October 22, 33km
We made hot sweet tea to have with breakfast before stepping out into the dark byways of El Cubo. I was in charge of the light but kept missing the arrows. Letizia set us right. Like all the ways into and now through Salamanca, the path is mostly passing through cultivated fields, some are vineyards or planted with corn, or being ploughed or lying with the pale gold stubble of the previous crop. Bordering the fields or by the towns are more autumnal trees: poplars clothed in gold, ash and others I don’t know. They’re not native to here, though. Only the occasional bit of natural landscape remains, sparsely growing gnarly oak trees, brush and spiky leaf. The ground is stony, clayey and littered with acorns. Some muddy bits are so claggy they feel like they add a kilo to your boots before you scrape it off.
So we were in a bar about 12km into the way, having our morning cafe con leche. The big fat stupid television was on, as it nearly always is, and somehow seemed connected to the lady behind the bar being grumpy, humourless and gusser. I get a bee in my bonnet about televisions in public places. I think they kill the ambiance, wreck the mood and make otherwise normal companionable humans into staring zombies. So I was staring like a zombie at the tele and it was a Good morning Spain type program. And what comes on as a segment on the show, but an informative talk on the meaning and significance of the use by date on a food product. I’m not kidding! I got so angry I was almost in tears and L’s like, what? What is it? And I can hardly put it into words, but it’s something about the vision of what a human being is, that a program like this – a segment like this – is speaking into and creating. Not only is that human being not able to discern whether food is good for the eating by its look or smell or taste, that human being cannot even decypher what the words ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ mean on their packaged food.
Questions that are important to me are how do we give honour? How do we grant dignity? How do we truly respect another? What is ‘humanising’? I know that this program is thoroughly dehumanising the way it spins utter crap and has pretty ladies with lots of make up say plastic stupid things. But what is ‘humanising’ to and for us? I’m interested especially now because part of the alchemy of the Camino makes it very humanisng. I see the pilgrims around me and I say to myself, wow. Look at humans! We are courteous, generous, simple, joyful, respectful, open, humble creatures.
I thought to myself, imagine if one of these bars with not much daily traffic would be playing some classical music rather than putting the tele on, and the bar tender between customers was dabbling on a painting or darning a sock or making a piñata for his niece’s sixth birthday. Imagine that! It scares and saddens me that there seems to be a collective ignorance to what gives life and what does not give life. And often we are making ugliness, separation and numbness not from ill will, but from … I don’t know. What do you think, friends?
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This quote was cut into the stone outside our albergue in Zamora, city which is home to a rich scattering of Romanesque buildings and is quite delightful :
“El valor del Camino y de la vida no está en lo que andes, en lo que descubres o en lo que se te da. El valor del Camino está en el amor que en tu andadura ofreces.”
The value of the Camino and of life is not in what you walk, what you discover or what you are given. The value of the Camino is in the love that in your walking, you give.
It’s by A. Ramos Castro who is responsible for the revitalising of the Vía de la Plata.
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This evening we’re in a stellar albergue in this beautiful little city. Jim and Martha from Washington State are our volunteer hospitaleros and invited us to sup with them. We met the wonderful Nicole, Austrian biking pilgrim. She has the kind of style I like in a pilgrim: no special cycling gear, not much experience riding and not even knowing how to change a tyre. What I like is that she is following an impulse, some lead in her, and not waiting til it’s all perfect and ready. She is just setting out and trusting the Way.
With love and an overfull belly and lots of wine and laughter,