Camino Day 24: Letting go...
Astorga to Manjarin: 30.3 km/18.9 miles
May 28, 2016
Great night sleep in our little hotel. Nothing could lure me out of bed early today. The day was misty and overcast and full advantage was taken of having a private room. Laziness spilled over and a coffee was taken in the room versus downstairs. Yesterday’s challenges morphed into a softened memory. I embraced my deflated ego of plans gone wayside.
We had all day to walk. We were entering the Maragateria region of the Leon Province. The culture of this district hung tight over the centuries due to the isolated, mountainous geography. The landscape was becoming more rolling and hilly. The air was brisk and foggy. The architecture looked alpine. The main thoroughfare of each village was cobblestoned.
The rainy weather hung in there, but walking was doable. More frequent breaks were taken to dodge the drops or take respite. Other Pilgrims encountered were in good spirits. The sense of community held us all together as we walked in this rather dismal weather towards our final destination, wherever or whenever that may truly end.
We stopped in one small narrow cafe where someone was playing a guitar. Others joined in singing in their native tongue. Everyone looked soggy. Eyeglasses were foggy. Hot drinks warmed up the cold bodies. Here was a roomful of strangers, where everyone’s status, profession and backgrounds were unknown, yet all were smiling and laughing. How often does this happen at home?
Further down the road, on the outskirts of Rabanal we met a man from the Czech Republic. He had lost his farm back home and as a result, decided to walk the Camino. He sat outside his tent with two dogs. From the looks of it, he had been camped out for awhile. One of the dogs was his traveling mate, and the other had joined them about a week prior. He shared that he had walked the Camino 20 years ago, at age ten, with his Father. He claimed that his Father took notes of all the Pilgrims they had encountered. They numbered 14 total, over the course of their seven month walk to and from Santiago. The Pilgrim head count had jumped markedly since that time.
The Rain had beaten us down and a lunch stop was due. We chose our restaurant in Foncebadon for the mere fact that it was the sole cafe with smoke coming from its rooftop chimney. We wanted warmth. Upon entering, we were transformed to days gone past with traditional, local dress worn by the staff and music with Celtic undertones playing overhead. The artesian bread was delicious and wine was served in goblets. The hot and steamy soup warmed the leftover cold spots inside me. I had slipped my shoes off for comfort and relief. I didn’t want to leave but we had wanted to check out a particular hostel further up the road. We slowly moved onward.
La Cruz de Ferro was a fairly significant stop on the Camino. This was a place to reflect on this long journey’s purpose. Tradition was to carry a small rock from home and drop here symbolizing leaving everything behind. The Pilgrims who had study the Camino prior to walking were well aware and prepared for this soulful stop. Since my Camino plans were last minute, I was unprepared and empty-handed. When we reached this high point of the Camino, we discovered stones, small treasures and mementos scattered around or secured to the centered pole left by Pilgrims past.
I pondered what I should leave here. Kashi suggested the Yantra necklace he had given me from India long ago. A Yantra is like a visible mantra and was used for meditation purposes. This was my travel necklace. I couldn’t imagine giving it up. I walked around the site quietly, devising what else I could possibly leave instead. Kashi gently challenged me to leave something of value, as otherwise the act was insignificant. Darn him for being so wise and unattached. He planned to leave the Shiva stone that I had given him from Nepal. I cringed with disbelief.
The sun was sinking low in the horizon and we still needed to reach our hostel. I slowly took off my yantra necklace and hung it on the pole. The Shiva stone was placed at the foot of the pole. How had I become so attached to one small item when the embodiment of that item stood next to me. With this truth, my angst was quieted.
Peace can be found in the moments where we give up the tangible items to gain the intangible wisdom. I stumbled upon most of my intangible gems when traveling and hence one of the main reasons I travel.
A different sort of heavy from yesterday’s challenges veiled my heart as we walked away. Yesterday’s challenges were of the ego nature, today’s was letting go. I had dropped clothes along this route to lighten my load, and now I was dropping attachments. I was reminded of the belief that one goes through three phases during their Camino: physical, mental and spiritual. I felt a transition taking place.
We reached our hostel right before sunset. Had we had more daylight to move onward, I may have shied away from staying here. But, we had chosen this interesting place from the guidebooks description and the Camino had spoken. We were grateful. This stay would be remembered.