May 21-22, 2019
Walking dry shod over a river or stream is not something to be taken for granted. I’ve waded many a water course in our hikes on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Each time we come to a bridge on the Camino, and I have the pleasure of walking high above the flowing water, I feel a wave of thankfulness. Some of these bridges were created by those master engineers, the Romans. I think of pilgrims walking across 1000 years ago on stones set hundreds of years before them!
Here are bridges we encountered these two days.
As I crossed these bridges, a bit of philosophy hit me. After all, bridges are more than a way to keep feet dry. They connect people, communities, ecological areas. Walking across a bridge is akin to walking through a door. Whether crossing above a river or through a wall, one can feel the excitement of entering a new place.
Bridges can be made from things besides stone and iron. Jay and I often paused, while hiking, to let our eyes cross an open space, follow a line of flowers or trees, and appreciate soul lifting beauty.
Late Wednesday afternoon, as we entered the town of Estrella, I found myself a bit dazed with the hubbub of busy streets and bustling people. Spanish language battered at my uncomprehending ears. Narrow, curving streets and tall thin buildings impeded my horizon. Though we had only hiked about six miles, I was exhausted.
‘How can I keep going?’ I wondered. ‘If six miles saps my stamina this much, what am I doing, thinking I can hike for weeks and complete even part of the Camino?’
As I dodged people and fought doubts, a small white haired woman stopped me with a sweet smile. She spoke several sentences of Spanish, in a beautiful voice. I stared, wishing I knew what she was saying.
She looked at my uncomprehending face, laughed, and said pityingly, “No entiendes!” (“You don’t understand!”) Then she took my face in her hands and kissed me twice on each cheek. “Buen Camino!” She squeezed my hands, then disappeared into the crowd.
As we continued to our hostel, I mused on the nature of bridges. Sometimes, a bridge could be simply a hand and a smile from a stranger, encouraging one upon the way.