“I was going to flee!”
Stepping out of the elegant forests I entered the cityscape of Burgos. As I slogged alone through miles of industrial suburbs in the heart of the late morning I was elaborating my plan in my mind. I would get to the train station and book a train ticket. I had given myself permission of chose to leave the Camino. Where I would go was not clear, I would just step on that train…. Slapping along on the cement I marched on. Later I learned almost everyone else that day had snagged the bus into town. As I approached the old town and the great cathedral I realized that the train station was much further and I was just too tired. My path through the gate to the old city led me to the huge albergue where hundreds of pilgrims were slotted in tightly packed bunks like bodies on a 10 story morgue. I dropped my bag on bunk and washed my clothes.
The man on the bunk above me from France had walked all the way from Paris. He looked kind, but bleak and lonely. I could see a single word would have gotten me a walking buddy. He had reached some depth of inner despair. Though I could read his suffering as clearly as a page in a book, it was not mine to solve. He looked hurt in the silence of such a raw place. I apologized silently in my mind as I walked outside. (Several days later I saw he had found a team of a French woman who nearly ran along the Camino with a refined completive pride and younger French man who jogged behind her – so his loneliness was happily solved)
Heading out to find comida the main meal – I saw such rare delights as milkshakes and stores with hiking gear (but no new boots my feet could fit). A local restaurant in the shadow of the great cathedral in the heart of the city drew me in. Revived I decide to visit the cathedral. Like at the great cathedrals of Spain it is placed on powerful fire lines and filled with a mindboggling array of retablos, statues, art – you name it. It felt like an historic traffic jam, but the energy was delightful. Somehow I walked out completely altered, happy, and determined to walk on.
That night I returned to the cathedral for a blessing of the young people entering the church. Crowded into the heart of the church with all the families looking on it felt tribal- initiating the young people on the holy spot of their land – only here in this place were they secretly consecrated into the blessing of the earth, mother, goddess, while seeming outwardly to only acknowledge the sky father masculine god. Hidden she may have been all these centuries, but gone – never.
The sunny morning found me wending my way out of town with the other pilgrims. That evening I had found a delightful French couple and a woman about my age from Quebec. Although I maintained my walking alone we all found each other each night for dinner for several nights. It was fun to have a floating feast of conversation to fill my world. Again I became the translator, however primitive, since they spoke no Spanish or English. Again I could see that the woman from Quebec was not used to being alone and longed for a walking buddy. She would have been a fabulous team member but I headed out alone again, choosing to walk in silence in my own way on a country-sized walking meditation.. (Weeks later I found she has teamed up with a Spanish man and was happy for the safety of someone to walk with). None of these exchanges in the “lonely zone” with solitary walkers took the form of words, but in such a simple, bare presence together as pilgrims it was as if hearts were bare and easily read. I liked being on my own time!