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I am in Belorado. It is cold and rainy here, but I have a wonderful room all to myself--even though I am sharing a bathroom with others. Thank you Beth.
The last time I spoke with you I had found a free computer in Estella where I could write without any time constraints. Today I am in an internet cafe and am watching the minutes ticking by as I write. I don´t promise to be brief because so much has happened since we communicated last.
I left Estella and headed to Los Arcos. On the way there, I stopped at a bar to get something to eat and met a woman from North Carolina who was traveling the Camino with her niece who is now 21. They started last year and went from St. Jean to Pamplona. This year they started in Pamplona and want to get to Burgos. The woman said it had been a wonderful experience and that her niece had matured so much because of the experience. She went on to tell me that it really irks her that people are in such a hurry to get from place to place that they don´t take time to really enjoy their surroundings and be present. One of my intentions on this journey is to let go of judging others and the way they do things. So I simply said to her that I felt everyone is doing this Camino in a way that works for them. I left and continued on to Los Arcos.
As I was arriving in Los Arcos I was met by a small herd of goats grazing on the side of the road. They stopped what they were doing, all came in mass to smell me and welcome me to Los Arcos. I guess I passed muster because they returned to their grazing and I walked on through to Los Arcos. Los Arcos was a ghost town when I arrived. Not a person, not a dog, not a cat, absolutely nothing in sight. All the windows were shuttered and I thought, wow, everyone is having their siesta en masse. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon when I arrived. I learned from another couple who had arrived around 11:00 a.m. that their experience was similar to mine--not a soul in sight. I stayed at an albergue called La Casa de Abuela--Grandmother´s house. It was a wonderful place to stay. I was up in the garret at the very top in a lovely room that reminded me of a set for the first act of La Boheme when Mimi meets Rodolfo. I could look out the windows and see down into the town. It was charming! That evening the owner told me that in 2007 his wife said to him, "we have to buy my grandmother´s house and turn it into an albergue for pilgrims." He said he thought she had lost her mind. The house is very old, has 5 stories and needed an incredible amount of work to make it livable for anyone. They bought the house, spent 3 years renovating it and opened it to pilgrims in 2010. He said to me that that decision has saved them because with the downturn in the economy, they have a secure future serving the pilgrims. Another example of the vision of a wife and a husband being willing to listen to her.
The following morning I left Los Arcos and was getting onto the Camino when I ran into the woman from North Carolina. She was going in another direction and when she saw where I was going, she said, "Oh I guess I´m going the wrong way." We started walking and she was faster than I was so she got quite far ahead. I watched her put some distance between us. Well, I came to a fork where the yellow arrow indicated that I should go right and saw she had gone straight ahead. She was too far ahead for me to call her and tell her that she needed to turn. I turned and went on the next destination. I arrived in Viana and went to my albergue and there was this young woman almost in tears asking the woman at the albergue if she had someone named ....... because she couldn´t find her aunt. I said to her, I saw your aunt going straight ahead and missing the turn off for Viana. The story had many twists and turns, including calling the police to try to locate her aunt and her aunt going to the police in Longrono and the police calling all over trying to locate the niece. They finally found each other although the niece spent the night in Viana and the aunt in Longrono. But I mainly tell this story to say that we all have our blind spots and this aunt who was so indignant that people were too busy hurrying to pay attention, had her own experience not paying attention.
From Viana I went to Navarrete and when I arrived in Navarette at the albergue where I was staying, the man there had downloaded my picture from the internet and wanted me to sign it so he could frame it and put it up in the albergue. I asked him how he knew who I was and he said the woman in the albergue in Viana, who I had helped with the young woman because she spoke no Spanish and the woman spoke no English, had called him and told him I was a singer etc. and that he must treat me very well.
I left Navarrete and went to Najera. On the way there I stopped at a rest stop to take off my boots and air my feet and I met a lovely young couple who were traveling the camino with their dog, Kira. I told them that growing up we had a dog named Kiro, although we spelled it Quiro. Kira is a beautiful German shepherd and it was lovely to see her walk, then stop and wait for them to catch up, then walk again, stop and so on. They said that she was part of their family and they wanted to do the walk as a family. They also said that it was complicatedd because there were places where they could not take the dog, so they would sleep outside. They had to plan for her food as well as theirs. But they were so glad they were doing it together. I was deeply touched by that because I am sure that Kira will also be transformed for having had the experience of walking El Camino. And seeing young people who have their priorities in the right place gives me such hope for the future of our planet.
Yesterday morning I left Najera and walked to Santo Domingo. (Of course, that's right next door to Puerto Rico).
On the way to Santo Domingo I ran into the horse ladies. These are two women--one from Australia, one from Ireland--who live in France and decided to do El Camino on horseback. I stopped and chatted with them and said, "You know, you are celebrities. Wherever we stop, we speak of the horse ladies. We are holding you in light and love as you journey." One of them said to me, "Please hold our horses in light and love as well. They are having their own issues." I was standing about 2 arms length from the horses, who were standing side by side facing me. I started to sing My Heart is filled with love for you to the horses. When I finished, Blue stepped forward and came up to me and kissed me on the mouth. Her owner started to cry and said, "This is extraordinary. Blue is very shy and he has difficulty dealing with strangers. Nickel is usually the one who steps out and meets people." What was interesting was that Nickel stayed behind and let Blue have his moment without trying to hog the show. So they too, are learning how to be in the world differently. What she didn´t know was that this was extraordinary for me too because Hart will tell you, horses and I don´t generally mix. When I would sing Aida in Rome, Caracalla and Radames would enter in the triumphal march on a chariot led by horses, I would move as far as I could from where those horses were. We were not friends. Can you believe it? I was kissed by a horse on El Camino! My prince is back in Seattle and will probably be very glad I will have many days to wash my mouth before he kisses me again.
I am learning so much about myself. For those of you who believe in the yin/yang concept, the polarity in the body, I would like to share what is going with my body. I have always had health issues on the left side of my body, which is the feminine side of the body. I have always been incredibly strong with my right side, which is my masculine side. I move in the world with my masculine side--Hart even calls me his little general. Well, on this trip, my right side is giving me lots of trouble. My right foot deveoped a blister, my right knee has been causing me a lot of pain and it came to me that my right side is very rigid, set, inflexible, controlling and that this journey is challenging my right side to let go of control, to be in the moment and to relax. I am learning that I experience pain when I am holding on tight, when I am not flexible. What is interesting is that my left side, which I have normally seen as my weak side, is suddenly showing up in exquisite ways and is taking care of my right side. My left foot doesn´t look like it´s walked a day. I feel the lightness, the flexibility of my left side. I am learning to redefine strength and weakness. It is amazing the difference in the sides of my body and how they are taking on and experiencing this journey. I am talking to my right side and telling it it´s okay to let go, that it will be safe, that letting go is good. On the occasions when I´m able to do it with conviction, the pain in my right side subsides. What a concept!
I am also learning how to pack my bag so when I arrive at a place of destination I can access what I need to have a shower, take off my dirty clothes and wash them. It is wonderfully freeing to see how simply one can live and be in joy. I walk alone every day, meet people during dinner or at breakfast, but having this time for myself, learning who I am, allowing thoughts to come up unbidden and having no distractions to push them away is both scary and liberating. I feel completely naked and yet feel so joyful and alive. The people I am meeting are taking such good care of me.
Yesterday I met an Italian man (there are very few Italians on the trail) and when I got to my albergue, which of course have no elevators and after a long day it´s agonizing to carry your backpack up 4 or 5 flights of stairs, he took my backpack and walked around until he found where my bed was. So many people are helping me carry my cross. The young couple with the dog, when they left the rest stop, gave me their cell phone number and said, "Senora, wherevery you are on the Camino, if you need help, please, please call us. We are Spaniards and we know our country and we will be there for you." I was in tears.
Today, my knee was giving me lots of grief. Michael, an Irishman about 40 walked with me at my very slow pace for about 3 kilometers. And as I walked alone, young people who saw me struggling would stop, slow down and say, I will walk with you if you need me. It´s magical to know, really know, that if we are open to receiving, we are never, ever left comfortless.
And so, I continue to be blessed and fed and am so thankful for all of you who are the wings that help me wander as I wonder in wonder. Until next time.
From my heart to yours,