Monday, January 16, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 6: Los Arcos - Viana

I notice that my feet this morning hurt and I have to take it easy today. I decide to go to Viana, some 20 km away. The way out of Los Arcos is certainly more varied than the road in to the town yesterday. But the landscape is still open and there is not much shade here on a sunny day, and today is really sunny. I have two bottles of water with me and some fruit that I bought yesterday. On the way out of Los Arcos I stand a long time and look at a wall. The wall is the remains of a wall that Romans built over 2000 years ago. This road was important for both military and commercial use for the Romans and built over long distances such walls to protect the road. I feel the slightly cool stones with my hands, look at how they fit together, and think of the craftsmen who built them. Were they people that the Romans had with them from a foreign country, slaves, or children? I feel as before that I'm not just walking on a road, but walking through history.

 The road today goes through the villages Sansol and Torres del Rio before I get to Viana. It is a good road to walk on. But my sore feet feel all the pebbles and I try to avoid them. I am walking with my shadow, thinking: why am I here. No Mans Land. No one to see. I feel isolated between the few villages that I meet today. I just take one step at a time. What is the purpose of all this? My feet are sore. I have begun to speak with a shadow. The air quivers with heat. So I start to think backwards into my life. My childhood. I sing out loud: "One hundred bottles of beer on the wall. One hundred bottles of beer. I take one down, and pass it arouind. 99 bottles of beer on the wall ..." And I continue singing until I there at no more bottles left. It takes 1/2 hour. Why did I to sing this song? I sang it when I was a child in the United States. I could sing it for myself at school to keep me awake during boring lessons at school, on the bus to and from school, and before I fell asleep at night. The song helped me think about my childhood. I thought about episodes I have experienced as a child as I walked. This pilgrimage gives very good time for reflection. The road almost demands reflection. If you listen a little, the road is asking: who are you; where are you from; what do you want; where are you going; and how do you plan to get there?


It's great to walk into these areas with grapes. Huge areas with a beautiful green color. Many small farmers are engaged in production of grapes along the entire route, and they usually sell their grapes to larger cooperatives which sell them again to wineries. But they are also many small wineries along the way that make wine from local grapes. This interests me very much. This is craftsmanship. When I ask for wine ti have with my dinner in the evenings, I ask for wine from a local producer. They are proud of their wines. And they are really good.

In Viana I decided to stay in a hostel which is located adjacent to the Santa Maria Church. It is a beautiful space outside the church with small and inviting cafes. I sit on the stone bench in front of the church and lean against the church. There is shade here and I feel that it is good to have arrived. My left foot really hurts now. I have trouble walking on it. This does not look good. Those who run the hostel on behalf of the Santa Maria church, are a married couple from France and use all their vacations here to help pilgrims. And they have done so every holiday for the past 10 years. I tell them about my foot that hurts and it turns out that the wife is a qualified nurse and has a large medical bag standing in her bedroom. She looks at my foot and shakes his head. She says that my blister is inflamed and I have had ankle inflammation. She recommends me to cancel the rest of my pilgrimage. My heart breaks a little bit, but I nod and say I'll think about it. She take care of my foot with perfection. She says that I should have the bandages on for at least a week before I take it off. I thank her and ask what this medical attention costs. But she seems almost insulted. She helps out of love, and not for money. Of love? This is new for me. How is it possible to travel from France and work for free on holidays and help pilgrims in this way for free, just out of love? My heart which was about to break just before got new life. This pilgrimage is about love. A road of love.

In the evening, all the pilgrims were invited to worship in the Santa Maria Church at the evening Mass. The church is Catholic, and beautiful. Beautiful decorations on the walls, lit candles, and many people who sit in the pews. I'm sitting there with a pilgrim from Denmark, two from the Netherlands, one from Germany, one from Italy and one from Japan. Seven pilgrims on a bench. A strange sight. Halfway through the Mass we are asked to come to the altar by the prest. We look a little puzzled at each other but do what the priest said. We are placed in a semicircle facing the priest and the altar. He speaks English to us and wishes us welcome. He says that we have embarked on a very important journey. Our motives he knows nothing about, but we have in common that we have embarked on an inner journey. A journey that will change us if we open up for the possibility. The he prays in Latin for us, picks up a silver bowl of water, walks past us and one by one and throws holy water on us. I assume that this is some kind of blessing. I welcome it and think it's a nice action. It's nice to be blessed. I do not know what it means in any great extent, but it was formal, encouraging, friendly, and inclusive. I felt like part of a pilgrim family that has been around a long time. 


After Mass we have dinner together at the hotel. The French couple have covered a long table with food to us. Pasta salad, chicken, bread and wine. The priest eats with us. We tell one by one who we are and where we come from. We tell just a little bit each, so we feel we know each other a bit. There is a nice atmosphere around the table. The pilgrim from Japan is a violinist and is carrying with her a violin on the whole trip. She wants to make a living of playing the violin. She finds her violin and give a little concert for us while we sit around the dinner table and enjoy lots of local wine.

The dormitory is primitive here. We lay all next to each other on thin mattresses on the floor. But it is strange how something this primitive can bring people closer together. It is actually a very pleasant night, with small talk, singing and violin music. Little sleep, maybe, but everyone was very happy with the accommodation. It cost nothing to stay here. Pilgrims pay what they want by giving a donation to the church in an empty cigar box at the front door. We were also told that if we needed money inorder to continue our pilgrimage, we could take what we needed from the cigar box. I have not experienced this before. They really that being in a fellowship seriously here. I put ten euros in the box in the morning for the medical help I got, food and accommodation. I saw that some did not pay anything, but that most paid 5 euros. I will remember this stay at the Santa Maria hostel for a long time. This accommodation did something with. I found joy and camaraderie here and felt that the shame I had immersed myself into the last years of my doctoral work began to diminish. I had begun to open my hands in order to receive something new and unknown.

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