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Camino Blog 9 – Camynos Amigos

So as you roll along, people come into your orbit and move through.  either you talk for a while and they fade [relative to your pace] or accelerate out of view – and, potentially, out of your life.

While you walk beside, you get a glimpse into a life.  Always at a much more intimate level than what you’d get at home.  Because we are all united in our walk to the cathedral, toward redemption, toward reconciliation.

Greeting!  everyone here makes a point of it.  Particularly the locals , who should, by rights, be totally fed up.  I mean, they have thousands of pilgrims every day coursing past them:  still they manage a jaunty “Hola!  Buen Camino!”  It’s a stunning display of good cheer.  And if you are a bit lost – which is hard here, when there is a yellow arrow presented at every turn to guide you, still, they will direct you patiently.

And the ethic pervades other pilgrims. The cyclists passing us at triple speed on silent wheels, use “Buen Camino” as horns to announce themselves instead of bells.  Us ground-bound souls passing each other, say the same to our comrades, or “hola” or “hi” – never nothing.

In our world back home, greeting is unfashionable, to our great loss. Would it kill you to say “Hello” or “hi” on meeting someone?  It affirms our common humanity, our common journey, our bond.  We are united in this transit of life.  Others are not a threat, not a potential time-waster, not a salesperson.  But persistently, they are treated as such, from first encounter. Folks are wary, as if they need to guard against – something….

Here, another person is an event about to happen.  An exciting, fascinating encounter with someone completely different – who will educate you, change you, excite you.

Like Sergio:  clumping along like a great draft horse in the brilliant morning sun into Ponferrada. I respected him immediately because he is a large man – maybe 250.  I’d seen him clumping down the hill from Cruz Ferro and wondered how he could make it – take the strain of that constant load on his knees.  He did, and arrived at the same place we did, in his own time.

A banker from Monza, home of Ferrari.  Travelled around the world to some great spots [Monaco] and some crappy spots [Kenya]. 6 months at a time – doing due diligence.  Injured his knee coaching kids in soccer [football, here].  Now retired and determined to keep moving.

I asked about family as we descended a sunlit hill flanked by sprigs of grapes in orderly rows, and he went wistful.  He’s older now and, in his opinion, past 45, you can’t accommodate a woman in your life, even if you want family.  So, no…
Anna, today out on a jog out of Villafranca up into the vines of the Bierza at the high end of valley.  A tall elegant German woman, talked eloquently about religion and spirituality.  Here most delightful moment:  at Carillon, the service where the nuns sang and each offered a personal blessing to each attendee.  The tough men went in there – and came out with tears misting their eyes.
Her voice gained strength as we descended, after passing through the vinyards [“fincas’ – or ranches – same as Napa].  They were misting the young sprigs with insecticide, so poison fog spread in the heavy morning air.

“I work in an old folks home.  I’m an occupational therapist in Berlin.  I have a 100 year old grand mother there who is still sharp and gets dressed every day.  If reminded about her missing umbrella, she brightens and acknowledges, then goes to get it.  The more I’m away the more passionate about my job I get”. Bless her and the good work she is going as a young person.

Greta, from LA:  I asked her Rick Eigenbrod’s 4 Camino questions:
-Where did you start?
-Where are going?
-What inspired you?
-Why are doing it?
Universally applicable here – and for that matter, anywhere.

When I got to the last, she misted over as we stood outside the cafe together in Pereles, up the long deep valley out of Villafranca approaching the high pass at O Cebriero.  Perhaps she was tired, it was an exhausting run – steady climbing in the first heat we’ve experienced, paralleling the national highway for many kilometres, though with a pleasant mountain stream flowing greenly by the whole way.

“Well, I’m doing it for my granddaughter.  She was just diagnosed with a mental illness at 14.  Maybe it will help her, me dedicating this to her.  Maybe it will help me:  how I can be with her.  Maybe it will help both of us.”

I assured her it would do both.  Her intention makes it so.

This day was about gratitude – theme selected by Bob.  Wow, there were moments when all mind was swept away and the complete scene just invaded every pore of my consciousness.

But I was really overbourne with gratitude for my fellow humans- all united in this quest to be whole.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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