The Way After – Day #7

Pamplona to Puente la Reina – 23.8km.

A steady route up to and down from Alto de Perdon, at 790m. 

In medieval times there was both a Basilica with a pilgrim hospice and a hermitage there. Today there are forty windmills along the skyline generating electricity.

There is also a metal sculpture of peregrinos on their ‘way’. This was erected by the energy company who put up the windmills.

The inscription for the installation translates as ‘where the way of the wind meets the way of the stars’.

A common adage urges us to reach for the stars. Reaching for, isn’t grasping however.

Wind is often a symbol of change or positivity – the winds of change, a chill wind blowing, or a fair wind, a warming wind.

The Greek words for the Spirit of God are ‘pneuma hagion’ and ‘pneuma’ can also be translated as breath or even wind.

In Camino lore, Santiago’s – St. John – bones were discovered after shepherds saw stars fall into a field.

This image of the wind meeting the stars is to me a ‘thin’ place. A place where the boundary between the spiritual and the temporal are so close they practically touch.

The Romantic poets of the 18th/19th centuries believed that when they walked out into nature they were drawing closer to their imagination and creativity, because they were close to their Creator.

There are periods of life where we draw closer to God.

Perhaps it is better put that we are more acutely aware of how close God is to us during these periods of time.

Many of mine and Sando’s exploits were outside – closer to nature – for me closer to my God.

Looking back it is easier to see where the wind met the stars.

We walked. We trekked. Through mud. On firm ground. Through rain. In sunshine.

We appreciated the opportunities we had and they were a frequent source of remembrances and tall stories.

One of the last ‘events’ we marked was travelling out to a particular cafe which we always frequented in October, as part of a wider group trek.

Due to the virus the trek didn’t happen but we gained a small window with which to strike out for the cafe part.

It was just the two of us. His health wasn’t great. We still treated it like old times. 

Sando cried – but I’m sure that had more to do with the fact that they had sold out of his favourite steak pie!

The Way After – Day #5

After the shock of the first day out of St. Jean and into Navarre, the second day’s walk is a respectable 22.3km, but mostly downwards in direction.

As with life, difficulties seems to rise steeply before you and behind one peak, another comes into view, so level or downward routes are never truly that. Hidden away on this route are a couple of steeper little summits.

In creativity these little kinds of path is often referred to as ‘the dip’.

You set yourself at your new endeavour with enthusiasm and action. The beginning is steep, but everything is focused and prepared. Initial difficulties are taken in your stride.

Then ‘things’ ease off. You start to gain success. Your efforts are paying off. So you relax a little. Ease back.

This is the dip.

Suddenly the road rises up in front of you again.

You feel less prepared. The effort to continue seems to be disproportionate compared to the start.

Some even quit.

The most common form of greeting on the Camino is ‘Buen Camino’ or good way.

In medieval times the common pilgrim, or peregrino, greeting was ‘ultreia’ – further onward – which would be answered with ‘et suseia’ – and further upwards.

This reflects the spiritual side of the peregrino’s journey – in walking further you gain higher spiritual awareness and reward – but it is also a life lesson – keep moving forward and you will experience and gain more.

After the dip there is the rise, but the rise doesn’t have to be an obstacle but a pinnacle of achievement.

Sando’s initial diagnosis was definitely the route out of St. Jean. We met that with joie de vivre, energy for the path ahead, and a healthy amount of fun at his expense. We did tell him that he wouldn’t be treated any differently, which he appreciated and needed.

Sore feet, aching backs and shoulders, with a sense of foreboding at those little peaks along the next part of the route, certainly kicked in as his treatment was begun.

The radiation therapy and the drugs clearly did have an impact, but Sando’s common response to our greeting of ‘how are you doing?’ Was ‘I feel fine.’

This led us to the theory that there was another ‘Sando’ out there who was continually going back to his doctor and complaining of really not being well, in a case of swapped test results for the two of them.

Sando certainly tried hard to convince the nurses that he really did feel ‘fine’ every time they came towards him with needles for blood, or drugs to fill him up.

Just 3.2km into the route for the day is the town of Burgete. Here the writer Ernest Hemingway wrote his novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’ in just eight weeks in 1926. In a note to his editor he wrote that the book was less about the ‘Lost Generation’ as Getrude Stein had referred to those lost or scarred by the Great War, but more about ‘the earth that abideth’ which is referenced as an epigraph.

Visit any church or cathedral and you easily gain a sense of those people whose footsteps yours join with, and many who have walked the Way of St. James make this comment also.

Sando felt this was true in his own pathway. He was one of many who had brain tumours and he was acutely aware that many others would follow.

The majority of people who have brain tumours are children.

I am sure we mentioned that quite a bit also.

Sando would have agreed with Hemingway (referring to his characters) that – he – they were ‘battered but not lost’.

Day 476 – The Saturday Answer.

The Friday Question was one for the end of the holidays to provide inspiration for next year’s holidays, and it was . . .

. . . If you could spend three months writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I struggled to narrow this down to one single location.

Cornwall and France featured heavily due to the coast line and the sea. Le Touquet winning out for its ease of access around the town and beach front for my wife.

The setting of your story probably had an influence.

Would James Bond have been quite the same if Ian Fleming hadn’t been in Jamaica? A Year in Provence really wouldn’t have been the same without actually being in Provence. Would Harry Potter have turned out different if it had been written in Sweden rather than Scotland?

I went for the place I feel calm and contented in order to write comfortably.

Maybe you need excitement and noise?

We are all different and if we weren’t we would all be arguing over the last rooms/house to rent in the same place.

Day 464 – A List of Recommendations.

Pre-amble:

It has been a day of sunshine and torrential downpour during a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon.

The sunshine was still warm but – it seems – typically for August – well hidden by cloudy masses, but for the brief periods it did emerge it was glorious. I have really noticed that the light has changed over the last couple of weeks and it seems significantly weaker, indicating the quick changing of the seasons.

The torrential downpour – including hailstones – was spent under a canopy of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I mused briefly if they were trying out new special effects for a performance of Macbeth. We soon made quite a large and disparate group of shelter-seekers and I genuinely felt sorry for a young woman who made her way over, just as we were thinking it was safe to head out, who looked like she had just dived in the river, and was wringing out her jumper in a resigned shrugging of her shoulders.

The Recommendations:

Sitting outside Holy Trinity Church, I finished reading Where the Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt. I mentioned this book back in Day 446. It is well written and blends travelogue with cultural history. Definitely worth a read.

Before we left for Stratford I listened to a couple of great radio programmes – apologies in advance if you can’t access them outside of the UK.

The first was The Early Music Show focusing on Bach’s Orchestral Suites. J.S. Back is my musical hero/legend so this was an easy listen, but the information and different recordings used to illustrate the history of these suites was awesome. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b08c2n8h

The second programme was Soul Music and focused on telling the story of the South African hymn/anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Inspired by a tune from a Welsh hymn writer, through the Apartheid struggles, and into Nelson Mandela’s vision of a united South Africa, this programme tells the whole incredible story. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b06qjtqs

Day 446 – Wind.

I am currently reading Where The Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt.

He searches for four winds which effect European weather.

The Helm. The Bora. The Foehn. The Mistral.

Hunt’s writing is descriptive, informative, and engaging.

It is one of those books where you rack your brain for a similar idea, to justify going off around the world, and writing about it.

The wind is exotic and has lots of references to it in folklore and even religious belief, cultural history and science, but had been done.

So what would you go in search of?