Friday, August 3, 2007


There was a pilgrim named Antonio, a Spanish guy in his 30s. He had a shaved, shiny bald head and a fantastic smile, a smile and spirit that made everyone start to laugh before he said a word.

One day I found him sitting at the side of the Camino looking at his leg. He had hurt his ankle, but he was still radiant, even though he was wincing. We walked together for several kilometers. We passed "El Convento de Antonio," and he offered to sell it to me. He limped along, smiling.

Antonio had this fantastic habit of looking up at the sky with his arms outstretched and crying out "San-teeeee-ahhhhh-gooooooh!" He did it when he was asking for help. He did it when he was overwhelmed with gratitude. He did it when he was expressing frustration. He did it partly as a joke, but he did it in seriousness as well.

Santiago, Jimbo challenges us along the Way. For me, the challenge didn't really come in Spain. The challenges have been right here at home as I try to readjust. The past couple of days, as I have been deciding what to do about my broken car, I keep imagining the moment when I walked into Castrojeriz with Antonio. He was pretending to move jauntily alongside me. We saw these poppies. They were amazing, stunning. He kept trying to teach me the Spanish word, but I couldn't get it right--amapola, amapola, amapola. It sounded too much like ampolla--blister. Antonio taught me a song about amapolas and made me sing it aloud to the fields of flowers, conducting with his trekking poles as I shyly, then loudly shouted it out. I think he was actually in a good amount of pain at the time--and not just from my singing.

Pilgrims can pick a lesson out of absolutely anything. I think it is easier to find a lesson than a blister on the Camino, and that's saying something. "San-teeeee-ahhhhh-gooooooh! Why must you make me think about cars when all I want to do is think about walking? Why?"

There's a lesson in here, and I'll find it eventually. In the meantime, sing the damn song, Bridget. Sing the song, look at the pretty flowers, enjoy the good company, and keep smiling. You'll get there one way or the other. Maybe that's the lesson after all.

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