 feet. My schedule is to fly out of JFK on May 4 arriving in Cuzco, Peru the following day. Spend 3 days in Cuzco (the ancient capital of the Inca empire) acclimatizing and visiting the many Inca ruins in the area. At that point I will hook up with my guide and begin the trek to Machu Picchu, God willing and my lungs and legs surviving I should get to Machu Picchu on the 11th and return home on the 13th.
I will hopefully post from Cuzco both on my arrival and departure.
I love to walk, explore places new to me and to meet folks from different places and walks of life; The Camino did this for me and I look forward to the same from this newest adventure – now it is time to get back into shape.
The last two days of walking have been beautiful. The weather has been good and the terrain not to challenging. I have come to be convinced that the Camino path was designed by some very talented, yet sadistic, golf course designer, It can humble you and almost bring you to tears one moment and the next, give you hope and encouragement.
We have just two more days of walking and then we will arrive in Santiago. This is a strange thought as until a day or two ago no one seemed capable of thinking beyond a couple of days into the future – one step at a time, one day at a time – that’s how you get to Santiago.
As I will be spending some time in Spain after arriving at the end of this path, I will be share some more and hopefully deeper thoughts with you in the near future. For now some pictures from the last two days will have to do.
Today was the perfect weather for a nice walk. It was cool, overcast and dry most of the day. We did get about an hour or so of light rain but not only was it no problem it would have been missed after so many very rainy days.
As we have passed the 100km mark to Santiago the path is becoming much busier. That said, at times today it was quite quiet.
A very large percentage of pilgrims only do the last 100km of the 800km Camino. Tradition provides full pilgrim privileges to those who walk at least the last 100k. Modern schedules have made this a much more attractive and accessible goal for most. I am glad that this provides a piece of this wonderful experience to so many, but I would not trade my 5 weeks and 800km for anything – this time has been a real blessing in many different ways and I will be processing it for some time to come and will never forget it.
I still can’t load the video from the other day, but here are some pictures from today.