Saturday, January 3, 2009

Two Woman in Chartres

I made it to Chartres in time for New Year's Eve. It was a bit of a push, but I was interested in being in a city of size rather than in a little village - easier to find a place to stay. Foiled, a bit, though; the pilgrim lodging was closed for the night and the next, the priest's house had no room, and the kind nuns at the convent strongly urged me to find something else. They care for the aged infirmed, and aside from a piece of cake at 7:30, there would be no celebration but sleep.

Happy workers at the tourist information center stayed a little beyond closing time and found a room at a brand new, reasonably priced hotel for me. That set, I went to the famed Cathedral. The very first impression is that it could take a decade or more to just look at all of the carvings and stained glass themes, longer to really understand the meaning of them all. If Christian and classical symbols could fill an olympic-sized swimming pool, what I know could maybe fill a wineglass.

Standing mesmerized in front of the ornately carved screen that surrounds the choir, I was approached by a woman with two small children. The way I was dressed, my backpack, walking sticks, and scallop shell, wide-eyed, she wanted to know if I'm really going to St Jacques. Yes, by foot. She held my forearm with both hands. The Virgin protects you, she said to me, but whether it was a statement or a question, I couldn't tell. Either way, it's hard to know how to respond appropriately. I go with an open heart, I said. She gasped, and reached out to another group passing by. Before an instant passed, she had a small crowd gathered explaining that the Virgin is protecting me on my way to St Jacques. Everyone reached out to touch me, Bon Courage, Courageous, La Vierge... The woman told me she would pray for my safe journey and asked if I would pray for her in St Jacques. Her mother lies dying, she said, pray for her. Okay, of course.

An American couple sidled in, the woman in a fur coat, wanted to know in a heavy Long Island accent what was going on as she touched my arm like the dozen other people. I explained briefly - I'm a pilgrim to Santiago. Are you a celebrity, she wanted to know. No, just an ordinary pilgrim. Why does everyone here touch you? I don't really know... it just makes them feel better, I suppose. This woman with the children believes I'm being protected by the Virgin Mary. They touch me and wish me a safe journey. But why you, the American woman demanded to know. Because I'm taking the winter to walk from Germany to western Spain... it's difficult; some people find it inspiring. Well, how does it work, she pushed on, do they give you a map and tell you where to stay? It sounds expensive. There's no they, I just figure it out as I go. It's been done this way for centuries. Well, if you say so, she concluded and wandered off with her husband in tow.

The first woman with the children circled back to me, now that I was free again. What can I do for you, Madame la Pélerine? Her question was so genuine, I wished I could think of something. I need nothing now. I've eaten, I have a place to sleep tonight, I walk toward Orléans tomorrow. I'm fine. It's all good.


Amawalker said...

"I need nothing now. I've eaten, I have a place to sleep tonight, I walk toward Orléans tomorrow. I'm fine. It's all good."

You are a true pilgrim Ann - with - an - E. An example to those who will want to follow in your footsteps. Keep warm, stay safe: the route between Orleans and the south flat-lines until you reach St Palais and there are not many petit rues to follow so take care on the department roads, they can get very busy.
un abrazo,

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

Happy New Year! The woman with the two small children understood - you do walk with protection. Every blessing for the coming days.

Compostelle 2008 said...

It was our experience as we walked, my friend and I, that almost all people without exception, wished us well and believed we were blessed. (My interpretation of people who said we were lucky to have the time). I envy you, my pilgrimage was all too short though it last 70 days!

Michèle (Canada)

Deanna said...

Ann - my other comment disappeared on me, so Bon Courage, and keep up the good times. I enjoyed your description of the woman in the fur coat. I was hoping it would end differently, but alas, . . .. take good care. write soon.


budohaas said...

Dear Ann,

It is true that vicariously we are all traveling through your writings and drawings. Your descriptive pros and vibrant drawings are creating pictures of the culture and landscape that you are traveling through. So, if I were to come across you in my daily path I would want to touch you too. Thanks for your blog.