Sunday, February 22, 2009
Validation by a Village Housewife
Walking through the industrial miles after León was uninspiring, but at least the plains were largely behind me and the approaching mountains looking beautifully snow-capped and tranquil. After a rather boring trek under the beating sun - the daily temperatures now above 15 (mid 60s F) - I arrived into Hospital de Orbiga undecided whether to stay or to continue another 15 kilometers to the next open pilgrim house.
A sign along the amazing Roman bridge indicated the direction to the three pilgrim houses in town. I knew only one was open, but didn't know which. I started walking toward the indicated direction of the municipal house. A housewife saw me and opened her window to shout out that only the parocchial house was open, in the opposite direction. 'Peregrina' she addressed me. I thanked her and returned to the bridge. It was kind gesture on her part, something that seemed lacking for quite a long time now. Reason enough to stay in the village for the night.
After I got settled into the pilgrim house, I set off to find the watercolor of the day. I remembered that near where the village lady called to me, there was a nice view of the belltower of the church with nesting storks. Across from the lady's house, I sat on a doorstep and made my watercolor. She noticed me again, and came out with a small tray with a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. She liked my watercolor and began a gentle conversation.
When I conveyed that I'd walked from Germany and passed the 2,000 kilometer mark that day, she was amazed. The standard response I got in France, for the first time I experienced in Spain. A long way for a woman alone in winter. No guidebook, she concluded, no camera, no documentary. She looked me over, my clothes rather tattered since the hurricane in France, just hang on me, limp and faded. She reached out and touched my sunburned face softly. 'Our Lady protects and guides you,' she stated, 'you're a true pilgrim. You're not a camino walker. Most people just walk.'
Somehow, that validated my effort again. Everyone makes a pilgrimage for his own reasons, and no one's reason is more or less justified or noble than the next pilgrim's. This woman, in her housecoat on the sidewalk talking to a foreigner, somehow made me feel good about what I'm doing. She gets that there's a difference in spirit and she took the time to tell me. I couldn't overlook that she used virtually the same words as the woman in Chartres - Our Lady, the Virgin, protects little me? How do they know this? However, it feels pilgrimagy again.