Day 2: Borders
"Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom...I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse...Choose life...whoever wishes to save his life with lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." - Excerpts from today's Scripture readings.
One point of tension among pilgrims on the Camino centers around waking time. Some pilgrims rise earliest, while it is still dark, slipping away unnoticed in the pre-dawn hour, getting a head start out of fear for not finding a bed at the next stopping place. Others, often those who prefer to enjoy their evenings, are slipping boots on minutes before the time guests are shooed out of the albergues in the morning.
Compared to many, I move slowly through these days of walking, so I tend to begin with the early risers...those who crawl out of their bunks after me usually pass me by the afternoon. When people ask me about my favorite part of the Camino, on that list are the days when I walked with the rising of the sun.
Few of those sunrises will come close to the one that greets me on this second morning of the pilgrimage. Pausing at the spot where we meditated last night, I marvel at the fog that has filled the valleys, folding around the hills and transforming peaks into islands in a golden sea.
As we head towards Santiago, we walk from East to West...and the sun marches in step with us. Some might prefer to see the sun as moving towards the West, while others think of it as moving away from the East. On the Camino, it is difficult to tell if I am moving towards some hoped-for future or away from a past that hasn't quite taken me to the place I thought I'd be by now.
Pilgrimage itself is a sort of rising - shaking ourselves out of our sleep and heading into the unknown - walking away from something while at the same time marching toward what lies ahead.
Where are you in life right now? Do you consider yourself to be moving away from something, or moving towards something? Are you where you thought you'd be at this point in your life?
Today begins with breakfast in the one-room dining area at Orisson. Coffee is served in a bowl at this place, so we're already off to a fantastic start...although a windswept day on the roads of the Pyrenees awaits, with our next stop - Roncesvalles - 18 km away.
Today, I experiment with a few strategies for limiting my suffering on this pilgrimage. I make myself drink water every 30 minutes, and every 1.5 hours I sit, remove my socks and shoes to dry out the sweat, and reapply vaseline to my feet to help against friction. So far, it seems to be working.
Most of the day is now a blur. Although it is long, it is mostly pleasant. Just before crossing into Spain, we come across a stone fountain by the side of the mountain path. Here, we rest with other pilgrims, refill our bottles, and refuel on sandwiches bought at the albergue that morning. This is a sweltering summer, and these pauses by the water will become a sort of sacred ritual on the Camino.
While resting, I re-read a note from my sister which I opened this morning:
Just beyond the fountain, about halfway through the day's walk, we cross the border and set foot in Spain.