Right now I'm in a charming little town called Puente la Reina. A few minutes ago, as I was roaming through the street sometime between siesta (when everyone is resting) and paseo (when everyone comes out to walk the street). I peeked into one of the old churches. This is the third one I've been to in this town, and each is awe-inspiring for different reasons. The first was a simple stone church where I was the only one. Eerie at first and then I came to welcome the peace and time for prayer. A few blocks down I walk into another dark church with an unbelievable gold-plated alter piece. I appreciate the structure and move on. But this last one had glorious sounds coming out of it. I have stumbled upon an acapella choir practice. 8 men and 8 women are performing some of the most beautiful music I cannot understand. But I can at the same time. They then sing a few bars of "Steal Away" which brought tears to my eyes as I was reminded of hearing the same African American spiritual sung acapella at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Martin Luther King Day in 2009. The director is demanding and the choir is compliant. How did I get here?
An hour before I grab some tapas at a little bar/hotel recommended by fellow pilgrims. There is a table of 8 lively American cyclists. I laugh at a joke and they ask where I'm from. I say Colorado. So is part of the group... Steamboat and Boulder. One couple is from Santa Barbara by way of Detroit. I say I'm originally from Peoria, Illinois. They say to each other "I wonder if she knows Jera Deal"? My mouth drops open. She lives in my parents neighborhood and I babysat for their oldest daughter one summer. Jera worked for this guy in Detroit. We both raved about how awesome she is. How did I get here?
This morning I leave the hostel at 6:45 with 3 guys from Israel. They have just finished their 3 years of required military service. Ofir is of Iraqi decent, Tomer is half-Iraqi/half-Hungarian and Katz is Polish. And all three are fully Israeli. From the time we leave Pamplona until our tea stop at the first town we come to, I have a crash course in Israeli history and one perspective in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Fascinating. They share their tea with me. Later in the day they share their lunch with me: canned tuna, sardines, fish-stuffed red peppers and Nutella on a loaf of toasted bread. Ofir isn't eating because its Yom Kippur. He plans to go big at sunset. How did I get here?
And for video action of the day:
Last night I had dinner with Arnie from Phoenix and Rob from Holland. Both are 67. We share our thoughts about the challenges of the Camino: physical and mental. They tell me what they love about their wives. I share my four goals of my sabbatical. We are watching all of Pamplona gather on the Plaza Mayor for a Friday evening. We are at Cafe Iruña, Hemingway's Pamplona haunt. How did I get here?
Each morning I wake with some 200 other pilgrims as we all repack our packs for another day on the Camino. Getting started can be rough but then you fall into a rhythm, right about the time you hit the first town in time for a coffee break. We leap frog one another as we each find different times are necessary for a break throughout the day. We greet each other and leave each other with "Buen Camino." And we are all following the sign of the Camino... A gold shell in a blue sign or a simple yellow arrow. It's impossible to get lost. And we are all going the same direction. How did I get here?
And this was in the sky this afternoon...
The only answer I can find to my question is this:
"There, only by the grace of God, go I."