Monday, November 9, 2015

The Unencumbered Life

We are back in Rota, enjoying some down time before we begin our homeward journey. We are staying in an apartment on the beach near Cadiz. We have stayed here before and appreciate the seclusion and its proximity to the sea. We have the entire upper floor of the building which houses a three bedroom apartment. Our balcony is huge and overlooks the sea. There is a little market up the street and we are able to get a few provisions to sustain us. There is no wi-fi except for the occasional moment when we stand on the lower terrace with our hands and devices in the air looking for a signal. It is but a fleeting moment if we are able to find it at all. We have no car nor is there anyplace we wish to go. The weather, which is usually exceptional and warm, has been inundated with the most beautiful lightening and thunder storms I have ever seen out on an ocean. The winds so fierce we could not leave our house even if we wanted too. We are secluded in this haven. We want for nothing. The blinds are up and the storm windows closed. Our companions are the sounds of the wind, rain, thunder, and the crashing of the waves as they pound on the sand and rocks below us. We have each other and we have solitude.

I have found there is beauty in solitude. It is one of the elements of my life that I have not cultivated or enjoyed nearly enough. In these moments I reflect upon the last few months and contemplate what God would have for me. I found myself thinking time and again of a seed pod I had seen in both Portugal and Spain. It had held my interest because of the way the pod was encased and held to the plant. The thing that encumbers it, while having the appearance of a stronghold, actually is very fragile and with the slightest movement or change it could be free. It just doesn't know it.

I have had many miles to contemplate this and began to wonder what it is in my own life that encumbers me. Could it be the expectations and limitations I have set up for myself? Am I fearful of what I do not know and do I fret over what I can not change? Am I capable of freedom from these things with just a mere shift in my direction and thoughts? I like to think that I can embrace the freedom of change without discomfort but there are times that I have not.

Over four hundred miles to walk and pray about this. Each day I have had the opportunity to put into practice the foundations for living a truly unencumbered life. I am reminded of my life on the trail. When I awake I do not need to be in full control or know all the details or the outcome of my day. If I seek Him I know I will be exactly where I am supposed to be. I know I will rise, and in this case, head in a northerly direction. I do not need to fret about what might be ahead or the things I can not change. I know that I will be okay no matter where my path may lead or what unforeseen storms come my way. Sometimes the road before me will be hard. I will still be okay. Peace and kindness surround me and I will find what I need if I am willing to seek Him in these matters. When I am attuned to His Spirit I see the many ways He cares for me. These gifts are intentional on His part and designed to bring joy into my life. I do better if my load is light and I do not carry a heavy burden.  Each day the sun will rise and set without any intervention on my part. I just have to be free to enjoy it.

So I think of the seed pod. Encumbered by chains that hold it captive, surrounded by freedom a breath away. I am really no different unless I choose otherwise. I long for the unencumbered life and so my journey continues.

We are heading home via Washington DC, Tacoma Washington, and then on to Travis. We are excited to be home. A warm fire, a pot of soup, and time with you as we share life and look forward to all that is yet to be. You are loved...Buen Camino.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Zero Kilometer

Once we entered into Spain the trail markers along the way begin to tell us the kilometers remaining before our arrival to Santiago. I have to admit this is very encouraging as you watch the kilometers whittle away and know you are making progress towards your goal.

It was a very different walk for us this year in many ways. We were different, our reasons for walking were different, and I think what God would have for us was very different. I was not sure what to expect when we walked into Santiago.

When we crossed the border from Portugal to Spain I wept. I have to admit I was proud of this accomplishment. If I had not walked any further I would have been content. But, we did walk further and when we walked into Santiago I felt the same rush of emotion. It is like graduating from college. For what seems like the longest time you do all these little bits of work and finally it all comes together. You've finished and for just a moment you get to acknowledge the completion of something you have worked so hard to attain. We entered the city from the Southwest this time which is a route less travelled by most of the pilgrims. We were the only ones walking in this way and we just held each others hand as we did so. There was something beautiful in the solitude and I think it held greater significance to me than if we had walked in with others. When you attend the pilgrims mass one of the things they say to you is it is a good thing you have done. Those words are the most meaningful to me. Tom and I said it to each other as we entered the cathedral plaza and spoke words of gratitude and kindness to each other before we walked on down to the zero kilometer mark.

While those words are the most meaningful to me the most meaningful celebration is the lighting and swinging of the botafumeria. In the past when pilgrims left their homelands they may have walked for several months or years before they completed their pilgrimage. They may have slept in stables or outdoors and may not have had the luxury to bathe every night. The botafumeria contained both incense and disinfectant for those who attended. Now it is a glimpse into a bygone era and for whatever reasons it moves my heart in a way I can not explain. It is stunning to watch as the monks, in their dark red robes, work in unison to get the huge incense burner up in the air and swing it across the entire lenght of the cathedral. It is a well orchestrated event and must be done to perfection. When it is over I feel as if this part of my journey is complete.

We will wait a day or to see if the weather clears before we decide to walk on. For now we will relish this moment. No decisions need to be made nor do we have to be anyplace. We will just enjoy these moments of celebrations. We are a few days away from Tom's 74th birthday. I can think of no better place to celebrate.

We are thinking of you...Buen Camino.

Padron, Spain

For those who follow the stages in our guidebook, Padron is designated as the last stop before Santiago. We have decided to alter this section by dividing it into two stages for a variety of reasons. There have been torrential rains for the last several days and we have had to alter our pace as we climb up and down the hills. We had heard about a lovely town at the midway point with a beautiful casa de rural. These happen to be one of our favorite places to stay and with the cold weather and rain a nice warm farmhouse sounded perfect for the day. It also meant we would arrive into Santiago earlier the next day. We could enjoy some of the afternoon before joining our friends for an early birthday dinner for Tom.

 Padron is a town with a lot of history and we wanted to investigate some of those sites. Legend has it that this was the area in which Saint James the apostle preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. The old Roman bridge still stands where he reputedly stood speaking to the crowds. It is also the place where the boat with his remains was moored before being taken to Santiago for his burial. The mooring rock still remains in the small church here.

It is also the home of two noble peace award recipients. Roslia de Castro and Camilo Jose Cela. Roslia was one of the first women writers to be recognized by Spain for her soulful writings of love and longing. A lot of flamenco music is adapted from her works. Camilo Cela won the Pulitzer peace prize in literature in the 20th century for his writing about the history and life in Spain. He also lived and died in Padron. The people in Padron are very proud of their history.

There is also a monastery just out of town which was established in the 17th century by monks from South America. They reportedly brought with them the seeds for the legendary Padron peppers. This is still the only place in all of Spain that produces these wonderfully delicious peppers from those heirloom seeds.

We are excited and slightly surprised that we are at this point in our journey. It has gone by so fast. There were moments when we longed to be in this place but I think we will miss the walking even more than we did after our last pilgrimage. We are still considering a walk along the coast but we will wait and see how the weather looks when we get there.

Until then, we are thinking of you. Longing for the time when we are together again and sharing life. Buen Camino.