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Camino Blog 4 – Out. In. The. Country

I mean it that way – with the periods.
Leon is a most gracious city – neat as a pin but character plus.  Coming up from the station into town, the order and cleanliness were striking.  Our hotel’s location drew me on to the Center.
Like many picturesque towns, the ancient heart of curving narrow passageways is surrounded by more of what we’re used to – straight lines and wide carriageways.  So as you come in, the streets shrink and become more intimate until you stride into the main square and come face to face with – the Cathedral.
The central church is often the crown of the town – any European town.  Here it is a glory.  The quiet of the interior is surrounded in the square by the pulse of a vibrant young/old town.  Last night, the main square was full of kids making and launching white hot air plastic bag balloons – lots of squawks of delight…
Bob and I had our meeting up dinner in the market quadrangle, just a bit away.  We’d warmed up with circumnambulation of the church’s rich sanctuary  – stunning intense stained glass in a gothic 13th century setting – viewed filtering the late afternoon sun.  The ultramarine blues saturated the space completely – no pane was missed and artistry of the glass supreme.  I’ve been to Chartres.  This is on par.  That’s really saying something.
Our gracious supper in fading sun as the pilgrims and townspeople amble by the smart open air bistro left us fully charged for today’s exertions.
And so it happened – woke up at 5 but easily, courtesy of jet lag.  Last minute sorting out of what is carried and what is sent on ahead – and then, out the door at 6 with a day pack, the main load schlepped on ahead to the days’ destination.
Through a majestic town – exceedingly elegant and strongly designed external spaces, past the compelling museum de Leon in an ancient castle lit by the earliest light, we are rolling.  My friend Bob.  What a grand and considerate companion to get to know on this journey, has recent experience with the packing and walking, and I rely on it.  On we go in our linear escape westward, through long straight modern streets slowly evading the city until, on a hilltop as the sun is rising, we finally turn and look back on a city waking up.
And forward into a quieting, increasingly serene greenscape.  We transit the industrial sector, parallel the airport, exit the last suburb – Vergin de la Camino – under a complex motorway interchange  and, just like that, are released into the country.
I want to say at last because this delivery is what all the arrangements are about.  Moving westward on back roads through the generous farm scene, inhaling the scent of mown hay, hearing the multitude of birds announce the day, and the breeze refresh the trees, this is what it’s all about.  Sun gracing us as we escape urbanity at last and swim neck deep in – the country.
It’s almost instant – the relief and the change.  The relief?  The absence of script, of hurry up, of to-do, of agenda. And of mechanical noises.  The change?  The switch to an appreciative mind – taking joy in the abundant blossoms overflowing into the roadstead.  Seeing, really seeing, for the first time in months.  The senses, no longer overbourne by hyperstimulation, are free to finally venture out of their bunker, to roam free and notice whatever strikes their fancy.  Sure it takes a while, but by 11 am, the artistic eye is on full power.  Gradually, all come to the party – nerves for clean edge of the wind, eyes for blast of Color leaping out from an unexpected yellow gate, or a royal blue door.  Scent for the whiff of manure riding the air.  Touch for the tang of cool on the skin, then the warming of spring sun.  Sound for the clack, clack of our poles on tarmac and crunch of gravel underfoot.  Bells in the distance, a softly singing pilgrim catching us up.  And the kinaesthetic joy of muscles working in a good cause.
It’s been a long, long time since I have tasted such an elixir, such a brew.  I’m just flooded and we course along over high plateau remote roads without interruption, sinking deeper and deeper into the intoxication.  Bantering all the while in our release, having fun with each other, inventing scenarios, soaring easy.
Out – out of the urban world – in which so many of us are confined our whole time.
In – immersed, not just dabbing but drowning, really into it
The — well, no comment
Country –  this entirely rich, heady but almost foreign context that sustains all of us and which we are secretly af home in so naturally.
Well, we’re out in it to stay for the next few days.  Stopping in a tiny town, Vilar de Mazarife 23 kms west of Leon.  A testing day of initiation onto the Way – my muscles awakened and a bit sore.  Tomorrow we go for 31- so I’ll see how fit I am for this journey then!

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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