May 25, 2019
“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.”
-Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Dawn opened one eye, a crack of light barely visible across the horizon, while everyone in our bunkroom, except me, stirred industriously. Yesterday we had checked into a large hostel. Ten euros apiece had bought each of us a bed in a bunkroom with six other pilgrims.
I heard Jay’s voice, asking others if he could turn on the light, but all our roommates spoke only French. He received no answer.
“What’s ‘light’ in French?” Jay’s head appeared at the edge of my top bunk.
I actually knew that, thanks to Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast‘! “Lumíere,” I whispered.
“Great!” Jay smiled. “How do you say turn on?”
I blinked sleep-fogged eyes. “I have no idea!”
“Well, how do you say okay?” I could tell Jay’s problem-solving brain was wide awake.
“D’accord,” my answer materialized from the mists of long ago French lessons.
Jay’s head disappeared from sight, and I heard his voice below me. “Lumíere, d’accord?”
“Ah, oui, oui!” Immediately came the enthusiastic response.
Suddenly, light flared above, shining into my eyes with undiminished cheerfulness. I knew it was time to get up.
Breakfast, in the large shared dining room, was a social affair. We met a lovely family from New Mexico – father, mother, two girls ages ten and eleven. The family, now living in Devon, England, chose to hike part of the Camino during their two week spring vacation.
Later that morning, we met the family again as we left the town of Viana behind.
I had the fun of chatting with the girls while walking along a tree shaded path.
They had spent a few of their young years in France, and entertained me with amazing French idioms, such as “Je donne ma langue au chat.” (“I give my tongue to the cat.”) Giggling, the girls told me that meant, “I give up” in a guessing game! Who would have guessed I’d be learning French idioms about cats, in Spain, from two engaging, intelligent young pilgrims?
As Jay and I hiked with this charming family, we saw a white stork on a nest. Jay informed us that most white storks migrate between Africa and Europe. They are monogamous, and often return to the same nest each year. We’ve seen many far above on church towers, but this pair had built upon a slightly closer electric pylon. Enthralled, I stopped to take a picture.
Further along, our hiking pace slowed, and we said a cheerful good-bye to our morning’s companions.
The Camino led us around the Embalse de la Grajera. Swans slid smoothly across a sheltered nook of this reservoir.
An audacious squirrel ran down his tree, sure that I would have a snack for him. He stopped short of my feet, posed, then flicked his tail in disgust when no food was forthcoming.
In late afternoon, we entered the town of Navarrete, passing the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Noticing the church door standing ajar, we stopped, answering the implicit invitation.
Of the cathedrals and churches we have visited, many felt like museums – holding places for ages of treasures. Often sightseeing tourists filled the sanctuaries, loud talk creating the atmosphere of appreciating a show.
The strains of Bach and Gounod’s “Ave Maria” on discreet speakers greeted us as we paused on this door step. Encouraged, we entered quietly, slowly walking the perimeter inside, amazed at the 17th century Baroque altar piece.
For me, the soft music stirred a response deep in my soul. I slipped into a pew, closing my eyes, entering deeply into the meditation this music offered.
Over the last year, I’ve wrestled with questions about my life, seeking direction, wondering what, exactly, I should be doing. As I sat on the bench, tired body gratefully melting into the boards, brain sinking into the melodic line of notes, I was suddenly swept with an awareness of the many gifts I’ve received, and the conviction that I needed to use those gifts. I opened my eyes, turned to smile at Jay, and together we slipped outside.
On our way to our hostel, Winnie the Pooh and A.A. Milne’s quotation popped into my head. I reflected upon all the times today that I was in a place poetry or hums could find me, beginning with a whispered morning conversation, through the enchantment of talking with two fun-loving and knowledgeable girls, being greeted with nature and animals, and finally opening to the messages of music, quietness, and reflection. Truly, life is amazing!