Companionship Makes All the Difference (Blog #6)

Few things are impossible to conquer, if we are not alone.
Companionship Makes All the Difference

It’s amazing what a difference one day can make. Whereas my first day on the Camino Primitivo left me concerned about how arduous this journey would be, today was wonderful.

With Advil all things are possible. Walking with companions is also a game changer. Whatever we are doing or undergoing in life is easier if we have one or more persons to accompany us.

People always ask me if I am walking with someone else, and my response is “Yes and no.” My family cannot take this much time off, so I walk alone. But I always meet people with whom I can walk. It helps to speak other languages and enjoy connecting with people.

My morning began with breakfast at my B&B in Rodiles, population 30, nestled in the mountains seven kilometers outside of Grado. As I ate breakfast, Marta, my hostess, told me about Asturian culture and their dialect called “Bable” (pronounced Bab-leh).

She brought out the traditional costume that she wears for fiestas. All of it is handmade. Some pieces over 200 years ago. She explained that the thicker the skirt the wealthier the family of the girl who wore it. “Young men,” she said, “would walk around with pins and try to stick them in a young girl’s skirt. If it couldn’t pierce the skirt, he knew that she was “a rich girl.” Hmmm. Can’t imagine that working anymore!

Marta’s husband, Ignazio, drove me to the day’s starting point on the Camino. A group of men stood by an open pit near the roadside. They were excavating a common grave where Nationalists killed local “Rojos” or Republicans and buried them in an unmarked grave during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Excavations like this are occurring all across Spain with governmental support. Families are finally able to identify missing relatives from the Spanish Civil War and reinter them.

Among those killed and buried in an unmarked grave during the first summer of the Civil War was the 38-year-old, Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was taken on a “paseo” or walk outside of his hometown in Granada, shot, killed and dumped in an unmarked grave.

Ignazio, my host, explained that his father was a Nationalist and his uncle a “Rojo” (Communist, Red, or Republican). The two brothers agreed that if they met during the war that they would have to kill each other. It’s beyond tragic when a nation divides and devours itself.

Ignazio explained that many of the killings were revenge murders rather than political assassinations. People turned on their neighbors to settle scores. Someone could whisper that their local enemy was a “Rojo,” and he or she would summarily executed.

Shortly after Ignazio dropped me off, I met Maurizio, a 38-year-old diamond setter from Milan. We spoke in Italian for 90 minutes and then switched to Spanish. Walking with a companion makes the journey far easier. It focuses our attention. We listen, learn and share experiences.

Maurizio struggles with anxiety. He is walking the Camino to reflect on his life, work and anxiety. Although he is an atheist, I suggested that he consider praying, reading the Bible and speaking with a priest in addition to other measures he is taking to control his anxiety. He seemed very appreciative.

Maurizio and I later met Jean Francois, who lives in a small town west of Strasbourg. He recently retired. For six months prior to walking the Camino, he had suffered from a deep depression. Walking the Camino is one of the ways that he is actively seeking to remedy his situation. He carries an art book with him and stops to paint four or five water colors each day.

While Jean Francois was baptized and confirmed, he has had very little contact with the Church since. When I asked him if he believed in God, he said, “Yes and no.” He is now fascinated with Buddhism. I spoke to him about the Christian contemplative tradition, which offers much of what can be found in Buddhism without having to leave Christianity. We spoke in French for two hours. He is a true pilgrim, who packs a tent, prepares his own meals and sleeps outdoors.

After arriving and showering in the small pueblo of Salas, I toured the tiny town. The only museum had closed for the day. I met Blanca and Fernando in a local café. They live in a small town near El Escorial and are on vacation. We had a long interesting conversation.

Any day where I can speak Italian, French and Spanish and meet interesting people is a good day. Christ sent his disciples out in groups of two. Whatever challenge we are facing, if we have company walking with us, it is amazing what we can endure, accomplish and overcome.

Few things are impossible to conquer, if we are not alone.

With love and prayers,

Marek

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