A month ago today was Day 4 of our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, one of my favorites. The monastery in Samos sits in a gorgeous valley. The cool misty weather together with the muted grays, tans and greens of the village and countryside, and the stunningly beautiful Benedictine monastery, show why the journey often is better than the destination.
We left Triacastela before daylight. Other pilgrims were ahead of us and a few passed us on the uphill trek. Chilly, a few drops of rain, a cool mountain day. In the village at Samos we stopped at a warm and attractive bar for coffee, a shared tuna empanada and a quick restroom break. Then back outside for the short walk to the monastery entrance.
Samos is a fabulous place with beautiful cloisters and well-preserved buildings and worship spaces. Founded in the sixth century, the Benedictine monastery today appears to survive only on its history. Fewer than a dozen monks and novices live there. This huge sacred space has practically no humans around.
The Camino’s popularity, I think, stems from its geography, both human and physical. The Way crosses through scenery so beautiful you wonder if you can take it all in. And it passes through people’s lives. Pilgrims walk through cities, towns, villages, crossroads, farms, fields, gardens, orchards, highways, even alongside an airport, and churches, churches and more churches — it’s not just a walk in the woods.
The Appalachian Trail is between you and nature. The Camino de Santiago places you with people, animals, industry, countryside, cities, office parks — even good times and bad — all curving around and on top of each other, squeezed together, men and women getting by — for better or worse. Just like life.
We finished the Camino on October 6. Now, close to three weeks later, things are mostly put away. Loose ends are tied up. But one reminder of the Camino de Santiago barely hangs on — my toenail is about to fall off.
It was a Buen Camino. Thank you, Debbie. Muchas gracias, Spain.
To every man there openeth a way, and ways, and a way,
And the high soul climbs the high way,
And the low soul gropes the low.
And in between, on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth a high way and a low;
And every man decideth the way his soul shall go.
by John Oxenham (pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley). And with appreciation to Viola H. Woolfolk, former headmistress of St. Margaret’s School, who read this poem aloud in chapel at least once a year.)